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Interview: Christien Tinsley on makeup and 'American Horror Story' FX part 2

As the film and television landscape has evolved into an edgier, more boundary-pushing platform over the course of the last five years, the horror genre has gained momentum in popularity and garnered a whole new generation of fans. Monsters are scarier, murders are more grisly and violence is more realistically depicted.

Still shots taken during interview with Oscar winning makeup artist Christien Tinsley and Lori Melton American Horror Story Examiner at his Tinsley Studios workshop featuring FX from American Horror Story Coven and Asylum.
Valerie Hulet McCarty for Lori Melton
Oscar winning makeup artist Christien Tinsley with Lori Melton American Horror Story Examiner with 'Asylum's' Pepper at Tinsley Studios.
Valerie Hulet McCarty for Lori Melton

American Horror Story” stands out as a pioneer in the television horror genre with its anthology format, repertory cast, and some of the boldest tales of psychological terror that have ever graced network television. Now in its upcoming fourth installment subtitled “Freak Show,” AHS continues to captivate viewers with its riveting storylines and unforgettable original characters who linger long in our minds after a season’s conclusion; especially on a dark and stormy night.

Oscar winning makeup artist Christien Tinsley and his highly skilled Emmy winning makeup and FX team at Tinsley Studio have played a very important role in breathing life into the people who inhabit the “Murder House,” “Asylum” and “Coven” worlds. Like skilled magicians, they work deftly behind-the-scenes to raise the fright factor and deliver a realistically horrifying illusion that draws us in and suspends us in the intense thrill ride that fills every scintillating hour .

It’s hard to erase the image of Tate Langdon’s (Evan Peters) skeletor-style makeup as he embarks on a shooting spree to kill several innocent high school students in “Murder House.” It’s impossible to shake the gory sight of the wounded victims lumbering around with parts of their heads blown off on Halloween night or the image of Larry’s (Denis O’Hare) nearly burned off face.

“Asylum” brought us Adam Levine’s arm severing acting debut, James Cromwell as the evil Dr. Arden and his mutant victims, the Raspers, along with Chloe Sevigny as Shelley’s grotesque amputation and slow evolution into one of these boil-infested creatures. There were aliens, a demon-possessed farm boy, and Lily Rabe as Satanic Sister Mary Eunice.

Hands down, the crowning glory in the “Asylum” creepfest, goes to Zachary Quinto as Bloody Face. The sight of him leaning over Lana (Sarah Paulson) in that mask made of his victims’ flesh simply has no horror equal. There were multiple iterations of this mask to get the look just right including a Halloween version for the Bloody Face imposters.

“Coven” was a much different world, but equally gory with zombies, throat slashings, stabbings, a minotaur, a “Frankenstein” Kyle (Evan Peters) and Kathy Bates’ head in a box as real life monster Madame Delphine Lalaurie.

Through it all, Christien Tinsley and his team work hand-in-hand with “American Horror Story” co-creator Ryan Murphy, sometimes with an extremely short lead time, to produce exactly what is needed for a given scene or sequence. Over the course of three seasons, they have proven themselves to repeatedly meet or exceed any creative challenge.

Their astounding work in seasons one and two garnered well-deserved Emmy nominations for Outstanding Prosthetic and Non-Prosthetic Makeup and undoubtedly helped the series garner its huge critical and social media acclaim. Since "Coven" received the highest series ratings across the board, it seems like more Emmy nods may be in the team's not-too-distant future.

I admittedly faced one of my biggest fears when standing next to the life-sized Bloody Face rendering in the Tinsley Studios show room following my recent interview with Christien Tinsley. I grew up with Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers but something about Bloody Face scares me on an entirely different and much deeper level, to the point that I slept with the lights on for two weeks after the "Asylum" season finale. Something tells me I'm not alone in this and the fact Bloody Face is so terrifying only speaks to the combined genius of Zachary Quinto and Christien Tinsley and his crew for creating such an eerie, evil character.

In the attached second part of our two-part live (video) interview Christien discusses his work on “American Horror Story” and the ways in which some of the startling effects were achieved. I also took a tour of the Tinsley Studio FX workshop and have included still shots of some of the amazing “American Horror Story” props in the attached slide show. While Christien was unable to dish any “Freak Show” details, he did say rumor has it Ryan Murphy is on the hunt for some very specific characters.

Read part one of the interview by clicking the suggested link below.

Follow @TinsleyStudio and @Tattoo_FX on Twitter or visit

“American Horror Story: Freak Show” returns to FX in October 2014.

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