Fast & Furious with Debbie Zoller
By Noah Michelson
What did you learn about makeup from working on Jeffrey?
We had a lot of professional drag queens. In New York, in the early 90’s, there were a lot of places to go and watch them perform. I learned so much from them in regards to hiding a man's beard and how to soften certain features while enhancing others. It was the best education a makeup artist could ask for!
You are now working on the show Castle and the looks are pretty gory. What do you think of creating that kind of look?
I love it! It’s actually how I started before I was doing beauty makeup. I love doing all the blood, guts and gore stuff, which is really funny for a girl to say. I just feel really challenged by it. That’s probably why I liked working with Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. They have art backgrounds. Even seeing someone with his head sliced off still has an artistic quality to it. And the color red is my favorite color. My signature is red lipstick. I never go out of the house without my red lipstick on.
You’re brave with that red lipstick. Not everyone can wear it, right?
I honestly believe every woman can wear red lipstick. The problem is woman may not have the right shade of red.
Your passion for makeup is infectious. Were you into it as a little girl?
I always loved makeup and my mother’s 1940’s suits. I used to dress up in those suits with the fitted jackets and her pearls, and I would put on makeup. That was the first time I was introduced to light-blue eye shadow. My mother still wears it to this day.
So you always knew you wanted to be a makeup artist?
Actually, I always wanted to know who named nail polish colors or who named street signs. I was always interested in weird, unusual, yet artistic things. I always wanted to be the person who made up the names for shoes.
Is that a job?
It is! Whoever works in the shoe designing names the shoes. They’ll say, "This looks like a Clarissa." Or "This looks like a Vivian." Growing up, I guess, that’s why I was always drawn to fashion and makeup -- they had these beautiful names.
What advice would you give to others who are interested in a career as a makeup artist?
I must get five to 10 phone calls a week from people I’ve worked with who say, "My son or daughter wants to get into makeup or hair, what do I do?" I always tell them, "If they’re passionate about something, follow it." That will automatically open up the doors to the next place where they are supposed to be. Don’t discourage them if they really want to do this. It may seem cuckoo, but it really is a legitimate business in a legitimate industry.
This is much more serious than what we’ve been talking about, but your brother, Mark, passed away in June after losing his battle with leukemia. What did you learn from going through that difficult time?
You stand back and look at life much differently after you’ve been through something like that. For the last 22 years I’ve just been working, working and working. Everything was surrounded around work. Not that my family came second, but when no one is of ill health, you don’t assume there is going to be any problems. You’re like, "Hey, I’ll see you later." When I was doing the first season of Castle I went home to see my family on Thanksgiving. I hadn’t seen them in a few months. I looked at my brother, and because I do makeup and know skin tones, I looked at him and said "There’s something not right here. Your skin tone is not of a human quality." It was right after Thanksgiving he went into the hospital and they did blood tests and he was diagnosed with AML Lukemia.
How did you respond?
Once I digested that, I went into work mode. I said, "How do we break down this disease so we can all manage it and what do we have to do to help him?" We met with all the doctors. We had to go through various blood tests to see if there was a possible bone marrow match in the family. If not, you have to go outside the family. I was lucky enough in January after doing I don’t know how many vials of blood -- I was lucky enough to be a 100% match.
The day President Obama reversed the stem cell decision put into place by President Bush, you harvested your bone marrow for your brother. What would you say to individuals who are against stem cell research?
I think they’re not educated enough in the benefits of what this can possibly do for our families and generations in the future. I think they are afraid. I think it’s based on fear -- fear that it may be used for something bad, which I understand, but they have to understand the benefits of it. Even though my brother didn’t survive, he survived seven months longer than he would have. During that time were given the opportunity to have closure that a lot of people don’t get.
We should end on something fun. Are there any TV shows you wished you could’ve worked on that you didn’t have the opportunity to?
I love The Munsters. I used to sit and watch all the reruns. I thought it was amazing because it was in black and white, and I always wanted to know what they looked like in color.
After everything you’ve done, what are you the most proud of?
I’m proud of all the work that I’ve done and my reputation as an artist. I’m also proud of the longevity that I’ve had and the relationships that I’ve created.
Castle airs on ABC Mondays at 10:00 EST.
-- DUSTIN FITZHARRIS
Previously > Quickies: The Last Days of Performance Art