Could it be one of the most coveted jobs in television?
The legions of fans who watch Outlander may think so. From the start of season 1, it’s the job of Wendy Kemp Forbes to prepare Sam Heughan’s hair, makeup, and back scars for every episode.
“It’s not normal that you get to do hair, makeup, and prosthetics on a job,” the Scotland-born Forbes tells EW. “I’m really lucky that my job is so diverse.”
Yup, lucky is a one way to describe it. “I know there are people who are interested,” she says, humbly.
This is where she reveals what an arduous process it can be to prepare Heughan for his shirtless scenes. Forbes says it takes two hours and 20 minutes to do the actor’s hair, makeup, and back scars. “He’s a lovely man but none of them are that patient in the chair,” admits Forbes. “They don’t want to be in any longer than necessary.”
To create the effects of the whipping Jamie endured at the hands of Black Jack Randall, Forbes created two silicone molds in season 1 that she still uses today. You read that right, fans: the scars haven’t changed — only the shading she applies after each silicone piece is adhered to Heughan’s back.
“There was talk about changing the shape of the scars after 20 years, but we decided against that. We just keep coloring it lighter so the scars don’t look as red as they were 20 years previously,” says Forbes. “I know people get obsessed that it’s different. But they are all still there. It’s the same run of pieces since season 1.”
“The mold comes to me already scarred. Then I color up,” adds Forbes. “This year I made it a bit lighter. Then I add a water-based paint. All the scars on his chest are hand-painted. I didn’t want to use too many mediums.”
Since the process is a long one, Forbes does the first part with Heughan lying down so he can take a quick nap. “It’s usually half past 4 in the morning.”
She’ll complete the process with Heughan standing up so she can smooth out the pieces over his broad, muscular back. “He always says, ‘Wendy, you are the best,'” says Forbes.
Heughan isn’t the only man who showers Forbes with praise. The veteran makeup artist, whose many credits include stints on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and World War Z, is definitely a source of pride for her musician-husband of 30 years. In fact, she’d prefer that he wouldn’t brag so much about her gig.
“Swarms of women come up to me to ask me questions,” Forbes admits.
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.