The surreal world of “Baskets” extends to its cast, with Zach Galifianakis playing bearded, identical-twin brothers Chip and Dale Baskets and Louie Anderson as family matriarch Christine Baskets — a role for which he won a 2016 Emmy Award.
The challenges in making Chip and Dale appear (slightly) different in their physical appearance and (very) different in their personalities falls to both Galifianakis — nominated for a “Baskets” Emmy in 2017 — and to Heather Ford, the show’s head of makeup since its 2016 premiere on FX.
“When we were thinking of how to differentiate between [Chip and Dale] we knew we had time constraints … that we couldn’t spend a lot of time doing these changeovers from Chip to Dale,” says Ford. “We knew they were each going to have the beard, since we didn’t want to chase after a beard coming unglued with the weather, so we knew we had to keep [Galifianakis’] look the same and just make some subtle changes. The hairstyles were a big thing. The characters have two different hairstyles. Chip is [Zach’s] natural curly, wild hair, not really styled.
“Dale’s hair is blown out with a side part,” she says. “It’s very not modern and not cool. It’s the furthest thing [from retro].”
Dale also sounds a little different from Chip vis a vis his accent, which has a Western twang. “Zach told us that the Dale voice was a persona he had in high school that kind of came out of nowhere,” says Ford. “He just turned it into this character and uses that voice. As horrible a person as Dale is, in a lot of ways he provides so much of the show’s comedy.”
(There are stunt doubles for each character, who are shown only from the back.)
In the world of “Baskets,” mellow Chip — a failed clown who trained in France — is now running the Baskets Family Rodeo in Bakersfield, Calif. The more assertive, obnoxious Dale continues to “discover” himself after the bustup of his marriage.
“Chip is not into his appearance as much, so Dale has crazy outfits [to differentiate them],” says Ford. “Even though Dale is way off the mark he puts the effort into his appearance. We were like, ‘Why don’t we take the gray out of his facial hair?’ So I just cover up all of the gray as if he dyes his beard. He’s more vain [than Chip]. That’s the main [physical] difference between the two characters. I do use a little more makeup on the Dale character. Chip is supposed to have darker circles under his eyes, whereas Dale is more vain and works at it a little better.”
Ford says Anderson’s “look” as Christine changed a lot from how she originally envisioned it. “I knew [Anderson] was playing Christine and they said, ‘We don’t want him in full drag and makeup.’ I knew that, so I put makeup on him, a pretty natural look, but … Zach and [series co-creator/director/writer] Jonathan Krisel took a look at him and said, ‘He’s got too much makeup on. We really need to minimize it.’ His features are already so feminine and considering the setting of the show, they just didn’t feel he needed that makeup. So I took it down a bit but it’s fascinating that just the little bit I do is enough, along with the wig, which is the big thing.
“Louie would show us pictures of his mom over the years and they look so similar, and I was like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ So I just do the basics and, honestly, what I really do with Louie is enhance the features he already has, with a little lipstick and blush, and he’s good to go.”
“Baskets” airs 10 p.m. Thursdays on FX.
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