A disturbed young woman is send to a private mental hospital where she meets a group of variously troubled young women including Polly ‘Torch’ Clark (Elisabeth Moss) who has been badly scarred by a fire.
Polly’s backstory is that when she was eleven, she poured petrol on herself and lit it to burn off what she thought was a rash.
Elisabeth Moss has referred to the role in an interview:
I think the fact that she was disfigured was one of the most intriguing things for me. It’s very rare for an actress my age to be offered a role of such substance, and there was no way that I was going to turn it down. And to play somebody who had such a unique problem and a unique mind was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Carol Schwartz was the makeup supervisor; Jane Galli was the key makeup artist.
Matthew Mungle (W.M. Creations inc) was not credited but he designed the gelatine prosthetics (neck, side of face, chin and ear appliances) for Elisabeth’s burn makeup; John E Jackson was credited for prosthetic makeup application (he also made the appliances each day on location).
Matthew has said that the final makeup was toned down and the nose redesigned as the producers were worried it would look too grotesque: possibly this is why the damage to the ear area is never seen but covered by her wig.
I had assumed that Polly’s gappy smile was the result of prosthetic dentures but looking at Elisabeth’s smile in Earthly Possessions it seems that shes just had a lot of work done since, while retaining a ‘natural’ gap.
Elisabeth Moss said about the makeup:
I had to go through three hours of makeup every morning. The burns were all over my face except for one eye and over my neck. Once the makeup was on, I wouldn’t have to do a lot. I would immediately walk and talk differently.