If you haven’t watched the Josh Boone (The Fault In Our Stars) adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand (now streaming on Paramount+), you’re missing an amazing achievement in crafts, particularly in the last few episodes where Boone’s amazing team created the New Vegas setting that’s the home for Alexander Skarsgård’s Randall Flagg, a demonic presence who has set up his home base, the Inferno, after millions are killed as the world is plagued by a pandemic.
Another big piece of making The Stand (apologies) stand out is the make-up work by Emmy winner Lisa Love (Tin Man, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Terminator Genysis), who not only had to have a team apply body make-up and tattoos to hundreds of extras for those New Vegas scenes but also ended up making actors like Nat Wolff, Ezra Miller and Amber Heard almost unrecognizable as they become minions to Flagg.
Watching an adaptation of King’s 1978 novel in 2021 is even more daunting when you realize that production was just wrapping up on The Stand as a REAL pandemic was hitting the planet. Love spoke to Below the Line, about that as well, when we got on the phone with her a few weeks back.
(You can also read our previous interviews with Production Designer Aaron Haye and Costume Designer Angelina Kekich.)
Below the Line: I always like finding out about a person’s background, so what were you doing before getting into make-up and what got you into that world?
Lisa Love: Well, my father was an artist and my mother was a nurse, so of course, I’m going to be a makeup artist. [laughs] I just had that instinct to want to do arts, and I’ve worked with graphic artists beforehand. That was back in the day when you did everything by hand. I probably should have kept pursuing it, but just the whole nurse thing like taking care of actors. I took care of the elderly for a long time, when I was still in school, and it just gave me that compassion and gentleness not to have to talk over somebody else. That’s probably something really important.
BTL: Did you actually go to school for make-up or was it more organic of being in the right place to start doing it?
Love: No, I did go to school. I took makeup as well as graphic arts. I never went to any special effects school, because there wasn’t really any back then. I grew up in Canada, so for sure there wasn’t any in Canada. Initially, I wanted to get into magazine work. That was another thing that you basically have to be an American to get into the magazine/print industry, so I just fell into film.
BTL: Are you based in one of the big cities in Canada?
Love: Based in Vancouver, and I was in New York where I have my local union, and then I also live in California. I’m in California right now. I’ve got a place there in Vancouver, so I kind of stay on base and most of my work is out of Vancouver. When I was living in New York, I got a lot of work in New York just because my union is there.
BTL: This might be an odd question, but is it hard getting into the makeup union? I always hear it’s very difficult, so how long did it take to get into the union once you started in that field?
Love: It was easy to get into the American union, just ’cause I was well onto my way doing Planet of the Apes and Terminator. I did The Fifth Wave with Chloe Grace Moretz, and I work a lot with her, as her personal. It was easy to get into that union. What I tell kids or young artists now, if you want to get into the union, I always say to go join the other union. Like in Canada, it would be to go join the IATSE, because so many years go by, and IATSE likes to go up to people. So I say, “Go get your skill at a lower level,” and that really is my best advice to people who really want to get into the makeup union.
BTL: Had you worked with Josh Boone before or was The Stand your first time working with him?
Love: It was the first time working with him, and I got to meet him when I was in LA, which was great. Just instantly, as soon as I met him, it was just like we clicked. He comes from that sort of that same kind of cool background as I do. I worked with Ben [Cavell] and Ben was the producer on the show as my go-to person, and he was incredible to work with.
BTL: What were some of early discussions you had with them? I assume you wanted to stay away from what was done with them in the previous mini-series?
Love: We still watched it. At our preparty, we had it running, but Josh is cool that way, right? Even though he wanted to stay away from it, he still wanted to honor it. So that was a really nice thing with Josh that he could still see that, “I’m here because this one is here.”
BTL: Had you read the book beforehand or did you read it when you got the gig?
Love: No, I read it beforehand, and then of course our ninth script that we did was something brand new that Stephen King wrote just for us and that was our second episode that we shot. We shot just that episode out of order. I read it, we tried to stay true to it a lot, because a lot of the actors brought that already, because they have worked with either Josh or Stephen King before. They really had in their mind, “This is what I want it to look like. How can we achieve it?” I would say you know, “This is how we achieve it. I would see them transform in my chair, just like changing up their face.” He’d come in as Owen [Teague] and he would leave as Harold.
