Glenda Wood describes the skills needed by a make-up artist and the difference that colour television made to the role

There were always about 10 or 11 of us, and we used to bring a freelance in if we needed more. Did you ever go into the make-up room? We had these kitchen cupboard things down the middle, and we had to have more make-up space in there, so they put… you know those people who had a table at the end and they lift it up – we had two of those, one at each end, because we needed extra people. I used to love it when it was busy like that.

So when you started it was black and white. Did that make a difference?

Oh! My God, did it not! In black and white, we used to use a hell of a lot of make-up on everybody – men as well! And beard shadows were not allowed to show, so we used to put thick pan-stick all over there so you couldn’t see the beard shadow, so that meant that up here was darker than there. If they had white hair, we couldn’t let that go on, so we would spray it with dark spray on the top so it wouldn’t reflect the light… we used to use a lipstick on men – 722, it was called. And we had an awful lot of tests when we were going into colour, and everybody was panicking like mad – but there was no need because you just made them look as you see them. But colour was dead exciting. I’ll tell you what, though – when Coronation Street went into colour, I thought it was terrible. I thought, “It should be a dingy black and white,” but everyone loved the colour, so it stayed.

I imagine you also had to do special effects.

Oh, yes – the blood and guts! I’m frightened of anything medical! I hated doing all the blood and guts, but we did it.

Did you have to do any special training for that?

No – it was just all part of your training.

For PAs, you would have a senior PA who mentored you. Was that the same in make-up?

Yes. But you learnt on the job – you had to learn on the job there. I remember at Tyne Tees, I was taught things that they’d done in the 20s, I think, because the make-up artist there had worked for… I think it was ATV in London. It was ATV, wasn’t it? Yes, when they first started. And she taught us. But, having said that, she also taught me little tricks that the make-up artists at Granada didn’t even think about that were real old theatrical tricks. You know, little things.

What kind of things?

Well, for instance, you know actors used to put a little red dot in the corner there, and paint in there white, paint there very pale, so it made their eyes look bright. Lots of fiddly little things like that, that when I used to teach the kids when they came in, they would say, “Oh, I didn’t know that!”

What would make a good make-up artist?

They’ve got to be friendly. Friendly and cheerful. Some of them used to come in and they had fallen out with their boyfriends or whatever, and I used to think, “Shut up! You can’t be like that in here!” You’ve got to be cheerful.

So did you see it as part of your role to reassure nervous actors?

Yes. I wasn’t very good at it! I wasn’t very sympathetic. I used to think, “I’m going home soon… I’ve been sweating over moaning bloody actors all day!” but no, they were all right. And you had your favourites. I loved Doris Speed in Coronation Street, I always used to make her up, I loved her. I loved Jeremy Brett – I did Sherlock Holmes too – and the man who’s the old granddad in Emmerdale now.

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