North of 60 Interview: Al Magallon

When we think of "North of 60," we probably don't think much about the actors' makeup. It isn't
usually a show that requires special-effects makeup. But from the start, makeup director Al
Magallon has been there to supervise both the day-to-day natural looks and the occasional
unusual request. In fact, when I first saw him, he was following a realistic-looking "dead" man
around Lynx River! Here are some thoughts about the show from one of its original crewmembers.

[This interview contains some spoilers for "Dream Storm" and other very minor ones for the series.]

Al's background

PW: For the record, do you pronounce your last name "muh-gal'-un"?

AM: It was originally "mah-ga-yon," but just say "muh-gal'-un." I'm from Mexico to begin with, Mexico City.

PW: Mexico? Really? How did you end up in Calgary?

AM: I came up to work up here oh, about 25 years ago. I had a group as a musician, and then I went back to Los Angeles, and I met my ex-wife here; she was from Brandon [Manitoba]. I had always dabbled in makeup, so I finally decided to get out of [music] and get into the makeup business. Not only did I go to school, I ended up with about seven diplomas and my teacher's credential, too, because I was teaching makeup in L.A. for three years. But mostly what I did was I would teach in the morning, and in the afternoon I would work in the lab and make prosthetic pieces.

PW: How long have you worked on "North of 60"?

AM: I've been on the show from the beginning. As of right now, I'm the only of the working crew that has done all of the shows--the series and the movies. To me, this is like home.

PW: Do you live in Calgary?

AM: Yes, I do. I've been living in Calgary now the last 16 years.

Dead men and "Dream Storm"

PW: When I spotted you yesterday, you were following a dead man around! [laughs] Derald Black Kettle looked very peaked. He did not look like a well man at all. That was all your handiwork, right?

AM: Yeah, that's all mine.

PW: I don't want to give away too much of the plot of "Dream Storm," but there is a body found floating in the river.

AM: Yes, it is. He finally ends up on shore there, and that's when Joe Gomba finds it. And then from there, Joe goes to the detachment and tells Michelle and Harper.

PW: And then they put him in Jerry's freezer--much to Jerry's annoyance. [laughs]

AM: And then they keep finding him. Harris finds him in bed, and then Jerry finds him in the freezer.

PW: Jerry also sees him sitting in the store at one point, right?

AM: Yes, he was sitting in the store there dripping.

PW: So people keep having visions of this dead man.

AM: All the way down the line. Like when Sarah finds him sitting up in the detachment. Oh, it's Michelle who finds him first and then tells Sarah, and they go and take care of it. And that's when they decide to put him in the freezer.

PW: So you've been making up Derald Black Kettle to look like a dead man. When I saw him yesterday, his skin was black and blue, and his hair was all stringy.

AM: Well, see, the reason for that is because they've estimated that he's been in the river about 10 to 12 hours, and that's the reason why he looks the way he does.

PW: Was he also a bit bloated?

AM: No, he wouldn't be really bloated, because the water is so cold. And of course there was a really big gash on his head and all that.

PW: So when we all watch "Dream Storm," when we see Dead Bob, we should all keep Al Magallon in mind!

AM: And also [when you see] Gordon Tootoosis, when I made him look very old.

PW: That's right, he's a ghost now. Did you make him look like a ghost?

AM: Yes, I had to make him look like a ghost, very pale looking. And then one scene with Teevee, where [Teevee] looks at him and he looks very, very old.

PW: Older than when we saw him in the series finale?

AM: Yeah. It's an interesting thing, when I worked with Dick van Dyke, I made him look about a hundred years old, and the method I used was simply what we could call "paint and powder." It's just base and powder.

PW: When was it that you worked with Dick van Dyke?

AM: That was in "Airwolf," where he played a robot.

PW: So you did something similar with Gordon Tootoosis in "Dream Storm"?
AM: Yes, making him look extremely old. There is a way of doing it with simply base and powder.

PW: Without using latex appliances?

AM: [No] appliances, yeah.

PW: People do know that Albert is dead, so we're expecting him to look a bit different. [laughs]

AM: But it looks so great!

PW: So part of the time he looks like a ghost, and the rest of the time just like an old man?

AM: All the time he looks like a ghost. The only time he looks extremely old is when Teevee sees him.

PW: Do you have any overall feelings about "Dream Storm"?

