Words are essential to understanding Sharp Objects, HBO's latest prestige drama starring Amy Adams as Camille Preaker, a reporter who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on a series of mysterious murders. Words are how Camille processes emotions. They're part of her job. They're lurking in dark corners of the screen, signalling mood, flashbacks, fleeting stabs of pain, and grief. Words are literally carved into the flesh of Camille's skin, covering almost every inch of her body in angry scars.
Camille's self-harm is a theme that the show explores from the onset, but it's not until the end of the first episode that we see the result: Lying in a bath in her childhood home, Camille raises her right arm, revealing the word "Vanish" etched in large letters amid a sea of smaller markings.
Since then, we've progressively seen more of Camille's words, and the lengths she goes to hide them, wearing long sleeves and skinny jeans even in the humid Missouri summer. But we hadn't gotten our first full shot of Camille's body until this week, when Adora (Patricia Clarkson) punishes her daughter for writing a negative story about Wind Gap by taking her shopping, and forcing her to exit the changing room in nothing but a bra and panties.
It's a jarring scene — although we've known about the scars all along, there's a difference between seeing them individually — "fuck u up" on her lower abdomen when she lifts up her shirt; flashes of "vice" and "fornicate" on an indeterminate patch of skin — and seeing the full result of her battle with self-harm.
Of course, in reality the scars that mar Adams' body aren't real. They're part of the magic of special effects makeup: Medical adhesive moulds applied to Adams' body by Special Effects Makeup department head Adrien Morot and makeup artist Kate Biscoe. There's more to it than that, so we asked them to walk us through the arduous process. Click through for a behind-the-scenes breakdown of what goes into faking Camille's Sharp Objects scars.