Recently, I had the absolute pleasure to interview one of the top make-up artists working in the industry, Emmy winner Eryn Krueger Mekash! She has been creating breath-taking effects for nearly three decades. You can view her current masterpieces on FX’s American Horror Story: Hotel, Fox’s Scream Queens and the up-coming American Crime Story: The People v. O.J Simpson airing in February 2016! She is truly a wonder and it was such an honor to get to know more about this talented lady!
J: Hi Eryn,
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your horrendously busy schedule to let me interview you!
I’d like to start off by saying that the first time I saw you was at MonsterPalooza 2013 where you were doing a make-up demonstration from your show American Horror Story. It was the glorious double amputee zombie effect from Season 2! I snapped some photos and was so impressed that I decided THEN AND THERE to watch the show. I’ve been hooked ever since. I just want you to be aware of the obsessed monster you’ve created. Get it? Get the horrible pun I just made?
E: I get it! You’re very clever Jaz! We are cut from the same creepy cloth. You decided we would be friends and that was that.
J: Indeed it was. We began our friendship in a rather unorthodox way via social media awhile back. Do you think social media and the internet has changed the way the public views and interacts with television shows?
E: I do! The public is watching television in big marathons after the seasons are over, or they watch it on the weekends when they have time to enjoy it. It has changed the way the networks count ratings as well.
I’m glad for social media-I get to meet people I wouldn’t normally get to – like you!
J: You’ve been doing make-up since you were a fetus. Everything from Ghoulies II to General Hospital to Glee. That’s quite the broad spectrum! You’re best known for your work on Nip/Tuck and American Horror Story though. What is it about those shows that brought you such recognition? Congratulations on your Emmy win by the way!
E: Thank you! It was so exciting! My relationship with Ryan Murphy is what brought me the recognition. His brilliance and dedication to make-up made for a great collaboration. I’ve been around doing make-up for a long time-I’ve worked on all kinds of stuff, but I’m a bit of a late bloomer as far as recognition goes. Ryan and I just hit it off well-we are close to the same age so we have similar references and get each other.
J: This season of American Horror Story you’ve gotten to let your freak flag fly and do some pretty intense make-up and gags (The Sally teeth scene in Episode 2 was top notch!) What’s been your favorite so far in Season 5 w/out giving too much away?
E: I always love creating the looks on each person. Coming up with new looks all the time is very rewarding and challenging. I think I like Sally’s character and being able to orchestrate the real-time blood and gore that’s in abundance this season. My team is incredibly fast and efficient-everything is planned out. It makes for a successful blood gag.
J: What’s been your favorite make-up throughout your entire career?
E: I enjoyed running the special makeup effects for my friend Tania McComas who was the department head on Flags of Our Fathers. We shot in Iceland and we had a ton of injuries; bullet hits, bomb blasts, burns, and amputations out in the elements. It’s great when you complete a gag and everyone is happy! I also enjoyed the old age episode of Nip/Tuck using the transfer method, Sarah Paulson’s old age make-up in AHS: Asylum, Sofia Vaseileva’s illness make-ups from My Sister’s Keeper, and the character work from Alpha Dog.
J: Personally, I’m a fan of your darker understated make-up jobs the most. The Stigmata ridden prostitute Agatha Ripp from Season 2 of Nip/Tuck comes to mind. She reminded me quite a bit of the ladies that used to grace my grandmother’s old half-way house in 1990’s Tampa! How do you get such authenticity and detail with your work? How much research do you do to prepare?
E: Ah! The Stigmata! Again, Ryan Murphy. He tells me what he wants and I translate it into research, pictures, and eventually a make-up test. We make adjustments and fine-tune until it is to his satisfaction.
I am always collecting pictures and ripping apart magazines to get what I want for a possible future character. Then I can go back and pull things I like as inspiration.
J: A large majority of the actors who sit in your chair are members of Ryan Murphy’s repertory company; many of whom you’ve worked with for years: Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Denis O’Hare, our lord and savior Kathy Bates. Do you prefer working on someone with whom you’re accustomed or do you like the challenge that an unfamiliar face brings?
E: I like both! It’s very fun reinventing actors to bring Ryan’s vision to life every season. All of the actor’s are into it as well-it keeps my creativity at a high level which I love.
J: You’ve worked with Ryan Murphy since 2003. This year alone you two have collaborated on AHS: Hotel, Scream Queens, and the upcoming American Crime Story. What process do you guys go through to come up with the look of each character? How much of the final result is you and how much is Murphy?
E: We go through each character, but there is a level that he trusts me to keep his vision. He’ll say, “You know what I like.” I make him picture boards of tests I’ve done so he can pick what he likes. Dave Anderson of AFX designs a ton of different looks for him to choose from, and creatures/make-up are chosen from there, usually with a very fast turnaround.
J: I’ve really been enjoying Scream Queens. It’s such a fun homage to the horror genre! You even got to work with the original Scream Queen herself, Ms. Jamie Lee Curtis! What was that like? Did you lose your mind?
E: Jamie is an incredible, rad person. She’s so fun to work with! She still likes the horror genre and is up for anything! I completely dig her! I worked with her through the mid-90’s. Her make-up artist during that time was my friend Tania McComas (Tania’s ears must be burning…) and I was her Key for The Heidi Chronicles and I worked on Halloween: H20 and Drowning Mona.
I can’t say enough about her-I was very honored and excited to see her again. She signed my Michael Myers shirt!
J: The greatest day of the entire year is coming up, I’m obviously talking about All Hallow’s Eve. What is the best Halloween costume you’ve ever had? What are you going as this year?
E: That’s a tall order, Jaz. I was a Lost Boy one year, I was one of Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s lady vamps for a few years in a row. I was a werewolf in 6th grade and won first place with a wig on my face and chandelier chain wrapped around me. I was Madeline Khan’s Bride from Young Frankenstein, Captain Hook, and Gareth from Labyrinth. The list is endless.
This year I’m going as Lady of Wolf Manor. I’m pretty sure I’m just throwing it all together this year.
J: Lastly, probably my favorite thing about you is how kind you are, especially to fledgling film people (I’ve not forgotten your hug after my humiliating Paleyfest ordeal.) How have you avoided becoming jaded in this business and what advice would you give young women interested in make-up and/or film careers?
E: It’s really hard not to with the hours we work and dealing with so many personalities. I have a good sense of what’s important and make sure I surround myself with people who are not only incredibly talented but who are fun to be with. I try my best to treat people kindly. Mike Smithson recently called me a “good den mom.”
My best advice to young women interested in being a make-up artist is that if you really want to do it, you will figure out how to make it happen. It can’t just be “I think I want to be a make-up artist.” You have to know and move in that direction constantly. The internet is a great place to find out about schools and taking classes. Take pictures and make a webpage showcasing your work. Take any job you can. Be appropriate in what you post online-your reputation is your most important tool. Go to college and take the make-up courses and film classes offered there. Be open, kind, flexible, and professional.
Jaz – standing up and saying what you wanted took incredible bravery. I applaud you.
Forget the haters and do your thing.
SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT ERYN KRUEGER MEKASH:
Hogwarts House: Gryffindor
Favorite Color: Grey
Favorite Snack: Popcorn
Favorite Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark/American Werewolf in London
Personal Hero: Parents
“Happy Halloween everyone!”