Stargate SG-1 make-up artist Jan Newman has been a favorite of GateWorld’s editors for a number of years, but this busy butterfly has kept herself so occupied that we have never had a chance to talk with her … until now!
GateWorld sat down and “powdered up” with the SG-1 make-up artist at this year’s Gatecon convention in Vancouver, British Columbia! Originally from Australia, Newman has worked on MacGyver, all 10 seasons of SG-1, and the DVD movies Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum!
Jan takes us back to her original run-in with the make-up profession before she had a chance to go off and become a flight attendant. We discuss the origins and complexities of the Jaffa tattoo, aging members of SG-1 in various episodes, and working with the likes of Christopher Judge, Richard Dean Anderson, and the late and great Don S. Davis.
GateWorld’s video interview with Jan Newman runs about 27 minutes. It is also available in audio format, and is transcribed below!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net I am David Read and I am talking with longtime SG-1 make-up artist Jan Newman. Jan, this has been a long time coming. It is a pleasure to see you at Gatecon.
Jan Newman: Thank You. Yeah, st time I saw you it was at [the] Continuum screening.
GW: The screening. That’s right.
JN: Fabulous, fabulous.
GW: It was very good. Is that the last piece of Stargate that you’ve done?
JN: Yes, yes. I took some time off and, you know, hanging around.
GW: You told me about some of your other projects. What are you currently working on?
JN: I’m working as one of the many first assistant make-up artists, on [“Night At the Museum 2”], and it’s a very busy show.
JN: We do main unit and second unit pretty much simultaneously, so we get a whole group of people ready and sometimes they come to our unit. Sometimes they go to main unit with the stars. We work with a lot of doubles. Dan Payne is one of our doubles.
JN: Sometimes we have to double a double. [Laughter]
GW: A second double?
JN: A second double.
GW: Oh wow.
JN: Because its so busy. But, its lots of fun, I’m working with a lot of friends from Stargate in make-up time so I am very happy there.
GW: Vancouver’s a small town. it really is. Was MacGyver your earliest work as a make-up artist?
JN: Oh, no.
GW: You’ve been in this business for awhile?
JN: I don’t know how old you are, David, but I’ve been in here probably longer then you’ve been born.
GW: I’m 25.
JN: Oh … [Laughter] No … Anyway, yes I have been doing make up a long time. Should I say how long? No, I won’t say how long.
Back in the late Seventies I did my first feature film. But I had done a lot of television. I actually started in opera doing make-up for the stage, which is a wonderful training area for make-up artists.
GW: Yeah, you can’t look normal because the lights hit and you have to make certain things pop and people are sitting far away. How about I let you talk? [Laughter]
JN: They’re sitting too are far away. No you’re exactly right because you have to demonstrate the character from the back of the theater but also make them realistic. But, can you imagine going from television news to the opera in one night?
GW: In one night?
JN: You have to go back and forth, “Does that look right?” So yes, we use to go do the news in the afternoon and go to the theater at night and yes it was a wonderful, wonderful training experience. I recommend any make-up artist, who comes to me and says, “I want to be a make-up artist.” I say, “Go and volunteer. Do stage, do theater, do face painting. And so that’s a very good starting point. Lot of good schools now, because I didn’t go to school to be a make-up artist. I was pretty much self-taught, but I had the opportunity to work with wonderful make-up artists in television and theater.
For me it was kind of a labor of love at the beginning. And then when I got my first feature film I actually got paid for it! [Laughter] It was a race car movie. A lot of noise. Then did several other feature films in Alberta. That’s where I was training.
From there, I came out to British Colombia to see what the atmosphere was like and it was just booming at the time. I think my first job was on Hitchhiker. Then the next one was a couple of TV movies. I did one season of 21 Jump Street.
Then lo and behold two young men came into the city to do a television series. Michael Greenberg and Richard Dean Anderson were the two young men who came in with something they had already established in Los Angeles. I interviewed with them and I got the job. Little did I know that it was going to be such a wonderful experience.
GW: Long-lasting, and not just a lot of seasons, but you know, it’s a part of our lexicography now.
JN: It is. It is! And you know, from those experiences it was probably one of the greatest experiences, shall I say, for doing second unit matching. Because they had a huge second unit and Dan Shea, of course, was with Richard, so we used to try and make him …You know, Dan has got a weird thumb, so he doesn’t look anything like Richard’s hands.
GW: Yeah, there is a lot of hand modeling.
JN: So, part of our second unit was matching hands to do all of those MacGyverisms.
