A Behind the Scenes Look at the Intense Makeup In Season 4 of The Handmaid's Tale
Season four of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale is finally here after a two-year-long gap. The new season picks up right where we left off at the end of season three, with a war brewing and June (played by Elisabeth Moss) on the run in Canada having escaped from Gilead. The tension has hit a boiling point and everything has intensified, from the plot to the characters' attitudes, and even their makeup.
You'd be surprised how much goes into the weathered and beaten, no-makeup look that June and the other Handmaids wear in the show. (It did earn the show's makeup team two Emmy nominations for outstanding contemporary makeup, after all.) If you thought a lot of work went into the artistry before, just wait until you see season four.
"I think the viewers are going to be really happy and impressed with the makeup and where it's come from in season three," Burton LeBlanc, the show's makeup department head, told POPSUGAR. "There are so many other scenes now and the doors opened up to so many other avenues where the show is going, outside of Gilead, especially in the first few episodes."
To see what LeBlanc means by that, keep reading.
What You Can Expect to Be Different in Season 4's Makeup
Season four starts off in a new location with new struggles. June is no longer stuck in Gilead, but her fight is not over yet. Because of this, you can expect the makeup on all of the characters to intensify along with the plot. "What's happening in season four is pretty explosive," said LeBlanc. "June and a few of the handmaids [are] on the run and in disguise as working farmhands. So, it's really just intensifying [the makeup] and keeping up that realism."
That means you can expect lots more blood, dirt, and grime.
The trailer shows Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) battered after being interrogated by The Eyes. "You also have Commander Lawrence, who's in prison, so he's looking a bit rough, worn out," said LeBlanc. "He's got a little bit of bruising, [a] messed up hair and beard." Commander Waterford is also incarcerated, so he's not looking too great. As the season progresses his beard gets longer and messier, and his dark circles worsen the longer he's there.
As for June, she's still in survival mode. "The intricacies of her makeup occasionally change from scene to scene," said LeBlanc. For instance, she looks even paler at the start of the season due to that gunshot wound she sustains in the last episode of season three. "There's a gray tone to her face because she's fighting off this infection from a shotgun wound," he said.
How June's Makeup Changes in the Courtroom
There are a few scenes where we get to see June a bit more pulled together, like in the courtroom when she says, "I ask for justice." She's dressed in a black blazer with her short bob haircut in tousled, messy waves. She's wearing visible, soft makeup, but she still very much looks like she's in distress. "It's not too different because we don't want to take the viewer out of the plot [and have it] be a little bit too jarring," said LeBlanc. He brushed up her brows a little, tried to conceal the dark circles under her eyes slightly, and gave her a subtle lip stain. "Like she made an effort, she's trying her best, but she's still traumatized and she's still dealing with a lot of stuff."
To get that barely there lip color, he used the Benefit Cosmetics Cheek and Lip Tint ($18).
The Key to Getting the Makeup Just Right
There are two products that LeBlanc relies on heavily to get that dirty, bloody look just right. The first is Skin Illustrator's Dirtworks. "It's just heavily pigmented dust that you can apply on dry or you can get it wet," he said. "We use that a lot starting off in episode one and throughout [the season], just to get into their nails, hands, elbows, and backs of their neck."
For the blood residue, he uses Fleet Street Bloodworks Drying Blood, which comes in a variety of shades, ranging from bright red to a dark brown. Each of the characters' makeup looks take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour — but LeBlanc always wishes he had more time, especially for June.
How the Special Effects Makeup Looks So Realistic
When it comes to the special effects makeup, like when someone is visible wounded, a combination of makeup and prosthetics are used. June's gunshot wound required a 3D piece prosthetic that was then blended with makeup, because "you need a piece to flow into the skin to make it realistic," said LeBlanc.
In order to get the makeup of the wounds, bruises, and gashes just right, tons of photographs are taken by LeBlanc and his team, allowing them to digitally track everything. "It's a challenge," he said when talking about needing to get the makeup just right time and time again when filming out of order.
Anytime there's an obscene amount of blood involved, which there is in one of the scenes involving a young wife who shall not be named (no spoilers here), the actors are taken to the side to an area covered with trash bags. Once there, LeBlanc explained, they're "completely drenched and splattered with this blood" that's thrown at them using various squirting and flicking techniques.
How the Handmaids Contrast From the Elite With Makeup
When any of the Handmaids appear alongside someone from "the real world," Toronto, or even flashbacks, the contrast between their looks is stark. "When they cross over, you can visually see their difference right away," said LeBlanc. "And you feel it." That's largely thanks to the hair and makeup.
For example, Mrs. Esther Keyes (McKenna Grace) stands out with her sleek and polished low bun and clean makeup. "When we deal with wives, they have a whole set of rules with their makeup," said LeBlanc. "Really light, simple foundation, a little bit of blush on the cheeks, brush eyebrows. So when you see somebody like June in the same scene with her, and June's worn down and broken down with her pale face and pale lips, you see that difference."