Sarit Klein is Marvel's go-to makeup artist, joining Marvel Television back in Daredevil Season 1. She's stayed with the company ever since, working on all four of their individual superhero shows, and we're about to see her latest masterpiece in The Defenders, where she was head of makeup. Excitingly, I got an exclusive opportunity to interview Sarit for Movie Pilot, and I wanted to give our readers a sense of just what makes this artist tick...
Sarit grew up in Israel, and initially studied makeup for a year as a hobby. A business degree gave Klein experience of working in the production side of TV, and she quickly realized that makeup was her passion. Asked about what excites her most about the job, Klein explains:
"I truly enjoy the process of designing and creating characters. Researching, collecting images, collaborating with the different executives, various departments and sometimes the actors themselves."
Pursuing a career as a makeup artist, Sarit moved all the way to New York, where she started working on small independent movies and reality TV shows. Those proved to be stepping stones to bigger projects, and Costume Designer Stephanie Maslansky wound up recommending Sarit to #Marvel back in 2015.
In Sarit's view, episodic television is the most difficult job you can have in the entertainment industry. The pace is extremely fast, and Sarit is always prepping the next episode while shooting the current one. That's even more the case with Marvel, as she's typically given only one week for downtime between shows. That means Klein will always be multitasking between running the show that's currently in production, while prepping the next series. Sarit gave us an intriguing example:
"For instance, while shooting Jessica Jones, we prepped three months in advance for Luke Cage, designing and getting approvals for various facial hair and weeks for the flashback episode."
The quality of those two shows stands as a testament to Sarit's skill. In fact, Klein highlights that flashback scene in Luke Cage Episode 4 as something she's particularly proud of due to the challenges that it posed;
"Luke is underwater in the experiment tank. He had full body makeup on, prosthetics, a wig and a full beard that was glued on top of his current goatee. This took 10 hours to shoot, back and forth in and out of the water! Everyone was nervous that something would go wrong — prosthetics would tear apart, beard would pop up... We used multiple layers of glue and it held all day! Only when they yelled it's a wrap did the edge of the mustache pop up."
This certainly contrasts with typical scenes in a Marvel Netflix show, where Sarit stresses an approach of "less is more." After all, makeup is there to enhance the character and to help tell the story — You should never really be noticing it.
Challenges And Standouts
Curious, I asked if any one character's makeup had proved particularly challenging, but Klein told me none stood out like that. To her, the most challenging part of the process is design and approval, as Sarit's role is to take on board numerous opinions from countless departments. Everything needs to be approved before shooting begins, so that a fast shooting pace can be maintained.
Fortunately, Sarit finds the approval process as refreshing as she does challenging, taking joy out of juggling the different views and ultimately receiving approval from all her stakeholders.
One character stands out to Sarit as particularly fun; Madame Gao, the enigmatic Hand leader set to play a major role in The Defenders.
"We don't know exactly how old she is, we know she is at least 400 years old, so that was interesting to design. I had five hours of makeup tests with different degrees of ageing. Turning Wai Ching Ho into Madame Gao is about an hour and a half process in hair and makeup with ageing and hand painting all her age spots."
Another favorite, Sarit adds, was Sigourney Weaver's mysterious villain, Alexandra.
Sarit went on to tell me a little about the challenges of production while filming on location. There are more variables to deal with outside of course, not least the elements! Sometimes the crew needed to move at speed, knowing the sun would set in 30 minutes or that rain is coming, and they need to wrap up. On some of the shows, such as Daredevil, the crew worked more at night. Changing light levels meant that Sarit had to keep adjusting the makeup.
In general, filming on location means that Sarit has to work very closely with the Director of Photography and stay close to the monitors at all times, watching to see if she needs to step in and touch up the makeup again at any point.
It was a real privilege to interview Sarit Klein, a makeup artist who's left her mark on some of Marvel's most popular TV shows to date. She's been involved in all four Defenders series released so far, and is now working on #JessicaJones Season 2. You can follow Sarit on Twitter and Instagram.