According to Sofía Vergara’s makeup artist Todd McIntosh, three prominent and iconic features needed to be covered up when transforming Vergara into Griselda Blanco, also known as “The Godmother,” for her latest role in Netflix’s “Griselda“: her nose, her “white smile” and her eyebrows.
McIntosh, who worked closely with the actor, notes “Griselda was not a pretty lady. So, the idea was to take away the things that make [Vergara] pretty and to make her look average. On top of that, tell the story through traditional makeup.”
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In the six-part limited series, Vergara’s transformation is remarkable. Completely unrecognizable, she plays the notorious and ruthless Griselda. The story charts Griselda’s move from Colombia to Miami in the 1970s and follows her into the 1980s as she builds her drug empire, fearlessly taking on the other cartels to run one of the biggest cartels in history.
To transform and transport Vergara back into the 1970s, eyebrow covers were used. McIntosh says, “Her eyebrows are so identified with her and her look. So, we put eyebrow covers over her brows to eliminate that, and we used laced brow pieces that were thinner, less pretty and scraggly, and we gave her that ‘70s arch to keep the time period in place.”
However, early testing came up with challenges, as the eyebrow pieces weren’t staying in place. “We decided to lay her back, and the whole makeup was done with her laying back with her earphones in, and I would work from above with my magnifying glasses, blending in and protecting her natural brows so the adhesive wouldn’t pull her real hairs out.”
The other challenge was blending. “You cut close to the eyebrow, you run into trouble with a blending edge being close to the brow,” McIntosh explains. “Or you go to the top of the forehead, and it gets lost in the hairline, the wig and the lace. That’s the solution we chose.”
As for the teeth, the idea was for them to look normal. Initially, she was given a bottom and top plate, but when Vergara was speaking, they pressed together and caused an issue. “She was finding it hard to enunciate, so I took out the bottom teeth and painted them in for the rest of the show with different nicotine and brown tones.”
Once the prosthetic pieces made from translucent silicone (brow covers, nose pieces and false teeth) were applied, McIntosh set about finding the right makeup to apply. “Sofía wanted the makeup to be two or three shades darker than her own. So, I was putting on an opaque color over a translucent product, which makes all the edges show up,” he explains. He ended up using Revlon Colorstay line as a base since he knew from past experience it worked beautifully and would cover up those edges.
When it came to picking out eyeshadow and lipstick shades, McIntosh noted that the time period meant women didn’t necessarily change their lipstick shade every week. “The idea was most women chose a color or style for their makeup and didn’t change it. They kept those colors.”
He opted for darker lips and eyes on Griselda, and as her personality evolves, the makeup gets darker and deeper. “As she becomes more paranoid, the browns go to black, and things start to shift,” he says.
A key turning point is in Episode 4, when Griselda discovers several of her employees have been decapitated. To avenge their deaths, she makes her first-ever kill. It’s another shift for her — she wants everyone to respect her, but also fear her. Makeup-wise, McIntosh says, “Once we’re into the really rough stuff, there’s a lot of smeared makeup and messy lips.”
For her final prison look, McIntosh says he had several discussions with Vergara about how they would approach it. In the end, a prosthetic neck wattle piece was used to give that sagging, aged look to that area. And stipple was used to age her.
Vergara’s entire transformation took three hours. McIntosh spent an hour and a half on applying prosthetics and makeup, while an additional hour and a half was spent on applying the wig, body makeup and wardrobe. “What we wanted to achieve was not to hide Sofía completely, but to transform her into someone else.”
Vergara, who serves as the show’s executive producer, was highly involved in the process, working closely alongside McIntosh. “She was extremely dedicated. Everything about this character that Sofía created, from her walk to what kind of bra she wore, she was involved in. She would study every night,” he says.
Did she ever go out in public dressed as Griselda? “We kept it pretty much under wraps,” McIntosh says. “I’m sure people wouldn’t have recognized her.”
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