GW: Oh! So Dan was actually responsible for a lot of the tricky stuff.
JN: Dan did some. Richard had his own stunt man from Los Angeles. He didn’t do any of that sort of thing. Bill Nikolai, who has been on Stargate, also did a lot of stand-in and second unit work as Richard’s hand double. [He] was also a photo double and he was also Richard’s photo double on Stargate.
GW: Oh, OK.
JN: Getting to know Vancouver very well, and knowing where all of the wonderful locations were, was a great experience. Wonderful, wonderful people, Steve Downing, the Executive Producer, and Michael Greenberg, were just wonderful people to work with. And of course, Richard.
GW: Oh, of course.
JN: Then after that I just went back to doing feature films. I did “Intersection” and I did “Little Women”. Then about that time, the Stargate franchise was coming to town.
I got called from Michael Greenberg’s secretary, or somebody who was setting it up, to ask if I would be interested, because they wanted to get the same MacGyver crew back onto Stargate.
GW: Yes, This is a crew that works. Why break something, you know?
JN: That’s right! So we did very well getting most of our crew together. And what an experience, what a wonderful 11 years really. Ten years of series and two feature films, what I would call feature films, because they are spectacular.
GW: Yeah, and they are not done yet. Brad, he’s writing a third movie.
JN: Well, I may not be part of that. But, anyway it’s been a wonderful experience.
GW: Well, for old times sake you have always been great. I am sure they will bring you back. But, I’d like to backtrack real quickly if I can. Where did the ambition for becoming a make-up artist come from? What in your childhood, or in your young adult life said, “I want to do this.”
JN: Oh, it was never anything in my childhood, trust me. I wanted to be a flight attendant. [Laughter] I went to nursing school in Australia and I became an Air Hostess in those days with Ansett Airlines. Because I had to become a nurse to be a Cabin Attendant in those days I went through nursing school and then I came to Canada and met my husband.
So we stayed here and I went back to nursing. I also had the opportunity to volunteer in theater. So my make-up background, basically, was doing theater, opera and live music theater. So as I said previously, it was one of the best experiences.
Then when television became very productive we’d do live-to-air productions. We used to do dramas, live dramas, sometimes on video. Great experience. Then, after being in theater, we used to do commercials, live shows and things. So yeah, then I came to Vancouver and started all over again! [Laughter]
I’ve never done theater since, which is very interesting because it is one of my first lead-ins. The opportunity is not so great any more because they are kind of closed shop, I suppose.
If you belong to one union … there’s two different types of unions, the theater and then there’s the film, television division.
GW: You’re kind of in the television one now.
JN: Yeah! And happily so. [Laughter]
GW: So you spent a number of the years on the set doing make-up. A number of items that have been auctioned off over the years are all of your Polaroid’s. Where you would take [pictures of scenes] for continuity.
JN: Are you serious?
GW: Yeah! Those go for, like, 125 bucks on eBay. You know, one Polaroid.
JN: No kidding …
GW: How many did you take over the years? You must have taken thousands. I remember coming on set in Season Nine and you had switched to a digital camera.
JN: Well, let me see. When I left after Continuum, all of the archival things, everything that belonged to Stargate, went into their locker room. I often wondered whether or not anybody ever knew they were there. Obviously somebody does! [Laughter]
So I don’t have any of the Polaroid’s from the early periods because you can’t really duplicate Polaroid’s very well. And it was quite expensive over the years, taking Polaroid’s, because Polaroid’s never really did justice to make-up.
GW: Oh really?
JN: Yeah … So it would give you the outline of the basic continuity, especially for bruises. On MacGyver we used to number his bruises or his dirt patches or whatever.
GW: Oh wow.
JN: Oh yeah. This is a “number five” bruise here. This is a “number two” dirt spot here.
GW: Two inches wide, the other one is, like, half an inch.
JN: That’s for sure. But I never quite knew what happened to them. But, if they are being sold for charity, I think that’s great. We put together albums. Each episode had its own album.
GW: Two hundred albums.
JN: After the Polaroid thing, each season had one full binder of the cast, not the scripts, but the cast and their pictures. The digital pictures that we did.
JN: Also somewhere up there in those archives are the original rock, dental rock molds, some tattoos over the period. They may have already gone. I know some of the tattoos were auctioned off very early while I was still on Stargate. We’d just packaged them up, the gold ones.
GW: Oh, the Jaffa tattoos, yeah.
JN: Yes, the Jaffa tattoos. Then just not too long ago at Comic-Con they wanted some of the back tattoos.
