'Schitt's Creek': How Moira's Iconic Wigs Came Together (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
While Schitt’s Creek -- Dan and Eugene Levy’s comedy series about a family stripped of their wealth and lavish lifestyles and forced to rebuild in a small town -- will be remembered for many things, there’s nothing more iconic than Moira Rose’s ever-changing, yet distinct head-to-toe looks brought to life on screen by actress (and living legend) Catherine O’Hara.
On the Pop TV series, O’Hara played the former soap actress and Rose matriarch who never lost her sense of style despite losing just about everything else in the process. She alongside business magnate and husband Johnny (Eugene Levy) and their two privileged adult children, David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy), were forced to adjust to a simpler life, without all the perks that come with being among the rich and famous.
Week to week, Moira donned eccentric outfits and even wilder wigs -- bobs, mullets, springy curls, lush green hair -- that were both seemingly random yet perfectly suited for her dramatic persona and outlandish behavior. And within the first few seasons, Moira became a fan-favorite and earned O’Hara a well-deserved Emmy nomination for season five.
Even though Dan Levy was very much the creative force behind the series, O’Hara credited him for allowing her to collaborate on the formation of Moira -- a character so specific and nuanced that only she could bring her to life onscreen. O’Hara tells ET that the character’s signature glam-gothic style was inspired by photos she initially brought in for Dan Levy to see early in the development of the series, while her ever-changing hair was based on two women she knew who would change hairstyles multiple times throughout an evening. One of the women in particular, she says, “kept leaving the party and would come back in new hairdos,” O’Hara recalls. “There was no explanation for it but I loved it.”
“There’s also a playfulness about it and creativity,” O’Hara says about the ever-changing wigs. And it’s that room to play that hairstylist Ana Sorys says allowed the actress to draw on inspiration in the moment when deciding what wig Moira will wear on a given day. When it comes to what’s ultimately seen on screen, it was not planned out in advance.
Sorys, who took over styling O’Hara’s hair in season three and remained on the show until the end of the series, recalls her first production meeting with Dan Levy, who said, “Have nine or 10 wigs on hand.”
And what started with a handful of wigs in the first few seasons, grew to a collection of at least 24 in the sixth and final season. “When I would come back, I would make sure that I didn’t have a similar wig to what I had previously, and I would come back with more,” Sorys says, adding that she would spend the year in between production searching for a new collection of hair that would serve as that season’s palette.
To develop a collection of wigs suitable for Moira, Sorys says she would shop as she traveled around the world. “Whether I was in New York or L.A. or Toronto or online,” Sorys would buy something that she thought O’Hara would “dig,” even ordering one wig from Japan. “She loved crazy,” Sorys adds of O’Hara’s preference. While shape and texture was important, “crazy is what she liked.”
While the crazier the better, it all came down to O’Hara’s mood. In fact, a lot of times one was chosen as the actress was getting ready to film her scenes. As a result, Sorys got in the habit of keeping a selection of wigs on mannequin heads in the trailer, so whenever O’Hara was getting her hair and makeup done, she had an opportunity to look at them before making a final selection.
From there, it was a matter of tweaking the wig to meet O’Hara’s suggestions as well as the esthetic of Moira’s outfit, which often included oversized accessories -- large collars, jewelry, hair pieces -- that also became a standard part of her iconic costumes. And even as intricate as her outfits were, those were often decided at the last minute.
“It really was done on the fly,” Sorys says. So much so that even the cast was often surprised by what O’Hara was wearing, often not seeing her final look until the actress was ready to step in front of the cameras. “It was always a surprise when she came to set,” Sorys adds.
A Winning Wig
Despite the seemingly vast selection of hair to choose from, there were also rare moments when what was on-hand wasn’t the right fit. Sorys recalls a time during season five when she and the actress went digging through a suitcase full of spare wigs as the cast and crew waited to film until they found what O’Hara was looking for. The end result was a brown curly wig that she put on top of her own hair as a hat. “She was just like, ‘This is perfect,’” Sorys says. “And it ended up being one of her favorite looks that [O’Hara[ had ever done in the six seasons of the show.”
