How 'Orphan Black's' Hair and Makeup Wizards Split One Actress Into Five (Very Distinct) Clones

Dave Nemetz

All the buzz surrounding BBC America's very buzzy sci-fi drama Orphan Black is about lead actress Tatiana Maslany's jaw-dropping performance as a host of clones fighting to find out where they came from. And she deserves every kudo out there. (Emmy voters, are you listening?)

But she's not alone: There are people working hard behind the scenes, too, visually transforming Maslany into five clones so thoroughly distinct that we sometimes have to remind ourselves it's the same actress playing both uptight soccer mom Alison and whacked-out murderer Helena. (Those two don't even look like they belong to the same species.)

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Yahoo TV asked the show's key makeup artist Stephen Lynch and key hair stylist Sandy Sokolowski to let us in on their creative process — and it's a hectic one. The Orphan Black shooting schedule is dictated by location, so Maslany ends up switching from clone to clone each day. Once a scene ends, she races to Lynch's chair to get made up to play the next clone, and then to Sokolowski to apply the clone's hairdo.

"We often get 30 to 45 minutes and not much more, for hair and makeup each," Lynch says. Sokolowski adds: "And Tatiana works on her acting with the doubles at the same time, so it's a bit of a race, for sure."

They're both quick to credit Maslany for her shape-shifting performance ("An awful lot of what happens comes from within her," Lynch says), but as you'll see, they deserve a lot of credit, too, for preserving the illusion of five Tatianas running around. Here, they break down their approach, clone by clone.

SARAH

Makeup: "She has leftover damage from Season 1; her lip is still split and healing, and she has bruising as well around her eyes and cheeks. I think she likes her eyes. It signals to the world who she is and where she's from. So she'll pile on a lot of sooty eye shadow. Now in Season 2, she has less time for it; she's on the run. So it's whatever she can get, whenever she can get a moment."

"But she's basically a punk. So she'll slather on some soot to make her feel different from the others, and to keep her identity. The show's all about identity, after all."

Hair: "Because [Tatiana] has naturally wavy hair, there's no way you can put that on camera. In the modern day of HD, it would look like a haystack. What you have to do is put product in and process every bit of it. So I'll straighten it first, run a soft iron through it, and then put product in to give it a bit of moisture. … You use a lot of products to make the hair dirty, or have a bit of texture to it."

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ALISON

Makeup: "She's so fantastically middle-class. I think she got her routine down ten years ago, and she never varies. The same bright, violet eyeliner — these bright colors that make her feel in control. If you can control your look, to a lot of people, they can keep from flying apart."

"We've seen her in rehab, and I figured the only thing she had with her was her lipstick. And her husband Donnie didn't even bring her makeup bag. I feel that might be the final indignity for her, that she has to go around barefaced."

Hair: "Actually, it's not quite a wig! It's a front. I use a front for [Alison's] hair, and I changed the color slightly, and of course added the bangs and a bit of texture. With the ponytail, because she's such a wound-up character who always wants to have it together, we can kind of make it so if she's out of control, we have these little distressed pieces coming out. So we try to tell that story a little bit. She's a freak. [Laughs.]"

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COSIMA

Makeup: "Even as she's getting more ill, we're seeing that she gets paler, but she makes the effort. She's going to put her eyes on. … You can't control your health, but you can control your look."

"I use a Bobbi Brown shell liner, and I use a denim ink, so it's not a typical black eyeliner. It's a little bit of what I call a kabuki approach. Walking down any street in any city, you'll see a girl very much like that, who self-identifies as either nerd or artist or skateboarder or whatever."

Hair: "My background is in theater, so I'm using a really hardcore theater trick, where you build a little cage and cover it with crepe hair and put your appliances on top of that. And of course, the perimeter is all twisted by hand. So that's just a quick cheat."

"I can twist that hair and gather it and put the cage that has all the appliances in it. So if you were to hold it up in the air, you'd see right through it. It's very light. The idea is, you want the hair to move. With hairpieces, it's all about hair moving to make it look real. Otherwise, it looks like a raccoon sitting on someone's head." 

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RACHEL

Makeup: "She gets the full treatment. [Laughs.] Rachel actually takes the longest… she has this almost European, beautiful, endless spa treatment look, rather than something that's based on cosmetics. She would rather have skin treatments and massages… possibly even injections. But she does use a few high-end cosmetics: I use a lip gloss by Hourglass on Rachel. I spend the most money on her, too, for those high-end cosmetics."

Hair: "Rachel takes the longest. That's a full wig, and all of [Tatiana's] hair is strategically placed inside that hairstyle. A wig person would look at that and say, 'My God, how did they do that in the back?' That's certainly a feat in itself. So that would be the hardest — and the easiest to maintain after. It doesn't move. Once it's there, it's there."

"She's the kind of woman who would have a million-dollar hair color done by some color guru. So natural-looking and beautiful and relying on a clean line to frame that face, which wouldn't have a ton of obvious makeup on it, because she's above everybody else. That's as opposed to a done-up do, like the news anchor's blow-dried look; she's above that. She's a classy gal."

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HELENA

Makeup: "For her, it's not a cosmetic look; it's a beat-up look. She's such a damaged person, a broken person. She's literally the Madonna/whore complex, with a lot of religious iconography. I paint her like a fresco, with pigments. I know that sounds very highfalutin!"

Hair: "She's Ukrainian, and Tatiana is Ukrainian… and so am I! We're both from the same city in western Canada. So some of [Helena's] habits are not by mistake. They're well thought-out from the ladies up north, wearing babushkas."

"For Helena, it's like a home-bleach job that went bad. The roots are dark on purpose, to show that she's still a clone, right? So she's got that dark kind of halo around her. And it's easy for her to look unkempt and a little wild like that."

"It can also be very angelic, too, like some images I was looking at of Ukrainian Orthodox religious icons that I really loved. We're trying to mix that together. Because even though she's murdering people and she's got terrible personal grooming habits and she must smell terrible… you still like her for some reason. [Laughs.] But if that person was in front of you, you'd be scared!"

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on BBC America.