James Robert MacKinnon Interview: ‘Star Trek: Picard’ makeup
The technology of prosthetic makeup has evolved over the years, but for “Star Trek: Picard” special makeup effects department head James Robert MacKinnon, the technology in our homes has affected his job significantly too. “With those 4K, 8K, 12K huge televisions that we’re all watching at home now, which are almost the size of screens at a movie theater, our detail has to refine,” he explains. “You see every little speckle, every little spatter that to your eye looks like color or skin, but the camera picks it up as paint.” Which makes it all the more challenging to create a convincing illusion. Watch our exclusive video interview with MacKinnon above.
MacKinnon is nominated for Best Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special for his work on the episode “Absolute Candor,” in which Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) visits a Romulan colony on the planet Vashti where most of the locals aren’t too happy to see him. The episode required prosthetics for lead characters, guest actors and extras, but that wasn’t the only reason the makeup was such a heavy lift for this particular episode.
The crew was working on “Absolute Candor” at the same time as another makeup-heavy installment, “Stardust City Rag,” “so at two o’clock in the morning we had 107 artists sitting at Universal Stage 26 with their boxes of prosthetics, with their correct ear size, forehead size, the color of the actress or actor … their eyebrows were all set up in front of them.” That “was a feat on its own … I think we are the biggest [Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Local 706] call ever, which is kind of cool.”
“Picard” earned five Emmy nominations for its debut season, which included a clean sweep for MacKinnon’s hair and makeup department. In addition to his category, the show is also nominated for Best Period/Character Hairstyling and Best Period/Character Makeup (Non-Prosthetic), both for “Stardust City Rag.” And if he wins, it wouldn’t be his first. Far from it.
His first Emmy was for Ryan Murphy‘s surgical drama “Nip/Tuck” in 2004. Then he won three in a row for Murphy’s “American Horror Story” anthology series (2015-2017). And he was awarded Best Prosthetic Makeup for “Star Trek: Discovery” in 2019, which makes him the defending champion and a five-time Emmy winner overall. We’ll find out in September if he’ll add a sixth to his mantel.