Style icon and sitcom mother aren’t usually two titles that go together — except if you're Catherine O’Hara’s Moira Rose. The matriarch of the beloved TV family on Schitt’s Creek has been called a couture queen, and not just for her monochromatic, radical, high-end fashion sense. Moira's look is also all about her makeup and hair — specifically, her wigs. They are as paramount to the character of Moira Rose as her obscure accent and affinity for name dropping.
“I just asked if I could wear lots of wigs depending on my mood,” O’Hara says in the documentary Best Wishes, Warm Regards: A Schitt's Creek Farewell, which aired after the show’s series finale. “It works for fashion reasons; it works for hiding or revealing what I’m feeling; it works as a protective helmet.”
O’Hara’s decision to incorporate rotating wigs into her character’s wardrobe like most women do purses has become part of the series’ enduring charm and on-set lore. Ask any cast member and they’ll gleefully tell you an anecdote about the famous wig wall where Moira keeps her “bébés.” The rest of Moira’s signature beauty look is thanks to a collective effort from the show’s co-creator, writer, and co-star Dan Levy and the work of hairstylist Ana Sorys and makeup artist Lucky Bromhead.
Here, Bromhead and Sorys take us through Moira’s transformation, the secret to her bold red lip, the literal glue holding her finale wedding-look together, and that time they got Eugene Levy into a wig.
Let's go back to the beginning. Talk about working with Catherine to come up with Moira’s look.
Lucky Bromhead: I worked with Catherine before Schitt's Creek, so we already had a relationship. We sat down and talked about who we envisioned this person to be. There was a big influence from Daphne Guinness — a strong female character who had a really bold sense of fashion that was avant-garde. We both wanted a smoky eye and thought her skin should be a little bit lighter because she never goes out in the sun because she's up all night at art galleries in New York. Moira's life is a statement and an art project on its own.
Ana, it was Catherine’s idea to wear wigs. Is that a hairstylist’s dream?
Ana Sorys: Yes. I don't know if there will ever be a job that can trump this one. I didn't do the first two seasons, but I had an idea of what to expect because I had followed Catherine’s career and watched the show. Even in her SCTV days, I knew that every character she does relies heavily on her hair and makeup. When I started Season 3, I was in a production meeting with Dan [Levy] and he said, "Just show up with nine or 10 wigs." I hadn't spoken to Catherine about any specific looks at all. She would just put them on when she was in the mood to do so. When she felt like doing a wig, she would just come in and choose whatever she felt like.
Who came up with Moira’s signature red lip?
LB: We both loved the idea of red lips because it’s a look that you can stick with that never goes out of style. [The lipstick] is M.A.C, Ruby Woo. The shape of the lips was really, really important. We had agreed on the look, but when it came to the camera test and we lined Catherine's own natural lip shape, something was off. We thought we had the wrong shade of red. So, we tried a few different shades and then suddenly Catherine said, "Can we just try something?" She drew this upper lip line that didn't have a Cupid's bow. It goes straight across like how Naomi Campbell's lips are shaped, and as soon as she did that, her whole face changed. We saw Moira Rose.
How has Moira’s look evolved?
AS: As the seasons went on, I started making sure I didn't have a wig that looked like another wig from a previous season. Season 5, the Crow season, was pretty dark in terms of hair colour, so season 6 I brightened it up a little bit. I feel like, as the seasons went on, it was almost like Moira's confidence grew and so her choice of wigs were bolder.
LB: It was fascinating for me to watch the process of choosing the wigs. Normally, in any other scripted TV show situation, those wigs would have been planned weeks or months ahead of time, but Catherine threw all of that out the window. She and Ana would do things on the fly. Almost every time she walked out with a new wig it was a surprise to everybody on set except for our team. And we always knew when Catherine loved a wig because when she put it on, she would immediately start laughing.
Where do you find them?
AS: In season 6, I got some from Japan online. I got some from this tiny store in London, Ontario that hadn't been renovated since the '70s. Just obscure places like that.
LB: Ana shops for wigs on press tours and I tag along. I loved watching Ana shop for wigs when we were in New York, because she would go in there and haggle with the wig ladies in those shops like she was in a Moroccan marketplace. She would get the best deals.
One of the looks that will go down in Moira Rose history is her wedding look from the finale.
AS: The wedding look is my all-time favourite look. I worked on that for weeks. It’s pantyhose filled with stuffing that had to bend so I was just wrapping the hair around it, fastening it, sewing it, gluing it, but none of that worked. I really, really wanted to do this look and I remember the night before [the wedding scene], Dan said to me, "You've been working on this for weeks. It's okay if you can't do it. It'll still look amazing.” And I was like, "No, I need to do this.” I found this spray that I used to glue my kitchen tiles down, and that was the only thing that worked.
Then, I had a 40-inch wig that I added another 20 inches to at the last minute, so it was a surprise to me how everything turned out. I think it was the highlight of my career when Catherine walked onto set in that outfit. And everybody's faces were just like...
LB: It was like the crowds parted and everyone just looked at her silently in awe as she walked through the crowd of the people. And then you started to hear the squeals of delight from people. I think probably the highest-pitched squeal came from Dan.
She had the classic smoky eye for that look, but her lips were more understated.
LB: We really wanted to give focus to everything else. I was working my butt off all day because Catherine, when she has emotions as Moira, they're real. There's no one adding tears or blowing menthol in her eyes so that she looks like she's crying. I had to, after every single take, go in and reset her because she would cry for real and black tears would go down her face. Poor Catherine's face, because I was on her all day.
There's a part in the documentary about how influential this character has been to the LGBTQ+ community; how she's a gay icon. How does that make you both feel to see your art reflected on drag queens and fans?
LB: I remember saying to Catherine in season one, "I can't wait to see a drag version of you. When I see that, I will know that this character is a success." So especially seeing how much attention to detail is put into a lot of the drag that's done of Moira… it makes my heart swell.
What were the last days on set like?
AS: The very last evening was really sad, but also one of the days that I enjoyed most. I remember saying to Eugene [Levy, who plays Johnny Rose] at the beginning of season 6, "On our last night, will you try on a Moira wig for me?" I'm sure he thought I had forgotten about it, but on the last evening, he did. I wish I could show you the picture, but I can't, and it's the best thing I've ever seen on Eugene.