Pop-Culturalist Chats with Sarit Klein
Makeup designers are the unsung heroes behind the scenes who help create and produce magic on the screen. It’s their art that brings a story to life. For Sarit Klein, being a part of the Marvel and Netflix family has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. She’s the creative genius behind the makeup design for Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders. Pop-Culturalist was lucky enough to chat with Sarit about how she got started in makeup design, how she created and unified characters with distinct color palettes in The Defenders’ universe, and her favorite memory with each of the cast members.
P-C: When did you realize you wanted to be a makeup designer?
Sarit: Since I was young, I grew up in Israel and I always painted. I think just growing up and seeing all those beautiful colors led me here. I actually did not realize I wanted to be a makeup artist until my 20s. I actually studied business. I have a business degree and somehow I got to work in TV but before that. I thought, ‘Oh, I love colors. Let me take a makeup course for fun’ and I did that while I got my business degree, and working in TV, and then, I thought, ‘Oh, this could actually be a career’. I left Israel in my 20s and came to New York to do it. I reinvented myself and started from scratch. I think what drew me to TV and film is that I loved to create characters. That’s pretty much my path. It was unconventional.
P-C: That was a great answer! How did you get involved with Netflix and the Marvel universe?
Sarit: Another person was actually hired to do that. They dropped out and Stephanie Maslansky, who is the costume designer on all the Marvel shows, recommended me. We were told in advance that this was going to be a three-year path. Coming into this, I knew that it was going to be a beautiful three years.
P-C: What is it like being part of that family?
Sarit: It’s very interesting because there’s a lot of stuff involved. It’s exciting, but with a little bit of adjustment period for me to get used to the approval process, because you have the heads for Marvel, you have Netflix, you have the show runner, production…Every email, every meeting—everyone’s involved. As exciting as it is to give my input for every character, everything has to be approved. It’s a beautiful process, but it’s something that I need to get used to. It’s just great. It’s exciting to create all these characters, doing each show, and then coming into The Defenders…I was waiting a few months to do that show…to get everybody together. The crew stayed the same mostly. We were having so much fun when we were all back together on The Defenders.
P-C: Is the creative process different when you’re bringing a beloved comic book character to life?
Sarit: Yes, it is, because the shows are based on the comics, but Marvel created more grounded, real characters that are dealing with relatable themes. Jessica Jones is an alcoholic, Daredevil can’t see, so even though they are superheroes, they’re real people. For me, the creative process was creating characters using something I call invisible makeup. I didn’t want to make them stand out. I wanted to do makeup to enhance the character, and because they’re so relatable, I wanted to make them go with it. I can give you an example. For instance, Jessica Jones, her character…she doesn’t care what she looks like, so I’m not gonna put all these fake lashes and lipstick on her. I’d throw on a quick eyeliner. Obviously, she has makeup on her, but it’s invisible. It doesn’t actually look like she has a lot of makeup. That creative process was actually exciting because it’s my input plus the show runner’s, so it’s really team effort. It was a great collaboration.
P-C: Can you describe the evolution of each of these characters’ looks from their individual series and now heading into The Defenders?
Sarit: Each show on its own had its own color palette. SJ Clarkson who directed the first two episodes of Jessica Jones directed the beginning of The Defenders. She actually created a color palette that matched what we did on the other shows. What was interesting is that even in one scene, when you have four of them together, just in one scene, sometimes, the camera turns around you see a specific color palette. It’s gonna be more of a purple tone for Jessica Jones. It was an interesting evolution because we worked on each show. Luckily for me, I was hired in the beginning to do each show. Coming into The Defenders, I already had the knowledge of what each was going to be. The Defenders, I think is about a month after Iron Fist ends, so each character is after their own show and where they’re at now. I guess their looks evolved a little bit. I can’t divulge much about the season of The Defenders, but for instance, I can tell you for Matt Murdock we had all these fights, so we created a wound map to track all his scars and his bruises and at some point in The Defenders, you will see that. It’s pretty much that. I don’t know if I can say anything more.
P-C: What’s the biggest challenge working with four characters that each have very distinct color palettes as you said and esthetics while bringing them into one series?
Sarit: The challenge is, in general, that because The Defenders is a bigger show, each superhero has its own stunt double, each villain has its own, too. We had one day where we had about 36 principals to get ready all at the same time for a fight sequence. Just in general, it’s a challenge because you need to have appropriate facial hair. The stunt for Iron Fist doesn’t have facial hair, so we always had to glue a beard on, and for Luke Cage, we had to darken that guy’s skin and facial hair, as well. There’s a lot of organization, there’s a lot of continuity that I had to deal with. There’s a lot of delegating, having a huge team on our show. We were four to five consistent makeup people. I had all the continuity books, luckily, from all the other shows. I just created a huge folder of continuity pictures and notes from the other shows in case I had to mask something, because some of the principals I knew were matching the other shows, where they are now, and some are new. I guess that was a challenge because these shows are so big and sometimes with actor availability and weather, we change…we flip our days and scenes. ‘This guy’s not available. We should get a beard ASAP to match this guy.’ There’s a lot of different challenges just doing a show like that with superheroes in general.
P-C: You said you worked with four or five make-up artists. Were you able to put together your own team?
