“You look great.”
One of the first twists in Netflix’s comedy Space Force has nothing to do with boots on the moon or, God forbid, failed lunar habitats around the Sea of Tranquility. Lisa Kudrow’s character, the wife of Steve Carell’s noxious four-star general, has landed herself in prison for “a long time.” Viewers are never privy to what circumstances led to Maggie Naird being behind bars — an offhand comment suggests she’ll be there for “20 to 40 years” — but when the couple are reunited during the prison’s visiting hours, unexpected comic relief occurs, thanks to the demise of her immaculately coiffed hair.
In a previous scene of her pre-jailed life, Maggie rocks a perfectly layered blonde lob, which, as many women could tell you, requires bimonthly cut maintenance and hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars worth of long-term investment. Devoid of Frederic Fekkai goops and Dyson hot tools in her prison cell, she doesn’t stand a chance against her tresses receding to their natural color: an overpowering ashy brown, a predicament that some quarantined women may be facing themselves after months without a trip to the salon.
Space Force’s hair department head, Abby Roll, told Vulture that she always envisioned Kudrow’s character to be a natural brunette, given that the actress who plays her daughter, Diana Silvers, also has brown hair. Roll realized that the best course of action for her team would be putting Kudrow — who’s herself a natural blonde — in custom wigs, although they had to nail down the best way to emphasize the passage of time on her roots in jail. “We had her in a brunette wig at first, but once we knew her character wasn’t a true blonde, I initially had a blonde wig in our trailer and started messing around with a temporary airbrush gun and a color,” she explained. “I got a platinum-blonde wig and my team and I colored the wig on that twice or three times to get the depth and make it believable that those were her natural roots. So it was a wig with permanent hair color, softening to make it look like it had grown out.”
Aside from the visiting hours wig — which Roll estimates cost $1,000 — Kudrow had four other wigs for Space Force’s first season, all of which were worn behind bars. “We met Lisa and had less than a week to prepare those wigs,” Roll noted. “It all happened very fast.”
A look where wigs weren’t required, though, was Maggie’s full head of cornrows, which she debuts when her daughter comes to visit. Roll said the writers and showrunner Greg Daniels “really fought” to include the cornrows, and the script nods to the cluelessness of a white woman sporting a culturally Black hairstyle. (“It’s not appropriation when they do it to you,” Maggie jokes in the scene to her skeptical daughter, implying that her cellmate helped her with the look.) “We cornrowed her hair and went in with a temporary alcohol-based hair color and painted her roots darker to have that dramatic effect with the blonde hair and cornrow,” Roll explained. “No hair was added, it was all Lisa’s own hair.”
Another scene featuring Kudrow and Carell, during a hotly anticipated conjugal visit between the couple in a trailer, is a master class in subtlety: Maggie’s hair is back to being platinum blonde, minus a few imperfections in color. “We researched and found out that prisons have hair schools or salons in them, where inmates can get their hair done,” Roll said. “We wanted viewers to give the idea that for the conjugal visit, she wanted her hair as platinum as the first look. So we went for that yellow, just dyed, toned look, which some people get when they get their hair colored. It’s not professionally done, but it’s sufficient for the circumstances.”
As for Kudrow, she reveled at the chance to embrace her inner fake brunette following a “very Cindy McCain” debut in the season premiere. “She was 100 percent in for the entire ride,” Roll said. “It was really quite magical, she thought everything was great. She loved everything.”