Editor’s Note: This interview has been updated to give proper credit to the photographer of the fantastic picture used as the featured image. We’d like to thank Brittyn for bringing it to our attention.
Little known fact about me, I was what you would call a theater geek. More importantly than that, a theater geek who loved makeup. Designing color palettes based on characters, coming up with interesting ways to incorporate fake blood, using ooey gooey fake skin to make Banquo look even more vile in the Scottish Tragedy. Let’s just say I got a little overzealous with the blood capsules my actor was supposed to bite on stage. So when given the chance to interview Debbie Zoller, Makeup Department Head and prosthetic designer for Season 3 of Twin Peaks, I jumped at the chance to discuss her inspirations, her methods, her mentors and how Mr. C. was created before haunting our dreams. Hope you enjoy our candid discussion about all things makeup in Peaks and more.
Featured Photo Credit: Brittyn
JC: I was 12 when I watched Twin Peaks. I mean I shouldn’t have watched at 12, but my mom liked it, too. We watched it, and of course Kyle was on the screen, and I remember Kyle as Paul Atreides in Dune. So of course, I was “Oh gosh!” You know what I mean, because you’ve worked with him. I’ve had many friends of mine meet him at his wine tastings and say, “You have to meet him. He’s so wonderful.”
DZ: Oh, he is. He is, truly.
JC: He seems so warm and friendly. So that’s how I started … I watched, and I loved it, and of course was heartbroken that it was only two seasons. And then the grumblings that it was coming back, and then it wasn’t, and then it was that whole thing. But with social media, it’s a whole other ball game.
DZ: Yeah, it has an insurgence because of it, which is amazing. And now you have a community, which we didn’t have before, social media. It’s like now you can find your tribe, so to speak. That’s fascinating. We were banned from any social media or any … I really wasn’t allowed to follow any Twitter fan pages or anything. We pretty much were sequestered. That’s why I was trying to go back because I have photos with all of us, the cast, and behind the scenes stuff. And I think I posted one for Valentine’s Day of Amy Shiels with the Candy Girls giving David a kiss.
JC: I do remember that one.
DZ: That went insane. It was re-tweeted and re-tweeted and re-tweeted. I was like, uh oh, did I just…I have to be really careful.
JC: I love what you said on the Twin Peaks Unwrapped podcast, how you want to keep the surprise alive, which I think a lot of people still do. There’s some people that haven’t watched Season 3, yet. You try to keep it a surprise, but with the statute of limitations being what they are, it’s been a year. Where have you been? Go watch it now!
DZ: Yeah, exactly. Also, because of that NDA I signed, I can now talk about the episodes and talk about some things, but when it comes to theories, and they were asking me that, I can’t go there.
JC: Absolutely. But it’s nice to just kind of speculate here and there and just see what people think about it. You know what I mean?
DZ: That’s the thing.
JC: If they ever decided to do another season, which I think we were blessed with a gift, and if it ended there, I’m great with that. If he wanted to do more, and he felt there were more stories to tell, hey, I think it’s fantastic, but I’m okay with what we’ve seen.
DZ: Well, it took him and Mark five years to write this one. It was such a labor of love for their fans and for the storyline and to themselves and each other. And I think being on set with David every day and seeing these characters come back, I think it was a gift that he was giving each other to the family of Twin Peaks. Maybe there might’ve been some unresolved issues with the characters or unresolved personal issues. I don’t know because I wasn’t there 25 years ago, which everyone thinks I was, which is really funny.
I think that it was just such a gift and that’s the one thing that I hope that people take away from that is that sometimes less is more. It’s like you want a fourth season, but just take this beautiful gift and be grateful with that.
JC: Absolutely. It’s funny, everybody has different reactions to the finale when it came to Part 18. My first thought was he’s going to give us more with what happened between Sheryl and Kyle. Then I started to sit with it, and I’m like, “You know what he did? The man and Mark are brilliant because when he shows the infinity symbol, and he shows where Cooper is on it, and then he shows that scene, and then they go back to the red room,” I’m like, “No, it went back to the beginning. He went back to starting position in that whole scene with Mr. C.”
