Posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Hair Department Head Suzy Mazzarese-Allison on Designing a Retro-Future for Apple TV+’s ‘Hello Tomorrow’

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison is the hair department head for the new Apple TV+ series Hello Tomorrow, which is about a group of salesmen who are persuading people to purchase a timeshare on the moon called The Brightside.

Since the show takes place in a retro-futuristic world reminiscent of the 1950’s, Suzy designed hairstyles that were largely 1950’s period accurate while incorporating elements that blended her designs with the futuristic elements of the show’s aesthetic. She also created designs that illustrated each character’s development throughout the series. For instance, Myrtle Mayburn, played by Alison Pill, starts with short hair and tight curls but transitions into a more lived-in look with bigger, unruly curls to illustrate her character’s emotional journey throughout the show.

PH: Hi there Suzy! Can you share a bit about your professional background?

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison: I started my career as a salon hairstylist. At the time, I was dating an actor who was in a Los Angeles production of the broadway show "Beatlemania." He introduced me to the world of entertainment. There, I discovered the endless opportunities of doing hair NOT behind a salon chair but backstage, on tours, behind the camera, and working with actors, singers, and musicians. I toured for several years with broadway shows such as Dreamgirls, The Secret Garden, Into the Woods, King, How to Succeed, Titanic, and many more. Eventually, this took me to the east coast. When I ultimately took my Journeyman exam for our union, I met legendary hair stylist Colleen Callaghan who was instrumental in getting me to work in television and film.

PH: What drew you to working as a Hair Department Head?

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison: The entertainment industry is hugely collaborative in that so many coworkers are bustling around one another for the same goal. As much as the work is fun and rewarding, it's also easy to get lost in the shuffle of being one of many working bees. To fully explore my creative impulses, I ventured into taking on hair department head positions for television and film. This job can also be described as the hair designer of the project. As a department head, I can exercise much creativity to bring my vision to enable the creators and actors to realize the story and characters fully. Because my work is visual and is a framework for the performer's face, I can use creativity to complete the picture the audience experiences.

PH: Can you share how you became involved with Hello Tomorrow? What drew you to this project?

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison: I had worked with Apple TV before, so a professional relationship was established, and they asked me to consider the project. Upon reading the script, I was very excited about the premise, and I was flattered to be asked to be involved.

PH: What type of research did you do to prepare to style for a retro/futuristic world reminiscent of the 1950’s?

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison: There has never been a time when research has been so abundant and accessible. Not only are there countless images on the internet, but there is access to book dealers with actual hairdressing manuals and periodicals from the actual time for the beauty industry. Many websites have television shows and movies from specific eras, and I've even seen video tutorials from actual beauty salons of past eras, originally filmed on 8mm and now converted to online access. For Hello Tomorrow, I relied on the costume designer to discuss the palette for the costumes. A lot of the colors used on Hello Tomorrow were bolder and brighter than the pastel shades and soft ice cream colors generally associated with the 1950s. This departure was most successful because everything from the 50s was designed to make you happy. Color has that ability.

PH: What were the hairstyles? How did you give them a futuristic spin?

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison: The look of the hairstyles was different from what one would consider futuristic from our present time. The approach was what was the future from the time of the story. Instead of tighter curls and prissy homemaker looks, I designed cleaner textures and silhouettes and hair that was more sleek and chic, suggesting that these characters were always presented as perfect, not taking hours every week to look so. They just always "were." I also fused the 1950s with some very early 1960s. Combining the two decades takes the viewer out of the typical expectation

PH: What were some of the challenges you encountered, and how did you mitigate those?

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison: Any production has a lot of creators behind it. Each have their own set of ideas of what the look of a story should be. The director has ideas. The network has ideas. More narrowed down to my work; the costume designer has very specific ideas on the characters' images. The actors also have ideas on what they believe their characters would look like. My involvement starts with finding ways to be a mediator between all of the above and bringing in my technical skills as a hair stylist to design and execute hairstyles that suit all the wants and needs of the artistic team. Because the other departments don't know or understand working with hair, I create looks that they may never have thought of or suggest ways to improve an idea they originally had. There are often situations where two or more creators want polar opposite looks for a character, and I must rely on my experience and research to create the perfect image to appease everyone. Those situations are always rich for creativity because it's then that I can suggest things above and beyond everyone's expectations

PH: Can you describe your work and experience on past projects such as The Greatest Showman, Plot Against America, and American Crime Story and you've worked on and how they differed and presented different creative opportunities for you?

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison: For the Greatest Showman, I worked with Jerry Popolis and was assigned the design and running of the oddities department, which was the carnival sideshow. There were a lot of wigs and specialty looks that cross-referenced many periods as well as fantasy.

Plot Against America for HBO was a straightforward period project, but it was filmed on one of the hottest summers imaginable. Most people don't realize the troubleshooting that can arise from something like the weather, which is not a typical consideration. I always try to look ahead, and I carry the motto "prevention is better than disaster" all in one.

For American Crime Story "Impeachment," I transformed Clive Owen into former president Bill Clinton. I worked with an excellent makeup team, and we managed to conceptualize a way to have an actor still recognized by his audience yet also look like a well-known figure that is well recognized by everyone's mind.

PH: What's something someone may not know that you do in your job as a hair department head?

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison: As I mentioned before, I am often a combination of a hair stylist, mediator, liaison, and psychologist. There are so many people to make happy, and I must find ways to weave all the visual desires of others into my own creative ideas. I am also part psychic in that I am constantly looking ahead and coming up with solutions to potential challenges. Through this juggling of many hats, I find great fulfillment in being part of a fully realized story that enriches the viewers' lives.

PH: Can you share any upcoming projects you have in the works?

Suzy Mazzarese-Allison: Soon to be released is Monsieur Spade, a nod to film noir suspense films of Hollywood's Golden Era. Also out soon is Insidious 5, the 5th installment of the franchise with Patrick Wilson directing. I am currently involved with other projects that are too soon to reveal, so stay tuned. I strive never to disappoint.