How Kate Flannery aka “Meredith” shaved her head…ok not really.
It was the “Lice” episode. It is the 10th episode in Season 9, the final season of The Office. Pam Halpert accidentally brings Lice to the office and Meredith gets the blame for it and shaves her head. 4.54 million viewers tuned in to watch. According to Kate Flannery’s Twitter account, the night the show aired, make-up artist Ed French was responsible for the bald cap and Kim M. Ferry designed the shaved hair effect. The actress explained the prosthetics took three hours to apply. Afterwards, she joked that she has “newfound respect for the actors in Planet of the Apes!”
I’m here to tell you what happened behind the scenes because I was there.
Our talented writers and producers were always coming up with inventive gags for The Office gang. When I read the script for “Lice” I knew I would have my hands full. Our producer actually wanted Kate to shave her head, but that was not going to happen sooooo…I set about making a plan to make it look like she did. The very talented Ed French joined our team for this episode only. He is a well known Make-Up Artist and is considered in the industry as the “Godfather of Bald Caps”. I had admired his work for years and was thrilled to work with him at last! Kate and I went to Ed’s studio for her first bald cap fitting. we discussed how we would approach the hair wrap, bald cap and planned to have a few tests before Kate went on camera. kate did some tests and we also did tests on a double. The challenge was there were many stages of her baldness. She had the moment of shaving off her hair on camera, the look just after she shaved and the end result, a completely shaved head. Also, there was a gag that she tries to wear a wig, over her bald cap and it is crooked. SO MANY different gags. We had to do tests for all of them.
A lot of details had to be dealt with. I ordered the hair pieces, for the shave gag, had a full lace wig chopped to bits for her after look, bald cap was on Ed, and then I had to buy several different wigs for Meredith to wear in the many episodes that followed. She had a new look for every episode after! I also decided to rig the actual clippers Kate would be holding. I gave them to special effects and they removed the jagged edges for me, then replaced it with a smooth curved silver piece that would not tear or catch on the very delicate latex bald cap she would have on. Kate and I rehearsed how she would hold the clippers in one hand and the loose human hair that matched her own in her other hand. we would sit in fron of my mirror in the trailer and practice. The trick came together and it looked like she was holding her own hair and then let it drop to the floor as if it had “fallen after being shaved off”. She was amazing-and smiled the whole time. I simply adore her.
The day we shot the head shaving gag I was ready but anxious. I wanted everything to go smoothly and for the producers to be happy. we were told in our production meeting we would only do 3-4 takes. I knew better. I was prepared for 10-15 takes…and guess what? i think it was 14 takes by the end of it but all went smoothly and I was so proud of my hair team for being amazing~and always keeping up with each take. We rocked it! It worked and the writers all loved it. That is what mattered.
The next day Kate worked, she was only in the bald cap. I still did the hair wrap, and then Ed did his magic. It was great to watch him paint her bald cap. He paints the base color then sprinkles colors with a tooth brush on the latex like a Georges Seurat painting. He adds, blends, and makes it look like skin, hair and texture. Incredible to watch, truly. (see hair wrap look below)
The bald cap beautifully designed and painted by Ed French was also a huge success. I loved to watch him work, he was inspiring. He would paint on the skin color and then use a tooth brish to splatter dots on her cap so it looked like a scalp. He was like Georges Seurat, a true artist.
It was a team effort, and in the end, it was successful. The night the show aired all of our viewers were asking on social media “Did she really cut her hair off?!?!”. Oh yeah, that is the response you want! Kate did go on Twitter and tweet that she had not shaved her head for episode…and she gave Ed and I credit for the job we did, as I mentioned above. It was a great challenge and I am really proud of the work we all did on that episode. We also had a whole cast in “mayo” looks, too for taht episode and I was designing the sculpted looks they would all have too! It was a wonderful, supportive, creative opportunity, one that I am very grateful for.
It will always be a very special episode for me on a show that I loved to work on. Many thanks to Kate Flannery for her great sense of humor and to Ed French for sharing his expertise with me.