Black. White. was a reality television show shown in 2006. The series followed two families – the white Wurgels and the black Sparks – as over six weeks they traded races and ‘experienced what life is like in the other family’s shoes’. Renee Sparks was transformed into a blonde white woman with blue eyes.
With the credentials of RJ Cutler and Ice Cube behind it this show should have lived up to their claims that it would be provocative and insightful.
I was less than impressed to discover that two of the Wurgel family were in ‘the business’: Bruno Wurgel, described as a teacher on the show, appears on IMDb as Bruno Marcotulli with an acting resume running from 1987 to 2002; Rose Wurgel also as an IMDb entry, as Rose Bloomfield, with a couple of entries; Carmen Wurgel a photographer’s location scout heard about the show ‘from a friend who had a friend who was working on the show’.
Anyone with a brain questions just how ‘real’ is reality TV: these casting choices were for me immensely damaging to its ‘face validity’.
While have reservations about the programme the makeup - Renee Sparks is shown here - was incredibly well done and deserving of its Emmy Award.
Keith VanderLaan’s now-defunct Captive audience Productions was responsible for special effects makeup; Brian Sipe was the makeup effects supervisor & designer; Will Huff was the key makeup artist.
The makeup application for each family member took three to five hours for every day of the six-weeks’ filming – though not everybody was in makeup each day. Unlike other in-your-shoes programmes the makeup had to survive not only short one-off face-to-face encounters but repeated interaction with new friends and acquaintances.
Keith VanderLaan, Brian Sipe, and Will Huff shared the Emmy for Outstanding Makeup for a Series (Non-Prosthetic).