It started to become clear, and I’m like “This is good.” We will have 25 years to talk about all the ins and outs and the characters that we wish had more. I wanted to see more because he made it so compelling. Mark’s book takes off from that. But it does complete some other stuff that is missing. I love how they work together. On a piece of paper, you’d see the two of them and you’d be like oh, they shouldn’t work…oil and water. But they really have this relationship that’s brilliant.
DZ: Oh, yeah. Well, I remember day one we were shooting, and David and I have been together for 22 years, but it’s not like we’ve worked together in the last five years. So, there’s a learning curve. You have to go back and remember, and I remember looking at Mark, and I said, “Help me.” And he’s like, “Debbie, you’re fine.” And it’s like learning to ride a bicycle all over again because of learning to work in the way that David works and going back to that. And basically, I just realized how closed off I was, and how I was just on the hamster wheel for those years. And then all of the sudden now, you’re back in his presence, and you’re like oh, wait a minute, I have to be conscious again. I have to be awake. I have to be alert, and you’re not just on the hamster wheel. And that’s the only way I could look at it. And Mark was funny, he’s like, “Welcome back.”
JC: I love it.
DZ: I remember that day because we were in Washington. And I had been prepping for months. But to be back in the trailer on set with him in the chair that — David uses my old makeup chair — I don’t think I’ve talked about this. Back on Lost Highway, I would bring my own makeup chair. I needed one that was a fold up, and it was high enough because I’m very tall, and it doesn’t hurt my back. I’m not bending over. David loved that chair. And he kept looking at this chair, and he’s like, “Where did you get that?” And I said, “It’s actually a sound mixer’s chair.” I found it through a sound mixer, and it’s got a cushion, and it’s made of wood, and it’s very sturdy, yet portable. And at the end of Lost Highway, David’s producer came up to me, and he’s like, “Debbie, how much for the chair?” And I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “David wants your chair.” And I’m like, “You’re kidding me.” And he says, “No, how much for the chair?” And I had to name a price because I couldn’t just let David have it. So, I said, “A hundred bucks.” I gave him the chair, of course I never got the hundred bucks and every time I would see him, and we would be working after Lost Highway, there was the chair, and there would be accoutrements added on to it. There was this amazing side cup holder, and there was a foot rest that was added on and welded or screwed on or something. And there was a side tray and an ashtray. And every time I would see it, something new was added to it, and it was amazing. And here we are how many years later, our first day on set, and there’s the chair. And it was like, “Oh, my God, I love that you still have this chair.” And I think David had even forgotten because it had been so long. That’s the chair.
JC: Oh, I love it.
DZ: It was very funny. It’s my rule with David — what’s old is new and what’s new is old and that’s how I approach everything. When I saw that chair, it just kind of confirmed that because here we are on a new project and he still has the little chair.
JC: That’s unbelievable. I love that. Now, what was it like getting that call? You didn’t know it was Twin Peaks, right? You just knew that David called, is that correct?
DZ: Well, no. Basically, what happened was I would get emails from Sabrina maybe three years prior to it actually starting. She would ask in kind of a cryptic way, “Debbie, if you were going to do something like this, how would you do it? Would you budget it? Can you tell me the process?” Blah, blah, blah. So, I knew something was brewing. I just didn’t know it was Twin Peaks. I just thought maybe it was either another movie or TV. I didn’t know what it was, but of course when they ask, you answer kind of thing. I just kind of dropped it because I didn’t hear much back, and then I heard when the fans heard. I heard the same on Twitter.
JC: Oh, that it was coming back in style.
DZ: Uh huh, and then that was I think the tweet that David sent out. And then I don’t know how long after that was the whole this may not be happening because David may not be involved – that whole thing with Showtime. When I saw the first tweet of it’s happening again, I was in the trailer on a job and I jumped out of my chair. I said, “I’ll be right back.” I jumped out, and I immediately called Sabrina, and I was like, “Sabrina?” And she’s like, “Hi, Debbie.” And I was like, “Is there something you’ve forgotten to tell me?” We just started laughing. There was no other response to the chaos that had started, basically. And she just was like, “Well, it’s not that I forgot. It’s that we’re still waiting to see if this is going to happen.” So she said, “Debbie, you just have to be patient,” she said, “because yes it was going, now it may not.” You know, everything with David, there are certain things that have to be in place before he will take one step forward. Working with him, he’s in charge. He’s the one that answers all the questions. It’s his domain. When some people maybe want to come in and be a part of that domain, you have to know what your place is first.
