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There are TV shows, and then there is WandaVision, a surreal superhero love story wrapped up in a mind-boggling mystery that also takes place in a faux TV show that’s an ode to sitcom history (whew). Disney+’s newest hit show is like nothing you’ve ever seen before: oddly familiar while still being incredibly bizarre in the best way possible. And thanks to the fact that every episode takes place in a different decade, it also happens to have some of the most imaginative hair and makeup looks currently gracing our TV screens.
For the uninitiated, the show is a Marvel Cinematic Universe joint that follows the MCU’s star-crossed lovers, Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff (a.k.a. Scarlet Witch) and Paul Bettany’s Vision, as they move to the idyllic New Jersey town of Westview to live out their new lives in matrimonial bliss. Except there's one big hiccup (and, obviously, spoiler alerts galore here, so stop reading if you haven’t watched the show): Neither of them knows how they got there or has any real memory of their lives before arriving in Westview. As the show evolves, we begin to learn the cause of this so-called Westview Anomaly and are given a look at the outside world and the government team investigating it, unofficially led by Teyonah Parris’s Monica Rambeau.
Each episode has them experiencing a new decade in television history, with the wardrobe, set pieces, hair, makeup, and overall visual style of that era being painstakingly re-created. The team behind those incredibly detailed beauty looks is led by makeup department head Tricia Sawyer and hair department head Karen Bartek. While the pair worked with Olsen on Avengers: Infinity War, this project was a far cry from re-creating her signature Scarlet Witch look. Not only did the two have to come up with period looks for all of the actors, but they also had to adjust their techniques to correspond with the vintage technology being used—black-and-white cameras, for instance, or the Technicolor shift in the ’60s episode.
“It was a very challenging, very hard job and one we couldn’t have done without our director, Matt Shakman,” says Sawyer. “He knew this story inside and out. He was so approachable, and we could ask him anything.” That said, it was also a job both seasoned pros relished and seemed to have a blast doing. “For makeup and hair, this was a dream job,” says Sawyer. “This is what you’re holding all of your skills for, just to unleash at some point. I had an arsenal of stuff that I wanted to use but that I hadn’t been able to use on anything else, because you don’t ever get this opportunity.”
According to Bartek, Olsen was also heavily involved in the creation of Wanda’s looks—the actor did extensive research on the classic sitcoms that inspired the show and used that knowledge to collaborate with the team. “She was very open to suggestions because she’s never done a period piece,” says Bartek. “It was really a collaboration in that we would show her things and she would say, ‘Can we move it more this way or that way?’ and then once we got it, I think that really helped get her in character—she really felt like she was in that era.”
The team also had the benefit of having the entire series sent to them at once, says Sawyer, meaning they were able to treat the conceptualization more like a movie and break down the looks chronologically. “The walls of the hair and makeup trailer were covered in inspiration photos,” she says. “It was like one big spoiler alert—we had to be very careful of who was allowed in there.”
As the show moves toward its last two episodes, which are sure to be even more mind-blowing (which is saying something), we asked Sawyer and Bartek to tell us how they pulled off their part in bringing this weird and wonderful world to life. Keep reading to learn what exactly went into making the era-appropriate looks, which ones were their favorites to create, and that, yes, Kathryn Hahn really is that much fun to work with. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re just going to be over here boppin’ to “Agatha All Along,” while we impatiently wait for the next episode to drop.
Episode 1: Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience
Kicking things off at the dawn of sitcoms, this 1950s-themed episode was inspired by I Love Lucy. It was, in fact, shot in front of a live audience, using retro black-and-white cameras and vintage lighting, which added some additional challenges for the makeup team. Fortunately, Sawyer spent some time as a makeup artist on Mad Men, so she had plenty of experience with both the references and the technical aspects.
“We really had to play with the colors,” Sawyer says. “Even the foundation shades had to be a bit more pink because of the cameras and the harsh light. Lizzie’s eye shadow was a robin’s-egg blue, but it looks like a natural shade on camera. Her lips were light red but they looked more like a natural pink.” The most surprising makeup transformation, however, was for Bettany’s android Vision, whose crimson hue had to be completely redone for the cameras. “Paul’s makeup had to go from red to blue in order to show up in the right color,” says Sawyer.
On the hair front, Bartek also found herself digging back into the archives to use some vintage tricks of the trade. “I pretty much followed the 1950s way of styling the wigs, even down to the size of the rollers,” she explains. “The rollers in the ’50s have a slightly different shape than the [ones from the] ’60s and ’70s. While color wasn’t as big of a deal for me as it was for Tricia, for me it was the shape and that the hair didn’t move. That’s what they did back then—just a lot of hairspray and backcombing.”
Bartek says her favorite look of the episode was Wanda’s opening wedding-veil ’do, but she also had fun with Bettany’s “human” look. “Paul was really excited to wear his wig,” she says, laughing.
Episode 2: Don’t Touch That Dial
As Wanda and Vision headed to the ’60s, Bewitched was the main source of inspiration for our superhero couple, with Bartek and Sawyer drawing direct references from Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York. While the majority of this episode was again shot in black-and-white, at the end we see everything transform into Technicolor, presenting yet another twist for the makeup team.
