How The Cast Of Us Transformed Into Their Tethered Doppelgängers

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Warning: This story contains spoilers for the movie Us.
Just when you thought it was impossible for Jordan Peele to scare you any more than he did with 2017's Get Out, he decided to make something that's sure to spook you faster than the shrill tap of a teacup. While Get Out is technically considered a social thriller, Peele's latest brainchild, Us, is a nosedive into the horror genre. Don't believe it? Then you haven't met The Tethered yet.
Peele had a clear vision for the sinister doppelgängers, but that doesn't mean executing that vision was a simple task for Scott Wheeler, the makeup department head for Us. Creating the characters' on-screen looks took a lot of planning, especially because the cast played two roles: the Wilson family and their Tethered counterparts (Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide Wilson and Red; Winston Duke as Gabe Wilson and Abraham; Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson and Umbrae; and Evan Alex as Jason Wilson and Pluto).
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Yes, the doppelgängers had to look scary, but their physical characteristics had to also silently translate one important clue to the audience: The Wilsons and their copies are two sides of the same coin. After all, Peele says, "we're our own worst enemy" — and the cast had to look the part. But doing that is a lot harder than it sounds, so we tapped Wheeler and the hair department head for the film, Camille Friend, to tell us all the behind-the-scenes details.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Blonde Eyebrows Are A Family Trait

Without giving too much away, there's one important thing to know about The Tethered: They live underground and mimic almost every action their above-ground copies do, but to horrifying degrees. Peele, a fan of horror tropes and imagery, wanted to play on the fact that, like vampires, The Tethered are always in the dark and hidden away. Hence, the doppelgängers' monstrous features, like their thinning eyebrows — or total lack thereof.

The idea to completely eliminate the brows was spearheaded by Nyong'o. After her makeup artist, Tym Buacharern, realized that the doppelgänger Red had to be more visually unnerving, she suggested bleaching the eyebrows to look singed by Pluto's pyrotechnic mishaps (more on that later). Wheeler says it eventually became a universal motif for all the Tethered. Fortunately for the cast, no one had to actually bleach their eyebrows to achieve the look. Instead, the team used special effects mascara to color the brow hairs a blonde shade.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Best Scene-Stealer: Adelaide's Sisterlocks

Since Friend had to create looks for the Wilson family, their doppelgängers, and their stunt doubles, there were a lot of wigs around the set. But one of the most memorable looks is Adelaide's Sisterlocks. Nyong'o was clear with Friend on finding a style for Adelaide that was natural, but stylish. So after looking at braids and twists, the two finally landed on Sisterlocks.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
One Doppelgänger Is Not Like The Other

Since Sisterlocks are a natural hairstyle, Friend knew Adelaide's doppelgänger, Red, had to have something of the same texture, but not exactly. So, they settled on Red's natural curls. Of course, The Tethered live underground without basic beauty tools, so her hair isn't in a perfect twist-out or a meticulously styled wash-and-go. But even then, Red didn't look as spooky as her fellow doppelgängers. According to Wheeler, there's a very specific reason why and it has to do with the movie's ending: "To allow for Peele's narrative to make sense, Nyong'o's characters had to be the most similar," he explains. (You'll see...)
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
For Your Consideration: Winston Duke's Hair Extensions

During an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Duke explained how his physicality had to change in order to play the patriarch of the Wilson family. He couldn't be nearly as brooding as his Black Panther character, M'Baku, which eventually led him to get some glasses and put on a little "dad bod" weight — but that was the easy part. The hard part came when Wheeler had to turn him into his copy, Abraham. Unlike Gabe, Abraham has a thick beard that required hair extensions, which Wheeler hand laid every day on set.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Pluto Is The New Michael Myers

While the two children in the movie spent far less time in the hair and makeup chairs, Jason's doppelgänger, Pluto, does have some aggressive burns on his mouth. Why? He loves playing with fire.

The idea was that, while Jason is talented at doing relatively safe tricks above ground, Pluto is copying his actions, but with raw fire. Peele wanted Pluto's face reveal to be big, and the initial designs for his burns didn't make a strong enough statement. So, Wheeler scrapped the small burns and opted to add prosthetics to the whole bottom half of his face, implying that, instead of a few minor accidents, this was the result of one horrific incident.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Umbrae Makes The Bob Less Cool, More Creepy

"Shahidi's characters were definitely the two Jordan had a clear vision about," Friend recalls. "He wanted to keep Zora natural, young, and with a bun we could deconstruct as the movie went on." While that was simple, Friend had to create several custom-made wigs for her counterpart, Umbrae. Who knew that a trendy — albeit terrifying — slicked-back bob could be so much work?
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Elisabeth Moss' Vanity Leaves Her Scarred

Moss' character, Kitty Tyler, may feel like her acting career passed her by, but she's still holding on to the glitz of Hollywood via her looks. Because Tyler is so transfixed on the fabulous life she could've had, she's interested in all sorts of cosmetic treatments to keep her looking as young as possible.

Unfortunately, her Tethered copy, Dahlia, doesn't have a team of plastic surgeons underground, leaving her to perform her own operations. Wheeler created substantial scars for Dahlia's face to represent her behavior, including a keloid scar that stretches from the middle of her ears down to her jawline.
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