“I think I really understood what Courtney’s vision was and how she wanted the show to look,” stated Gibson. “She wanted the gritty aspects of this crime-filled, drug-filled world that was cold and rough around the edges. Then she wanted the other side that was glitzy and polished and beautiful.”
These were the looks for the two worlds that main character, James “Ghost” St. Patrick – drug king-pin turned upscale legit nightclub owner – lives in. Agboh wanted those worlds to mesh together. She knew and loved Gibson’s work on a number of previous projects.
“It pretty much was her coming to me with, ‘I loved how Maid in Manhattan looked. I loved how Girl 6 looked,’” related Gibson. “She just hit me with all of these movies that had those two worlds. It wasn’t about me pitching my ideas. It was more of a conversation. Her looking at my resume, pulling up things that she loved about the movies I did, and saying, ‘this is what I want.’”
One advantage Gibson had when she started on Power was a long period of prep, about two-and-a-half weeks. That allowed for a lot of meetings with the actors as well as departments such as costume and hair. That is where she started expanding her inspiration board. Through a lot of conversations, she gave the actors ideas on how she felt their character should look and why they should look like that.
One challenge for Gibson was the age difference between the actors playing Ghost (Omari Hardwick) and his wife, Tasha (Naturi Naughton). They knew they had to make the petite, fresh-faced, young-looking woman more sophisticated in order to bring her age up, visually so that it was believable for her to be married to Ghost and have three children.
“She was probably the one that we had to work the most on as far as really getting a look,” shared Gibson. “She was ready to go because, she knows she has a young fresh face, so she knew that she really had to put the makeup on, the clothes. She knew she had to do that for the character in order to sell it.”
The show has been fortunate to get additional seasons, so Gibson can evolve the look from where the characters start out to where they can go in their journey. In prep at the beginning of each season, costume designer, Frank Fleming, shares the color story for each character’s wardrobe for that season, so the makeup department has an idea ahead of time of what they can expect the actors to be wearing.
In season one, when everything seemed so happy and felt like everything was working, there was a lot more color and a lot more glitz, versus season three where a lot of black is in play because everybody is in a dark place and there is a lot of confusion in that season’s story line.
“In season one, Tasha was really made-up in that Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Scarface I’m the bosses-wife, kind of energy,” revealed Gibson. “Now we see her getting pulled more together, more polished and conservative because she is now having to take charge of her life. While she is still beautiful and looks amazing, it is a different kind of beauty. It’s more played down. You are seeing an evolution that way in her look.”
When the location is in the penthouse, the team shoots with warmer hues in terms of lighting. It is a cleaner, prettier, glossier look, so the makeup can be played up. When the company goes onto the street the tones are cooler. Because it is colder and grittier, many times the makeup artists have to warm up the skin tones of the men. It is so cool; they tend to look pasty in the light. Their original skin tones need to be about three shades darker, so that their complexion plays on screen like a normal skin tone. “Otherwise they look almost like ghosts because it’s so cool, the lighting is so gritty and icy,” said Gibson.
Ghost has a lot of tattoos that have to be covered. Makeup created a scar on his face that has been there since season one. The character has to live between both worlds, “between the grits and shininess.” When he is in the club world, his tone is warmer than when he is out on the street. It is also important to Gibson that Ghost and the other men in the series look like men. The makeup must not be visible.
Often for crowd scenes like the night club, background players bring their own wardrobe and do their own makeup, but according to Gibson, the showrunner wanted the club to be the area that kept the show fashion-forward and current in what was happening in the makeup, hair and fashion worlds. “This is where we get to show trends, so we have teams of makeup and hair people that actually come in. That is where you see the vision board.” Gibson elaborated, “We have catwalk girls that we view as Broadway combined with burlesque. They are much more animated because they are the entertainment of the club. We really build their faces up to be bigger.”
In the club there are also bottle girls that are very uniform, reflecting Ghost’s organized style of discipline in managing the club. They all wear the same color of lipstick and nail polish and usually have their hair slicked back. It is a look specifically for the bottle girls. The models in the club are where the makeup department can play around with glitter or whatever is happening currently in fashion in makeup. “While it is a huge club scene that has a very big background, in that background are pockets of specific people that we do take care of,” shared Gibson. “They come in with no makeup on and we build them from the beginning to the end. Then we put them into the club amongst the general background.”
The experience of being part of such a well-written series, with a great leader like Agboh, and talented actors is very exciting for Gibson. She had worked with Hardwick previously and believed he had star quality, so she was happy to see his abilities being recognized, while at the same time having the opportunity to work with him and the show.
Everything across the board, all dimensions of makeup, comes into play creatively on a show like Power. The makeup department has the chance to do fashion. They do blood and guts, and stabbing, and shooting.
“We are always so eager to get the scripts because they are so good all the time.” Gibson concluded, “My vision is just to keep it grounded in reality so the viewers gets lost in the show. They love these characters.”