MUD: Talk about your early life and how you became a MUA?
EKM: My early life was spent in the hospital. So I’ve had kidney problems. I’ve had a lot of surgeries, which I think very much led to my imagination running wild and escape tactics to get out of the hospital. I had a huge support system with my parents and my brother who is younger than I am. My family loves Halloween, so I think in an effort to have this normal childhood when I was home, we had big Halloween parties and Christmas was a big deal. So I was exposed to not only so much realistic horror but also you know monsters and all kinds of stuff because my parents loved that. I’d been doing make up on myself like little funny things since I was 7 or 8. So I always loved it and it kind of started leading me in that direction as I went to do art classes and things in Junior High School.
I started High School in 1982, which was the year of American Werewolf in London, Thriller, and The Thing were happening. Make Up Effects were everywhere. It was booming. So I got see a lot of behind the scenes things on television and I just knew that was what I wanted to do. So I slowly moved in that direction and was in college taking art classes and taking Sandy Berman’s Make Up Effects school, which was this 4 week course where I learned the basics. Then I quit college and got a job but the make up and the monsters had always been there my whole life. Whether it was creature features on Saturdays or my brother making horror films and me helping him, it just was something that was always a part of my life so it seemed like “oh of course that’s what I want to do.” Although it took a minute, because I didn’t know that was a real job!
Also there wasn’t much access back then. I mean you could write letters and send up a smoke signal, but there wasn’t any internet. There wasn’t any way to contact people and say “I want to work for you.” You just had to make a lot of cold calls. There was a lot of men and not very many women. Initially it might have been a token thing to have a girl working in the shop. John Beakler took a chance on me. That was my first job I had. So many people have worked for him that have started their careers there and I’m so grateful to Sandy Berman and to John. They both know that.
Eryn doing make-up on Jane Lynch for Glee Photo credit: Eryn Kruger Mekash
MUD: Talk about working in the shops and how your career began?
EKM: I started off at John’s shop and quickly moved to other shops where I didn’t realize that at John’s shop you could do everything. You were doing whatever he had available to work on. So the sculpting, foam running and going to set with it were all things I did. However, the bigger the shops you worked at, the less you got to do that. It was more of a specialized area and I was not a good painter, not a good sculptor and not fast but I was a good mold maker. So I started doing that as well as doing seaming, finishing work, and some hair work.
Those kind of propelled me along but I wasn’t really getting on set the way I wanted to. I really wanted to be doing application. Of course, I would just practice on the weekends and do little jobs. I worked in the shops like 4 years and it was really hard but I loved it. After that time, I finally decided to start moving away from shop work and doing beauty make up, because I knew that would eventually help move me into being on set more and getting to do more prosthetics. So I worked on General Hospital and got all my Union days. That said, it’s invaluable having worked in the shops. I mean at least four to five times a week I’m referring back to that or how to correct an issue or how to talk to a shop owner or an effects person on how to do something. I know exactly how hard it is to create a piece and deliver it to set because I have all that background.
Make-up on Evan Peters for season 1 of American Horror Story Photo credit: Eryn Kruger Mekash
MUD: Talk about working with Ryan Murphy?
EKM: Ryan and I started working together about 14 years ago when James McKinnon was the Department Head on a pilot called Nip/Tuck. James was going to go back to do Alias and he wanted someone that he knew that he could trust to take over Nip/Tuck for him. So he did about four or five episodes of the first season and I was the key. Then I took over from there. After that, Ryan and I just had a really good connection and he would ask me to do other projects. I’ve done almost all of his projects. It’s been an incredibly rewarding relationship. I can’t say enough about him. He’s an incredible boss but he also loves make-up, hair and costume so much. It’s rewarding to be with somebody like that who values what you do, because I’ve been on jobs where they are just so put out with having make-up or hair there at all. In those situations it really is just a paycheck and it doesn’t feel great to be involved with people that feel that way. So I just feel so rewarded and grateful to have found a relationship with somebody like Ryan.
Make-up on Sarah Paulson for American Horror Story : Asylum Photo credit: Eryn Kruger Mekash
MUD: You had a pretty amazing night at the 706 awards. Can you speak about the awards you won and what happened when Ryan Murphy spoke when he received his lifetime achievement award?
EKM: I was very excited that Zoe and Heather were honored for the People vs OJ. I designed that show and stayed on as designer but Zoe did the day-to-day after the first two episodes the last eight episodes she was Department Head. She ran all of that with Heather, who was the key. They did such a terrific job. I was so pleased that they won for that.
The other one was for the prosthetics and that was really surprising. I was excited that we won! It’s really so cool to get an award from your peers for something that you’ve always loved doing. It was really neat. Plus I get to work with my husband, which is really cool. So he won for that as well. I have an incredible team and I wish we could share it with everybody. I wish there were more award spots available that we could have everyone up there.
As for the lifetime achievement award… that was a total surprise for the most part from Ryan. I had no idea. I had just spoken to him over an email where he wanted to know how many characters we developed for Feud, so I told him and that was it. I thought maybe he was just going to mention it or something. Remember it was his distinguished artisan award so it’s about him and how amazing he is. Yet he pretty much spent the entire time talking about 706 and how amazing make-up and hair are to the craft of filmmaking. So that was so moving in the beginning and then he started talking about Feud and how honored he was to have all these crews that were so diverse. Then he said I was going to get a producer credit this year and I couldn’t believe it! I’m still in shock about it. I’ve pretty much had a similar role for these last few years where I’m the mouthpiece for him. He said “You know what I like. You make sure that I’m represented on set.” So that’s what I do. I make sure that what directors ask for is in the realm of what he wants being shot. My whole team is like that though. It was a surprise and I’m super excited and honored.
Eryn with Taissa Farmiga Photo Credit: Eryn Kruger Mekash
MUD: Have you discussed what this means now you are a producer for his company?
EKM: I had a meeting with him yesterday and some concept meetings. What would be cool is that I get to have more time with him. Ryan’s so busy so a lot of our relationship in the last few years has been an email relationship. So I don’t get to see him all that often. Once in a while we’ll connect in a meeting or he’ll come to set and chat with me but it’s very brief.
I don’t know how much more than what I’m already doing is going to fall under a producer title. I think it’s just more of an honorable thing that he gave me. A couple of years ago, I moved up to having a make up designer credit. So I think it’s going in that direction which is showing my responsibilities. We’ll see. Its always exciting around the Ryan Murphy world.
Make-up Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon for Feud Photo Credit: Vanity Fair
MUD: Any advice for up and coming MUA?
EKM: Early on, try and focus on which way you’re going and not be super spread out. It’s hard in the beginning, because you want to just take every job to pay the rent. I understand you have to kind of do that, but I think once you start working a little bit then you should try and fine tune exactly which way you want to go with thing. Don’t stay out there drifting. I knew that what I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to do it. So I think focusing and being more proactive on what you want is key.
MUD: Any final thoughts?
EKM: You are only as strong as your weakest link. It’s your team members that propel you to do these great projects so I have this great base of people I rely on. Mike McCash and Kim Airs are my two main people that help me move forward through all these different projects. Ryan has a very unconventional view on how to do things and not everybody would support that but my team does. I feel very fortunate for that.