Outlander Cast Chats w/ Head Of Prosthetics & Makeup: Kristyan Mallett – Episode 14
|Photo Credit Outlander Anatomy|
Hosts Mary and Blake discuss everything blood, guts, makeup and prosthetics with Kristyan Mallett-the head of Prosthetics and Makeup on Outlander. In this episode you’ll learn about why Mary has a nerdgasm, what Jamie’s back and Batman have in common, how they achieved the look on Jamie’s back, Geordie’s guts and the surprise setting of that scene, the science of blood and little boys ears, what it was like to work on the set of , and why the best compliment to Kristyan is never noticing his work.
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Outlander Cast: Joining us now is Kristyan Mallett. He is a prosthetic makeup designer who has worked on our favorite show, Outlander, but he’s also worked on a bunch of films and television shows that you might know like Les Mis and a few of the Harry Potter movies. And, Kristyan, I don’t know if you know this, but I am like THE biggest Harry Potter fan in all of Rhode Island. (Blake: I’d say mainly the United States) Probably.
Kristyan Mallett: That is quite a claim. That is quite a claim. I mean, I actually live in Leavesden which is the place where all of the Harry Potter movies were made. I actually met my wife on Harry Potter 4, I believe it was 4, and we now have three children. And they’re not called Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We live in the housing estate which is where they shot basically the Harry Potter sequence of where his home is. (OC: The Dursleys, your neighbors were the Dursleys?) The Dursleys? No I don’t live in their house. But I live on their estate essentially. And we actually live opposite the Harry Potter studios. So, yes it’s kind of strange. I actually moved to where I live because of Harry Potter. It’s kind of strange. That’s where I started my film career was with Harry Potter.
OC: Really? Now tell us a little bit of what you did with the film crew on the Harry Potter set that then gave you the springboard to create your own crew.
OC: Yes, before we even talk Outlander, are your daughters going to have amazing Halloween costumes because they have you as a dad?
KM: (Laughs out loud) Everyone says that. Everyone thinks that Halloween it must be the best house to be in. But it’s like a busman’s holiday, the last thing I want to see on Halloween, or be asked on Halloween, is, “Can you do my makeup?” It’s like no chance.
OC: They’ll just be ghosts with a sheet over their head.
KM: Yes, yes the easy way out. Whatever I can do.
OC: So you said that many of the different shows you were on, you were recommended to be on. How did you find your way into Outlander?
KM: Well, it was the makeup designer, Lisa Westcott, on Les Mis. When I worked with her, before the film even started, I’d gotten recommended to her through Daniel Phillips and Jan Sewell who were other makeup designers that I had worked with. But she wanted somebody to sit down with her and actually artwork all the various different looks for all the characters on Les Miserables before we even got the cast in, so that she could offer up hairstyles and makeup looks . . . this is without the prosthetics. But she wanted me to photoshop different designs. And so I sat with Lisa Westcott for about a month and a half in Pinewood Studios art working every single character’s different hairstyles-all of the options, and how it would look in completely different costumes from their skin tones. And we had done this for a while, and then when the film started, there’s also aging makeups, makeups to make them look like they were wearing shackles; and we’d done tattoo transfers. That job just grew and grew and grew and grew. Lisa Westcott actually won an Oscar for that film for Best Makeup, which is rightly deserved, because not only did she do a great job, but the actual the politics involved in that film were quite dramatic for the British film industry. Many people were taken advantage of just because it was a seventeen week film production that got squashed into thirteen weeks. And the production were desperately trying to save money, and they were working people too long and not paying them. And it ended up being a bit of a nightmare. So there were kind of, well not strikes, but the unions were involved, and it became kind of messy. And I think for her just to get through that, I mean, it was the last film. She retired after that. I think she’d had enough. She was asked by a makeup designer called Suzanne Jansen about wanting to approach Outlander in a similar vein. We were trying to get someone to do artwork and designs. Lisa was a good friend of Suzanne, and Lisa recommended me. And then I sat with Suzanne. And she sent me briefs of what she required for Sam, and what he would look like. So we’d done makeup designs and hair designs for Tobias. And we’d done artwork for Sam and various different hair colors and all those sorts of things. And basically what happened was, over a period of time, we had a collection of artwork that was then submitted to the producers; and they would say no to this, yes to that. And it just kept kind of going backwards and forwards until they basically ended up getting Sam in for the actual makeup tests and things like that. And then after that, we then started the prosthetics which is then where I became more heavily involved. We started art working the back scars, and that went on for quite a while because it was such an iconic part of that character. You know it had to tell quite a large story.
OC: So tell me about that process. Did you feel any responsibility to making that back prosthetic? Did you feel any pressure?
