+
Pop Culture

The way experts create wigs on some of your favorite shows is enough to make your head spin

It's even more involved than it appears.

blonde, blonde ana de armas

Ana De Armas transforming into Marilyn Monroe for "Blonde."

We know that there’s a painstaking amount of detail that goes into bringing characters to life on the big and small screen. But ever so often, a fascinating look behind the scenes will come along that’s so mind-blowing, one can’t help but feel a fresh level of gratitude (and awe) for the effort that goes into modern-day storytelling.

Take, for instance, the hyperrealistic wigs we see in so many films and television shows. Odds are, one of your favorite characters wears one—even when you would bet your life savings that the hairs you see are sprouting from their own head. This illusion is the result of dedicated hours upon hours from artists that are so much at the top of their game, we might as well just call them hair sorcerers.



In a video posted to YouTube by Insider, Rob Pickens, founder of Wigmaker Associates, takes viewers on a tour of the wigmaking process for some of today’s most iconic shows, from start to finish. As Pickens explains, since cameras have become more equipped to pick up every detail, wigs must become more detailed and precise to not only mimic real hair texture, but perfectly fit an actor’s head shape to look as natural as possible.

To do this, hair teams don’t just measure an actor’s head. They create a mold that completely replicates their skull shape using a headwrap made with cellophane and tape—lots of it—after which they trace over the hairline with a sharpie.

wigmaker's hands on a mold of an actor's skull.

Millie Bobbie Brown's skull mold.

Insider/YouTube

That headwrap then goes onto a canvas block (which more or less looks like a mannequin head), and that canvas block is filled with stuffing to match the actor’s exact head shape in a process that Pickens calls “padding the block.”

It might be a laborious endeavor, but once it’s done, that mold can be used for any production in the world. Cranium cloning, if you will.

Next, wigmakers must create a layer of superfine lace that will serve as the piece’s foundation. For very short hair styles, a silk base is used to create the look of skin that might be visible under the hair’s surface. This technique was used for later seasons of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” to create Eleven’s signature buzz cut, when actress Millie Bobby Brown couldn’t shave her head.

Actress millie bobby brown seated and having a wig applied by two wigmakers.

Millie Bobby Brown on "Stranger Things."

Insider/YouTube

When actors are portraying real people with different skull shapes and hair lines, the hair team must add an extra step of creating prosthetic pieces to go under the wig’s foundation. In Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy,” for example, a prosthetic forehead was given to actress Lily James to replicate Pamela Anderson's characteristic high forehead.

The next step is the ventilating process, where each hair is stitched into the lace one by one using a variety of knotting techniques. The key here is to match an actor’s natural hair patterns, like which direction the hair at their temples prefers to go, while keeping it malleable enough to part anywhere, just like you can with real hair.

As for the hair itself, the choices come down to either real human hair or synthetic. Synthetic hair, which is more durable but has more of a light-reflecting sheen, is usually used for background actors. But for “hero wigs” that must pass the close-up test, real human hair is required.

Pickens might even add mohair (a durable, resistant hair fiber made from angora goats) to hairlines to mimic baby hairs, which he did for Ana De Armas for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde.”

Wigs might evoke a sense of glamor, but in the world of realistic storytelling, accuracy takes precedence. When tasked with creating an aging and syphilis-ridden Al Capone (played by Tom Hardy), Pickens helped convey the story with hair that was “actually a bit sickly before we texturized it.”

Still of actor tom hardy playing Al Capone.

Tom Hardy as Al Capone in "Capone" (2022).

Insider/YouTube

But wait, there’s more. We are now to the coloring process, which, as Pickens puts it, is a blend of “alchemy and color theory and figuring out how that’s going to play on the final product.” Colorists have to understand how a scene might be lit and edited, so that they can make an educated guess as to how to color the hair so it has the desired shade in the final cut, rather than in real life.

“Reds can be quite the nightmare sometimes,” Pickens shared. “If we create a red wig and they put a blue filter over the entire thing, it could look brown.”

And just to make matters more complicated, the looks don’t just get created for the main actors. Anyone performing as a photo double or stunt performer also needs a matching (usually synthetic) wig. Stunt double wigs in particular are tricky, as they need to be durable enough to endure take after take of literally rolling with the punches, yet still be easily removed for when a stunt might go wrong. But also they must look exactly like the hero wig. No big deal, right?

Still from the movie atomic blonde showing actress Charlize Theron and her stunt double in a street fight.

Charlize Theron and her stunt double Monique Ganderton on the set of "Atomic Blonde."

Insider/YouTube

To say that people were floored to learn some of these things would be an understatement. Just check out some of these comments:

“I'm amazed by what they can create to make us believe that their wigs are their real hair because it looks so natural..So many times I've just assumed that the actors must have changed their real hair to look a certain way because it looks too real to be a wig. It was interesting to see what the process looks like.”

“I love learning stuff like this. I never would have thought about how much went into wigs. Unsung masterpieces are everywhere.”

“This is so cool. I honestly had no idea so much detail went into this. I'm impressed.”

