When the Emmys air this weekend, there might be a bit more attention paid to the Contemporary Hairstyling category than in years past. You can thank Schitt’s Creek’s Moira Rose for that. Or really, you can thank hairstylist Ana Sorys, who joined the show in its third season and was the mastermind behind some of star Catherine O’Hara’s most iconic looks. The two managed to usher in a sort of Wig-aissance with a line-up of over-the-top extensions, colorful coifs, and scene-stealing postiche that felt as eclectic and unique as the character’s definingly winsome vernacular.
It’s not hyperbole to say the show changed the way we look at hair and its relationship to our own identities, although that does feel like the kind of grandiose endorsement daytime’s brightest star would appreciate. So we chatted with Sorys about the legacy of the show, the mind-blowing looks of its final season, and if we’ll ever see the wig wall again.
You joined the show in season three. Did you want to change anything in terms of the wigs Catherine had been wearing?
What I learned about Catherine — what I learned about Moira — was that she used her wigs as more of a mood and a feeling as opposed to what she looked like. She never knew what type of wig she was going to put on. It was always a last-minute thing. So when I came on the show, I decided that I was going to have a lot of wigs prepared, so if she had an idea in her mind of how she wanted to feel, I had it available. It was a lot of doing hair on the fly.
So how did that process of finding the right wig for the right scene work then?
Sometimes we’d do a wig fitting, and it’s not even a scheduled wig fitting. It’s the end of the day and it’s time to go home, and Catherine would always come into the trailer to say goodnight, and then we would just, she would try on a wig backward, or she would go through my bins and just have fun. I remember we spent, it must’ve been an hour and a half trying on wigs one night just cracking up. I think that was more of how the process went.
Moira goes on a journey in the finale season. How do her wigs reflect that?
In season five, a lot of the wigs were dark. We had a dark green wig; we had the black wig for cabaret; we had the crow that was black. I shop all year round and research, and I figured, season six, I wanted it to be a little lighter. I thought I just wanted to brighten things up. For instance, in season six, episode one where she’s coming out of the closet and she has this crazy white poodle wig that I bought in New York. She put it on backward, and it just looked like, I mean, “What the heck was that?” If we had put a dark wig on her in a dark time, in a dark closet, it just wouldn’t have felt the same.
And in the last episode, for instance, when she and Alexis are in the room together, she has the short wig on. That’s actually from Judi Cooper-Sealy, who was her hairstylist since her SCTV years. She had passed away and Catherine brought this wig with her from California. She said, “I know this isn’t Moira, but I’d like to incorporate this wig somewhere as an ode to Judi.” So, we decided that it would be a good time to do it during that scene. And to make it more Moira, I said, “I’m going to sew some colorful pieces into this wig.” We did that literally at the last minute, while she was in rehearsals. So we still have an ode to her old hairstylist and some color.
We can’t talk about specific looks without talking about her Viking Priestess get-up from David and Patrick’s wedding. I’m guessing that wasn’t done on the fly?
Yeah, for that scene, we did do a little bit of planning. When we got the script, I went to Catherine and I said, “I know you’re going to be wearing this headpiece and this very long robe. What were you thinking for your hair?” And I showed her reference of this huge donut hairpiece that I thought would look good around the hat. So we drew a sketch of it, and we measured her head and measured the hat. And for weeks, I had worked on this piece. The crew would watch me walk around with this stuffed pantyhose that I was trying to figure out how I would wrap the hair around it, so it would stay clean and endure the whole day.
I tried sewing it. I tried doing all these things, and I just couldn’t figure out how it was going to work. Dan came to me the night before, and he said, “You’ve been working on this for so long.” He’s like, “You don’t have to have it. This is something extra, so don’t worry about it.” And I was like, “No way! We are doing this.” I found my glue that I used to put my tiles down in my kitchen and I used tile glue, and it worked perfectly. It didn’t change the color of the hair. It tucked it in place, it didn’t darken it. And her hair, we started out with, I think it was 40 inches. And two days later I said to Dan, “You know what? I think that hair should be longer.” So I added an extra 22 inches to it. In the end, it was 62 inches of hair.
And no one saw it until the day of?
Right. We didn’t tell the crew what she was going to look like. We wanted it to be a surprise and when she walked onto set, it’s a moment in my career where I watched everybody’s face, especially Dan’s face… they could not believe it. Everybody started clapping. It was so worth it.
When did you realize Moira’s wig collection had become something bigger than just a running joke on the show?
It was when we started seeing people dressed up as Moira in drag. That’s when we were like, “Oh my God, this is a thing now.”
It’s so markedly different than how any other TV series would use a hairpiece or wig, even other comedy series.
I think that people are starting to realize that it’s okay to wear a wig just for fun; not to change the way you look, but change the way you feel. Most people wear hairpieces and extensions, and it’s more about wanting to look like other people. A Moira wig is more about expressing yourself and how you feel. It’s about wanting to be different and it not being an issue.
Can you even compare what you guys did on the show with the other work you’re nominated against at the Emmys this year?
It’s interesting because I’ve had people ask me, “So, what do you think of your chances of winning an Emmy?” I made a decision not to look at any of the other work, and not to compare myself as an artist for the work that I did on the show. We did this very organically, and we had a lot of fun with it, and it was more about how we made the fans feel. You know? At the end of the day, I think the only thing that matters is how you make people feel when they’re watching TV and watching your work.
The wigs became such a big part of Moira’s storyline. They were part of the comedy. Jokes were written in the script about them. Who came up with their names and backstories?
Well, for instance, in season six, episode one, where she’s calling out the names of her wigs because she’s worried that they’re going to burn in the fire. So the wigs, the names of the wigs are the names her best friends. They were Catherine’s best friends in real life. And when that episode premiered on TV, she invited those specific friends to her house to watch the episode, and those friends saw her call out their names on the show. She didn’t tell her friends that she was going to do that.
Which cast members went home with which wigs?
So, Catherine, she took the pink wig with her and she has the Sunrise Bay look. There was this one wig that I got from Japan. It was like a Harajuku blue wig, an anime, wig. We didn’t end up using it, but Dan said, ‘I want to take that one.’
And you have the rest?
I have them all packed away and labeled by episode, scene numbers, and seasons. I am pretty much in charge of what happens to them now, which is nothing. I didn’t want them to go into a production closet. Who knows if we’re ever going to need them again? So I just want to make sure that they’re in a safe place.
For an exhibition at The Met maybe?
That would be amazing. Yeah, we have to talk to Dan about that. He’ll love it.
Or you could just create a line of wigs. I’m sure fans would open their wallets for that.
Yeah, I’ve had women who were going through chemo contact me and ask me about wigs. They say, since they’ve seen Moira’s hair on TV, they’re having fun with wearing wigs as opposed to just wanting to blend into society. They’re actually wearing a pink wig or wearing a green wig, and it brightens their day. Who knows? Maybe there might be a Moira wig collection that you could buy in the future.