Transforming hair for film & TV: expert stylists reveal their on-screen secrets

From Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody to Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey – hair has the unmatched potential to transform an actor into an iconic and memorable character. But who’s responsible for creating these looks?

Alongside his expert team of colourists and stylists, Paul Edmonds has collaborated with some of the world’s leading make-up artists and hair designers to create some of the most recognisable characters on screen.

Transforming Hair for TV and Film 

Most recently, Paul worked with Artistic Director and Celebrity Colourist, Charlotte Lewis, on superhero hair for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Having coloured the locks of Zendaya and Javiar Bardem to name a few, Charlotte knows exactly how to create show stopping hair for high-end productions.

As the latest addition to the Marvel universe is released in cinemas across the globe, the team reflect on their time working on set.

What’s it like working for film & TV?

What's it like?

Paul: When working on films, one of the most important things you have to do is really understand the actor’s role, so you can give them the confidence to portray their character. Their hair adds another layer to their overall look and costume, and plays a big part in helping them get into character. 

Charlotte: It’s a similar buzzy atmosphere to the salon, but things can change quite quickly at the last-minute. It’s a high pressured environment but I find that really exciting. When working with famous actors, my approach is to just treat them like normal people. You need to gain their trust, so I try to make friends with them! Staying grounded and relaxed helps to put everyone at ease. 

What’s different about working on a film set compared to the salon?

What's different to working in the Salon

Paul: Filming often takes place over several months, so we need to make sure the hair looks the same in every scene. It shouldn’t look like it’s just been perfectly cut and styled, either. It needs to look lived-in and real.

Charlotte: After-care is key on set, and we need to use products that keep the hair in great condition and maintain the colour. I like to use the Shu Uemura Colour Lustre collection in my kit to make sure it lasts as long as possible. It uses goji berry and rose musk oil to nourish the hair and lock-in colour.

Paul: While of course there are many differences, working with make-up designers and directors is still a consultation process – just like in the salon. We need to make sure we understand what everyone wants to achieve with the colour, test whether it’s actually possible, and explain how to maintain the look afterwards. Sometimes compromises have to be made!

What was your involvement in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania?

What was it like working on Antman

Paul: I worked closely with Oscar-nominated make-up designer, Jan Sewell, who’s created some fantastic characters over the years and transformed actors into the likes of Freddie Mercury and Steven Hawking. 

Along with the director and producers, we developed the characters of Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas. Jan wanted Evangeline’s Wasp character to reflect her strength and the key role she plays in the film, while continuing to develop the look that she’s so recognised for.

The actors would come into the salon every three to four weeks so I could work on their hair, making sure it was set up for production and the continuity was just right. From there, Jan’s team of artists would look after them on set.

Charlotte: I worked on both Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly’s hair in the film, using multi-tonal global colour applications, and a mix of balayage and lowlights. Michael’s natural hair is 100% grey now, so we took his colour down to a darker shade for the film. His lighter natural hair wasn’t showing up well on camera, so I needed to deepen the tones while making it look as blended and natural as possible.

What was it like?

How did you style Evangeline Lilly’s hair as the Wasp?

Paul: We wanted to keep Evangeline’s short hair looking soft, sexy and feminine. She has very thick hair with a slight wave to it, so we needed to cut it down and reduce the bulk while adding some feathering so it wasn’t too masculine.

We used a lot of Shu Uemura’s Ishi Sculpt to control her hair during filming. There’s a lot of action in the film where she’s flying around, so her hair needed to be kept in place without looking greasy or oily.

What were the biggest challenges working on the film?

Paul: Since the release of the first film where she had dark hair, Evangeline had bleached her hair blonde. To give her character some continuity, we needed to take it back darker, reducing the blonde and opting for cooler brunette tones to give her hair some dimension. 

The production lighting flares up quite red so we needed to make sure Evangeline’s hair didn’t reflect any unwanted warm tones on camera. 

We had to do quite a bit of work on reducing the redness, to the point where we even used a green-based treatment in her conditioner to counteract it. Thankfully we had Charlotte, our brilliant colourist, working with us on set to help us achieve the perfect shade!

What are the key products you keep in your film & TV styling kit?

Charlotte: It’s not just about the hair. Recently I’ve worked on a lot of beards on films, so I tend to keep a stain remover and barrier cream in my kit to protect the actor’s skin during colouring. I always carry a hand-held fan, too – trust me!

To get your own superhero hair, book an appointment at our Battersea salon or shop the products from our online store