KM: I think, fortunately because I was completely unaware of how big the books were, I think if I had known, then I probably would have added a little bit of pressure to myself. But as far as I was aware, it was one story being told up in Scotland about a guy who had been flogged quite heavily; and I wasn’t aware of how large the show was or even seemed to be. So I didn’t have any pressure at all. I didn’t feel any pressure. But that was because I was completely ignorant, to be honest, and naive to how big this show was. In hindsight, I’m very glad that I sculpted it the way I sculpted it, and it was designed the way it was designed, only because it has quite an impact. It’s quite hard-hitting. And I think after now knowing the story…because another thing is when I started I was given the first two scripts, first. And then every time they released another two scripts, that’s how I found out the story. It was not like they gave me the entire series and said there you go, this is what you’re heading towards. They didn’t even recommend the book. But to be honest, even if they did, I wouldn’t have had time to read it.
OC: So the back itself, it’s pretty gnarly when you look at it. What was the concept that you had? And what was the frame of reference that you were looking towards? And what was the look you were going for in terms of that prosthetic?
KM: Well, originally, we wanted to keep it quite subtle so that you’d have to be quite close to him to see it for it to read. And we were going to do it so that when I sculpted it-when I made it-it was going to be something very simple for the makeup team to stick on because I knew it was going to be on there a lot; and I knew there was a good chance they couldn’t afford for me to be flown all the way to Scotland to stick it on all the time. Because then they’d have to put me up overnight, I’d have to stick it on and fly back that same day or the next day. And if you fly the day before and you fly back the day after, they have to pay the travel day and that’s a whole day’s work just for you to sit on a plane. It becomes incredibly expensive and not necessary really. So I designed the first few pieces of artwork very subtle. And then it was more, more, more. So we’d done it a little bit more. Then it was more, more, more. And I was like OK, we said if you do any more, it’s going to be a hefty prosthetic and requiring me being there. But the other thing is, is in the story he is meant to have a hundred lashes on his back because he is flogged a hundred times. And that’s the second time around. So in all fairness, he’d be dead. He wouldn’t even be alive. Also it’s a cat o’nine tail, so not only was he flogged a hundred times, that’s nine hundred lashes on his back. He wouldn’t have a back left. So, in all honesty, he wouldn’t just have a few stripes of scars. But he would have barely any back left whatsoever. It’d look like a really bad skin graft. That’s probably what it would look like. But obviously that doesn’t make for a good story, and the hero’s still got to look sexy, cool and scars are sexy and cool right? So we looked at other reference-and there’s a piece of artwork from I remember Batman comic by Alex Ross-and it was Batman sort of looking at himself after he’s taking his bat suit off. And Bruce Wayne is checking his own back out; and there’s a black and white image; and there’s scars from being beaten and cut and stabbed and various bullet wounds on his back. It was really deep-those wounds were really deep and puckered, and there was something I really liked about that. And I remember thinking it would be kind of cool to have that sort of element to it whether it’s different strokes, but there’s scars that go in, scars that are growing over other scars. When he’s had his first load of lashes they’ve healed up, and he’s been flogged again, and they’ve been healed up over top of other healed scars. And that’s kind of the way we approached it.
|Photo Credit Outlander Anatomy|
OC: I just wanted to know what that process was like to even make it. What did you even use? And did you have to practice putting it on Sam’s back? How do you make those scars?
KM: Well, we did, what we do is we take a live cast of Sam’s back. So Sam comes into the workshop, and we basically put silicone all over his back. It goes off in like five minutes. And then we put plaster bandage on the back of that so it will hold it’s shape. And then we ask Sam to step away, and we sort of pull it off his back. And then we have a negative shape of Sam’s back. Then we fill that with plaster of Paris, and then we have a positive of Sam’s back. So that’s our shape that we sculpt on. We sculpt with a wax called plasteline, here in the UK. And in the US there’s one called monster makers clay, which we have actually moved onto. And so we actually order from the US because it’s much better clay. But you basically block out shapes. So you look at your reference and you start sculpting. And you start putting the scars where you want the scars to go. And there’s different directions, and you build those up so you can carve into it so you can make it look like the scars going deep within the skin tissue. And that’s basically what we did. And once you’ve got the rough shape, you take an image and you send it to the producers, and they say yes, no, more, less, until you actually find something that you’re really happy with. So we’d done a few designs first and as soon as they looked down the design I went ahead and just sculpted what I thought would look cool. And they pretty much said yes straight away. So once they were happy with the shape, we then basically put in all the skin detail. And it is literally a case of putting in skin pore by skin pore one at a time with a tiny needle through a tiny piece of plastic. And you’re doing it and going all the direction of the skin texture where it’s been puckered and pulled, so if they wanted to, if they wanted to go over it with a macro lens on to that back, you’d actually see all the skin pores that are being pulled into the various scar detail. The only reason we did that was we knew that there’s a good chance, there was a sequence where she rubs her hand down his back and it’s all meant to be soft lit and against the firelight, so we knew it was really going to catch some detail, so we went all out, to be honest.
