Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry Make-Up & Hair Styling

By Miho Suzuki | Department Head Make-Up
& Teressa Hill | Department Head Hair

Photos: Michael Becker /APPLE TV+


Lewis Pullman as Calvin Evans with Brie Larson

From my first reading of the written page to the tip of my make-up brush on the last day of filming, I have felt so fortunate and grateful to work on this incredible project. We transformed the actors into their characters by creating contours; emphasizing color palettes for eyes, lips, and cheeks; and achieving different eyebrows and facial hair in order to perfectly capture each decade, from the 1920s all the way through to 1960. 

This was my second project with Academy Award-winning actress Brie Larson, following our work together on the beloved role of Carol Danvers in the second installment of the Captain Marvel franchise, The Marvels. It was exhilarating to work with Brie on one of the most powerful superheroes of our time and then to help create Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant scientist who becomes a popular TV cooking-show host. And I became even more excited once I started reading scripts, meeting the creators and actors, and collaborating closely with hair designer Teressa Hill and costume designer Mirren Gordon-Crozier. 

First, I knew I wanted to hire Martina Kohl to handle the background world, as she shares my vision, passion and goals. The atmosphere on set can make or break the show, especially for period pieces, and Martina took charge; handling the fittings, setting looks and leading the team of make-up artists each day. I’d like to offer a big thank you to her, as all was done beautifully and precisely to bring my vision to life.

L-R: Stephanie Koenig as Fran Frask,
Kevin Sussman as Walter Pine, and Brie Larson

I found inspiration for Elizabeth Zott in vintage books, magazines, countless photos, and UCLA yearbooks; studying all of the trends in Los Angeles over the years. I wanted her to look very natural, so I took advantage of Brie’s own beauty, showing off her healthy sun-kissed skin, freckles, the sheen on her cheekbones, her flushed cheeks and rosy lips. I even enhanced her freckles by adding a few more in some areas! This approach worked well, ensuring that Elizabeth stood out from the many secretaries and typists at Hastings who wore heavier make-up to make themselves more attractive. I also wanted Elizabeth’s frenemy, Fran Frask, played by Stephanie Koenig, to look picture perfect from top to toe. Once the looks were established, Mandy Artusato took charge of her look for episodes one through six, and Alex Storm brilliantly matched the looks for episodes seven and eight.

Elizabeth’s life took so many dramatic turns, including losing the love of her life in an accident, becoming a single mother without a job and then turning into an adored TV host! I added changes to her make-up little by little as she moved through these life events, with eyeliner, lipsticks, and more foundation to highlight the passing of time. When she eventually finds herself as the host of Supper at Six, she wears sophisticated, elegant, simple make-up inspired by Grace Kelly; with gray-smoked eyeliner, velvet skin and burgundy red lipstick. Here she was, our Elizabeth Zott!

Aja Naomi King as Harriet Sloane, Stephanie Koenig, and Marc Evan Jackson as Dr. Leland Mason

I kept the Hastings men mostly clean-shaven in the 1950s, except for those who had facial hair required by the directors and producers, which we ensured was always well groomed. I love to see some texture for men’s skin, so most men wore almost no foundation. Lewis Pullman, who portrayed Calvin Evans, had a very healthy natural tan, which was perfect for Calvin, since he is a rower. I went with a tinted moisturizer with SPF for him to enhance his tanned skin and protect it during his outdoor scenes. I also designed a natural look for Harriet Sloane, who was Calvin’s neighbor and a civil rights activist, by applying foundation thinned with moisturizer and Temptu airbrush foundation in place of powder to give the look of little to no make-up, in order to best showcase her intelligence and warmth. After I set the look for the first day of Harriet’s filming, Lauren Wilde continued to maintain the look.

For the 1930’s flashback scenes, we created a mixture of sweat-tolerant skin tints that featured a fast application to give the actors a grungy feel. For Calvin’s childhood story in the 1920s, I invited Kenny Myers to collaborate on aging make-up for Bishop at the orphanage where Calvin lived as a child. We needed to create 30 years of aging with a limited budget for prosthetics, so Kenny generously shared his experience and knowledge, helping me to achieve the look with aging stipples. Adam O’Byrne, who played Bishop, was so patient, sitting through multiple make-up tests, while Justin Stafford made us beautiful facial hair to complete the look. 

In addition to Martina Kohl, so many wonderful artists came on this journey with me, including Lauren Wilde, Mandy Artusato and Alex Storm. It was also such a treat for us to occasionally work with Kenny Myers, Tym Buacharern and Kate Shorter in the main trailer. Martina led the incredibly talented team of artisans, including Brigitte Hennech, Alyson Granderos, Rachael Downing, Michel McKaig Avila, Erin Rosenmann, Annett Lorant, Molly R. Stern Schlussel, Karen Rentop, Michele Sweeney, Kim Fiallo, Eleanor Sabaduquia, Raqueli Dahan-Gonen, Tanya Cookingham, Rebecca Lee Castro, Geri Oppenheim, Vanessa Dionne, David DuMortier, Kendall Shannon, Kelcey Fry, Hedvig Lee, Laura Leppanen, Brian E. Kinney, Randi Måvestrand, Jessie Bishop, Maha Lessner and Ann Pala-Williams. A big thank you to my sidekick from the beginning, as well as the best make-up PA, Boutheyna Khokh. And last but not least, to Brie Larson, thank you for believing in me again and again. I am forever grateful for this experience! •


Webster’s Dictionary definition of chemistry is: a science that deals with the composition, structure, and properties of substances; and the transformations that they undergo. Any cooking that you do involves chemistry; with the use of heat, cold, or cutting, it changes the composition of foods. Well, the same goes for hair. With the use of hot tools, cooling processes, coloring, perms and haircuts, you can transform an actor into a character and transport them to another era. And that is just what we did on Lessons in Chemistry.