There’s no gray area there. So that’s why she said, “We need to make sure all the working parts are in place before we move forward with the crewing up. But I always knew I was going to be there. It was just I had to be patient like everybody else. And the problem is that you don’t know how long that could be, so I’m like do I take a job? Do I take another job? Do I wait? But everything fell into place perfectly.
JC: That’s wonderful. Now, I have no personal interaction with David but reading and learning about what happened to him during Dune and how he was treated in that capacity, I could see him being, “No, this is my way, and I’m going to have it my way. And this is how I work, and I want full creative control. And if you don’t like it, well, then you go pound sand because this is what I need to be able to do this.”
DZ: In black and white, that’s probably how it looks. Of course, he’s not-
JC: I’m sure he does it in a much nicer way, but I don’t blame him because he’s an artist and this is his artistic vision. He wants to see that come to fruition the way that he envisions it and if you can’t support that, well then sorry, then I need go another route kind of thing.
DZ: That’s exactly it, and I think that happened like you said with Dune and then when the second season of Twin Peaks.
JC: Absolutely and I think all of those situations add up. When you’re an artist, you’re sensitive. And you say to yourself, how did this happen? Here we are, we’re all supposed to making a great product together. We’re all on the same team. How all of a sudden did you get over there, and I’m over here?
DZ: ABC truly shot themselves in the foot. This could have been the makings of so much, and they really put the nail in the coffin. The studio system was different back then, and you didn’t have Netflix. You didn’t have Amazon or Hulu and Showtime and HBO were babies back then. I think all you had were these penny-pinching, suit wearing people in the high castle that didn’t understand what David was doing. And that was the problem, they never tried. They just wanted him to fit into their thoughts of this is how you make television. Well, no, not when you’re David Lynch. That’s the thing, not everybody likes David’s movies and television shows because they don’t understand it. They don’t give themselves the opportunity to open their mind when watching it. And it’s not only when watching it, it’s listening to it. All your senses have to be involved. And if you don’t understand that, and you don’t have the time, then … I’ve had a lot of people go, “Oh, yeah, I just couldn’t get into it.” And that’s fine, I completely understand that, but I also understand the person what they’re saying to me is that they just aren’t open.
JC: Right, that’s absolutely true. I like to watch, and I like that it makes me think or it makes me inspired and he’s inspired so many. He and Mark and the acting performances and everything else inspired this whole community. I have never seen such art come out of a fan community like I’ve seen it come out of Twin Peaks. Just the sheer quality of artistic pieces and writing and other things, it amazes me, and it’s wonderful that it’s able to be shared. That’s one thing, I know a group of us talk all the time. So, he’s created this world and this community and this family that just will continue.
DZ: Well, that’s the thing, we have our family that we work with as far as making movies, making projects with him. But now there’s a whole extended family that is a part of it. Even though we don’t know each other, they’re still there because when I was creating Laura Dern’s character, Diane, I sat there and went, “Oh, my God, every fan has their own image in their own head of what Diane is supposed to look like. I not only have to please David, but I have a whole community of people that are going to nail me to a cross if they don’t like what they see, or if they don’t feel that was in true Diane fashion. It’s really interesting when you have that whole extended family, that community that’s out there and very vocal.
JC: Oh, very vocal. Yeah, almost to a fault sometimes. Sometimes I think that people come out with some…especially this season like you said, a lot of people didn’t understand it. They didn’t get…and my thing was, all you had to do was to sit and let it just wash over you the first time. Just let it in because this is not Twin Peaks 1990 and 1991. He’s going home, but going home is not always the same.
DZ: Right, exactly.
JC: I heard in the interview with Twin Peaks Unwrapped where you said there was almost a makeup line. That would have been so brilliant!