More content is being put out now than ever before, causing many shows to have to create costumes and wigs on a mass level (read: faster and cheaper). This undoubtedly leads to a drop in quality that can sometimes take us out of a story—something we covered in a previous article. However, when artists are given the opportunity and resources to really work to their highest potential, magic happens. Kudos to the pros who completely immerse us into a story, strand by strand. Your labor of love is appreciated.

You can watch the full video below, which has even more fascinating info:

Florida teacher Yolanda Turner engaged 8th grade students in a dance-off.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Teachers deserve all the kudos, high fives, raises, accolades, prizes and thanks for everything they do. Even if they just stuck to academics alone, they'd be worth far more than they get, but so many teachers go above and beyond to teach the whole child, from balancing equations to building character qualities.

One way dedicated educators do that is by developing relationships and building rapport with their students. And one surefire way to build rapport is to dance with them.

A viral video shared by an assistant principal at Sumner High School & Academy in Riverview, Florida shows a group of students gathered around one student as he challenges a teacher to a dance-off.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Stephanie Beatriz performed hit song from 'Encanto' and it was pure magic

The entire voice cast reunited to deliver an epic live concert.

Stephanie Beatriz singing "The Family Madrigal."

Disney’s “Encanto” brought us a magical house, an iconic family and some serious bops. The only thing that could possibly make it more enchanting would be to see it all in real life.

Well, “Encanto” fans, your dream has come true. And it’s a gift worthy of the Madrigal family.

Back in November 2022, the original voice cast reunited to perform a live concert performance of “Encanto” at the Hollywood Bowl in California, complete with a full orchestra and 50-person ensemble as the film played on giant screens.

For those of us who weren't able to attend this epic concert, luckily the internet provides. A video posted to YouTube shows Stephanie Beatriz singing the movie’s hit song “The Family Madrigal,” where her character Mirabel introduces us to her family and their special powers—all except hers, of course.
Keep ReadingShow less

There's a big change at the 98th meridian.

Have you ever wondered why the eastern half of the United States is densely populated while everything west of Omaha, save for a few metro areas, is no man’s land?

Most people would assume that it’s because people first settled in the east and moved west. Or, they may believe it’s because of the vast desert that takes up most of the southwest. Those are some decent reasons, but it’s a much more complicated issue than you'd imagine.

A 20-minute video by RealLifeLore explains how topography and rainfall have created what appears to be a straight line down the middle of the country on the 98th meridian that dictates population density. Eighty percent of Americans live on the east side of the line and just twenty percent to the west.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Jameela Jamil shows off her 'elastic' skin to shine a light on Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

'The Good Place' actress's viral video shows how serious the rare condition is and how important it is to get a proper diagnosis.

Jamil was diagnosed at 9 years old with the rare tissue disorder.

Jameela Jamil might be best known for acting roles on shows like “The Good Place” and “She-Hulk,” but she has made a secondary name for herself as an outspoken advocate on social media. Though she touches on a wide range of civil rights issues, health is often a major theme.

Recently, Jamil used her platform to discuss her Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS)—a group of inherited disorders that affects connective tissue, primarily the skin, joints and blood vessel walls. While very rare, EDS causes significant problems, especially for those without a proper diagnosis.

In a video posted to TikTok, Jamil is seen stretching out her cheeks while quipping, "Jesus Christ, that is not an app, that is not a filter, that is just my face. Look how elastic that is." This stretchiness, she explains, is a symptom of EDS.

Keep ReadingShow less
Grace Pettit/TikTok

Grandpa has the cutest "fit check," which went viral online.

"Fit check" is something you've probably heard multiple times if you've spent any amount of time on social media over the past year. It's something like the red carpet question of "who are you wearing?" which prompts the celebrity to rattle off their designer labels for the night. Except now it's a trend for regular folks to share info about their outfits.

It's pretty helpful if you see an influencer wearing something cute. But this grandpa has got to have the sweetest "fit check" ever and people on social media agree. Liam Ryan , who's 86, made a guest appearance in his granddaughter's TikTok, where 24-year-old Grace Pettit coaches her gramps through the process.

The video is filled with giggles from Pettit as her grandpa tries to make sure he hits all his articles of clothing. The people need to know where Gramps got his fit. When the video starts, Ryan stands in front of the camera and says, "Hi, I'm Gramps. We're doing a fit check."

Keep ReadingShow less

Heath Ledger in 2006.

“Brokeback Mountain,” Ang Lee’s beautiful film about love and repression, was a turning point for LGBTQ cinema in 2005 because it was one of the few mainstream Hollywood films to put a love story between two men front and center.

These days, such a film would hardly raise eyebrows, but 17 years ago it was the subject of scorn from conservative circles for pushing the “gay agenda.” Its stars, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, took considerable risks making the film because it could have jeopardized their status as leading men. But their pitch-perfect performances helped make the edgy material relatable to the general public.

Film critic Roger Ebert perfectly explained why the story resonated with people in his 2005 review. "'Brokeback Mountain' has been described as 'a gay cowboy movie,' which is a cruel simplification,” he wrote.

Keep ReadingShow less