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Eryn Krueger Mekash’s Long Partnership With Ryan Murphy Leads To “Feud”

By: Marjorie Galas

Eryn Krueger Mekash marvels at frequent collaborator Ryan Murphy’s timing. Mekash, who started as a makeup artist on Murphy’s “Nip/Tuck” and served as makeup department head, prosthetic makeup artist and makeup designer on nearly all Murphy’s content continuously witnesses his creations tap into the nation’s zeitgeist. When he approached her with “Feud,” a series highlighting the friction between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, she was thrilled.  Not only was she inspired by the creator’s devotion to the details of old Hollywood, but also the series’ relevance to the struggles contemporary women are engaged in.

“I knew he would hit it out of the park,” said Mekash.

Although Murphy prefers a “less is more” approach with makeup design, the creativity he endows her as a department head has resulted in Mekash winning four Prime Time Emmys and 24 of her 26 Emmy nominations. With her understanding of Murphy’s taste in mind, Mekash began her research for “Feud” with her library, looking over vintage makeup books and period photos.  With 150 characters, hundreds of extras and multiple time periods, Mekash had a number of looks to refine and replicate.  Recognizing the power acting chops Susan Sarandon (Bette Davis) and Jessica Lange (Joan Crawford) brought to their characters, Mekash was careful not to impede their facial expressions.  Instead, she relied on contouring and using vintage eye and lip colors to enhance their personification of the icons. With these ideas drawn out, she met with Murphy and head hairstylist Chris Clark to solidify looks that were realistic and avoided camp.

The minute she signed on to the eight episode series, Mekash began calling makeup artists to gage their availability and lock in her talented crew.  As she broke down the scripts, she assigned artists to several actors, particularly any they might have previously worked with before.  Those with particular skills, such as key makeup artist and facial hair whiz Robin Beauchesne, oversaw mustaches and sideburns as well as actor Stanley Tucci, who, as studio head Jack Warner, required a special mustache, brow and teeth.  Special effects artist Myke Michaels was brought to quickly age Catherine Zeta-Jones’ young Olivia de Havilland fifteen years in one shoot day.    Experienced makeup artists such as Kim Ayers and Tym Buacharern helped oversee various units.  For scenes such as an Oscar ceremony that featured 300 extras, Mekash ensured there were 25 makeup artists and stations that could quickly work through each individual’s period hair and makeup needs.

Murphy relies heavily on Mekash during production, calling her his “eyes and ears.”  This year, while receiving the “Distinguished Artisan Award” during the Makeup and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, Murphy recognized the importance of Mekash and her fellow artists by calling them a “crucial part of the filmmaking process.”  He further feted Mekash by announcing that, on their next project together, he’d be giving her a producer credit.

“Our departments are never acknowledged like that. I was just blown away,” said Mekash.  “I want to honor his vision and what he creates.”