‘Poker Face’: Cruella De Vil Was the Inspiration for Cherry Jones’ Character

Throughout the currently-running first season of Peacock’s “Poker Face,” guests to actor-writer-co-creator Natasha Lyonne’s murder mystery party have found themselves transformed almost beyond recognition. While this has included Chloë Sevigny as a metalhead, and Judith Light and S. Epartha Merkerson as radical hippies-turned-doubly-radical-senior citizens, one transmutation stands above the rest: Episode 8’s “The Orpheus Syndrome” and the makeover given to actress Cherry Jones.

In its script written by Alice Ju and Lyonne (who made her “Poker Face” directing debut with Ep. 8), Jones’ ‘Laura’ character is a big money, power mad, special effects house co-founder who’ll stop at nothing to maintain her position within the film community — including murder.

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Enter “Poker Face” makeup head Amy L. Forsythe and hair department head Marcel Dagenais – both worked with Lyonne on her “Russian Doll” series – to transform Jones’ usual earth-mother beauty into something stark and haughtily haute couture.

“Cherry’s ‘Laura’ was inspired by Cruella de Vil – perfectly dressed, sinister, oh-so-chic,” said costume designer Trayce Gigi Field. “I wanted ‘Laura’ to feel like money just entered the room. Perfectly tailored. Expensive taste. Visual storytelling is key with a character like Laura – you want her to be an instant read. I used my favorite women’s brands on Cherry: Max Mara, Carolina Herrera, Etro, Akris, Natori, and, shhhhhh, my secret weapon, Amazon. It’s all about how the piece is styled.”

In consultation with Field and director Lyonne (“it’s not often you have an episode’s director in your chair every morning,” said Forsythe), “Poker Face”’s hair and makeup departments worked their magic.

“There’s always deliberation in order to pinpoint who the character is and what they look like, with great input from the actor,” said Dagenais of the transformation process. “Because a guest like Jones’ stint is so short, they really come to play.”

Dagenais recalled that during Jones’ on-set time that she was a “no-muss, no-fuss” woman game to bring life to Lyonne’s idea of the character.

“Natasha envisioned ‘Laura’ having a severe white bob, very regimented and glamorous,” said Dagenais. “Natasha also wanted the character’s hair to have fringe, but Cherry thought it worked better showing more of her face without fringe.”

Both Dagenais and Forsythe use “shorthand” to describe their past working with Lyonne, and the direct access they had during her “Orpheus” directing time. “If actors had an idea, we could hash it out quickly,” said Dagenais.

To go with Field’s stark blacks, whites and reds, Dagenais heightened Jones’ “polish” with Oribe hair products like Super Fine Strong Hair Spray. For Jones’ wig – built by wigmaker Christal Schanes but cut, colored and styled by Dagenais – he found a color of pearl ash grey that was “cool-white, for a refined, chic look rather than dull, and used a Shades EQ toner on the wig in the shade 9V to ice it up.”

For her part, makeup artist Forsythe spoke of an actress’ level of immersion into the world of “Poker Face” as richly metamorphic. “We build each character in our mind, as much in-prep as possible until we get the actor in our chair,” she said. “That’s when it gets truly transformative.”

Having Cherry Jones in Forsythe’s chair meant deciding what the character’s level of physical upkeep was (“her skin’s texture, does she take care of herself”), how she presented her glowing “statement look” and how to best portray upscale demeanor. “Cherry’s character had to show off her stature. That’s her brand. As soon as she became famous, this was the brand she wanted to portray to the world – and she is still that person today when we see her.”

To achieve Jones’ look, Forsythe used Milk Hydro Primer, Lancôme foundation, MAC Blacktrack eyeliner, Gucci brow pencil with Anastasia of Beverly Hills Brow Freeze, Wander Cheeks and lips, Urban Decay All Night Setting Spray, Ardell Individual Lashes and Tatcha Moisturizer for dewiness.

“The key for Cherry’s character was to keep the moisture, the suppleness of the skin, because she has the money to do so.“

Forsythe also had to deal with the fact that Jones had sensitive eyes, yet was receptive to the glamorous eyelashes and lush eyeliner design that the makeup artist created for the character. “My favorite moment of Episode 8 is the scene when Cherry had only half of her face on – it’s so bizarrely intentional and off-putting,” said Forsythe of matching the odd to the beautiful. “And Cherry was there for all of it.”

Stream “Poker Face” on Peacock.

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