Sarit: Yes. I tried to stay with the same team at least for a few shows, but technically, we’re working three years straight. As designer department head, I did not really have a break. My break was about one week in between
P-C: How do you manage the work-life balance?
Sarit: That’s definitely a challenge. I’ve been meditating for about six to seven years now. I meditate twice a day, so that really enables me to work fifteen hours, and as a designer, you never don’t take work home. I always take work. I will get up in the morning and respond to emails and text messages that need answers for characters to be approved that day. There are so many email changes for different departments that I’m involved with. There’s special effects, there’s costumes, there’s concepts in those emails, and I have to read them and sometimes send them an email. Work-life balance was really challenging. At some point, I said the weekends are just for myself. I just sat for a couple of hours and responded to emails because I’m a perfectionist, so I like to get things done right away. I learned after the second show to really mellow myself out, and meditation definitely helped. I got married during Daredevil in 2014 and I took my honeymoon during Iron Fist in 2016.
P-C: Do you have a favorite scene that you’ve done for this series?
Sarit: Wow! Well, I have a favorite character. One of my favorite scenes….this doesn’t have to do with make-up. One of my favorite scenes was the Daredevil hallway scene that we actually shot in one take and there was so much prep. We shot that in about a day and a half and it was just that. It was exhilarating to see it come together. It really was and seeing it on-screen made me so proud of everybody. There’s so much hard work and then you get to see it happen. I think that may be my favorite scene and I did see The Defenders obviously. My favorite character though is Madame Gao. I think she is my favorite character to design and create because when she comes into the trailers, she doesn’t look like this. We age her, so it’s a two-man process with aging technique. It’s about an hour and 15 on the chair and every part of her skin is covered, painted, latexed, then painted, aging spots…That took a few hours to test until it looked like it did. I think that’s my favorite character.
P-C: Would you say she probably takes the most time to put together?
Sarit: As a character, yes, but that doesn’t include prosthetics. Other characters have different prosthetics. Sometimes that takes longer depending on the character and the scene, but she did take the longest. She was such a doll to work with. Madame Gao, it takes two people to do her, so we called them the Gao-Gao girls. It was fun. We’d put music on and she’s a lovely person. She’s my neighbor too! She lives a couple blocks away.
P-C: What’s your favorite moment with each of the cast members of The Defenders? It seems like you guys are like a really tight family.
Sarit: I think with Finn, it’s just dancing and sharing all kinds of Game of Thrones stories and things like that. I still get to see Mike a lot because I do his make-up for press. Actually, Mike and Charlie both have very young daughters. Charlie’s was born in September, so when we were shooting The Defenders, she was about two to three months old, so we’d just see all these little cute videos of them together. Charlie is a really good storyteller. Whenever he starts a story, it’s like…funny and great. I’ve known Krysten for years, Jessica Jones Season 1, plus this, and we’re friends in real life. I think my favorite part is that she loves to eat and sometimes we’ll just be so hungry that she’ll order a huge hoagie and she always says, ‘Does anybody want one?’ and we’re like, ‘Yes, we’re hungry!’ We’d just all eat hoagies together.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
P-C: Guilty pleasure TV show?
Sarit: I kinda tried to binge watch things and I just finished Glow on Netflix. It is so freaking good! I wish I worked on it. First of all, I love the 80s. I grew up in the early 70s and the 80s were my teenage years. Even though I grew up in Israel, my mom is American. I grew up with all these 80s shows and I think Glow is amazing. I’m watching Orange is the New Black. I have to binge watch because I don’t have time to wait a week to watch another show cause I’m working all these hours.
P-C: Guilty pleasure movie?
Sarit: Aliens! Again, it goes back to the 80s. I also love watching Princess Bride.
P-C: Favorite play or musical?
Sarit: I think the thing that I liked the most that I’ve seen in the last few years was Book of Mormon. I loved it!
P-C: Favorite book?
Sarit: I just finished reading Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire. It’s coming out in November. First of all, she wrote that novel and she did it while shooting Defenders and Jessica Jones too. She’s amazing. She produces and she’s a friend and she’s inspiring. I read it in one day because it’s so good! People have to buy that. I think it comes out in November.
P-C: Favorite social media platform?
Sarit: I think Instagram because I’m a visual person, obviously, and now finally the four shows I’ve done, I can share these behind-the-scene things with fans and people who just want to know and ask me. I think that’s my favorite. I’m inspired by other makeup people and other Instagram stories and pictures.
P-C Do you have a hidden talent besides your amazing makeup designs?
Sarit: I’ve played the piano since I was three. I love that. I studied for fifteen years until the age of 18, when I got in the army, and then I stopped, but here and there, I play the piano. And dance! I also dance.
P-C: Go-to karaoke song?
Sarit: This is an amazing question! I gotta tell you….Last night on set, we wrapped around three o’clock in the morning and Krysten brought a speaker and we started dancing to…half of the crew started dancing around to…do you remember the movie Mannequin? “It Must Have Been Love” from Pretty Woman. I just love music and that was actually one of my favorite parts working with Finn on Iron Fist and The Defenders. He is a music geek and a DJ once in a while. He used to bring speakers. Every single time it was like a dance party. I was trying to shape his beard, but dancing was so much fun! Actually, through him, I got to know a lot more European songs and all kinds of music. I don’t know if I have a favorite. I like music in general.