Annie McEwan, who is known for her work on Game of Thrones, was recently called on to handle makeup and hair for the Starz’ Outlander, created by Ronald Moore and based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon. The series tells the story of a woman who travels back in time from 1945 to 1743.
McEwan researched the historical context by finding portrait paintings that were made from 1735 to 1747. “These were mainly upper class people. There was not much reference for the common man and woman,” she said of her findings. It was not so easy finding images of the highlanders that were accurate references. She ended up relying on the the Pennicuik drawings. “These consist of caricature sketches made by an eyewitness of the armed forces, mainly Jacobites, passing through his town in 1745 to 1746.”
There were many interesting discoveries during the research process. One was finding the highlanders clean shaven. This led to much thought and consideration in deciding what the highlanders should look like on the show. “It is always assumed, encouraged by Victorian depiction, that highlanders were bearded. This is a time when beards were not encouraged, in fact actively discouraged in Europe. We did give some of the highlanders beards because it had been referred to in the books and expected by an audience. This also helped separate them from redcoats and the English who were always clean shaven,” explained McEwan.
Besides difficult creative decisions, there were also other challenges. The schedule was very demanding so it definitely keep things interesting. “We had to prep and fit while we were filming so there was never a dull moment,” McEwan said. Another thing she had to always be aware of was the weather in Scotland, which was always unpredictable. “Especially for hair that had to be dressed in the knowledge that it was likely to be rained on and wind blown. To keep a curl in Caitriona’s hair was the greatest challenge. Cait has straight hair and Claire has wildly curly hair, which is depicted in the book.” There were also over 400 wigs used, some double and triple fitted to be dressed and redressed many times over the shoot.
Working on Outlander was magical in many ways and McEwan had memorable experiences at every turn. One especially blew her away when it came time to recreate the Versailles gardens. “We used Drummond house gardens in Perthshire, which is beautiful and as our cast walked in it in full costume. It felt like we were really there in Versailles gardens in 1745,” she said. Another delightful part of working on this series was the collaborative spirit on set. “Everyone in the crew wanted this to look and feel real so we all worked together. I had a fabulous team plus a great local team for our shoot in Prague.”