Capturing Chemistry on Film
Moonlighting's Makeup Artist Dave Grayson
From Television: Companion to the PBS Television Series, written by Michael Winship as a companion to the 8-part PBS series TELEVISION which looked at the television industry including its history, success stories, disasters, and trends. The book was published in 1988 and contains numerous references to "Moonlighting" which was considered one of the most innovative and experimental TV programs on the air at that time. Creator/Executive Producer Glenn Gordon Caron; Director of Photography Gerald Finnerman, ASC; and Makeup Artist Dave Grayson were interviewed for the book.
Dave Grayson (page 319 - 323)
Dave Grayson is the makeup man for one of television's most popular leading men-Bruce Willis, the hip-talking, wise-guy star of ABC's Moonlighting.
"I've been around, and I'm sincere," Grayson said. "I think Bruce Willis is a gigantic talent, probably, in my experience, an astonishing talent."
In the early days of television, Grayson remembered, "TV would have been like Devil's Island, compared to doing major films. I think the major studios all looked down on TV. They didn't get into it until it was well on its way. They thought it was a temporary phenomenon. They didn't see the potential of talkies, either. There were some very, very confusing years before the motion picture studios saw the potential of TV. They wore blinders. They tried CinemaScope. They had to divest themselves of theaters...
"They didn't see TV as a source of revenue in the beginning," Grayson said, "but eventually, it saved their lives…Our unions-the makeup unions and all the film unions-signed a contract to do TV, too, which was fortunate because it was a move from one type of filming to another. We lost nothing."
Grayson himself didn't really begin to get heavily into television work until the 1970's, when he began working on the series Police Story. "It was much easier to do film," Grayson said, especially if you were assigned to one performer. "There was a certain easy pace in doing a big movie. The schedule was long, and it was slow-oriented, and it worked around the star system. If a star wanted to go home at six o'clock, the star went home. A big movie was a luxury compared to TV."
There is very little difference between movie makeup and the makeup used for filmed television. The big difference was between black-and-white and color film." In the very sensitive early film they used a black-and-white powdered look," Grayson said. "In my era, even in the early forties, in black-and-white films, we used a darker lipstick, essentially a red-based lipstick that was darker and brighter.
"As color film became more sensitive, makeup became less difficult to do-it's a more natural look. A woman's makeup for color TV essentially is a natural makeup. If she wants to be stylized like they are in Dynasty, that's the look that a lady would have going out to a high-fashion party. But essentially, it's natural.
"For a man, too. Doing makeup on Bruce Willis is not complicated. It's keeping him clean, keeping him powdered, and keeping him happy."
There are exceptions, of course. The stylized makeup Grayson mentioned--or prosthetics, the kind of effects employed in movies such as Planet of the Apes. Grayson had some fun with character makeup when Moonlighting did "Atomic Shakespeare," its "Taming of the Shrew" show. "We got into medieval beards and such things. It became more involved and more interesting."
Television makeup is also quite different in live or taped television, where Grayson's son works. "Techniques are different from live and taped TV to film TV because they use a great deal of light in the TV studios. They use much heavier makeup and more defined makeup-more highlights and shadows to compensate for all the light being poured in."
Grayson started helping out on Moonlighting and joined the show permanently in the summer of 1986, working with the series' other makeup artist, Norman Leavitt. Given Grayson's backing in the movie business and the Moonlighting crew's movie mania and their affection for the classics of the medium, it seemed a natural combination. "I'm not a TV watcher per se, but I watch this show," he said. "I think it's just a great show, the best-written comedy show I've ever seen."
He and star Willis have a good relationship, too. "I think I'm always motivated to do the best I can, regardless of whose makeup I'm doing," Grayson said. But he doesn't believe in "nurturing." I've never felt that," he said. Of course, I feel an empathy for people I enjoy.
"After all, I have an ego, too. I've never felt that I had to nurture them and walk the dog or take care of the babies. I have a job, and I'm subject to the same pressures they are. They don't have to like me necessarily, but it helps. I don't have to like them either, but it helps also. I've heard through the years-'You're the first person in the world to see them, so you have to make them happy. You have to give them a positive view on life.'
"I'm sure a lot of makeup and hair people don't."
Television may be a collaborative business, but it doesn't have to consume your life. Dave Grayson is a pro. He just wants to get the job done.
This is not meant to violate or infringe on any copyrights.