When the audience is first introduced to Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra six episodes into HBO’s House of the Dragon, she’s giving birth and covered in sweat, with strands of icy blonde Targaryen hair falling over her porcelain face. Instantly, D’Arcy’s character is thrown into more drama (a legacy started with Game of Thrones); Princess Rhaenyra attends a funeral, Princess Rhaenyra defends her children, Princess Rhaenyra bleeds (again) at a royal wedding.
“Emma was very collaborative; we had extensive talks of who Rhaenyra is and when she needed to appear more vulnerable, upset, or youthful—and when a game face was required,” says makeup artist Amanda Knight of not shying away from breakdowns and pain, adding that they even discussed Knight’s own birthing experiences ahead of filming. “We are here to tell a story, whether that be tears, sweat, dirt, or blood.”
And Knight would know; she’s responsible for shaping film aesthetics from Milla Jovovich’s makeup in The Fifth Element to the blue face paint on Braveheart’s battlefields. “I always envisaged an otherworldly look for Rhaenyra, with fabulous luminous skin and a creamy complexion blending seamlessly with the color palette of the blonde Targaryen hair,” says Knight, who was thrilled when D’Arcy was cast. “I just love making up that face!” she enthuses. Together, they brainstormed how a Targaryen at the height of their power would appear, and 5:30 am call times—filming mainly in Leavesden, England—started as a safe space for bonding. “My job isn’t just about how the cast look—in our makeup truck we set the tone for the day on set,” says Knight.
For House of the Dragon, Knight teaming up with hair artist Rosalia Culora cut the prep process down to an hour and a half on most days. After applying a bald cap (in preparation for essential wig work), Knight relied on a trusted kit of products: Oskia Citylife Facial Mist for hydration, which “works great for sweat and smells fabulous”; Chanel Hydra Beauty Micro Serum for believable luminosity that helps “prosthetics come to life and look more like skin”; sheer Chanel Serum Foundation; Fenty Beauty Amber Stick for “a fabulous contour”; Vieve Skin Dew highlighter; IT Cosmetics Tightline Mascara “with a tiny brush for natural lashes”; Suqqu eye pencils; and La Mer The Lip Balm as a final flourish. “I’ve been told by many actors that I do great skin,” says Knight of her notoriously light hand. “Less is always more.”