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And the Emmy is awarded to … John Bayless

John and June Bayless have a decorating dilemma at their home in Stallings.

Since mid-September they've tried to decide where's the perfect spot for John's newest acquisition – an Emmy.

John Bayless, a professional makeup artist who also decorates sets for Matthews Playhouse, was awarded an Emmy for “Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special.” He won for his work on the HBO miniseries “John Adams.”

For six months (four in Virginia, two in Hungary) his four-person team was responsible for making characters look true to the 18th century.

For example, actor David Morse, who played George Washington, needed a prosthetic nose, a set of dentures and a plumped-up jaw. But the task also included gradually decaying the teeth for much of the cast and supplying them with oozing smallpox sores. The sores were made with a special gelatin; the ooze from tapioca.

Bayless and his team also were charged with aging some characters almost 60 years – not an easy task in only seven episodes.

But after 30 years in the business, Bayless, 56, can do almost any special effects makeup.

He started as an actor and quickly found the most interesting part of his job was applying makeup and creating visual character through painting his face. It was a natural progression from his childhood love of art.

“My mother loved to paint and I was always interested in painting and drawing. The old Universal horror films also piqued my interest in makeup,” Bayless said.

He worked in television makeup for a few years in California and earned his undergrad degree in directing and set design in the mid-1970s at the University of California at Davis. Then he headed east to Penn State to earn a master's in theater. There he also met his future wife, June.

He taught at Penn State for several years, before the couple moved to the Charlotte area in 1990. North Carolina was the third-largest film-producing state and Charlotte was June's hometown. The couple settled in Stallings just a few years ago.

Meantime, Bayless has worked on dozens of television series, movies, and miniseries, including “Patriot Games,” “Christy,” “Cold Mountain,” “The Prestige” and “Sommersby.”

He made the short lists for Oscar nominations in the past before getting nominated for two Emmys this year. He was also nominated for “Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries or Movie (non-prosthetic).” That one went to the SciFi Channel's “Tin Man.”

Bayless' most recent movie was Oliver Stone's “W,” which is about George W. Bush and is set for release next month.

When he's not working, Bayless frequently can be found designing or painting sets for Matthews Playhouse, where June is founder and artistic director. His set design work can be seen beginning Oct. 17 with the opening of “Clue, The Musical.”

John Bayless doesn't expect the Emmy will change his life, but says it's a great honor to be recognized by others in the industry.

He's also happy “to know that they recognize and respect the work that we did on ‘John Adams.'”

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