Castle's Makeup Artist Debbie Zoller Gets Gory At Work

As the head makeup artist on ABC's crime dramedy Castle, Debbie Zoller creates everyday makeup looks for the show's main characters. But, seeing that the program is not without its fair share of murder mysteries, Zoller must also create blood spatters, prosthetic detached fingers, and mangled body parts, often working in the most unusual of situations. "Last season we had [to create] a frozen girl dumped out of a freezer," she said. Yikes.

Recently, I caught up with Zoller, who is up for an Emmy for her previous work on Mad Men (more here), to find out more about what a typical workday is like onset at Castle.

To find out more about Zoller's work, read more.

How do you find your inspiration? Do you look through real pics of corpses?
I do. I consult with what the writer had in mind when they wrote it, and I try to put a beautiful spin on things. When I see a dead girl, I still want her to look beautiful. I still want her to look pretty. I don’t want her to look horribly disfigured and gross. . . How can I make her look peaceful? How can I make her look ethereal, even though she may be dead? That, I’ll do with makeup. That’s what we did for this frozen girl. I wanted it to kind of look like ice was on her. We paled her out, made her blue, and put a shimmery powder on top. She looked just gorgeous. So, that’s how I try to put my little spin on things.


How do you balance regular makeup looks with the gory ones?
That’s the thing that is really awesome about this show is that I get to do both the prosthetics and design, and I also get to do beauty makeup. I really get both ends of the spectrum. What I find is that I actually have to do more research for this show [than for Mad Men]. I have to make sure things look appropriate and that standards and practices for ABC allows it.

What are some unexpected materials you might use?
I’ll use a lot of food items, especially if it’s going on someone who may have skin allergies. For dirt, I’ll use coffee grounds. If there’s a little kid that has dirt on their face, I’ll use Nutella. I’ll try and use as many things that are natural and organic. That way, if people are lying on the ground in it, it’s not so bad. For blood, I’ll use a Karo Syrup base. If I have a character that may have to have blood in his mouth, I always make sure that I add a mint paste to it or something that’s a little bit more pleasing, so that it’s not really gross.

Stay tuned for more from my interview with Zoller, from the beauty looks she creates on Castle to products she recommends to how she got her start in makeup artistry.