Every once in a while, a TV character will come along with hair so good, it practically becomes a star in and of itself. Take Carrie Bradshaw ‘s ever-changing styles in Sex and the City, or Issa’s evolving twists and braids on Insecure: The hair is so well-done, and often so telling about the characters themselves, you just can’t help but be sucked in.
Nadia Volvokov, played by Natasha Lyonne in the new Netflix series Russian Doll, is the latest addition to this elite group of next-level TV hair. Her thick, gravity-defying copper-red curls — shaped in such a way that it’s less like hair and more like a majestic lion’s mane — would make a Renaissance painter weep, and a 17th-century English king deeply jealous.
After binging the entirety of Russian Doll in less than 24 hours, and being transfixed by Nadia’s hair all the while, we had to ask the show’s lead hairstylist Marcel Dagenais — who’s also worked on Broad City and Search Party — all our burning questions, including how he got that red so red, and which curl products are responsible for this incredible style. His answers, ahead.
“When I met Natasha, her hair was crazy. When she doesn’t do her hair, she has a mane of wild curls, but when we were conceptualizing her look, we wanted to do something completely different than what people have seen on Orange Is The New Black.
“She was only wearing two costumes throughout the show. We wanted the hair to be interesting so it wasn’t like, ‘OK, boring, here she is again.’ That’s why I wanted that pop of red. I just pulled from the ’70s and early ’80s, like [model] Gia Carangi or a punk-rock downtown girl. I didn’t want her to look too coiffed — I wanted it to be like she just wakes up and looks like this.”
How He Got That Red
“I’m not a colourist, but I was afraid that if someone else did the colour then it’d be burgundy. We wanted a punk, orange-red head of hair that also looked natural, so I dyed it myself. We did all these screen tests and photo tests. It was a long time — a six- or seven-hour day of dyeing and photographing and making sure it was just right.
“I used Redken Shades EQ, which is a gloss. We literally coloured it every three weeks, because I knew she had to go back to Orange after wrapping this, so I didn’t want to use a permanent colour. Then for maintenance, I was giving Natasha Davines copper shampoo and conditioner. She was like, ‘It’s turning my towels orange!’ That’s a warning, actually — it’s very heavily-pigmented, so if you do use it then expect your white towels to be a little orange. One day I actually went out and got her a set of black towels, like, ‘Problem solved!'”
The Daily Curl Ritual
“For curly hair, I don’t like to mess with it too much. The more you fuss with it, the larger it becomes. So Natasha would come in every day with wet hair. I would set the wet curls with Hairstory Hair Balm and Bumble and Bumble Styling Crème. You can’t mess with it when it’s drying, but because of time, towards the end I would diffuse a tiny bit with my favorite T3 hairdryer. Then I would use Bumble and Bumble Brilliantine, an oil to set the curls, and a little hairspray — Oribe Superfine Strong Hairspray.
“Ilana [Glazer from Broad City] actually introduced me to my favorite setting spray for curly hair. It’s Leonor Greyl, this French brand that has incredible curly-hair products. My favorite is called Algues et Fleurs. It defines the curl and helps plump it up, especially for a finer curl, which Ilana has.”
Yes, That’s Actually Natasha’s Hair
“It is all her hair. For the scene where she gets her hair cut, that was a system of braiding and tucking the hair in, and we had some extensions on the ground. The only thing I did do is that we had six stunt doubles on the show for all the deaths, so we had to do a lot of wigs for other people. All my friends came over and I’d have all these huge red wigs all over the place and they were like, ‘No, Natasha’s wearing a wig,’ but nope. It’s really all her. She’s blessed.”
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