DZ: Yes, Laura and I talked about it quite a bit and with Naomi. We thought this would be such an amazing attribute, and I brought in a couple of the different makeup companies that have been supportive of me over the past 20 some odd years. But I think David was so emphatic about no information getting out prior to … And it takes a year for any kind of a makeup line to get up and running. Yeah, and I completely understood that was how it was going to be. So, it was a nice thought.
JC: Yes, it was. What’s one difference from working on one of David film sets as opposed to working with another director? You worked with Tim Burton in Planet of the Apes. You worked Gore Verbinski on Pirates of the Caribbean. They seem all intense, Tarentino and Lawrence, as well.
DZ: Yeah, I would say Quentin probably be the most-
JC: Most…the most demanding?
JC: Was Quentin demanding of his whole staff?
DZ: Yeah, just from my point of view, but yeah. All I can say is that they all have a running thread of passion, and it’s just that they express their passion in different ways. So that’s why I love working with passionate directors. David O. Russell, everyone was like, “Oh, he’s so difficult. I would never work with him.” Are you kidding? I would jump over mountains to work with David O. Russell again, and it’s because of the passion. And that’s what I gravitate to. I do this job because of passion, and I get creative. And their creative juices inspire my creative juices. So, in my job, you can’t say no. If they ask you for something, you do everything in your power to deliver. And I just think that different directors like Tim Burton or Quentin all have different ways of asking for things and different visions, and that’s what I love. Working with other people, the problem is that David has spoiled me and has ruined me for other directors. But I have to remember the gift that he’s given me and then go back and try and assimilate myself back into the real world.
JC: I love the way you said that. Do you prefer doing more special effects type makeup shoots than any kind of practical makeup thing? You worked on Pitch Perfect 2. There’s a lot of makeup you’ve done where it was mostly normal every day or as opposed to special effects. But do you prefer to tinker with special effects more than beauty makeups?
DZ: I do. I like the combination of straight makeup, beauty makeup, and special effect. I like being able to go back and forth and utilize both sides of my brain in that respect. I like doing period pieces. That’s why did a show called Timeless that just finished airing where you have modern day, and then they go back in time. And so now they’re in period looks, and then they get into a fight and somebody gets stabbed, and now you have to do a stab wound or things like that.
I like how it kind of mixes it up a bit. I just think that beauty makeup has changed so much, especially because of social media and the whole Kim Kardashian and the contouring and the cut crease and all these things that in my community we’re like, “What the hell are they talking about?” We don’t refer to things like that. I think it’s quite nice to be able to keep kind of in my lane and not be conventional when it comes to makeup and beauty makeup and things like that.
JC: I love also that you worked with Ve Neill on special effects. I’m a big fan of hers and her work on SyFy’s Face Off.
DZ: Ve is a dear, dear friend. We’ve been friends for, oh my God, 20 years. Also, my mentor, Michael Westmore, as well. I started with him on Star Trek Next Generation back in … was it ’93, I think? I went in and met him because I had never met him before, and a friend of mine who was a hair dresser that I had worked with said, “I’m going to introduce you to Michael Westmore.” Oh, my God, I was so nervous. And she brought me in to meet him, and he hired me for three days of clean up on Star Trek, and I left three years later.
JC: Wow, how about that? Boy, that’s unreal. So, on that, you got to work with now Sir Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes and the whole crew.
DZ: Yeah. I loved them. They’re amazing.
JC: That’s incredible. Now, what was your first ever professional makeup job? I know you said you were first in fashion, and then you were kind of were asked to do makeup on a film. And that kind of got you into that realm.
DZ: Yeah, and then I went to makeup school because I didn’t know how to special effects makeup because on that movie, it was a friend from college. A couple years after we graduated, he called and said, “I’ve got this project. It’s really low budget, and I need somebody to do makeup, hair, and wardrobe.” He’s like, “You were there with us in college,” because I was hanging out with them in north campus. And that’s where all the film and TV majors were, and so I kind of helped them on all their projects. And so it just kind of translated to a different medium.
And I was like, “Yeah, sure. I’ll do it.” And after that I realized I didn’t know how to … I just kind of faked my way through it and decided if this what I was really interested in, which I really was, I realized I wasn’t as passionate about fashion as I was about makeup and the story that makeup can tell. And when you see a character for the first time on TV or on film, you have to make it so that unconsciously the viewer knows exactly who that person is, whether they’re a good person or a bad person, or whether you’re not supposed to know whether they’re good or bad.
