In The Scenario, reporter Kirbie Johnson takes readers behind the scenes of the buzziest movies and TV shows to reveal how the best wigs, special effects makeup, and more are created. For this edition, Johnson chats with Barrie Gower, the man behind some of the most grotesque characters on television, about his work on HBO’s The Last of Us.
Perhaps a fitting nickname for Barrie Gower is “The Barometer.” The award-winning prosthetic makeup designer has contributed to a slew of shows that have ultimately taken over the pop culture zeitgeist and commanded our social feeds for weeks during their releases; some have ended up breaking viewing records. It’s safe to say once you get Gower involved, you may be destined to have a hit on your hands.
Gower is responsible for some of the most intricately designed, terrifying characters on series such as Stranger Things, where he took the cherub-looking actor Jamie Campbell Bower and transformed him head-to-toe into the murderous Vecna, the villain aligned with the Upside Down. He was responsible for the design of The Night King in Game of Thrones along with creating makeups for countless background actors who made up the series’s Army of the Dead. Gower was tasked with designing makeup looks for both individuals and hoards of extras on HBO’s newest hit, The Last of Us, based on the popular video game of the same name, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. The series depicts a pandemic arising from a fungal infection that, over time, turns those stricken into various forms: first a Runner, then a Clicker, to eventually a Bloater, which may tip off your Trypophobia. (If you’re not familiar, spare yourself a Google.)
Casting the actors to resemble the human characters in the game was only half the battle for the show; creating the show’s antagonists, the Infected, required Gower to bring to life monsters that have a scrupulous and devoted fanbase. He initially didn’t think it would pan out — his studio, BGFX, is based in the United Kingdom; The Last of Us was filmed in Canada. Eventually, it worked out in his favor. Gower revealed to Allure that the prosthetics team he assembled was the first department to join the production, having worked on the design of the character prosthetics for six to seven months before principal photography began. Gower and his team would create and assemble the makeups at his studio in the UK; there was also a smaller prosthetics team based in Canada. Additionally, there were about 60 artists in total that applied the makeups on the actors by the end of the show.