'Dallas': Larry Hagman and the show's head of makeup explain those eyebrows

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Image Credit: Zade Rosenthal/TNT

Since the premiere of TNT’s Dallas, viewers have been in awe of two things: How much they’re enjoying the reboot and how gloriously out of control Larry Hagman’s eyebrows are. For EW’s cover story, writer Karen Valby spoke to Hagman about his now signature look. “Before,” he says of his first time around on Dallas, “they were always using mustache wax to keep them down and tame. And I thought well I’m an older person now, and I can do whatever I damn well want to. So just let ‘em grow out and become wild.” He considers the brows a character enhancement. “I carry a tiny little wire, a battery-operated electric shock that makes them stand up and vibrate when I get angry,” he jokes. We spoke with the show’s head of makeup, Lynn Barber, to get the full story behind their awesomeness.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Were Larry’s eyebrows a surprise to you?
LYNN BARBER: They weren’t a surprise. I actually worked with Larry back in 1996 on the short-lived [1997] series Orleans. We shot that down in New Orleans, and he played a judge. He had the eyebrows then. First thing Larry said when I met him was, “We don’t cut my eyebrows. We just maintain them and we groom them.” And I said, “Yes, sir.” When I reconnected with him last year, it was the same eyebrows, it was just more of them. They’re stronger and better than ever. Most times as people age, we lose the eyebrows. They get thinner. Larry’s have almost gone the opposite way. I can’t imagine Larry without those eyebrows.

And producers never tried to persuade him to trim them in an HD world?
They said, “It is what it is. We know we’re not touching the brows.” It’s J.R. He’s the alpha male. Can you imagine if those brows were manscaped? No. (Laughs) No. It wouldn’t be right…. My mom was a portrait artist and she used to do sketches. What I learned from her is that a cartoonist does the smiley face and you get the circle for the head and the two dots for the eyes — those are permanent. What you add on are the mouth and the angle of the eyebrows. You can change a smiley face to a sad face to an angry face just with the eyebrows and the mouth. So I think something Larry uses is those brows, and he does it brilliantly.

How do you groom them?
They kind of have a life of their own. In the morning, after doing his makeup, I would just wet my fingers with a little water, sometimes put a product on there if one was giving me problems, and we’d just swoop ‘em into that form that they had, like horns. He would just lay back in my chair, close his eyes, and take a little nap. We’d transform him into J.R., and he’d sit up, look in the mirror, give a little nod, and that was it. He went in as Larry and came out as J.R. Every once in a while, I would say, “Larry, I have to cut a hair.” And he’d go, “Okay.” But it was a hair. And it was with very precise little scissors that I got at a hair show. You have to dial the scissors in, they’re not just normal scissors…. We never wanted one hair sticking out, a wild one. Because I would hear about it from the camera operator. “Lynn, there’s one eyebrow!” (Laughs) They were watched by more than one department.

Read more:
EW’s ‘Dallas’ recaps
This Week’s Cover: Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy on the success of ‘Dallas’
InsideTV Podcast: Larry Hagman’s crazy eyebrows on ‘Dallas.’ Plus: ‘True Blood’ and ‘Bunheads’ premieres


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