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‘SNL’ Makeup Whiz Shares Transformation Tricks

Variety logo Variety 6/8/2017 Addie Morfoot
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“Saturday Night Live” makeup department head Louie Zakarian and his team have been helping actors transform for 22 years. But thanks to Donald Trump and his administration — including Jeff Sessions, Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer — season 42 of “SNL” has been one of the most challenging and rewarding for the five-time Emmy winner.

You got your start at “The Phil Donahue Show” making disguises for guests who did not want to be recognized. How did that lead to working at “SNL”?

I was at “Donahue” for about a year. I had always wanted to work at “SNL,” but there were no slots available. Then in 1995 I got called in to help out for a few days and during one of those days I was at a pre-tape and one of the actors didn’t show up, so I got to read a whole page of dialogue. Every other makeup artists was giving me the deadeye. It was pretty funny. I’ve been here ever since.

Darrell Hammond and Taran Killam impersonated Trump before Alec Baldwin. How does Baldwin’s makeup compare?

All of their skin tones are really different. Alec gets a certain highlight and shadow underneath his chin and cheeks and I mist him with this orangey skin illustrator to give him that Trump glow.

How did you turn Melissa McCarthy into Sean Spicer?

We found on a Friday night that Melissa was going to be Spicey, so I’d say time, or lack of, was our biggest challenge. I spoke to her about what we could and could not do, because she’s not used to working with prosthetics but she was willing to go for everything I suggested. So I built eye bags; a custom-made silicon prosthetic bald piece that we can put on really fast; these little ear clips so we can push out her ears; and a set of really thin eyebrows to give her that Spicer eyebrow. We needed two to three sets of each of those [items] by 7 p.m. the next day, Saturday.

Is Kate McKinnon ever surprised when you do her makeup?

Kate’s face takes to anything. She is one of those people who you can put a little shadow, a little liner, a little nose piece and she morphs into that person. While we are putting on her makeup she is quiet, but then all of a sudden Kellyanne is alive in the chair.

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