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Real Life Writes the Hairstyle

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When Dyeing for Your Art affects another role too. Real life can write the plot, but it can also write the hairstyle too. Say there's a movie in one actress's collection where she doesn't have her trademark long blonde tresses, the reason is that she shaved her head for another role and filmed this one while still growing it back. Or the actress just did it on a whim, and they decided to roll with it.


This is often the case in long running series and franchises, where the actors will be contractually obligated to keep their hair a certain way. Sometimes they'll just have the actor wear a wig because the character changing their hair would be too out of character. Other times they might make the haircut a plot point.

Compare Throw It In!, Expository Hairstyle Change, Actor-Inspired Element.



Live Action TV

  • That '70s Show has an episode where Donna decides to dye her hair blonde, which came about because Laura Prepon had dyed her hair for the film Karla.
  • One episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete sees Big Pete getting a drastically shorter hairstyle so that actor Michael C. Maronna could play a punk in an episode of Law & Order.
  • Angel - Cordelia goes for a drastically shorter haircut in Season 2 because Charisma Carpenter found the upkeep of her Rapunzel Hair too much.
  • Felicity Smoak's hair is dyed pink as a disguise from Ricardo Diaz in the Season 7 premiere of Arrow. In Real Life, it's because Emily Bett Rickards had to dye it for a photo shoot.
  • In some episodes of Season 6 of The Avengers (1960s) Tara King's hair is very short. This is because when Linda Thorson joined the show, they wanted her to bleach her hair blonde. The dye ruined her hair, so in some episodes she was wearing a wig. The short hair was Linda's growing back.
  • Starbuck eventually growing her hair long in Battlestar Galactica (2003) was because Katee Sackhoff was fed up at having to keep her hair short for the role.
  • In Season 8 of The Big Bang Theory Penny has short hair because Kaley Cuoco had cut hers short for the indie film Burning Bodhi.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Buffy chops off her hair in Season 6 in a fit of depression. This was because Sarah Michelle Gellar had asked to cut her hair and they wrote it into the episode.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • Piper has a fringe in Season 1 for the only time on the show because Holly Marie Combs had just starred in the Made-for-TV Movie Sins of Silence, where her character cuts a fringe to hide a bruise.
    • Alyssa Milano got a pixie cut to celebrate her 30th birthday, which was right before Season 6 started filming. Rather than making her wear a wig, they threw in a couple of lines referencing Phoebe cutting her hair.
    • Rose McGowan spontaneously decided to dye her hair red right before Season 5, thoroughly annoying producers. The in-show explanation was a potion blowing up on her and turning it that colour, which Rose had sarcastically suggested as the explanation when the producers expressed their displeasure.
    • Paige goes back to brown hair near the end of Season 6 because Rose let her fans vote on what colour she should go, and brown won out.
  • Coronation Street:
    • Sally Dynevor was undergoing treatment for breast cancer (ironically after her character Sally Webster was given the all-clear) so she wore a wig for several months. After a while, she opted to appear without the wig, and it was written in that Sally's new boyfriend had taken her for a short haircut.
    • Katherine Kelly's hair was ruined from dye, so she cut it to shoulder-length and in-universe it was an attempt by Becky to look more mature as she approached adoption agencies.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the TV movie, Paul McGann wears a wig because he'd had to get an un-Doctor-ish military short haircut for his role in the war movie The One That Got Away.
    • Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor, played a man with cancer in Lost River around the same time as his tenure as the Doctor was ending, a role that required Smith to shave his head. This did not result in a change of hairstyle, as Smith simply wore a wig. The wig itself, however, was incorporated into the Eleventh Doctor's final story, as he shaved his head and used the wig to hide a spare key to his TARDIS.
    • From the same episode, Karen Gillan wore a wig, as she'd shaved her hair off for Guardians of the Galaxy. More than anything, she regretted that she and Matt didn't swap wigs.
  • Lucy Liu dyed her hair blonde in 2017. As a result, Watson has blonde hair in the final season of Elementary. This gets joked about, with others saying she dyed her hair because she's not adjusting well to London.
  • Friends:
    • Jennifer Aniston's famous 'The Rachel' hairdo came about because - in her words - the hairdresser was drunk, made a mistake and tried to correct it.
    • The little subplot in the Season 2 premiere involving Joey, Chandler and Monica's haircuts came from the actors cutting theirs between seasons and the show deciding to incorporate it.
    • On the day before he auditioned for the role of Gunther, James Michael Tyler let a friend who wanted to become a hairdresser practice on his hair. Apparently, the producers liked the bleach blonde look on him, which he kept for the rest of the series.
  • In Game of Thrones, it's a plot point in the first season that all Lannisters are blonde. However, as the seasons go on, Jaime and Tyrion's hair become increasingly darker, to the point of being dark brown in season 8. Word from the set workers is that it was simply too damaging to the hair to keep dyeing it for so long, so they chose to prioritise the actors' health over the characters' image. (Cersei and Daenerys wear wigs, which is why their hair remains blonde.) In fact Tyrion was given bleached blond hair in the original pilot, but it was darkened in the series proper for this reason.
  • Amy Lennox's hairstyle in some Holby City episodes resembles the style she sported in a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show she was in around the same time.
  • Hollyoaks's Amy Barnes was known for her Rapunzel Hair. Her actress Ashley Slanina Davis decided to cut it for charity, so in the soap her abusive boyfriend cut it off because he thought it looked childish.
  • La Femme Nikita got an unexpected fifth season, after Peta Wilson had cut her trademark long blonde hair short (thinking she wouldn't be needed again). So the season premiere has a scene where she cuts her hair before returning to Section One.
  • Maid Marian and Her Merry Men - Marian's short haircut in Season 4 is because her actress had cut her hair for a play between seasons.
  • Once Upon a Time - Rumpelstiltskin gets an Important Haircut in Season 6 because Robert Carlyle had cut his hair for T2 Trainspotting.
  • Abby has Spiky Hair in Season 3 of Primeval that's shorter than her usual style because Hannah Spearritt's hair was damaged from the bleaching she had been doing.
  • In the final episode of The Prisoner (1967), Leo McKern's Number Two is resurrected after apparently dying in the previous episode, a process that also mysteriously cuts his hair and shaves off his beard. In fact, McKern hadn't been told that he was still needed until he'd already changed his grooming for a different part.
  • The Trope Namer for Growing the Beard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sources disagree on whether Jonathan Frakes grew the beard while he was out of work during a writers' strike or if it was for his role in North and South (U.S.).