BTL: I’ve met and interviewed Alex before and Ezra and Amber and a few others. I didn’t recognize Nat Wolff at all, until I was rewatching the last few episodes. I figured out it was Ezra pretty quickly, but it was scary how different he looked.
Love: Nat was one of my favorite people to work with by far. We really went for it the first time we met [his character] as a junkie, so we put these tattoos on him. He had this accent he was doing. It was so much fun, and then when he was in the jail cell, basically hanging on by a thread to his humanity and life, that was when I bonded with him and we just became really tight, and that was it. It was just like I’m doing this makeup and I’m there for him. Just because that scene was really intense, and he needed to be focused, but he also needed me to be there for him as well, to help with the makeup because it was such a deteriorating look. And then his Vegas look, just so slicked back and I gave him a gold tooth, and he had eye makeup on, and it was just really fun.
BTL: Do you tend to do all of the special makeup effects yourself, or do you have someone on your team that you usually go to for that stuff?
Love: I definitely go into that territory. The “Captain Tripps neck,” that was our special FX team, and the pygmies at the very, very end — all those guys were my guys, because I needed multiple artists to do all these people. I brought in an effects makeup artist to do the Medicine Man. That was my design, and it was just like porcupine quills coming out of his nose, and it was really cool. They did a mold of his face, and then worked off of that, and it just looks fantastic. And then all my team did all the bald caps and all of the body painting.
BTL: How closely did you work with Angelina on the look for the characters since hair and makeup is so crucial for the characters, but it must go with what they’re wearing?
Love: Oh, absolutely. Angelina, I would be on it all the time with her, and she was so busy that I’d be phoning her, Emailing her costume assistants, and constantly saying, “When you get that in, let me know. Send me a picture of what she looks like in it.” Just because I drew inspiration off of Angelina, like she is incredible. And going in and seeing Aaron’s sets, not just for me but for my crew. I have so many crew working in New Vegas, working with the background performers, that they would walk into the sets, and they instantly wanted to do a better job because the set was so cool. Yes, I definitely drew inspiration, and I would say, “Angelina, I’m thinking of this, I’m thinking of that,” and she’d be like, “Oh, really? We’ll try it.” I always ran my ideas through her probably just to get a reaction first, just to make sure it was okay and then ran it through the higher-ups.
BTL: What was the biggest team you had, presumably for New Vegas? What size team did you have, because obviously those scenes were insane with all the background actors and everything going on?
Love: Probably like 27. No, it’s not a lot. It was in the middle of a snowstorm, so it was literally like, “Well, I don’t have a truck to get out there.” It might have been up to like 35 at one point, but then when the snowstorm hit, we had to take a real hit, so that’s why I say 25. But these girls, like they knew exactly… I had a book that was done from Angelina’s fittings, and everybody was like, “This is what you’re putting on these people.” So I would have a group that would do all the body makeups for the background performers, which we’re broken up into their own subcategories of dancers, waitresses, gamblers and sex slaves). They would go upstairs, because they would have to take off their clothes in order to get their makeup done. I had like four girls up there, and then I had another group of people that were like, the bellhops, and then another group of people that were kind of drunk and disorderly, and then we had whole tattoo stations where people have to get their tattoos either covered up and redone. Or just, some nice body shimmer on them. So, we had quite a nice little organization going.
BTL: I wasn’t sure if they cast people who already had the tattoos or you still had to do some of your own, as well.
Love: We told Angelina, “Just dress them how you want them. Don’t worry about the tattoos,” and I would get my girls to take pictures of the tattoos, because we had weeks until we were going to shoot this. That, actually, is so key just to have the preparation, because otherwise, these people wouldn’t have been able to get the job done and get their artists to sign off on the tattoos. Then it would have been just such a bigger job, but most of the tattoos we got signed off on by the artist, saying, “Yes, you can use it in the [show].” And the ones that we didn’t, we would cover it up with tattoo cover and then put a different tattoo over the one we covered with make-up.
BTL: I also want to ask about Amber Heard’s character, Nadine, because she is so beautiful, and we don’t see her in a ton of make-up for most of the show, and then she goes through this transformation, so what was involved with that?
