Hairstyle Basics for Background Actors
What do Casting Directors look for in hairstyles?
Your hair is a big part of your look and the length, color, and style are all things Casting Directors look at when booking their shows. Even details that may seem small, like an exact length, can matter for certain roles, like in casting doubles and for period pieces.
Over the last few months, some of us have grown our hair out or attempted quarantine haircuts. To make sure your current hair matches the look, Casting Directors will likely ask you to send in a recent selfie with your submission. Ensuring that your hair fits the role requirements is especially important now because you may have less interaction on set with the hair department than you are used to. Productions can differ on how they implement health and safety protocols and some may no longer perform haircuts or stylings on set. So when you submit or are contacted by a Casting Director, please be honest about your current look and let them know of any changes that may not be reflected in your Central Casting profile.
Modern vs period hairstyles
Fashion, makeup, and hairstyles can instantly transport us to certain time periods. Then there are those trends, like 2020’s home-dyed neon colors, that feel very much of our time. Depending on your hair length, color, and style, you may be able to portray a variety of period and contemporary looks, but there may be times when Casting Directors ask for no modern hairstyles in their job posts. This usually means they are booking a period show or are trying to match the established aesthetic of a production.
So what do we consider modern hairstyles? Highlighting, ombre, or balayage dyeing techniques with natural or unnatural colors and contemporary braids, weaves, and extensions can make your look too modern for period work. For certain time periods, lengths can also be a factor, like pixie cuts or bobs on women and long hair or fades on men. If your hairstyle would be considered trendy or edgy, it’s probably too modern to work on a period show.
Like fashion, hairstyles are cyclical. So even though people in a certain time period had a version of your haircut, it may not work for what production wants. Every show has its own look and style; while you think your hair may have fit into the actual 1950s, it may not represent the overall ‘50s look a show is trying to portray.
Read your details carefully
Remember, the next time you’re booked, you may not work as closely with the hair, makeup, or wardrobe departments as you have in the past, so it’s crucial that you read your details fully and carefully. Please pay close attention to any hair notes you’re given to create the desired look as best you can.
If you need inspiration on certain looks or tips for hairstyle basics, YouTube has great resources for men and women based on your hair length and texture.
When you get to set, production may instruct you on how to finish your look, so please come prepared with any items you need to keep your hair camera ready throughout your workday. For women, some period shows will ask you to come to set with your hair in rollers, then will either instruct or help you finish styling when you arrive. If you haven’t used rollers before, now would be a great time to familiarize yourself with how they work and how long the process takes.
To learn more about working as a Background Actor with Central Casting, read our articles How to Prepare Your Makeup for Set and Carrying Background: What You Should Know.