INTERVIEW: Makeup Artist Susie Glass And The Two Faces Of Fantasy Island

Fantasy Island is a new take on the late 70s early 80s television series that leans heavily on supernatural horror elements and comes from director Jeff Wadlow (Truth or Dare). To help bring out the fantasy and fear is makeup artist Susie Glass (Mulan).

The original Fantasy Island TV series is a pop-culture legend. The new take plays up the horror aspects that were lightly hinted at in the original series. The premises are the same, which includes a far-off island resort in a tropical paradise that seemingly brings fantasies to life. However, the fantasies turn into horrific nightmares that threaten the lives of stars Maggie Q (Live Free Or Die Hard), Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars), and Portia Doubleday (Mr. Robot).

PopAxiom spoke with Susie Glass from Queensland, Australia, about her road to the film and television industry and her journeys from mountains snow to tropical islands and back again for Mulan, Fantasy Island, and more.

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Good Hair Day

At 18, Susie was already a trained hairstylist. Getting into the film industry was a “… right time at the right place,” kinda thing.

As a fan of movies all her life, Susie always wanted to be part of the filmmaking process. “I was lucky enough to stumble upon a great makeup designer who trained me. I got offered a job to join a makeup team at a television network, which was a great training ground …”

The jump from hairstylist to the film and TV industry wasn’t a big stretch. As a child and into her teenage years, Susie “… had a dancing background … so I’ve always been around that world. It just seemed a natural step.”

Evolving Industry

Susie’s earliest IMDB credit dates back to 1996 when high-definition televisions and 4k cameras weren’t a thing. The transition to newer technology forced the Susie’s of the world to rethink their approach to hair and makeup. “It’s been a complete 360. Your eye for detail had to change. Suddenly you saw absolutely everything on the screen, so techniques had to change. You had to have a much lighter hand. Heavy foundations and products and glues couldn’t be used anymore.”

But challenge is part of the fun for people in the creative industry. “It was really like starting again, which I found quite exciting.”

About Fantasy Island

Susie’s work appears in the Mulan remake from Disney, and an upcoming Amazon show. In-between was Fantasy Island. “I was filming Mulan down in New Zealand down in the south island, and a very casual conversation between actors was happening about Fantasy Island as I walked by.”

What did Susie do? “I got into the conversation. I wanted to be part of that. I loved Fantasy Island growing up. I knew it was in Fiji, we were in the snow, so a little bit of heat was quite appealing.”

After learning about the gig, the next step was simple for Susie. “I reached out, and they were very excited to hear from me.”

Shiny Beautiful, Bloody Awful

Fantasy Island is directed by Jeff Wadlow, who previously directed Truth or Dare and Kick-Ass 2 (and wrote Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot). Susie says about working with Wadlow: “We were on the same page from day one. The story and script had been in Jeff’s head for a long time. So he was quite clear, which was incredibly helpful.”

There was one primary focus when it came to getting the hair and makeup right. “We wanted to see that juxtaposition between when people come on to the island, everything is shiny, beautiful, bright, and magical and you think ‘oh, lucky, lucky people’ they’re about to have all their dreams come true. But they quickly disappear down the rabbit hole.”

Susie highlights one actor’s journey. “You see Portia’s character, Sloane, getting dragged through bushes backward… all credit to Portia and everything we did to her as a character. We dumped water on her head over and over for days on end.”

Simply put, “We really wanted to see the shiny, beautiful, and bloody awful.”

Facing The Elements

Mulan shot in cold climates, but Fantasy Island was in a tropical paradise. “Filming locations in the heat is not to be underestimated. Everyone just melted. Everything had to be thought out.”

Susie elaborates on the challenges of working in a beautiful but often broiling locale, “Keeping everyone shiny and beautiful in the tropics and not looking like they’re melting is challenging. Filming days are 10-12 hours or more. It’s hard on everyone. It’s not just a physical thing, but you had to look and feel great all the time.”

In a professional juxtaposition, Susie’s three most recent gigs have gone from cold regions to hot ones. In the cold, she says, “Red noses are a problem. It was very cold down in the deep south.”

Fantasy Island is a Blumhouse production that works on a budget a fraction of the size of films like Mulan. “Well, I was running the crowd in Mulan, and I think over the course of the film we had about five-and-a-half-thousand people on camera. That scale is enormous. It took me from China to the south island of New Zealand to the north island. It was like an endurance race. I had 50 makeup artists with me.”

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Wrapping Up

Susie draws a lot of inspiration from “… the golden days of Hollywood. If I had a wish, I would love to work back in that era. I’ve been a fan of movies since I was a kid, and I admire what they did back then with what they had available. Those were the old-school masters.”

What’s most important about learning from those masters? “It reminds you of what it’s all about. We’re so caught up with our technology, and digital this, our phones on set, we’re snapping photos … I completely admire the old masters for the craft.”

In the age of remakes, Susie’s already been a part of quite a few. “I was lucky enough to work on Peter Jackson’s King Kong.” Is there a remake she’d love to be a part of? “I’m going to say something crazy, I Dream Of Genie. I wanted to live in her bottle.”

Fantasy Island had a solid box office run while Mulan’s release is delayed. What’s next from Susie? “I just completed an exciting show for Amazon Prime called The Wilds. It’s a ten-part series that’s kind of Lord of the Flies and Big Brother. It’s going to be a fascinating watch.”

Is Fantasy Island on your watch-list?

Thanks to Susie Glass and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.

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Ruben Diaz
Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.