Creating TV and Film Hairstyles for Background Actors

FEBRUARY 21, 2022
Woman practicing film hairstyles for set.

There’s a lot to think about when getting ready for set, including putting a cohesive look together with your wardrobe, hair, and makeup. Here’s what you need to know about film hairstyles and how to create the right style for your background role.

Why hair is an important part of your look

From Princess Leia’s side buns to The Rachel, hairstyles can become as iconic as the TV show or film themselves. As a Background Actor, not only does creating the perfect hairstyle help bring your character to life, but can reflect the setting of the story and contribute to the overall production design.

Getting booked with your hairstyle

Availability inquiries or job posts may include specific hair lengths and styles. These requirements are often for period roles or for Stand-Ins and doubles who need to match the principal actor. Even modern scenes can have very specific hair needs; always read job posts and availability inquiries completely to be sure you fit the look before submitting.

Some roles may also have “no modern hairstyle” requirements. Modern hairstyles can include highlights, ombre, balayage, or unnatural color dyes. Contemporary braids, weaves, and extensions can also make your look too current for a period piece. When booking these roles, Casting Directors may ask for a recent photo to check that your hair fits the requirements. Please be honest about your current hairstyle; if you get booked based off the photo or hair information you give to Central Casting, you will be expected to show up to set with that look.

Getting ready for set

For most projects, you’ll likely be asked to arrive for work with your hair already styled. All the information you need to prepare for set will be included in your booking details. Depending on the production and your role, you may be given detailed instructions for a specific hairstyle or may have more room to create your own. Remember, it’s always easier to add than remove. If you’re not sure how far to take a look, it’s best to style your hair conservatively based on your details, then finish your look with guidance from the hair department.

Need inspiration? If you’re working on a TV show that’s aired episodes, looking at the styles of the principal and Background Actors can help give you ideas on the show’s general look. Also keep in mind that two shows set during the same time and in the same city, like FBI and The Equalizer that both take place in modern day New York, can have different overall looks, so don’t assume a hairstyle that worked on one show will automatically work for the other. Always read your details fully and carefully each time you’re booked to ensure you’re creating the right look for that role.

If you need help creating a style, YouTube is a great resource to find tutorial videos for different styles, time periods, and hair types.

Working with the hair department

When booked as a Background Actor, there are some cases when you may work with the hair department to create or complete your look. A Background Actor’s interaction with a hairstylist can range from simple approval of your hairstyle to having your hair styled on set. For example, on period pieces it’s common for you to come to work with your hair in rollers then finish your look as instructed after you check in.

Whether you’re arriving with hair done or have styling to do on set, be sure to bring any hair products or tools with you to keep your hair camera ready throughout the day.

Now that you’ve got the hair part down, learn how to complete your look with our guides How to Prepare Your Makeup for Set and Wardrobe Essentials Background Actors Should Know.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

Article Category:

Hair & Makeup