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Forget CGI effects, 'Marvel's Agent Carter' makeup artists use vintage techniques

The 1940s setting for "Agent Carter" isn't the only retro element of the show. Consider the makeup work that goes into creating the expanding wound on the face of Agent Peggy Carter's adversary Whitney Frost, portrayed by actress Wynn Everett.

Far from the CGI effects that define so much of the Marvel universe, sometimes old-fashioned eyeliner is what's need to fill in the gaps on Everett's cheek.

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"My guidelines were for it to be like a cracked porcelain doll and then the black matter would come from inside out," says makeup department head Debra LaMia Denaver. "From there, Jay [Wejebe, makeup artist] designed the prosthetics that we use and Robin [Beauchesne, key makeup artist] created all the different avenues the dark matter takes."

To make the presthetics, the skills of a sculptor are required, though Wejebe underplays the difficulty — to the amusement of Everett.

"I do a sculpture and then I make a mold of it," he says before going on to explain how the prosthetics melt into the skin upon application.

To make the effect of Zero Matter truly harrowing, "Agent Carter" turns to its visual effects department to add depth and movement.

"Prosthetic makeup effects were able to take it to a certain point, but it also needed to grow," says visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal. "We also wanted it to have this infinite depth, this infinite black."

Given the seemingly sentient behavior of the Zero Matter, Duggal, in conversation with showrunners Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas, and Chris Dingess, found it important to bring the effect to life.

"In terms of how we achieved it, from a visual effects point of view, we went in and color-corrected it, so that we could give the scar depth in 2-D," Duggal explains, going on to share how DNeg TV, the show's visual effects vendor, studied cracking glass to better capture the animation effect.

Because of the complications of filming, Everett often ends up having her scar redrawn multiple times if scenes are not filmed in chronological order. Whenever that happens, she settles into the chair, comfy in her lavender Uggs that match Frost's lavender suit, and sits back to watch her visage fractured time and again.

The artists responsible for recreating the scar have found a number of shortcuts to make the process as seamless as possible, working from detailed photographs that represent previous versions of their work, that they then use as a roadmap and using pre-made prosthetics when needed. Toward the end of shooting, they've streamlined the process down to 30 minutes.

Beyond the benefits of Everett having something more to act around than a few CGI dots on her cheeks, the work of the "Agent Carter" makeup team benefits the visual effects department.

"They don't have to do it all," LaMia Denavar says, "We can do the practical. Like it used to be."

Whitney Frost's face is far from the only project demanding special effects expertise in the show's second season, which also features an intangible man and an inter-dimensional rift.

"We have the big rift, we have objects that levitate and get sucked into the rift, we have people freeze and shatter, we have Whitney kill a bunch of people, and then we have Dr. Wilkes become intangible," Dugal trails off before adding. "We have a lot of stuff happening.

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'Marvel's Agent Carter'

Where: ABC

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday

Rating: TV-PG-LV (may be unsuitable for young children with advisories for coarse language and violence)

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