Make-up artist Karina Rodríguez, nominated twice for Ariel, prepares in her Mexico City workshop the liters of blood that will be spilled in the Netlflix series, which opens next Friday
Karina Rodríguez has a silicone corpse on the stretcher. Eyes closed; a large scar across his belly. A direct spotlight illuminates it and she watches it. The translucent skin reveals the bruises left by death. The blood, dried on the sides of the wounds or on the raw flesh, comes out of small cans that the makeup artist has packed in her workshop in Santa María de la Ribera, in the north of Mexico City. She prepares it in buckets and sells it by the liter to national and international productions with a label that bears her name. The next one that can be seen on screens, starting next Friday, is the one that will be spilled in the Narcos: Mexico series, from Netflix. About 20 liters, as she calculates, or maybe 30 or 40.
In all the workshops that he went through in the last 15 years, they taught her how to make blood. Everyone has their own method and she has perfected it. It does not reveal its formula, it only gives some clues: a base –which varies–, a kind of soap and various liquids that give it thickness and color. “If you want it for the floor you need super liquid; if you want it to be dripping, it has to be a little thicker. If you want it for skin, there are two types: gel and liquid ”, she details inside her workshop, a luminous cubicle surrounded by plants. Makeup artists normally make their own blood, but some have started to buy theirs – for 696 pesos per liter (VAT included) – because it is washable and can acquire the color you need. It is offered in four shades: cool, medium, dark, and zombie.
The red jet shoots out into a small container when you squeeze the container. She puts the brush and, from there, to the hollow of a rotten leg that he has on the table. She also has hands with colored gel nails and faces shot through with gunshots. Because in addition to preparing blood, he makes dummies, which are replicas of body parts or entire people, and prosthetics, appliques that are used to deform an actor’s face, for example, or make him look aged. “You saw the prosthetic from Churchill’s movie, you can’t believe it,” says Rodríguez, who was born in Mexico City 40 years ago and studied Visual Arts.
The technological advances of recent years –in materials and post-production– allow us to do hyper-realistic works like the one hidden in a black bag because it cannot be shown yet. The fullness of the lips, hair, veins, cellulite. From the first movie she worked on, Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, to the most recent, ¡ Que viva México! , by Luis Estrada, there is an abyss in that sense. In the middle, a bald head for La casa de las flores; liters of blood for Limbo, the latest film by Alejandro González Iñárritu; the makeup and hairstyles of This is not Berlin –for which she was nominated for the Ariel–, or the personifications of Story of a Crime, the historical series on the assassination of the presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio.
As head of Special Effects for the third season of Narcos: Mexico, she has done, with her team, the dead, dismembered and tortured that appear in the latest installment of the series. But it will not give details until it opens on November 5. The new chapters, set in the 1990s, show the fight for control of drug trafficking in Mexico after the arrest of the leader of the Guadalajara cartel, Miguel Ángel Gallardo, played in previous seasons by Diego Luna. This time, the focus is on Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the lord of the skies , personified by the actor José María Yazpik.
Rodríguez joined the team in January 2020. The covid-19 pandemic began immediately and everything stopped. In the months that followed, he worked on small projects, continued to sell his brand’s blood, and rented some of the replicas she keeps from previous productions. The one they ask for the most, he says, is a pregnant belly. “But there was a time that not even that,” she recalls. Upon returning in September, the producers preferred to use dummies in some scenes to avoid contact between the actors, and their work intensified. He temporarily changed workshops because sometimes she had up to three bodies in the works.
The overalls, the dead on the gurney, the chemical smell give her the air of a surgeon or forensic or scientist. But her work does not feel close to any of those professions: “If they ask me for a dead man in a river, rather than thinking about the dead man, I think about how to make it look identical: what colors are we going to put to make it look better, what materials are going to work best for me ”. Making your tabletop polyurethane foam leg, which will be shot with an open shot, can take three hours. The entire body – which includes making the mold of the face, torso, genitals, limbs – much more. “When it doesn’t come out the first time, we all look at each other with a terrifying face because we have to start from scratch,” she says.
“That’s when you realize that you have a good team when you have the same face of desperation for it to come out,” she adds. For productions like Narcos: Mexico, look at the crudest references to imitate them, and there are times when you feel weird or have nightmares. “You start to get scared of things that you didn’t before,” he explains. For this reason, work and the rest of your life are two bubbles that do not touch. “In my normal life I am not seeing dead people,” she says. From studying so many dismembered, hanged, or burned, so many real scenes that sometimes remind him of gore works of art, he draws a conclusion that is not a cliché but a certainty: “Reality is stronger than fiction.”