I first met with the series producers to discuss the project in April 2022. I was aware of the novel, which had been on The New York Times bestsellers list for more than six months. I was also familiar with the fantastic lead, Academy Award-winning actress Brie Larson, who was to portray Elizabeth Zott, the misfit heroine in the novel. I was excited to get started!

Assistant Department Head Carol Mitchell and I read all eight scripts, did our breakdowns, and realized that this project was going to be huge. We needed to stay one step ahead, not only were we going to be block-shooting a storyline that spanned more than five decades, starting in 1920, many of the characters lived throughout the majority of those years. Which for the hair team, translates to A LOT of wigs. We had our work cut out for us. 

Assembling a strong seasoned team that was proficient with wigs and experienced doing period hair styling and barbering was easy because I have a fantastic team that I have worked with on many projects, including Carol Mitchell, Sharisse Fine, Juan Nunez, Linda Flowers, Kase Glen, Terrie Velazquez Owen, Randy Sayer, Nichelle (Nikki) Young, and Danny Robles. I felt confident in our combined abilities. 

The research that went into this project was massive. We gathered old family photos, went through old magazines, countless books, and studied classic films. I met with costume designer Mirren Gordon-Crozier and discussed her designs and color palettes, getting a sense how our hair colors and styles could complement and complete the desired look. I then spoke with the actors cast thus far and noted their input about each character, finalizing my look book and budgets in advance of meeting with the producers. 

Once the looks were solidified for Elizabeth Zott, I met with wigmaker Natasha Ladek to have the first three wigs constructed for Brie Larson. I began by hand-picking the hair, focusing on tones and textures. 

With the first day of principal photography two weeks away, we needed to get busy, and all our players hadn’t yet been cast. Juan Nunez worked closely with Carol and I and began customizing wigs from my stock, including two for actress Aja Naomi King, who portrays Harriet Sloane; two for Stephanie Koenig, who portrays Fran Frask; and three additional wigs for Brie Larson’s stand-in and stunt doubles, with many more to come. We had numerous cast members with long hair that we couldn’t cut, so customizing a wig was our only option. Quite a few of our male characters wore wigs, including Boryweitz, John Zott, Reverend Wakely, and the Bishop, just to name just a few.

Time was not on our side. So, to help us out in a pinch, Linda Flowers and Danny Robles set and dressed a multitude of wigs to have on standby for day players. In the meantime, Sharisse Fine and Terri Velazquez-Owen and Nikki Young prepped a collection of wigs for the B trailer. We wet-set and used croquignole techniques on more than 200 wigs throughout this project, as more actors and background artists wore wigs than not, in order to accommodate our challenging schedules that encompassed up to four decades each day.  

Wigs in the 1920s and early 1930s required specific lengths and perms. We used shorter hair and tighter finger waves with spit curls in the 1920s to distinguish from the slightly longer brushed-out finger waves of the 1930s. 

Wigs in the 1940s also had specific cuts and shaping. We utilized longer hair, bumper bangs, victory rolls and snoods to capture the late 1940s, differentiating from the more coiffured styles of the 1950s. 

Aja Naomi King with Paul James as Charlie Sloane

The majority of the storyline took place in the 1950s, and we designed our wigs and hair styles using specific, distinct shapes for each year within this decade, and always made room for a hat! For the early 1950s, we styled ponytails, short fringe and more squared designs; mid-1950s were characterized by shorter designs such as the pixie and soft bobs; with the late-1950s featuring the French twist and more rounded backcombed styles such as the bouffant.

To create 1960’s hair styles, we kept the backcombing further back at the crown, and used fringe, swoop bangs, flips and beehives. 

Meanwhile, Randy Sayer was supervising fittings with Nikki Young while Kase Glenn, TJ Romeland, Robert Mathews and Erik Taylor handled men’s grooming and hair, making sure each gentlemen’s cut was barbered precisely to the decade’s specification.

I’m grateful to executive producers Louise Shore and Brie Larson, who gave us the opportunity to work on this inspiring production, and I’m so proud of our department’s contribution. Hair and make-up are guaranteed a close-up in every scene, so we worked closely with both directors of photography, Zack Galler and Jason Oldak, making sure every shot was good for hair. It was such a creative endeavor collaborating with Department Head Make-up Miho Suzuki and her team, along with the costume designer and her department, transforming the actors into their characters, helping to transcend them and the audience into a different place in time. 

I would like to extend a huge thank you to our hair PAs, Boutheyna “Boots” Khokh and Emma Bailey, as well as a massive shout-out to the hair stylists who shared their talents on this series, including Josee Normand, Gail Ryan, Joy Zapata, Cathie Childers, Anthony Wilson, Mitch Stone, Solina Tabrizi, Cheryl Eckert, Norma Lee, Polly Lucke, Connie Kallos, Linda Rasmussen, Melanie Verkins, Jackie Masterson, Daniel Curet, Iman Newborn,  Jackie Zavala, Aley Gallinda, Alison Black-Barry, Jennifer Singleton, Leighann Pitchon, Heather Haynes, Troy Zestos, Barbara Dally, Sallie Ciganovich, Curt Darling, Ketty Gonzalez, Stenice Anderson, Kahlil Sledge, Alyssa Kim, Eileen Bugnitz, Rashone Crayton, Skip Pettus and Anissa Salazar. •

A Recipe for a Great Shot

• Mix together several actors 

• A pound of hair 

• Two cups of make-up 

• Two pints of wardrobe

• Sprinkle in a seasoned crew 

• A dash of set dressing 

• Add lighting to taste

• A pinch of photography 

• Stir in a director

• Gently roll, cut, and that’s a wrap!