by Jean Bentley | Tue., Sep. 27, 2016 8:00 PM
The big reveal at the end of This Is Us was shocking enough, but the show saved a pretty huge surprise for the end of its second episode, too.
In the closing moments of "The Big Three," the doorbell rang at Randall's house and his mom was on the other side. His mom, a.k.a. Rebecca, a.k.a. 32-year-old actress Mandy Moore , who is younger than the actors who play her children. Would it be Moore at the door or another actress?
Just before the credits rolled, we saw that it was, in fact, Moore—in some stellar age makeup to bring her from a glamorous thirtysomething to a just-as-glamorous sixtysomething. We needed to know everything about the process of aging someone 30 years, so we called up the show's makeup artist Zoë Hay to explain the sorcery that goes on behind the scenes.
"I think old age makeup is the hardest thing to do convincingly. It can go awry very quickly. My apprehension is we have this beautiful woman, Mandy, who is in hear early 30s and you want me to make her how old? And convincingly? And in talking with the producers and the show creator, Dan Fogelman, our concern was always that we know instantly who she is—there's never any doubt of that—but also that she look elegant and beautiful and graceful and all of those things as well," Hays told us.
So instead of focusing on just trying to age a beautiful actress to twice her age, she and her team tried to create a look that would reflect what the character would look like 30 years later. "I think it's very easy to go 'Oh, we're going to stick a gray wig on and grey eyebrow, and make her look old,' but that really is not who she would be as she aged," Hays explained.
Instead, she wanted Rebecca to "look like a really gorgeous woman who had taken very good care of herself. I think of Helen Mirren, how stunning she looks. She is a sexy, mature woman and there's never any doubt that she exudes that and I wanted to bring some of that to this makeup."
The actual look is created using 12 small prosthetics, then applying an aging makup using a "stretch and stipple" technique where the skin is stretched, the makeup goes on and dries, and then when the skin goes back to its normal position it wrinkles up a bit.
It took several different tries until the look came close, but it took a lot of work—even for Moore, who had to sit there for hours while the makeup artists did their magic. "It was particularly challenging and we did a number of tests," Hays revealed, "which was hard for Mandy because each of the tests are three, four, five hours long by the time we get her hair done and everything. But I think it really came together as a true collaboration."
And the small prosthetics were helpful for Moore, who could still show a full range of emotion in her face. "The last couple of tests when we were getting pretty close I think she was pretty happy because the small pieces allowed her to really move her face and not be restricted," Hays said.
Don't worry: there were no freakouts when Moore looked in the mirror and saw a much older version of herself. "Some people get very upset, they're like, ‘Oh my god, this is what I am going to look like,' but she never did," Hays said. "She wanted what was right for Rebecca."
In the end, it seems like a success on all accounts. "All we wanted to do was bring that for her so she could look in the mirror and feel that this is Rebecca in her mid-60s and she looks great and she is beautiful," Hays said. "I think she feels that."
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)
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