It’s like makeup tells that story, and that’s what I found so mesmerizing. I went to makeup school, and right even before I graduated makeup school, I had gotten a job at Roger Corman. I stayed there for 18 months and just did film after film after film. And it’s funny because that was like our film school. So instead of going to USC or UCLA and helping those kids with their projects, Roger Corman was the behind the scenes, below the line film school. So that’s where I learned so much, and I think I did six or seven films for him. And then at one point, I was like I think I can move on now and do other projects, bigger budgets, with new people. Roger Corman was pretty much who gave me my start.
JC: That’s incredible. What was your favorite makeup moment from Season 3, creating the woodsmen or creating Mr. C, or…?
DZ: Oh, my God, there’s so many I don’t think I could —
JC: Pick just one?
DZ: Yeah, I can’t.
JC: Let me delve into another question, Mr. C especially, that’s the one thing I asked my 25YL Site crew, I said, “What do you want me to ask DZ that you really want to know about?” They were like, “How did they come up with Mr. C’s visage? He was dirty and tan and with the hair and because you really did transform Kyle into somebody else. To this day, I look at pictures of him as Mr. C, and I’m like he’s not in there. As Cooper, there’s some Kyle, but as Mr. C, he really went there, he (Kyle) is not in Mr. C at all.
DZ: That was the best. I loved that was my first challenge because that was what we were testing. I wasn’t allowed to have any makeup tests with anybody except for Kyle because that was the most important.
We really had to hone that in. Building those characters, it’s like building a house is the way I look at it. You have to start with a really strong foundation, so we started with Agent Cooper first because was the established look. And how would I match him to 25 years ago? How far can I push it, and stuff like that? And then after that was done, and we put that on film, and everybody was happy, then we went back, I took everything off, and started with creating evil Cooper.
Kyle had mentioned, “What if we had contacts to change my eye color?” I said, “That’s a great idea.” I brought in a contact lens person because Kyle wears contacts anyway, so he’s comfortable. We just wanted to change the color of his eyes. I brought in somebody to try in a bunch of different colors, and we tested those. David had said, “I don’t want prosthetics because I don’t want to spend the time and wait to go back and forth if we ever have to go back and forth to the other two characters.” So, I said, “Okay.”
It was just a matter of testing different things and changing his skin tone. I knew I wanted to do that, and I knew that he kind of just existed in the world. He wasn’t homeless, but you just never know where he’s going to end up.
JC: Like a drifter.
DZ: Yeah, like a drifter but in another realm. I just kind of darkened his skin tone and tanned him up a little bit and dirtied him and grimy, and we made teeth for him that changed his smile, the structure of his teeth, and the color. And it just all came together so brilliantly, and then I thought let’s put longer sideburns on him. Anything that I could do to change little things and not make it so obvious that you’re staring at the makeup.
Like everything with David, it just kind of came out organically. I just tried a few different things, and Kyle and I and David, we just all kind of were like, “Yeah, I think we got it.”
JC: You did. You definitely got it.
DZ: So it was good. And I very much pay attention to the details. It’s like when you’re painting a room, and you don’t tape off the edges, then you get the bleeding of the paint. I always make sure that, if necessary, my edges are taped off so that there’s no bleeding. It’s very organic, yet at the same time, it’s very specific.
JC: No, I get exactly what you’re saying. Did Mark have any input on choices for the characters, or did he kind of leave that up to David?
DZ: No, that was pretty much all David. Mark would come up to me and go, “Oh, my God, Debbie, that’s awesome,” or “love that,” or … But Mark very much knew that all of that part was David.
But Mark was such a huge supporter of me. I was so grateful because that first day when I said, “Help me,” he’s like, “You got it.” He goes, “You’re fine. Don’t worry.” And I’m like, “Okay.” It kind of set in that first day of how many characters were coming in and what I had ahead of me. You’re just starting out, and at that moment I think I was like oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?
JC: Well, the cast was that large. One of my thoughts was like oh my God, they’re going to have to all be costumed. They’re all going to have makeup. Wow, that is definitely a huge undertaking. Did you know the full capacity of the cast once everything got underway?