GW: Yeah for fans.
JN: So, with Brigitte Prochaska, [we] managed to track those down.
GW: So were those the ones that you used on set?
GW: So you guys didn’t mark tattoos? They were just little, like, you used the water and transferred them? Transferable?
JN: We would use a make-up that was put on with alcohol and a product that was called Silicolor so that it wouldn’t sweat off.
GW: Uh-huh. Yeah, long days.
JN: In the early days we were always repairing the tattoos. But in later years, all these new products came out and we managed to get it down to quite a science. Now in “Children of the Gods,” if you remember right at the very beginning of “Children of the Gods,” we had tattoos that were for the women. This whole thing changed …
GW: They were silver for the women.
JN: They were very colored. There was something like rainbow colors and gold or silver. I’m not sure, in the history of Stargate, where that actually went, because after a period of time we only used black tattoos on the women. They never had gold tattoos and they had very specific … what is the word I am thinking of … universes had very specific, like for instance the tattoo that Teal’c had for Chulak, the women had those. The children never did. Until the boys became mature. And then Teal’c’s son then had the tattoo.
GW: Then got it.
JN: So it was very interesting I think how the history of those tattoos came about because I think after about two seasons we started moving into other realms, with different tattoo designs from other universes.
GW: All the different System Lords had their own design.
JN: Exactly, exactly. Good words. System Lords. I had forgotten about that. [Laughter]
GW: Every bad guy had his own tattoo design for his own slaves.
JN: Yes, yes for sure. But, then it became an interesting thing. Each director, if their script called for it, they would meet with Brad and Robert to determine what the hierarchy would be. Then the designers would come up with several different designs and would go to the producers or the director and then we would come up with either creating the gold ones, which were very specific. We would have to have them sculpted.
The art department was so clever. They used to make the molds out of artists paper, but layers, and then we’d pour — Dorothy, my assistant, would pour sort of a superglue into it. You know the things they use for hot glue guns?
GW: Because they’re embossed. They’re layered.
JN: They’re different dimensional. So we would do that and then we would cover them with gold leaf, or gold paint, depending. But really the history of the tattoo goes right back to “Children of the Gods” on Christopher.
GW: Yes, because he was the first.
JN: Teal’c’s tattoo was a three-part procedure, and would take us … we’re talking way before prosthetics became a really big deal. I would put on three different things — I’d put the middle one on, the second one, and then the third one, and would have to fill it in. And that would take a long time in the mornings.
Eventually, thank goodness, we managed to get his make-up down from an hour and ten minutes to about fifteen. [Laughter] I’m not sure what season, about Season Six, we nixed the gold sheen on him, and originally that was a part of his ritual. Teal’c, when he would go into his meditation —
GW: — his kel’no’rim — that’s right.
JN: Kel’no’rim. We never saw any evidence of the brushes or the gold, mind you. The premise, I believe, came from as he became more of this world he dropped a lot of his … he still did the kel’no’rim. He dropped a lot of his outer trappings. He stopped wearing his robes. He was wearing SG uniforms.
GW: He became from Earth!
JN: One of them.
GW: That was his home.
JN: That was his. And so, from that perspective, a lot of things changed. His make-up became about a 15-minute … depending on if we stopped to talk. Christopher and I used to love having great conversations.
GW: You called him an angel before.
JN: He’s a wonderful man. I love him. They’re all fabulous. How lucky can one person be to have such a great cast to work with?
GW: I know. They could be a real pain, and they’re just not.
JN: Do you know what? I’ve had, in my career, very, very few people that I would say “I don’t want to put my hands on them.” I can say one person for sure, a long time ago. It was an unknown prima donna. [Laughter]
Anyway, I think that the experience of being with this crew, and this cast, some people would give their right arm. [Laughter]
GW: Who was the most difficult to work with? In terms of like, “We need to get this done.” When you were putting the make-up on or touching them back up, who would kid around the most?
JN: Who do you think?
GW: OK, Chris Judge.
GW: Oh, Rick!
JN: Yes! It was like trying to hit a moving target to get him ready! Richard didn’t like to sit in the chair for very long. I think the longest Richard sat in the make-up chair was in “Brief Candle” when he aged. We never thought he was going to do that. He got really into it after a while.
The preparation for that — we had pictures of his father and his grandfather. The designers who designed the make-up took some of those, aspects and some of O’Neill’s physiognomy — that’s the right word — to put it together. He sat still, I think there were three different changes in that.
