How Rellik filmed Richard Dormer’s acid attack scars

Detective Gabriel Markham has widespread facial scarring in the BBC1 drama – achieved thanks to heavy prosthetics and two hours in the make up chair...


Rellik – the BBC’s new drama from the pen of Harry and Jack Williams (The Missing) – puts a particularly gruesome, yet topical, twist on the modern whodunit.


The killer being tracked by Gabriel Markham (Richard Dormer) and his police team has a penchant for attacking his victims with acid – a practice that has dominated the news this summer due to a rise in real-life attacks.

As anyone watching the drama will soon note, Markham is both a detective and a victim after sustaining heavy facial scarring at the hands of the murderer.

Rellik is told in reverse order (the title is “killer” backwards, geddit?) but Dormer’s striking appearance in the first episode, at least, required hours of make-up to accurately recreate the effects the acid had on his character’s face and neck.

Here is Rellik’s Make-Up and Hair Designer, Pippa Woods, explaining exactly how those results were achieved…


“We researched lots of scarring, different aged scarring from acid burns which was quite horrific, and pulled on a bit of research and put some ideas together. We went backwards and forwards with the execs and directors and came together with what you see.

I did contact a couple of support groups but no one was really keen to get in touch so it was lots of reading about people’s stories and there are people who have documented their healing so it was lots of very deep internet diving which was quite traumatic at times because there are lots of things you don’t want to see like babies and dogs.

“It was about six different pieces that went on. So one large piece which went from [Richard’s] ear and forehead down his neck and then there were smaller pieces we used to creep across his face and then different pieces to hold down his eye. Some of the pieces are silicon and some are a transfer material called pro-bondo and it was a fresh one every day so when it comes off it goes in the bin. So we had a small prosthetics truck that came around with us where we had these huge fibreglass moulds and everyday we had someone in there actually making all the pieces.

“Richard got to sleep through it all. The calls are really early so he’d come in and sit in the chair and we’d get him all comfy propped up with pillows and towels and he’d just lie back and have a snooze for two hours while we busied around him.

There were two of us who would get him ready in the morning and then one person to look after him on set and then one person who was making his pieces for the next day and pre-painting them – we’d pre-paint all the pieces so it’s quicker to go on in the morning. So, just for him there were three people.

By the end we’d got it down to about an hour and fifteen and we’re still not sure how we managed to shave quite so much time off. I think we were all quite surprised when we’d finished.


“The prosthetics are quite hot because the air doesn’t get through to your skin. And so sometimes if he was doing scenes where he was running or in a really warm environment, the sweat’s got nowhere to go so it pools up under the prosthetics and you have to release it every now and again.

“We didn’t want to completely disfigure Richard. He needed to be able to act through it so we had to still be able to connect with him and not have something that was so distracting that we wouldn’t be listening to what’s going on. And so we worked with the directors and executives to find a happy medium. Some of the injuries are so horrific it would have been quite distracting from the storyline and everyone was keen to avoid that.

“I hope I’m happy with it. There are always things when you watch it back that you cringe about and sometimes you just want to put a disclaimer on the end. But I’m sure it will be absolutely fine – no one else will notice.”


Rellik airs on Mondays at 9pm on BBC1