OC: I’m glad you did because that was a very nice scene. (KM: Sexy scene, right?) That was their wedding night scene. (KM: No not that scene.) In regard to the back, you said that you wanted to start off really subtly and you kept on adding. Who was telling you to keep adding? Was that your choice, or was that Ron Moore’s choice?
KM: It was Ron’s really because I…I think it was a case of I was trying to be subtle because I knew what it would entail as a makeup artist trying to stick it on everyday. The maintenance of it. It’s not an easy thing sticking on a back piece, so it’s not very easy for the artist to sit there for any length of time to have this prosthetic put on. So I was trying to keep it really simple at first to make life easy. But of course it was very much…normally that’s what producers want. They want artists quickly on set. They don’t want us hanging around too long. Don’t want us to spend money. Don’t want to pay for you to fly up. So I was doing everything that they normally would want. So this was the first times, so they were like no, no, no. We want more, more, more. Yes the prosthetic. We’ll fly you up; we’ll do this; we’ll do that. Of course they did, and then they realized that actually half way through the series maybe we should try and get the makeup department to learn how to stick this on because it is costing us a fortune. And I said well, put a shirt on him. Put a shirt on him. He’s always getting his top off. Just put him in a shirt. Put him in a jumper. Save yourself from watching.
OC: Aside from you, who has the most say in what your work will look like? Is that something you only answer to Ron Moore or do you answer to other people too?
KM: No, no, no, the makeup designer, well Suzanne Jansen, she’d done the first four episodes. And then at Christmas there was a hiatus, and then after that Annie McEwan took over as makeup designer. And I don’t think there were reasons apart than availability. And I think, oh and I’ll tell you what the other reason was, Annie was from Scotland. And I know that Suzanne was from London. And I think the travels and the accommodation of having the entire makeup team from London in Scotland was draining the resources a little bit too much. So they tried to have as many local people as possible. And I think Annie’s availability was…they always wanted Annie to do it, but she couldn’t do the first four episodes, because I think she was on Game of Thrones. And when I believe she was then available after Christmas, they went ahead and got Annie in because she was always meant to be doing it because she was local. And then Suzanne and them went back down to London. But the makeup designer very much has a say in things. But in this case with the back, Suzanne didn’t want anything to do with the prosthetics. And at that point Annie wasn’t even on board, so with that it was very much just me and the producers. Again, not realizing how much of a focal point this was going to be at the time, so it was like, “Meh, back scar, OK, what do you want?” If only I knew. But I’m glad I didn’t at the time because it kind of worked out for the best. But one thing I wish I did know was that we actually see later on a flashback of the flogging taking place because I would have sculpted it differently. I would have done the actual lashing part first and then copied it in the scar form.
|Photo Credit Outlander Anatomy|
OC: So you worked on that back for that scene? That back lashing scene with all of the skin hanging off?
KM: That’s me. Yea I’d gotten a lot of phone calls and a lot of Facebook notifications about that. A lot of people were kind of grossed out by it. Which is good, it is meant to be really brutal. I was very happy with that whole makeup there. It was really hard to do. It was very complicated, especially when it had to progress, it had to get worse and worse. So it also had to bleed. It was an incredibly thin prosthetic that had to have blood rigs underneath. But also had to show how his back got into the state it did.
OC: How did you even get the blood inside that? I was picturing a little zip lock bag stuck inside of the back and as it would be hit, it would be punctured.
KM: Imagine that. You’d just have these bulbous bags. That would never work. That’s crazy.
OC: That is why I’m not a prosthetic makeup designer.