In addition to being one of O’Hara’s favorites, that look from season five, episode nine (“The M.V.P.”) ranks among the top of the internet’s many rankings of Moira’s best wigs. And while each season delivered its own set of new standouts, the series finale contains two that will quickly rise to the top as some of Moira’s most iconic hair moments.
The first is one that holds a special place in O’Hara’s heart and serves as a subtle nod to her early days as a core member of SCTV, a Canadian sketch comedy series that also aired in the U.S. on NBC. In the finale’s opening scene, Moira is seen donning a blonde bob with red and blue streaks coming down around the sides. It’s a nod to hairstylist Judi Cooper-Sealy, who passed away in 2018. She worked with O’Hara and Eugene Levy on SCTV as well as the pair’s past films, A Mighty Wind, Best in Show and For Your Consideration.
“Catherine decided to bring a wig with her that she had worn back in the day. And she said, ‘I’d like to incorporate this wig somehow, but I don’t want it to be a ‘Judy Cooper-Sealy wig.’ I’d like it to be Moira,’” Sorys recalls. Initially unsure if it would work in the scene, O’Hara went to rehearsal while Sorys tweaked it to fit the character. Sorys reveals that O’Hara loved the end result, which now serves as a lasting tribute to a longtime friend.
The other is Moira’s mother-of-the-bride look -- wavy princess-like locks topped with a halo of hair that holds a papal-inspired headpiece -- that she dons during David’s wedding. The wig was one that Sorys had on hand for a few years, but never found its way onto the show. But working all the elements together proved to be one of her biggest challenges, with it not coming together until the night before they filmed O’Hara’s scenes.
“I tried sewing it, I tried gluing it, I tried everything,” Sorys says of struggling to finish it. Eventually Dan Levy came to her and said it was OK if it didn’t work out. “And I said, ‘No way. We're doing this,’” she responded before finally turning to some spray she used to put tile down in her kitchen to fasten all the pieces together and perfect the final look. “I was just so happy,” she continues, adding that people's reactions alone were enough reward. “I kept it a secret. Nobody knew what she was going to look like. When she showed up to set, everyone was just like, ‘Oh my God. This is incredible.’”
“It was so genius,” Emily Hampshire, who plays Rosebud motel owner and the Rose family’s closet friend, says, acknowledging all the hard work Sorys and the rest of the team put into O’Hara’s show-stopping wedding look, which is one of Sorys’ all-time favorites.
It’s also a culmination of her work over the last four seasons of Schitt’s Creek.
Over the years, Sorys says she and O’Hara developed a shorthand that helped them perfect Moira’s looks and by the time the series ended, there were many tears on the last few days on set. But it was a moment just as recent as the day before she got on the phone with ET that struck her the most. After appearing on the program’s Instagram account for a live fundraiser, where she pulled out some of her favorite Moira wigs and tried them on for fans, she received a text message from O’Hara.
“She said, ‘I bet everyone learned a lot while they were smiling. I love reliving our glorious fun days together. And I love seeing my makeup and hair come alive on your face and head. I miss you,’” Sorys recalls. “For me to get that text message just meant the world to me. You know, it was just everything.”
For Sorys, saying goodbye to Schitt’s Creek also meant saying goodbye to “all these friends that were leaving that I wasn’t really going to see again," she says, adding that “I had established a relationship with all of these wigs over the years… so it was very sad.”
But at the same time, they brought joy not only to Sorys, but to the fans and cast alike. Before the show wrapped, a few of the show's stars took wigs as keepsakes. For O’Hara, it was a pink one, while Murphy snagged a rainbow-colored one from season six and Dan Levy held onto a blue, anime-inspired wig that actually never made it on-screen.
And while Eugene Levy didn’t take one for himself, Sorys reveals that she and the cast finally got him to wear one on the last day of shooting. During a toast, Sorys tossed him a wig that he threw on for the crowd. “It was, like, the best thing that we had all seen. I wish I could show you a picture -- it’s everyone’s favorite,” Sorys recalls. “It’s amazing seeing Eugene in a Moira wig.”