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Impeachment: American Crime Story Hair and Makeup Department Heads Natalie Driscoll and Robin Beauchesne on Recreating Monica and the Clintons

June 24, 2022 12:04 | By
Impeachment: American Crime Story

Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp/FX

The sexual affair between White House intern Monica Lewinsky and former President Bill Clinton may seem like old news, but in FX’s limited series Impeachment: American Crime Story, executive producer/director Ryan Murphy breathed new life into the torrid scandal of 1998.

The 10-episode series debuted last fall and starred Beanie Feldstein as Lewinsky and Clive Owen as Clinton, and it turned the tables on the typical he-said/she-said narrative. This dramatic retelling from writer Sarah Burgess paid much more attention to what she said, emphasizing Lewinsky’s point of view as well as the perspectives of the other women involved, from Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) and Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) to Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco), all of whom were thrust into the media spotlight.

Portraying these real people on the small screen was a formidable task for the actors, who were coiffed and primped by hair department head Natalie Driscoll, and painted and sculpted by makeup department head Robin Beauchesne.

Impeachment: American Crime Story

Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky/FX

Driscoll excels in designing custom lace wigs, and classic period styling, where she transforms the actors into their characters just by enhancing their hair with carefully researched precision. Driscoll was honored for her work in three Ryan Murphy projects with Emmy awards for Outstanding Hairstylist for a Limited Series or Movie for past seasons of American Crime Story such as The People vs. O.J. Simpson and The Assassination of Gianni Versace, as well as American Horror Story. Her other notable credits include Parenthood, The Politician, and The Prom, and she also won this year’s MUAHS Guild Award for Impeachment.

Beauchesne, who is known for her artistry in age progression and character design, is equally accomplished in the awards arena with three Emmys for her makeup work on The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Feud: Bette and Joan, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has also won two MUAHS Guild Awards for Buffy and for Feud, in which she transformed Susan Sarandon into Bette Davis. Her other notable credits include Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men’s Chest and At World’s End, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Murder She Wrote, and Transformers 1-4.

Combining their strengths, the pair had somewhat of a reunion and close collaboration on the Impeachment set, having worked together before on the Versace series. Below the Line spoke with Natalie Driscoll and Robin Beauchesne from their respective Zoom locations about designing the various hair and makeup looks in order to recreate the real people portrayed in the series. Driscoll also discussed the careful attention to detail that was paid to each and every extension and hairline, while Beauchene relished in reshaping the actors’ facial structures, sometimes with makeup and other times with prosthetics, to help them more closely match their historical counterparts.

Natalie Driscoll

Natalie Driscoll image via Katie Driscoll

Below the Line: What was the initial research that you had to do to create these various looks?

Natalie Driscoll: I basically started watching documentaries, writing down the timelines, and taking a photo of what their hair looked like within that month or that year. I just laid it all out on a board and tried to figure out what made sense because I didn’t know how it was going to unfold. Then I condensed into what would work in utilizing three wigs and deciding if we really need that fourth look. Is it going to make sense or be too much? I put the board together with the dates and talked to the producers about it and made sure it would work with the script.

BTL: Can you discuss designing Monica Lewinsky’s various hair and makeup looks?

Driscoll: It was three wigs, but four looks. One of the wigs was her big, curly hair. She wound up wearing only that once. Then she had her medium-length hair and then we put extensions in that one to make it a lot longer. There was a straight blown-out version of her curly hair. Then she had her little short bob. There was a time (the photo where she is outside looking at the White House) where we had to get the hat just right by stuffing tissues in it without getting wrinkled. Also, the hair had to blow a certain way. It was an interesting challenge because she was standing on a box at an angle and we are trying to get it just right because we are underneath her and you can’t see the angles so there is somebody behind me saying, “no, one inch down, to the right, no too far.”

Robin Beauchesne: I also studied videos and the different time elements. We tried to build her character from her innocence and when she started working at The White House. And as her character evolved and the affair started with President Clinton, we wanted to break down her makeup looks as the story progressed. As far as recreating her specifically, we reshaped her eyebrows and wanted to keep her makeup really soft and clean. As her affair started, it was the classic red lipstick in the ’90s which was her signature look. We played a lot with her eyes but kept it very soft. We did some shading and highlighting to give her face a little more structure, and shading around her chin and nose. We also changed her makeup to revolve around the storyline, with the levels of intensity.

Robin Beauchesne

Robin Beauchesne image via FX

BTL: Which was your favorite historical character to design?

Beauchesne: Creating Linda Tripp was a very exciting thing. In the very beginning, I worked with a really great team, Justin Raleigh and Chris Hampton, and [Prosthetic Makeup Designer] Kelly Golden, who had different noses with one size neck and would adjust it with a fuller neck or a smaller neck. There were very extensive makeup tests with Sarah [Paulson] to make sure she felt comfortable from her profile to her wig. She would come in in the mornings and be prepped for her hair. Then she would go through prosthetics and have her nose and her neck appliance that would come up right to her jawline and blended. I would come in and do the character makeup.

