Unless you don't have access to BBC America or a clone killed your dog and it's just too painful to deal, I will accept no excuse—you really need to be watching Orphan Black.* It's the best clone-filled mystery show about several versions of the same woman generally kicking butt on the air right now (our Megan Angelo has explained why in-depth). And if you are just as obsessed as the rest of us, then I've got a treat for you before Saturday's episode: A behind-the-scenes tell-all with the show's head of hair, Sandy Sokolowski. Here's what he told me about the show's hair secrets—which are plentiful, seeing as the show's lead Tatiana Maslany plays multiple variations of herself in every episode.
Maslany as lead clone Sarah
Lipstick: I'd imagine working with so many wigs presents its own unique set of pluses (you can style ahead of time!) and minuses (you've got to take care of the wigs!). Can you give us an idea of how you have to change your approach to hair when working with so many pieces?
Sokolowsk: There are a lot of wigs, imagine if you will an action scene involving two clones in combat. You need to work with Tat for the clones, the actor doubles she works with and of course the stunt doubles. For each wig there are doubles and triples. With all the wigs and tight shooting schedule it creates a very busy department. It is great to be able to be prepared ahead of time but the maintenance is staggering as we make room in the schedule for all the rest of the cast. I make the wigs and hair pieces myself so after the shooting day is done, I often budget three hours of building time and I have two employees that work with me as I supply other productions as well. The biggest change in approach is the commitment to design and discipline in execution to complete them and to balance this with the needs and desires of other team members. Usually a wig has to be started immediately when the writers or producers mention the possibility in order to get it in front of a camera. A wig takes weeks to complete and often only mentioned one episode ahead. That's the biz and that's our job.
Lipstick: Are they wigs custom-made for the characters? How do you decide which looks goes with which clone?
Sokolowski: We do a character workout with Tat, and Stephen [Lynch, the head of makeup], and Debra Hanson [head of wardrobe]—we collectively build a character. The hair is dictated by the whole as a reaction to our talk.
Monitor Paul, Rachel, and Dr. Leekie
Lipstick: Which of the clones we've seen so far has the hair that's the longest to style?
Sokolowski: So far the longest process time is Rachel [the clone introduced at the end of season two, working for Dr. Leekie] and then [dreadlock-wearing scientist] Cosima. The process times change dramatically depending on what clones are changing into other clones. [Bangs-wearing mom/actress] Allison into Cosima and then into [main clone] Sarah would add big process time.
Lipstick: Tatiana's hair looks naturally curly to me--if so, does that present any challenges on set?
Sokolowski: Tat has naturally very curly hair. With this texture we cannot afford a bad hair day or a good hair day. This means that I have to take complete control with process and products that help control the effects from humidity. HD has created new issues as our style of shooting hasn't advanced as fast as pixel quantity. We battle fuzzy hair when it's severely backlit and light colored hair looks dry and coarse. As the adjustments are made, natural curly hair can return to TV... But not yet.
Lipstick: Level with me: How heavy is Cosima's wig, really? Looks like a workout!
Sokolowski: Cosima's wig is tiny. I use an old theatre technique where we build a cage with wire and crepe hair and sew appliances to it. Although it looks substantial, less is more and it's about the movement of the hair. The piece would shock you and that's as far as I can go. At Orphan we take a blood vow not to divulge too much information.
Lipstick: Do you ever have the wigs onset to switch Tatiana in and out of for reverse shots? Or is it really not that simple?
Sokolowski: I never switch wigs on set. Tat needs to change her clone and get a new clone on. I remove the wig/hairpiece and she clears her mind as Stephen does his magic. It doesn't take long but to do a quick change on set may end up in a scene that would need to be reshot and that is more expensive than doing it right in the first place. I need my tools and mirror to do a proper job.
Lipstick: Which clone's hair has been the most fun to work with?
Sokolowski: Rachel is the most fun for me as it is the biggest illusion. Where does all her hair go? What about that neckline and front hairline. Well, I think it's suffice to know that I practiced simple magic tricks as a boy and visit the Far East on a regular basis. Just be prepared for season two.
Check back tomorrow for makeup secrets from the show's head of makeup, Head of make-up, Stephen Lynch! So much to spill!
*Full disclosure: The director of production management for the channel happens to be one of my best friends from college. But I swear the show is so good I'd be in love with it even if I weren't' predisposed to be biased towards it.