“Luckily, we had a very supportive director of photography, Jess Hall, who shared his knowledge with me through the whole time, so I knew the transition was coming up,” Sawyer says. “Because of that, we really pumped up Elizabeth’s color with the blush—while still keeping it in the pink tones for the black and white—because we knew it was supposed to look like a Technicolor treatment. I knew that whatever I used was going to pop, so placement had to be perfect or else it would pop in all the wrong places.”
Bartek went back to her trusty rollers for the wigs, but had a few more characters to play with this time, thanks to the ladies lunch at Dottie’s (Emma Caulfield) pool. “That was a fun part of the show that we got to show off some good hair,” she says. And the centerpiece of that gathering definitely was Parris’s Rambeau-as-Geraldine—it’s a whole thing—making her debut with a chic beehive ’do. According to Bartek, the team looked to none other than Diana Ross for inspiration when creating that wig.
Episode 3: Now in Color
With this Brady Bunch–era episode came our first time seeing the show in full color, and the makeup team clearly had a good time bringing the ’70s to life. Perhaps the perfect embodiment of that is Parris’s vivid blue eye shadow look. “Geraldine had these pants with fish on them that were a great blue color,” says Sawyer. “Her makeup artist, Regina Little, and I spoke about it, like, she should have blue eye shadow. And then Regina came up with that color, and it was just so fantastic.”
For Elizabeth’s super-sleek and shiny Cher hair, Bartek went the wig route. “The wig was made with really beautiful Russian hair that was already pretty straight to begin with, so I just added lots of softening products and so that it moved and fit [Olsen] well,” says Bartek. “She really loved it.”
But even with all of those gorgeous hair and makeup moments, Sawyer’s and Bartek’s favorite looks are probably not what you’d expect. “I loved Herb [David Payton] the neighbor’s look,” says Bartek. “I got to put a nice, big Afro on him.” Sawyer, meanwhile, says Bettany’s hair was the most interesting to her: “His inspiration [for this episode] was Robert Redford, and I think this was his favorite because he really felt like Robert.”
Episode 5: On a Very Special Episode…
After a brief episode hiatus to check in on the outside world, episode five moved us into the ’80s, with Bartek and Sawyer saying that, ironically enough, Full House was their beauty touchpoint here. With that came lots of pastels and enough strong-hold mousse to keep everyone in Westview permanently stuck in place. Wait a minute….
“Kathryn’s look [as Agnes] was the most fun for me,” says Bartek, when recalling the styles. “My girl made her hair so big and Kathryn had so much fun with that wig. It was all mousse and tiny curling irons. I went to beauty school in the ’80s, so that was fun for me.”
Sawyer, who also went through makeup school in the late ’80s, said that was actually the hard part for her. “I wanted to do so much more, but I had to pull back and refrain.” One interesting visual cue many viewers will notice is that Wanda actually appears a bit more youthful in this episode than in the previous ones. According to Sawyer, that’s because she and her team stuck to the blush application trends of the time. “Eighties blush was more on the cheeks and concentrated above the cheekbones,” she says. “That created a softer, a little rounder face shape.” That, coupled with a fuller eyebrow and more pastel colors, led to an overall younger look.
Episode 6: All-New Halloween Spooktacular!
On the very last truly “retro” episode (sorry, but we refuse to count the aughts as retro), Westview entered the ’90s via Malcolm in the Middle. However, because the episode happens on Halloween, the characters are all dressed up in costumes, something that led to a bit of a wink-wink moment for fans of the comic books. Wanda’s “Sokovian fortune teller” is actually a riff on her Scarlet Witch costume in the comics, while Vision’s Mexican wrestler is one of his early comics costumes. Even Pietro (Evan Peters), Billy (Julian Hilliard), and Tommy (Jett Klyne) are wearing an approximation of their comic book alter egos. Meaning that instead of drawing inspiration from the ’90s, the team instead looked back to the source material, then added in some decade-appropriate flair.
“Lizzie really wanted to do the classic Scarlet Witch costume for her Halloween look,” says Sawyer. “So we worked with Mayes Rubeo, the costume designer and pulled a bunch of comic books that reference that look and then went from there.” Sawyer says that in Bettany’s case, they took Vision’s makeup and dialed up the vibrancy of the red to make it feel more like graphic art. And, of course, the scarlet lipsticks to end all scarlet lipsticks for Wanda: Pat McGrath's MatteTrance in Forbidden Love.
$38.00, Pat McGrath
One of the focal points of the Scarlet Witch costume is her kooky headpiece, something that looks like Olsen took a “go big or go home” approach with. While the size of it was ultimately a wardrobe decision, Bartek said she already knew what wig she wanted to use: “Our inspiration originally when I had the wig made was a Jennifer Aniston ’90s-era look. I had wanted to do it a bit bigger, but we played around with it and decided on a more natural kind of ‘the Rachel’ look.” Probably the first time anyone has ever used the word natural when describing a look featuring that headpiece….
Tune in to catch the last two episodes of Wandavision, streaming Fridays on Disney+.
Originally Appeared on Glamour