DZ: I did. I think it’s just at a particular moment, it just kind of hit me all at once. It hit me all at once that I was back with David, that I was back with the family, I was back in that world, and then realizing the mountain that I was about to climb. I think it just all kind of hit me all at the same time, and Mark happened to be standing there next to me. I just think my eyes were probably as big as saucers when I turned to him because I think it was just one of those moments you’re like oh my God. And it was like take a deep breath and keep going, there’s not looking back, just keep moving forward.
JC: Incredible. Last question because I know you’re busy, but I just happened to peruse, that you’re working or did you finish work on A Star Is Born?
DZ: That’s finished. We did that…Well, a year ago at this time we wrapped.
JC: I was going to say, I knew it was wrapped because it’s coming out —
JC: How was it working with Bradley (Cooper) and Gaga?
JC: It’s so funny because I have a friend of mine who lives in New York and knew her when she was just Stephani playing the bars and said she is the same person she was when she was playing to bars. She’s very down-to-earth, very New Yorker.
DZ: Very, very much so. Surrounded by an amazing family and an amazing group of people that her makeup, her hair, her manager, her costume stylist is … Her sister dresses her. She is exactly that same person and very down-to-earth and very focused and wanted to do the best performance. You’re going to need 10 boxes of Kleenex, I’m telling you.
JC: I remember the original. If Brad kind of kept to the tone of the original it’s going to be definitely a tearjerker.
DZ: Yeah, it’s amazing. Of course, it’s a more modern-day story. They have updated it, but the basic character synopsis is still the same where he finds her and helps her with her career because his career is kind of on the leaning on the downfall. But that was such an amazing project to be a part of, and the music that they’ve done and it’s fabulous. Julie and Juliana are the music producers of A Star Is Born. They were also the music producers of the three Pitch Perfects as well. Or supervisors, I should say. It’s funny because we all had such a lovely reunion last night (at the Hollywood Bowl for Beauty and the Beast Live), and we talked about Pitch Perfect and then coming to A Star Is Born and everything. It’s just amazing how much music really influences projects.
JC: Oh, absolutely.
DZ: We had a nice discussion about that and how happy we were. I think that film’s going to be huge. I can’t wait. I’ve been watching, waiting for the trailer to come out.
JC: Me too. What are you working on now, currently? Is there anything you could tell me you’re working on currently, or is it all under wraps because you’re not supposed to spill?
DZ: No, I am absolutely 100% unemployed. I don’t have a project right now. It’s kind of weird. It’s like I should probably go back to work soon, but I had finished Timeless in March. And that was a grueling schedule to do 10 episodes all different time periods and about 350 people between the actors and the background in various period makeup, hair, and wardrobe. And that was really a big undertaking, and I had just come back from London doing a film with Rebel (Wilson) called The Hustle with Anne Hathaway.
It will be a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is a female version. Right, which was awesome and hilarious, and it’s going to be another huge hit. And I literally had 36 hours off between coming home from London and starting Timeless. So that was kind of like a whirlwind there, and then when I finished Timeless, I got a phone call saying I had to go back to London to do re-shoots for The Hustle. So by the time I got back, it was probably a month ago, so the end of April. I thought I think I need to take little time off.
JC: Yeah, a self-care break.
DZ: Yeah, because you realize as an artist it’s like if you’re exhausted, you’re not putting out your best work. I just feel like I needed to recharge a little bit my psyche, my mind, my body, everything. I thank God I am able to do that. I can’t take too much time off because the bank account will start to cry, but I really felt I needed to take some time for myself because if I did go roll into another job, I wouldn’t be good for them. I want to be on my game. So I’m hoping there are a couple things brewing, so I’m kind of waiting to hear what’s going to happen. So I’m sure by within the next few weeks, I’ll know.
JC: I can’t wait to see what you do next. I’m very excited!
DZ: I know, me, too.
JC: You’re incredible.
DZ: Well, thank you.
JC: You’re welcome. Thank you for taking the time. I do appreciate it because I know it’s wonderful to get to hear from different people that are involved with the project (Twin Peaks: The Return) and who have worked with David and Mark. Thank you again!
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