GW: Yeah, he got old over the course of the episode. It’s really nice that you guys — it wasn’t just “make him old.” You looked at references and you wanted to make it plausible. That’s cool.
JN: No, for sure. Richard used to wear contact lenses way back. He hadn’t had to wear them for a long time, but one of the things that I really wanted to make sure is for “Brief Candle,” that he had a proper contact lens that looked aging. Because as people age their eyes change and the color changes.
You can have the best make-up in the world, aging make-up, and if the eyes give it away it doesn’t work. So in this instance it did really work for him. He probably wouldn’t say it out loud but he really enjoyed that aspect — he never looked like that because he’s so gorgeous!
GW: He talked about that episode today!
JN: Did he?
GW: He brought that one up specifically. And you had to age everyone in “Unending.” Was that a challenge?
JN: It was another wonderful experience. Todd Masters is our prosthetics designer.
JN: He is [an] Emmy winner and just a wonderful, wonderful man. He took pictures and did them digitally, and we went through a whole process with the directors and producers as to what stages we would do.
GW: Yeah, it was several years at different increments.
JN: Absolutely. I think three for Amanda. Rachel Griffin and I did Amanda’s make-up. Each person had their own make-up artist, plus their own prosthetic make-up artist, to make it work. To maintain it throughout the whole of the experience of videoing it. Because it was HD it’s very critical, very, very critical.
I’ve only seen it once. It’s one of those things that I should go back and look at again. We can become very critical of our work when we see it and sometimes you don’t want to go back. Yeah, that was a great experience. I think Amanda’s make-up was what was the truest, but then she was the only woman. The men, Ben, was terrific. But then Ben in Continuum was fabulous.
GW: Exactly! Another older version of him!
JN: Yeah. That was Todd. Todd did that. I did Ben’s straight make-up. The first part of the aging I did with paint, what they call “aging with paint.” Then he had the prosthetics and the beards. And then we had to have a photo double for him, so we had to do exactly the same thing. His stand-in was as closest to Ben’s stature, so they did it on him.
All in all, looking back, it’s been a very joyous time. Very fatiguing at times. We put in a lot of long hours, but it was never one of those experiences where “I don’t want to get up and go to work tomorrow.”
GW: You’re having a good time while you’re there! Richard made sure of that!
JN: He certainly did. I used to say to Richard. He wouldn’t be upset if I said this. He was like a big kid.
GW: Oh, I think he’d admit that.
JN: Even back on MacGyver days, and this has been written up so I’m not telling tales out of school … We were shooting in a rock quarry up in [the Greater Vancouver Regional District], and he was riding a bike. Something got into him, and I’m pretty sure it’s the first or the second episode in. He got to the top of the clip and just let the bike go.
GW: He let the bike go?
JN: I said, “Only a nine year old would do that!” He was very gleeful. “Oh, look!” [Laughter]
GW: He got off the bike and just let it continue?
JN: Yeah! Yeah! he didn’t hurt himself, he just let it go off the cliff! [Laughter] That’s when I say, he’s a big kid. I haven’t seen Richard in probably a year.
GW: He’s here.
JN: I know. I probably won’t get to see him. He’s being crowded by so many people. I actually saw him signing pictures. Jay took me into the room.
GW: It’s been almost a couple of months. Don Davis recently past away.
GW: Yeah. His final appearance was in Continuum. Did you work with him on that film?
JN: I certainly did. I loved Don. I worked with Don for a long time.
GW: He was Dana Elcar’s stunt double.
JN: He was. And I had something to do with that.
JN: I take pride, because Don was balding like Dana. It was a little selfish of me because I really didn’t want to have to put a bald cap on a stunt man. The producers and I, and Don, of course, agreed, and [he was] happy to be doing that. From then on we became really good friends. He was such a treasure in my life.
One of the things I would miss about Don is he would walk into the trailer in the morning. He would come up and he’d give everybody a little peck on the cheek. He’d say “Hi, hon,” in his lovely accent.
GW: Southern, yeah.
JN: I miss that. That was so Don. And I said to Ruby, “That’s one of the things I will certainly miss.” But just his personality. I’m very lucky, very fortunate, to have one of Don’s paintings signed by Don with a lovely note on the bottom to me. And that’s a huge treasure I have. Every time I see it I will always think of Don. There’s a Web site coming up where we can actually get prints of his work. [I’ll] put my dibs in there for something. [Laughter]
GW: You want some of it!
JN: We will really miss Don here in Vancouver, right through the film industry, because he worked everywhere. Wonderful character actor.
Miss you, Don.