Between a Pedro Pascal sighting on the Oscar red carpet to those much-anticipated late-Sunday HBO finales, The Last of Us is having a week—and you can count Merle Dandridge as part of the crowd who couldn’t be happier. “In the same way you hope for the very best for someone you love, I hoped the show would connect with our audience with the same passion we put into it,” shares the actress (she stars as Marlene, the leader of a resistance movement), as she filled us in on all the hair-makeup-styling—yes, there are some!—moments from the show.
The show has had huge success—were you expecting the level of excitement surrounding it?
“I knew it would be a dialogue with our beloved game community. I knew the story and characters were exquisite. I knew the artists in front of and behind the camera were all knockout talents. But you can’t take for granted that it will automatically translate to the kind of recognition it is getting…even as well-deserved as it is. I’m beyond moved and deeply grateful that this new audience loves it as much as we do.”
Do you have any “glam” moments that got you into character?
“Well, what does glam even mean in an apocalypse! The artistry by Chris Glimsdale [hair/wigs], Danielle Hanson [makeup] and Cynthia Ann Summers [costume] was essential to my success. The attention to detail in Marlene’s clothes—the broken capillaries on her face and dirt under her nails, the specificity of how much grey and where in her hair…they all told a story! Every scar that was placed had a history.”
The show is pretty heavy. Is there anything fun the cast does on-set to have fun?
“Indeed, with such heavy subject matter, laughter is so important. We laughed a lot. My makeup artist, Danni, often brought her dog, Rain, to basecamp. Running around with a pup will cure just about all that ails you on a long day in the elements.”
What do you do after filming to unwind?
“I’m a big advocate for self-care and wellness. I love to hit up a float spa. The sensory deprivation and weightlessness are fantastic meditation tools. The high intensity of salt water will heal a lot of aches. I’m a Broadway girl first, so music is a great revitalizer for me. And I love a good workout. Moving my body at the gym, in yoga, dance or Taekwondo; I love to be physical. We have this one life, this one body—take care of yourself, so you can show up with joy and gratitude. Then, when I wash the day off, my go-to’s are Barbara Sturm’s enzyme cleanser ($75), PCA Skin’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($124) and moisturizer by Retrouve ($200).”
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