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April 21, 2015

Here’s How Orphan Black Transforms Tatiana Maslany Into a Cast of Clones

April 20th, 2015 - VanityFair


When makeup artist Stephen Lynch heard that Tatiana Maslany had been hired to star in the Canadian sci-fi series Orphan Black, which centers on a single mother who discovers she is one of a dozen (and counting!) clones, he was dubious. Not because of Maslany’s acting ability—Lynch had worked with the talented actress before and was confident in her skills. But because he would have to cosmetically transform Maslany into a dozen different characters with distinct looks. And since the actress has dark hair, dark eyebrows, and an olive complexion, the makeup artist simply did not think that she would be that “changeable”—especially given that the show’s budget prohibits prosthetics.

“An albino would have been my dream face,” Lynch laughs on a recent phone call. “Because the fairer the person is, and the lighter their complexion and their brows and hair, it’s very easy to disguise them.” Once he got Maslany in the makeup chair, however, Lynch admits that his first instinct was “blissfully incorrect.” “Tatiana is so remarkable and chameleon-like,” Lynch says. “She does what she does and then takes my thing and [hairstylist]Sandy Sokolowski’s thing, and she completely becomes this other person.”

Before she could completely channel her character Sarah Manning and the genetic sisters she never knew she had, Lynch and Sokolowski had to create each clone’s look. This meant culling inspiration, mocking up materials to show producers for approval, and then introducing each look to Maslany. Sokolowski, who custom creates Orphan Black’s wigs himself, even has a ritual for introducing an actor to his or her hairpiece. “When you put a wig on an actor, they go, ‘Oh my God.’ And you can tell the reaction is negative. I always walk away and start to do a few things around the trailer. It’s on purpose so they can look at themselves for at least 90 seconds, so at least the wig can grow on them.’”

As if there weren’t enough complicated variables with this project, Lynch and Sokolowski only have between 30 and 45 minutes to get Maslany into cosmetic character. And given the number of clones Maslany plays, Lynch and Sokolowski may have to switch her hair and makeup up to four times a day—an exhausting process especially for the actress’s skin. “That poor girl,” Lynch says. “Sometimes scrubbing off [the clone] Helena leaves her a little bit raw. There is nothing you can do about that, though, you have to make it work. If it is really late, like three A.M., and her skin and eyes have just had it, I will try to figure out a way to cheat so that I can sometimes paint on top of the old makeup.”

What makes Maslany’s work even more impressive is that on top of playing multiple clones—each with their own identifiable personalities, quirks, and accents—she also plays clones imitating other clones. These especially awe-inspiring scenes require Maslany to layer clone personalities in a way that is realistic for viewers, and Lynch and Sokolowski have to find ways to similarly layer the hair and makeup ever so subtly.

“Of everything we’re doing with the show, that is the single hardest and the single most successful thing we’ve done,” Sokolowski tells us. “We look at simple personality traits and certain signature pieces of the hair or makeup, from the clone we are going from to the clone we are going to. We have to layer the looks enough to give [viewers] an idea that one clone is impersonating another without making it a joke or too obvious. You want viewers to have that moment of discovery when they realize that that the clone is not who she says she is. In the season ahead, you will see a lot of that.”

In celebration of the new season, which premiered on BBC America this past Saturday, we take a behind-the-scenes peek behind Maslany’s uncanny makeovers.

SARAH
“She is enigmatic and on the run,” explains Lynch of the show’s protagonist who is a con woman when audiences first meet her. “So we considered those things and probably went a little Amy Winehouse on Sarah the first time. We were about 90 percent there but thought [the makeup] was a little bit much. So we took it down, but I thought we all know and recognize this girl: we see her on the train and think maybe she sleeps there or in subways or on park benches. We want her to be a bit worn down by life. We decided to make it look like she maybe wears a little makeup on top of her old makeup and never cleans her skin properly. There is always a hard, worn-out kind of look to her that we want to reflect her inner state.”

While Sokolowski used Maslany’s own hair to create this similarly textured, unkempt look in the first season, the hair mastermind had to create a “a fall”—a partial wig to add length—after the actress chopped her hair off.

ALISON
“Alison probably orders her makeup from the shopping channel or has a friend who sells makeup in a pyramid scheme,” Lynch tells us, explaining that he uses that quality product for the suburban-mom clone. “She found her makeup look in high school and never changed it. Rachel would find her makeup laughable . . . the idea of purple eyeliner alone would put Rachel into a coma.”

