‘Candy’ Hair Stylist Reveals the Secrets of Jessica Biel’s Tight ’80s Perm

·7-min read

If you’ve seen Hulu’s limited series “Candy” — or even spotted ads for it — you know that Jessica Biel sports a short, tight perm that is many light years away from her natural flowing mane. You’ve probably also seen Melanie Lynskey‘s equally striking bob-with-bangs hairdo. Both are styles that “Candy” hair department head Katie Ballard modeled after the real-life women the actresses play: Candy Montgomery (Biel), a suburban Texas housewife who, in 1980, murdered her lover’s wife, Betty Gore (Lynskey) with an axe. (Montgomery was tried for murder and acquitted, arguing she had acted in self-defense.)

Because the limited series is based on a true story that got lots of news coverage, Ballard had plenty of sources to draw from, including the 1984 true-crime book about the case, “Evidence of Love”, by Jim Atkinson and Joe Bob Briggs. The visual record was just as rich. “Robin Veith, our showrunner, had quite a few photos already put together for us,” Ballard told TheWrap. “And from there, I just went deep into Google search to find as many photos as I could of the people we were recreating and also details in regards to the trial. So we just pulled as many photos as we could dig up and scoured through videos of news footage. I really wanted to do direct matches wherever possible, because at the time there were people watching all this news coverage. I wanted to make sure that anyone that was involved with this story saw things that felt familiar and accurate to them.”

Here, Ballard explains how she created some of the key characters’ hair styles.

Candy Montgomery (Jessica Biel)

For most of the limited series, Biel’s Candy wears her hair permed, courtesy of the show’s wig maker, Stacey Butterworth. Every other day, Ballard would set the wig in rollers to achieve the tight curl. “I had to set it on rollers either the night before or with enough time to put it in the wig dryer. So to get the curl in there took about an hour and a half from wet to dry.”

Jessica Biel in “Candy” (Hulu)

Each day started with Ballard wrapping Biel’s long, thick hair under the wig cap. “It was a big part of our process in the morning,” Ballard said. “She would just come in with her hair natural and I would dampen it. Then I would spend some time detailing her hairline as I slicked it back with a product called Gaf Quat that is a like a very strong gel. I would detail her part as well so that you can see that skin showing through the wig, then I would put clips all around, get her wig cap on there, and then it was a process of just layering water and leave-in conditioner into her hair, and then carefully wrapping it as closely as I could to her head.

“It worked out really well that we were able to use the leave-in conditioner because at the end of the show, most actors are used to their hair being trashed from heat damage or hairspray or whatever,” Ballard continued. “With Jessica, because we’d been doing that leave-in conditioner everyday, her hair was just luscious and beautiful and healthy.”

Biel sporting her “Candy” wig (Hulu)
Biel sporting her “Candy” wig (Hulu)

All the wigs in “Candy” were made from human hair. When it came to filming the murder scene, there was no worry that the soap-based fake blood would cause permanent damage. “Most hair people are pretty crazy about what blood gets put on the hair because we don’t want to have any traumatizing experiences of the hair getting stained,” Ballard said. “So if we know what blood we’re working with, we know how to get it out.” (Ballard would know about fake blood: She was hair department head on the Shudder anthology series “Creepshow.”)

Biel wore her “hero wig” (a character’s main hair piece on a TV or movie set) for most of her screen time, but she did have stunt wigs to film the murder scene. “I had two doubles that had a more sturdy base so that if the hair got pulled or anything like that, it wouldn’t tear the fine length of her hero wig,” Ballard said.

Biel on the “Candy” set, after her character has committed murder
Biel on the “Candy” set, after her character has committed murder

For her trial, Candy replaces her curls with a more refined look that Ballard achieved by straightening and blow-drying the hero wig. “The blowout, as far as our timing, was a lot less to do. It was about 20 minutes,” Ballard said. “I definitely wasn’t sick of the curly look by any means, but it was fun to move on to something different, which is a huge thing that plays into the story as well, because as far as we know, it was (Candy Montgomery’s) legal team that recommended that she blow her hair out for the trial.

Ballard adjusts Biel’s wig on the set of “Candy” (Hulu)
Ballard adjusts Biel’s wig on the set of “Candy” (Hulu)

“And that really does change her look from being this sort of carefree, chipper, popular person to being more serious. She’s fighting for her life at this point. As we moved into the courtroom, the whole tone of the show changed and the whole vibe on set changed. I do think had she been in the courtroom with her curly hair, it would’ve felt completely out of place.”

Also Read:
Why Jessica Biel and Melanie Lynskey Spent Months Rehearsing the Ax Attack in ‘Candy’

Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey)

Lynskey’s character is less outgoing than Candy and struggles to find joy in her life. “I studied photos of Betty throughout her life and I could tell she had essentially the same style most of her life,” Ballard said. “For the most part she had a round, graduated bob — similar to how Dorothy Hamill used to wear her hair. As she got older, it got longer and it at times looked a little bit more lopsided and was less of a precision haircut, like she may have been maintaining it herself.” One photo in particular of Betty Gore stood out for Ballard: She’s sitting on the couch with her kids, her hair is not perfect and her cowlick is evident. “She’s got a cowlick in the front that we really put a lot of effort into maintaining because it seemed like such an important part of her character,” Ballard said. “So you’ll see throughout the show where maybe if she’s at school, she would’ve probably blown her hair out and smoothed her cowlick out. But then if she’s at home vacuuming, you’ll see the cowlick has started to creep in.”

Melanie Lynskey and Pablo Schreiber in “Candy”

Initially, Lynskey hoped her own hair could work for the character. “After a bit of deliberation, her other production, ‘Yellowjackets,’ decided that they were nervous about her cutting her hair, just due to the timelines with her going back for the next season,” Ballard said. “So we ended up doing the wig for her.”

Allan Gore (Pablo Schreiber)

Pablo Schreiber plays Betty Gore’s husband, the man who has an affair with Candy. According to Ballard, his wig was the trickiest of all. “I worked very closely with him because his wig was one where you can see his entire hairline,” she said. “So that’s one where it was really important to make sure that the shape of his hair stayed feeling organic and natural. We had some room for forgiveness with everyone else’s, where part of their hairline was concealed by their hair, but with Pablo you could see his entire hairline. And on the men’s wigs, we really have to keep a close eye on the naps and all of that to just make sure everything’s laying in a natural manner. Throughout the day I definitely had to keep a closer eye on his.”

Also Read:
Pablo Schreiber and Timothy Simons on That Revealing Blue Leisure Suit in Hulu’s ‘Candy’ (Video)

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