Interview with Vikings Chief Beard Master

scene from the Vikings Tv Series

vikings beard balm

If you're a fan of the Vikings TV show, or of Milkman Grooming Co, you have probably heard by now that we had the honour to create a Vikings-inspired beard vax to celebrate the release of Vikings Season 4 Volume 2 (which is out now on Blu-ray & DVD by the way).

It's been an awesome ride so far. We've got to work with some of the lovely people at FOX, and met NRL players Tim Mannah & Blake Austin. Plus Rollo (aka Clive Standen) shouted us out on Twitter! This week we were lucky enough to get to interview Tom McInerney, the Beard Master for Vikings. This is a man who knows beards and regularly has to dress them up for filming. So naturally, were fascinated to get his take on all things beard.

Tom had some very interesting things to say on the subject of facial hair and how it affects people's perception of you. He also sets a really good example of someone who has thoughtfully considered what beard style to have by taking into account the way that it grows and the area in which he lives. 

How did you end up being a beard stylist for the show?

It’s my job as the Makeup and Prosthetic Designer of the show, I’m responsible for how everything looks... I wouldn’t be any good if I couldn’t stick a beard on.

What makes a beard look like a Viking beard?

We make them wild...absolutely no designer grooming, we add bones, plates and leather. We think of all things that were subject to their environment, leather wrapping, ornamental bones and  things available to them in the 8th and 9th century. One of the problems we had when decorating the beards early in the show was it made them look vain, it looked as if they cared about the wrong things... so we moved in an utilitarian direction and kept finer embellishments to the Gods beards, like Odin for example. He had a ravens backbone and beak braided in leather into his beard, but he was vain and his character allowed us to explore this kind of thing.

Who’s had the best beard you ever worked with and why?

For me on this show it was both Floki’s and Ragnar’s beards.  For a few reasons, they are very hard to get right, it’s an ensemble cast so I have very little time with them in the morning. All of our beards are hand laid, which means (broadly speaking) each hair is individually applied. It’s a good expression of masculinity, telling a great story, it allows you to jump forward and backward in the time line of the story also, it’s a man’s thing.

How important is a beard to the way a character looks on screen?

It’s really important. It can be the difference between a man and a boy in the space of an add break. Or a man and woman. A beard, as part of a performer’s make-up can really help immerse the actor in the character they’re playing. The style and colour of a beard alone can help an actor transport their character to anywhere in the world before leaving the makeup chair. They’ll turn up on set with a good beard that can help start half their journey, all they need to worry about then is hitting their marks and remembering their lines.

What do you do to look after your own beard and why?

Well I have a beard that grows like a briar patch, sometimes I think it hates my face.  I keep my beard relatively short but not too short, for some reason as nature would have it, my beard if it’s too short will attack my face, with enthusiastic barb-like in-grown hairs.

I don’t like to over groom.  I keep my moustache short. The humidity in Ireland is high in the winter and it’s easy to gather moisture under the nose, it’s very unsightly.

Why do beard balms help to make a beard look and feel better?

Well first and foremost, they tend to smell nice!! That’s a big one, hair is a wonderful carrier of perfumes and odours!! If you’ve a longish beard or you smoke or you don’t have a makeup artist chasing you with a comb and mirror as you eat, balms and oils are a great way grooming out the crap that can gather around your mouth and under your chin!! The Hair on your face gets blasted by nature far more frequently than the hair on your head... you should take care of it accordingly. My girlfriend loves beards which is another reason I keep my own. I use beard oils to moisturise the skin beneath the hair and more recently I have learnt that beard oil is a brilliant moisturiser for the whole face. They smell great, i feel like i have been chopping wood or, hunting antelope... Sort of.

If you want to check out Vikings Season 4 Volume 2 on Blu-ray & DVD you can get it from Sanity & JB HiFi.  



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