To reflect Alison’s tightly wound personality, Sokolowski straightens Maslany’s hair and pulls it back into a tight, slicked-back ponytail, attaching a “front” to give her bangs. “Alison is always riding this line between being the perfect suburban mother and an insane person at the same time,” Sokolowski says, laughing. To telegraph these “cracks in the veneer” during Alison’s more stressed-out scenes, Sokolowski pulls out a few flyaways, typically in the back of her head. “The hair might have looked good front-on when you look at it in the mirror, but from the back it looks a little bit crazy.”

COSIMA
“Cosima is the kind of misfit daughter or friend that everyone knows,” Lynch explains of the bisexual biology nerd. “The girl who has gone her own way completely since high school. Her perspective is: I am my own person. I am an alternative to all of you.” To get her look, both Lynch and Sokolowski drew inspiration from women they encountered in real life. For Lynch, this was one of his students.

“There was a girl in my class whose look I really liked,” Lynch tells us. “She would draw on extreme brows that went sky high or they were really arched. It’s that heavy eyeliner that is extended inward and outward at the corners.” (In a funny twist of fate, the very student appeared on set one day as a background extra. After Lynch introduced her to Maslany, the two had lunch together.) For her hair, Sokolowski looked to a colleague in wardrobe. “This lovely lady who is in wardrobe had her hair white blond with these dreadlocks and she always kind of wore it like that. In my mind she was like Cosima, so I tried my own version of it.”

Although the wig looks as though it would be quite heavy, Sokolowski used a theater technique involving a cage to ensure that it is lightweight and comfortable. “If you took the piece off of her head, you would be shocked at how little hair there actually is. I only customized the perimeter to make it look like dreadlocks.” As for how long the wig took to make, Sokolowski says that he created two in a day.

HELENA
Believe it or not, for Sarah’s most primal and psychologically unstable clone, Lynch and Sokolowski referred to religious imagery. For Sokolowski, who, like Maslany, has a Ukrainian background, the artist looked to Eastern European Orthodox images of the Virgin Mary. “We really drew off of that directly,” he explains. “We had a little photo shoot where we were presenting [the look] to the producers and [we had Helena] kind of looking up at God with blood running down her eyes.”

Adds Lynch, “We looked through religious icons and some great frescoes of the Madonna. With Sandy, we thought, Let’s show both kind of biblical sides . . . the sublime or saintly and evil, both sides of the yin and yang. That is why I think Sarah has darker hair and Helena has the opposite and almost angelic hair. . . . When we took the look to Tatiana, she closed her eyes through the [entire makeup and transformation process]. When she opened them, it was kind of an ‘aha’ moment.”

“She’s been so damaged,” Lynch continues. “We wanted to see if we could bring some light into her. One of the first images we created of Helena had her with a halo. We didn’t want her just to be evil. And that [gamble] I think paid off, as you see her love of family and children depicted in more recent episodes. . . . If you look closely, Tatiana and I just throw continuity out the window. We want to see Helena’s inner toil reflected in her face so we change her [makeup slightly] every single time.”

RACHEL
Rachel’s sophisticated hairdo, inspired by the clean lines of Vidal Sassoon’s 70s cuts, proved to be the most labor intensive for Sokolowski. Part of the reason why creating the geometric wig, which telegraphs Rachel’s powerful persona, was so complicated was because it pulls Maslany’s hairline higher than it is naturally. “Every time you get a hairline involved and you want to show it, you are working with mohair, you are working with superfine lace; it’s bewildering.” Sokolowski also has to work carefully to tuck Maslany’s hair underneath—the bulk of it is hidden at the bottom of the blunt cut.

Lynch, meanwhile, played with the concept that “in Rachel’s mind, makeup is fun and a class thing. She has to absolutely represent the high end and we think that she would be so disdainful of someone like Sarah. . . . So we tried to get as far away from Sarah as much as we could. And I thought what would that mean? Probably someone who has people come to her to do her skin and nails and hair, trying to look radiant with her expensive look. She can’t achieve that kind of radiance, though, because she is kind of dead in her eyes. So I don’t think she ever gets the look that she is really going for. . . . But I think Rachel would think that Alison is almost vulgar in her middle class-ness, though. Even her haircut says, I am better than you.”

TONY
Although this transgender clone only got a small dash of screen time last season, both Lynch and Sokolowski are hoping he will return soon. It took Lynch 90 minutes to transform Maslany into the transitioning character, with the help of rabbit hair applied to the face as a goatee and a chest piece tattoo. Sokolowski, meanwhile, built a wig that he placed strategically over Maslany’s hair to make it look as though Tony had a “glorified mullet.” “I added scalp so there was a crown and everything, but it was really cool,” Sokolowski says. “We were just getting rolling [with the look]. Hopefully Tony might come back.”

Adds Lynch, “I think it might be a little difficult to find [the character’s] place in our story, but I sincerely hope that we do because I think we owe it to Tony and I would like to honor his community as well.”

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