Working on 'Grimm' is a 'dream job for special effects makeup artist, Barney Burman

Working on 'Grimm' is a 'dream job for special effects makeup artist, Barney Burman
Transforming Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) into a wolf.
by: Lindsay Zier-Vogel

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Every show needs a makeup artist, but in order to create a cast of lifelike, ghoulish creatures, “Grimm” needs an exceptional one.

Enter special effects makeup artist, Barney Burman.

“On ‘Grimm’ . . . they give me so much freedom and license to create. It’s really a dream job for me,” he said in a recent conference call.

Burman is a third generation makeup artist, with quite the extensive CV including credits on “Star Trek,” “The Matrix Reloaded,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

With a movie like “Star Trek,” Burman admits there were built in expectations for how different characters were supposed to look. “We really did not want to disappoint the fans of the old series or the old films at all,” he says. But for “Grimm,” he was given free reign.

“We can create and give (fans) something new that they haven’t seen before,” he says.

Creating these unique unearthly creatures involves a lot of hard work Burman admits – “I don’t know how it’s going to come together every week, but I know that it will.”

And it’s not just Burman who works on creating the look for each creature. It in fact takes quite an extensive team of creators. Once the writers and producers come up with the character, two digital artists create an initial look and send the design over to Burman.

“I’m also talking to wardrobe and to the stunt coordinator,” Burman adds.

Burman uses the original sketch and a head cast of the actor to create this sculpture, a step Burman says is essential. “I always want everything to be as good as it can be on this show, and the only way to do that is to make sure that we have good, proper fitting prosthetics and makeup,” he says.

In this step, Burman’s preferred medium is clay. “Clay is just one of my favourite things. And in a way, I feel like I have a very old relationship with clay. I like the three dimensional quality of it,” says Burman.

After making the three-dimensional design on the head cast, Burman lets the actor’s actual head and face dictate changes to the original design.

The most challenging part of the process isn’t the actual look, but the tight timelines the entire team is working under. “I always want to get a little more time whenever I can,” says Burman. “I end up working very late and working long days and long weeks, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m having such a fun time doing this job.

“Sometimes the creativity comes out of how to make that happen in this kind of timeframe and not have the quality go away. So it’s quite a challenge, but really a delightful one.”

Though Burman can do a lot with clay and makeup, he notes the show also relies on digital effects. “My favorite thing, which we’ve been able to (use) in recent years in entertainment, is to be able marry (makeup and digital effects) together,” he reflects.

“I was so excited when ‘Grimm’ came along because it seemed like most of the shows that are being done in the States now are medical oriented shows, and what I love to do is make creatures and monsters and change people around, and ‘Grimm’ allows me to do that opportunity,” he says.

Burman admits he loves working on Silas Weir’s character, Munroe, the reformed werewolf. “He’s such a really talented actor and he brings so much to that character and makes him so much fun,” Burman says. He also loved creating a Three Little Pigs-inspired character for an upcoming episode.

But beyond those two stand-out creations, Burman says he’s constantly inspired by whatever character he’s currently working on: “Each episode I kind of get reinvigorated and reenergized about what we’re making.”


About LindsayLindsay Zier-Vogel has been working for since 2008. In addition to interviewing the famed American choreographer Bill T. Jones and Canadian prima ballerina Karen Kain, Lindsay’s highlights include criss-crossing Canada on four SYTYCDC audition tours and covering the Juno Awards. Follow her on Twitter!



Watch: Grimm Monster Files