  • Atomic Kitten
    • Jenny's bobbed hair for "Love Doesn't Have To Hurt" and the first half of the Ladies Night period was because people were having trouble telling her apart from the other two.
    • Likewise Jenny putting extensions in for "Someone Like Me" was because Natasha showed up one day with a short haircut identical to hers.
  • Bobby Brown sported a Gumby-esque hairdo from the making of "Every Little Step" when his barber, who was flirting with the girls on the set, accidentally cut off half of his flat top at a slant angle.
  • Metallica's James Hetfield had to cut his hair after a pyrotechnics accident. It's thought that the rest of the group cutting theirs was a gesture of solidarity.

Professional Wrestling

  • John "Bradshaw" Layfield famously had long black hair for most of his career. When his stock investments went up and he had to be on Wall Street more often, he cut the hair short. This eventually led to him changing character completely to JBL.
  • Roxxi Laveaux infamously getting her head shaved at the 2008 Sacrifice PPV in TNA was because her hair had been ruined from dyeing it purple.
  • Kevin Nash lost a Hair vs Hair match against Chris Jericho because he had to cut his hair for The Punisher (2004).
  • Molly Holly changed her hair from blonde to brown after her 2002 Face–Heel Turn because it had been fried from years of bleaching, and she saw the heel turn as a good opportunity to change it.
  • Dolph Ziggler briefly cut his hair short in 2011 when the bleaching had ruined it. Widely disliked, as it made him look like The Generic Guy, he re-bleached it as soon as it got long enough.
  • Hulk Hogan had to lose his famous mustache for a movie role in October 1995. The Dungeon of Doom attacked him and shaved it off on TV. However, they didn't say they shaved his mustache, because that would be too ordinary for them. They said that they "plucked the whiskers of the rare white Bengal Tiger!"


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