AM: This one, I believe myself, is probably the best one we've done. It's such an interesting subject. Well, I dunno, when I did the one ["In the Blue Ground"] where Brian captures Sarah, and I had to make him look like he was all crazy, I did that. And of course, Sarah looked like she was all beaten up. So it's been interesting.

PW: Did Robert Bockstael actually grow a beard for that part, or was that your work?

AM: No, he did grow a beard. But when he was cutting it, I had actual whiskers in there that he could grab hold of to look like he was cutting it.

Blood and gore in Lynx River

PW: Making up a dead man is kind of unusual for Lynx River. It isn't the type of drama where someone dies every week. What other special makeup have you had to do over the years on the show?

AM: We've done quite a few things. I guess one of the most challenging was when I made the umbilical cord of the baby.

PW: That was Ellen Kenidi's baby?

AM: Yes. That was the most challenging, making the umbilical cord for the baby.

PW: Do I want to know what you use to make an umbilical cord? [laughs]

AM: I just simply used latex. I actually found a picture of the umbilical cord and copied it exactly the same color.

PW: Other than occasional cuts and bruises from fights, is the makeup on this show pretty straightforward?

AM: Otherwise, yes, it is very straightforward. It's what we would call straight makeup. Except for when maybe they would get drunk. I just thought of another one, when they found the two bodies that were frozen outside ["Freeze Out"]. I had to make them look like they were frozen, the greyish color with the blue. The extremities are all blue, because that's what usually happens. And when Gerry got caught with a bandsaw, I think I put 22 stitches on that to make it look like that.

PW: Oh, right, when Gerry was trying to operate the portable saw to get an order finished, and he hurt himself.

AM: Yeah. And the other one, too, at the beginning of the year when Rosie takes a cookie jar and hits Leon over the head. So I had to make the cut first and then graduate from stitches to a scar, and the scar was there for the rest of the show.

PW: What do you use to simulate stitches?

AM: I just take regular thread and tie them around a pencil, make a double knot, take them out and cut them, and then just glue them right on the skin.

PW: You mean to tell us you don't actually go into the skin with a needle? [laughs]

AM: [laughs] Well, when Sarah is sewing someone, I put a latex skin over the skin itself, and she takes the needle and goes through the process of actually stitching them.

Past and future projects

PW: What else have you worked on between "North of 60" seasons and movies?

AM: I just got finished working on "Almost America." Then I did "Kingdom Come." And I did "High Noon."

PW: Ah, the Showtime remake.

AM: "High Noon" was interesting because I had to take three fingers off the man. Unfortunately, they never showed that.

PW: So you tie the actor's fingers back or something like that?

AM: Yeah, there's a way of doing it with an appliance. And then prior to that, I was on "Texas Rangers," the movie.

PW: All of those were filmed in the Calgary area?

AM: Yeah. I did most of the big films here years back until I decided to kind of slow down a little bit. Like "The Fourth War" with Roy Scheider, and then I did "Betrayed" with Tom Berenger and Debra Winger. And I've been out to Vancouver and did "The Journey of Natty Gann." And then I did the "Airwolf" series, and "Stingray."

PW: Do you have anything else coming up?

AM: No, in fact I'm going to take it easy and do nothing for a couple of months. If they do [a fourth movie of] "North of 60," I'll come back for that. But it's been straight now for a couple of years, one movie after another for two years.

PW: If they keep going over well, why not!

AM: Absolutely. You do know that a lot of people watch it in the afternoon? I was amazed when I heard about that. And Jordy [Randall, associate producer] was saying that we're getting a tremendous amount of fan mail. And Tom [Cox, co-producer] was saying that when the movies show, we get over a million to watch it, which is just wonderful.

PW: We're all curious to see under what circumstances Albert returns, and what his interactions are like with the other residents of Lynx River.

AM: But underneath it all, he's one of the nicest persons you'd ever want to meet.

PW: You mean Gordon Tootoosis is nice, not Albert Golo, right? [laughs]

AM: No, no, I don't think he could ever be Albert! [laughs]

PW: It sounds like you've really enjoyed working with these people.

AM: Oh, absolutely. The actors here are so great, the cast, and we've had such great crews here, too. But it's the actors themselves who make it so easy for the rest of us.

PW: But you'll be ready to come back by spring?

AM: I'll be ready by spring!

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(c) 2002 Patricia F. Winter

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