KM: Exactly, exactly. Well now you’re not that far off to be honest. You do have these bladders. We make these tiny little bladders, and they’re kind of like latex balloons, and they’re very flat, but they have loads of holes in them. So along his back where he’s got all these lines and criss crosses, behind each one of those was various different small bladders that would have a little tube coming out. And all these tubes were connected to larger tubes. And they would be connected to a thing called a pegala. Now a lot of people would know a pegala if they saw one because it has this pump and you use it to spray fertilizer or weed killer on your plants. So it’s kind of a thing you pump up. It’s one of those only this one is a little more industrial, it’s silver and it’s got a pressure gauge on it so you can know what pressure you can get up to. And so you have all these tiny little tubes that come out of the bottom of his back that go underneath his kilt so you don’t see that and the prosthetic goes all the way down to his bum. And then from the bum and that comes out all these tubes that connects to the pegalas. And we’ve got a couple of pegalas on the go all primed and ready to go so that every time he lashes his back, we sort of release a little bit of blood and part of the back will bleed. And then we’ll release a bit more and part of the back will bleed. And the more he does it, the more it bleeds, and the more vicious it gets. And then we go in and we start to rip apart the back, and open up other parts of the back with other wounds. And it gets to the point where pieces are literally hanging off. And blood is going all over the place. And on the day I seem to remember over-priming it a bit and going a little over blood happy. But what was interesting was the set it was shot in was incredible. It was, everyone was around and it was fantastic because the reactions on people’s faces they didn’t know what to expect. So we took Sam out with the prosthetic on and we had him hanging there. And then we went straight into the gruesome parts of the shoot. And I think it took a lot of people by surprise. All the supporting artists and even the producers were like on the other side giving me the thumb’s up because I think they were happy with how brutal it looked. But I’ve since seen the actual sequence and it’s quite brutal, it’s very hard to watch if you didn’t know it was coming.
OC: I remember watching that sequence and I had an expectation on what the lashing would look like and how it would effect Sam’s back. But what I didn’t anticipate was that initial lash and all of a sudden all of the blood just came pouring out. And I was like, “Oh my God!” I totally didn’t expect it. I don’t know why. And it just poured out and it just felt so real. I remember commenting on it and being totally, totally floored by the work that you had done. (KM: Well thank you very much) It was awesome. But, so we all know about Jamie’s back and it’s a major, major part of the story. Is there something that you worked on that we wouldn’t have noticed necessarily? Or something that was underplayed?
KM: Well to be honest, Sam kind of gets, he gets a lot of things. You get to the point where you think, “Christ, if I was Sam, I’d probably jump off a cliff.” Because everything happens to Sam. I mean he dislocated his shoulder in the first episode. You know the first episode we meet him, he’s dislocated his shoulder. And I remember, it was me and visual effects we had done this kind of shoulder part where we made this prosthetic where he would have his arm hanging off down the side of his body and the collar bone was like popping quite high. And then Claire comes along and twists it and gives it just a pop and fixes. What a genius. She’s so clever. No, VFX fixes it. Good ole VFX guy. So what they’d done was they did the entire sequence with him with the prosthetic on and then we took the prosthetic off and they did the entire sequence with the prosthetic off. And what they had done was they basically merged the two together. So when he twisted his arm they made the prosthetic animate into his own shoulder. And that was really quite nice. Quite a nice marriage.
|Photo Credit Outlander Anatomy|
OC: I like that you call it quite nice, because I went, “Ehhhhhhh.”
|Photo Credit Outlander Anatomy
OC: You were too busy crying. That was such an emotional scene. It really was so special. You’re right. No one would have noticed.
OC: While you’re pumping this pergola, is that how you say it? (KM: pegala) When you’re pumping it, are you hiding under the table? Where are you?
OC: So aside from the amputation and the back, is there something on the set that you loved working on?
KM: Well, it’s all gory to be honest. All the stuff that we do personally on this particular project. I mean the little boy’s ear? I mean the one where he’s pinned to the post? I mean we did all that. We actually made a large ear which was probably about 20 times the size of his ear. Cause I haven’t seen this episode, so I don’t know. Originally when they hammered the nail into the wood-I don’t know if you see it-but they wanted to actually see the penetration of the nail going through the ear. But they wanted to do it on such a tight macro lens, that we needed to upscale this little boy’s ear to be this big. So we did that, and then we hair punched his entire hair line. So we actually had a big piece of silicone with a big ear on it and hair on it all the way around it. And we made a large nail; and then they basically pierced the large nail through the large ear into this large piece of wood so that on camera it would actually look like his being pierced into the wood, but it wasn’t. It was just this huge ear being pierced into this rather large piece of wood.
|Photo Credit Outlander Anatomy
OC: It looked like him for sure. You guys did a great job. I had no idea that’s how you did it. It came out great.
OC: Pretending to be in so much pain of course.
OC: What projects are you working on next? And will you be continuing with Outlander? Or are you moving on?
OC: And we can’t say because we’re “spoiler free.” So I know, but I can’t tell you guys.
OC: They are; they are. We talk about them almost every episode how gorgeous they are.
OC: One thing I have noticed is Angus’ missing teeth. Did you guys work on that? How did he have no teeth in the front?