Recreating Tammy Wynette and George Jones’ iconic looks for the Showtime mini series George & Tammy was certainly a tall order, but hair department head René Warnes was definitely up for the challenge.
Starring Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon, George & Tammy gives fans an inside look into the lives and tumultuous relationship of the country music power couple. The series spans decades, showcasing several aspects of the duo’s lives. Perhaps one of the most impressive feats of the show is the way in which the production team skillfully and authentically highlights the time periods, with accuracy represented in the hair and costuming of each character.
FEMESTELLA spoke to hair department head René Warnes about how she recreated looks that emulated and paid homage to Tammy Wynette and George Jones.
[Note: René worked with Tammy/Jessica Chastain’s hairstylist Stephanie Ingram and George/Michael Shannon’s hairstylist Bryson Conley]
Can you please start by telling us about your background and how you got into hair designing?
I got into the world of hair because I have three daughters. I was always the mom who would go to our local Beauty Supply store and play with hair, makeup and nails. I later decided to go to beauty school in North Carolina where I received my cosmetology training and worked at various salons until Hunger Games came into town. I developed a lot of connections through networking and even landed an internship in North Carolina. After Hunger Games wrapped up, I started doing hair even more. Today, I have 12 years in this industry.
How did you prepare for ‘George & Tammy’?
The research that went into preparing for this show was heavy. We scoured online bookstores, Etsy, and the Internet for vintage hair styling from fashion magazines. The goal was to find hairstyles from the 60s through the early 90s. We collected images of finished hairstyles and looks, as well as techniques and hair-styling tips from those periods. We even watched classic country music shows and used actual footage in photos to recreate some of the looks. We were lucky to find a “bible” of archival photos from one of the show’s writers who had collected pictures of musicians and other historical figures. This was an invaluable source.
What kinds of tips and tricks did you use to portray George and Tammy as they aged?
We ran into some stumbling blocks. We had [limited resources]. However, there were industry tricks that we learned to alleviate this such as using Nair to create a receding hairline or recoloring certain wigs. For instance, to replicate a character’s hair in the 90s, we threw in streaks of silver and gave them sideburns to show aging. We truly worked together as a team to use our respective skills to repurpose wigs.
Can you tell us a bit about what the process was like behind the scenes?
We did the looks of so many people from background musicians to the main characters. Since we were working through the decades, we on average had at least 3-5 different looks for each character and multiple individuals. The timing of each look would vary. For instance, if we are using wigs, we need to prep them ahead of time. If we are starting from scratch, we need to shampoo, roller set, and use techniques of the period to establish the same effect, which is not achievable with a hair tool.
It really depends, sometimes for male actors it averages between 30-45 minutes, otherwise, we have had styles that can take as long as half a day. These were looks that women in the earlier periods went to the hair salon to do once a week and kept it prim and proper until the next week.
Was there anything particularly challenging about working on ‘George & Tammy’?
Though I’ve been in the industry for over ten years, what was new for me was to do hairstyles through the decades. For instance, in the mid-60s, the hairstyles were tighter so we would use products to show the grooming then. However, for the more feathered 70s, we would blow out the hair. It was fun to keep up with the demand and it’s something I am proud of.
How did you coordinate with the rest of the crew to help the looks come together?
As a hair designer, I read the script and made notes about the breakdown of the character. Though I had my own initial ideas, I would speak with the director and the costume designer to talk about the bigger picture. It’s always better to accompany hair once you know what the costume looks like. We also take into consideration what the actors and actresses are comfortable with. Overall, this is a collaborative process to execute a final look that everyone is happy with.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to break into the world of hair in the entertainment industry?
It’s a tricky business to get into because a lot of it is being in the right time at the right place. One of the best entry points is through local theaters and taking on little projects that are non-union before earning experience to get a union job. It also makes sense to take on internships and do gigs to gain experience and to learn and grow. Networking and having a good attitude are key.