Love: That was like, “How can I possibly make this beautiful woman look as if she is dying and being eaten on the inside from the baby growing in her, all without using prosthetics?” because we just didn’t have the time. I needed to give the time to the hair department and the costumes, as well. Everybody had huge things to do when she had her pregnancy in a wedding dress. Hair had to actually put a lace front wig on her. I had to get it done quickly, so I used techniques of airbrushing. I didn’t put on any primer to prime her skin, so it was just basically airbrushing of white and pale green. And then I would go in with creams and shadows and just contour over the airbrushing contour I did and put on some spots and just tried to make her look as bad as she could.
BTL: Aaron was telling me about how COVID hit the production. I think he said it was right before shooting New Vegas? When was the COVID break, and did you have to shoot all of the New Vegas stuff when you came back? I think he said that you had a location on the border with Canada where they created the Inferno?
Love: Yes, he is correct. We are there shooting and all of a sudden, the lovely Greg Kinnear comes in, every day with his phone, and he’s reading statistics about the new Coronavirus, the COVID-19, and he’s saying, “By the end of da da da… ” In my head, I’m like, “These actors are flying all over the place. They’re at home, they’re coming here, they’re coming there. We gotta protect these guys.” So I started, without panicking any of my other team, because my team is hearing [Greg’s reports] and everybody’s pretty professional, but I just started cleaning extra carefully. The idea that a deadly virus that can be passed on to everyone isn’t far from the truth. So, here we’re creating this show, and then all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh my god, this is really here.” It was clear when we were winding down, like when it was close to the end, this damn new COVID-19 I didn’t know if it was a coincidence. “Is this a coincidence? What’s happening out in the world?” It was happening on our film set. On the rational side, it was weird, but rationality and weird can also happen at the same time.
BTL: You talked about the shift when you started hearing about COVID. At what point did you start wearing PPE and how hard was it to shift over to that?
Love: No, it wasn’t a shift. Greg Kinnear was the only one calling it. We were in Vegas, and that’s when I started doing the extra precautions, like cleaning up and using 70% alcohol on all the hard surfaces. And then we went to a little small town, and then all of a sudden, there’s no virus there whatsoever. It’s barely hitting towns. At this point, there was only one case in Canada. It was so the start of it, that even when I walked into the hotel room, I wasn’t concerned like, “This isn’t good, because of Coronavirus.” That wasn’t even on my radar. And now, of course, When I think about going to a hotel room [now], I think, “Well, you know, somebody could have been sick.”
There was that crossover. There was that information coming to us, but by the time everybody knew it was real, we were out of the big city. Not that it never hit little towns, because we all know it did, but much, much, much, much later.
BTL: You mentioned that there were people coming from all different places and travelling, so did you get to the point where anyone was in quarantine before coming to set?
Love: No, because literally that’s how precise it was. We finished The Stand in March, and at the end of March, I think that’s when they started closing it down. It was just that overlap, and like I said, if it wasn’t for Mr. Kinnear, we wouldn’t have known about it. Because of him, we were safer. I bought more hand sanitizers, I bought more 70% alcohol to clean our bags and our counters down. We were just starting to do it, and at that point, I don’t think we were sure… we knew people were coughing, but nobody had caught it.
BTL: Have you been working on anything since then? Is there anything else coming out soon?
Love: Vancouver never really slowed down — it slowed down for a little while. I’m in L.A., and I’m doing something that’s kind of… I can tell you about it once it’s all done and aired, but it’s a little top secret thing on the environment, so it’s different for sure with PPE and stuff. It’s a different world, but the way I look at it is I just want people to be safe, so whatever you have to do, whatever guidelines of production are, that’s the guidelines you follow. And with me, I’ll probably step up.
BTL: I feel like there are things you’re now doing that you will want to probably keep doing anyway. I think a lot of us were just going through life, not realizing how many germs are out there, and you don’t really think about it until something like this happens.
Love: I know. It’s true, it’s true. I know if I have to go back to set or the trailer to do somebody else, and I have my actor’s bag on set, I’ll put the stuff that my actor needs into another little bag for the person to take care of them. And this other stuff, “I’m putting this in my set bag — you don’t need this. This is all you need for touch-ups.” When I come back, I’ll take out the sponge, and I’ll throw that one away or disinfect it, and then I’ll bring another sponge in. So extra precautions.
All nine episodes of The Stand are available to watch on Paramount+. You can also read Below the Line’s interviews with Production Designer Aaron Haye and Costume Designer Angelina Kekich.
All photos courtesy of Paramount+, except where noted. (Click on images for larger versions.)