I felt like she wasn’t the type of person who put a lot of time and effort into her beauty makeup but would make the effort to make herself be put together. So we thinned out Sarah’s lips. I was surprised that she went for it but she bleached and thinned out her eyebrows which really helped in the transformation. We were able to go back in with a taupe and a light brown to reshape her eye. I was able to go under her brow bone and around and up underneath her eye and around her temple I would put a lot of highlights. There was a lot of highlight and shadow in reshaping her eyes, filling out around under her eyelid and upper cheek to balance out the neck and blend the colors they use for the prosthetic pieces into her real skin and her color tones. It gave her a heavier appearance. For Edie Falco, who played Hillary we did an eyelift high to round out her eyes a bit more.

Driscoll: Paula Jones’ curly hair, I loved that one. That one was a wig with a piece on the back of it because we had to make that into two different looks as well. The wigs were made before I got the timeline done. I had to figure out how I’m going to achieve this look because I wanted it to look authentically long and have that permed look to it. Production agreed on three wigs but I wanted to do four different styles. I got with a wig maker and said I want to build a back piece to this which was a spiderweb so I would spiderweb the wig hair into it to give it more volume and then create the length in the back. She always had it halfway up in the ’80s thing so it worked out perfectly to integrate that piece with the wig.

Impeachment: American Crime Story wigs

Image via FX

BTL: What were the advantages of designing the wigs before you had the timeline?

Driscoll: We went into it with the pandemic so I had tons of time to do my own research. There were looks that were agreed upon from the researcher’s perspective, and once I did the hair breakdowns we had to integrate the looks for longer lengths. We were replicating the exact CPAC scene (Conservative Political Action Conference) with Paula Jones and she’s walking down and it shows off the back of the hair so it had to be right and not a shorter version.

BTL: What were the more challenging hairstyles that you had to recreate?

Driscoll: We had over 63 wigs and pieces. The challenging ones were the hairstyles that were up off the face with the wig. They’re always the most challenging to make the hairline look as real and authentic as you can. We had a girl come in who played the pregnant lawyer during jury duty, and she had already been shot with her hair long, and she was on another show and they chopped her hair off to a blunt bob. She had this really thick hair and I found out the day before she was supposed to shoot that it was cut. We were scrambling with a ton of extensions hoping that the color was gonna match. If you put too many extensions in her hair it would look like a big ole bowling ball. She needed it because her hair was so thick. So we had this huge gap where there were no extensions and then having one layer over all of that thick hair, and we had to watch it and make sure that whenever she would move it wasn’t coming out in any weird way. There were a few places I was a little nervous about but watching it, you can’t tell.

Impeachment: American Crime Story

Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones/FX

BTL: How much do you liaise with the wig makers?

Driscoll: We collaborate a lot from start to finish, especially when we’re matching people. I want to get the hair texture right, the density right, the cowlicks, the color. I’m a perfectionist so I want it to be on point. I’ll send things back trying to get it tweaked to be perfect. The hairline needs to be perfect. I like to have them in the fittings for the actor to make sure everything is right. They’re making the wigs on a daily basis and we are the ones styling them on a daily basis and having to reset them and work with them on the actor. It’s listening to each other.

BTL: What about the men in the series?

Driscoll: We had a lot of toupees and mousse. We loved Paul Mitchell’s firm mousse and hairspray. A lot of times I wanted the hair to blow. Depending on their age, they needed to have a little more groomed look. We tried to keep it dry and light and airy. We had a guy come in who was playing Paula Jones’ lawyer and he had white hair and no hair on top. The real guy in the series had black hair and a full head of hair with a receding hairline. The no hair on top helped us, but I couldn’t let it go. The day before we colored his hair dark, dark brown, and then we pulled a wig and colored it and cut it to fit his head as a toupee. The producers were dumbfounded.

Beauchesne: We had to do a lot of facial hair on a lot of the characters and hand-laid beards, sideburns, stretch and stipple, old-age makeup. For Blair Underwood who played Vernon Jordan, we were gonna do a bald pate and for the receding hairline and we aged around the eyes and the cheek area with stretch and stipple to give him more of an aged look. We went in and darkened the eyes. It was very subtle but it was enough that gave the essence of the character in the timeline.

Driscoll: With Blair’s wig it was so last minute. I literally had to piece his hair together. One piece was made for somebody else that our wig maker happened to have and then had to build another piece on top of that to fill in a little bit and then a toupee piece. Then I had to hand lay hair all the way around it to try and make it look natural. We did all this the morning he was shooting.

Impeachment: American Crime Story

Clive Owen as Bill Clinton/FX

BTL: What did you find most rewarding?

Driscoll: Seeing Monica’s story come to life and being able to tell her side of the story that we never heard because it was so focused on Bill’s side and making her out to be a villain, it was nice to see that. I really liked matching and bringing to life each one of these characters.

Beauchesne: Transforming Sarah Paulson into Linda Tripp and then knowing what we had to do in as makeup artists in creating these historical characters and making them come to life and telling Monica Lewinsky’s story. I was really excited and put a great team together. The transformations and putting all the different concepts together was a collaboration with all the different makeup tests. I’m very passionate about it being the best it can be in our craft and making it all come together. The overall experience was very rewarding. When they called “wrap” the cast and crew and the producers were so appreciative and they loved our departments. They were very grateful to us because it helped them with their characters. I met Monica Lewinsky towards the last week and that was a neat moment. She said, ‘thank you, Robin, for all your beautiful and hard work.’

Impeachment: American Crime Story is now streaming via FX on Hulu.