TELEVISION WORLD has a habit of underestimating Disney’s
ABC TV network. Thirty years ago,
ABC was dubbed Little Rock, and tended
to stay behind CBS and NBC.
Then one day, a chap called Charlie took three female cops away
from their hazardous assignments, and ABC
began shooting up in the ratings.
No one expected Aaron Spelling’s Charlie’s
Angels to succeed as greatly, just as no one expected Desperate
Housewives to be come the hit of 2004 on the same network. Sex
and the Suburbs, some called it, in reference to HBO’s
final-season Sex and the City.
However, when the stars make a Newsweek
cover, there must be something to it. Now that Desperate Housewives
has become a hit in nearly every country in which it has been shown,
the experts are pointing to the way the major characters cover a
spectrum. Or the clever writing. With one Golden Globe win (for
Teri Hatcher) and 15 Emmy nominations recently announced, ABC
did something very, very right. The comparison to Sex and the
City is not unjustified, for each of the main characters—played
by Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria and
Nicollette Sheridan—have a distinctive look. As do the men in their
Just prior to starting the filming of the second
season, Lucire spoke to three of the make-up team on Desperate
Housewives on how the looks were achievedand got a few
hints on what was coming up in the second year of the series.
John Elliott leads the make-up on Desperate
Housewives, with a very strong reputation in film. Elliott is
an Oscar winner for his work on The Time Machine; a glance
at his résumé shows that he is a make-up artist who is sensitive
to the demands of a director. Since his college days, Elliott has
had a fascination with make-up. ‘I walked by a room full of girls
and I said, “What class is this?” They said, “Make-up.” I ended
up taking the class, I ended up marrying one of the girls, and I
decided it was pretty easy for me so I would pursue it.’
After the class, Elliott got a job at Universal
doing the tours, which included the make-up department. ‘I used
to go down to the make-up department in the mornings and watch.
They finally got sick of me down there and so I started calling
the television networks. I got a job at ABC
doing The Lawrence Welk Show.’
As his role grew, he learned of a make-up course.
Elliott became one of ten apprentices chosen to be trained in make-up
by the Producers’ Association in a two-year programme.
‘I went three nights a week for two years. It
was the best training ever. I thought I knew how to do make-up before
I got there. I realized I didn’t.
‘This is the first TV
show I have ever done,’ said Elliott. ‘I’ve always done features,
and I’ve always been wary of television.’ But Housewives
proved to be more than he expected. ‘This was such a pleasure last
year, I may never do another show. I’ll stay on this as long as
they’ll have me.
‘The pace’ is what sets apart television from
film. ‘They want the quality of the feature with the pace of the
television show, so it makes it a little interesting.
‘I’m really pleased with the way everything’s
happening,’ he told Lucire. Elliott pointed to the high production
values, but most importantly, ‘it’s probably one of the nicest crews
I’ve ever had to work with. The cast is terrific. There are really
no sour apples: it’s really nice.’
He admitted that there was no expectation of Housewives
being a hit. ‘Oh, God, no,’ he laughed. ‘I figured it would just
fill in a few weeks of work, then back into the movies.’
That work sees Elliott head the department and
personally work on Hatcher. Occasionally, he will work on Sheridan
and Huffman and some guest stars, though they are usually assigned
to members of his team: Stacy Halax will work on Cross, Sherilyn
Stetz on Huffman and Sheridan, and Gina Rylander on Longoria. Husbands’
roles and guests are divided fairly evenly among the team.
‘Teri’s a very pretty girl. You put a little bit
of make-up on her and she looks just like a fashion model. So it’s
very hard. I try to play her down. I try to make her less pretty
than she actually is. She photographs really well.
‘I run her out there with almost no make-up. I
just do some highlighting and a very little bit of eye make-up and
a little on lips and I send her out.’
Elliott gets to decide the looks for each of the
characters. ‘The producers, the directors, and the actors all have
a say. Mine is the last,’ he joked. Despite this, ‘When you send
them out there, they always say, “Yeah, that’s what we were thinking.”’
Product quality has helped his work. ‘It’s gotten
to be that most of the products out there are usually pretty good.
I always call and ask them what they like. And if it’s something
I just don’t hate, then I’ll use it.
‘My theory is: it’s not the product, it’s the
person that’s applying it. You can apply just about any of these
products to look good, if you know what you’re doing.’
However, he does have his favourites.
the full four-page story, including the behind-the-scenes
happenings on the Desperate Housewives set, and what
its like first-hand to work with Teri Hatcher, Marcia
Cross and Eva Longoria, in the August 2005 issue of Lucire,
on sale August 8.
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Acknowledgements to Pamela Carpio and Joanna Black
of Blink New York.
a very pretty girl. You put a little bit of make-up on her and she
looks just like a fashion model. So it’s very hard. I try to play
her down. I try to make her less pretty
than she actually is. She photographs really well
MAIN PHOTOGRAPH: Eva
Longorias popularity has seen her become a LOréal
Paris face (photograph copyright LOréal
Paris and used with permission). ABOVE,
FROM TOP: Publicity photograph from Desperate Housewives
(courtesy TV2). Eva Longoria
reads to children with cancer for Padres contra el Cancer. Nicollette
Sheridan and Iraqi rescue dog Ratchet at the 19th Genesis Awards.