Game of Thrones Hair Designer Answers All Our Pressing Questions

On Sunday night, HBO will air the season three finale of Game of Thrones, after which we will enter a long, bleak Daenerys-less summer. Sure we'll have no more character deaths to mourn, but we also won't be able to marvel at the hair and costumes. So we hopped on the phone with the show's genius hair designer, Kevin Alexander, for a marathon-length chat about the style and symbolism of the characters' various 'dos this season.
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On Sunday night, HBO will air the season three finale of Game of Thrones, after which we will enter a long, bleak Daenerys-less summer. Sure we'll have no more character deaths to mourn, but we also won't be able to marvel at the hair and costumes. So we hopped on the phone with the show's genius hair designer, Kevin Alexander, for a marathon-length chat about the style and symbolism of the characters' various 'dos this season.
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Spoilers ahead.

On Sunday night, HBO will air the season three finale of Game of Thrones, after which we will enter a long, bleak Daenerys-less summer. Sure we'll have no more character deaths to mourn, but we also won't be able to marvel at the hair and costumes.

So we hopped on the phone with the show's genius hair designer, Kevin Alexander, for a marathon-length chat about the style and symbolism of the characters' various 'dos this season.

Season three filmed in Belfast, Morocco, Iceland, and Dubrovnik--very different locations with very different climates--which means serious wig maintenance, as most of the characters wear them. (Heartbreaking as it may be, Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys, is not a natural ice-blonde.) At any one time, depending on the scene, there are up to 50-100 wigs in use. "In the hotter climates, the wigs are a constant battle because of the frizziness, the humidity," Alexander told us. The delicate wigs (they're made of lace and real hair) certainly take a beating, and each season they have to be "re-fronted," which means the whole front section of the wig needs to be re-built.

Alexander surveys his handiwork on Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys.

Alexander surveys his handiwork on Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys.

They're a bitch to travel with, too. If they’re styled, they need to go on a special block shaped like the actor’s head, wrapped in acid-free paper, and carefully packed into a crate. Luckily Alexander and his team of stylists--Candice Banks, Roz Culora, Gary Machin, and Dana Kalder--have it down pat.

Of course what we really want to know about is how Alexander and his team come up with those crazy complicated plaits (especially Daenerys's) and what it's like to work with Kit Harington's luscious locks.

A complete analysis of each character's hair, right this way: Photos: Keith Bernstein/Helen Sloan for HBO

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Daenerys

Daenerys's wig is by far the most difficult to care for, mostly because of the color. "If there's any smoke scene, because [Daenerys' hair is] such a beautiful white and it's quite porous, she only needs to be near a fire and by the end of the day she looks like she’s gone grey," Alexander told us. She has three rotating wigs that the team uses.

And what about the style this season? It really hasn't changed much from episode to episode, and that was by design. "Daenerys hasn’t changed much this season because she’s been traveling and conquering," Alexander said. "She goes back to that original Dothraki look, when she learned about practicality. It’s all about what she would do to be most comfortable."

A lot of it's practical for the production, too. "If we left all that white hair loose in the desert..ugh," Alexander said. "When we’re designing the hair we have to think about all of that stuff, and the cameras and the conditions. But she looks so beautiful with it all pulled away."

"Those plaits have become very much her. It’s amazing how much it’s influenced the fashion world," he said. We mentioned the amount of YouTube tutorials there are out there teaching people how to get her look, and Alexander laughed and said, "We need to do a proper one, then!" YouTube might just blow up if that happens.

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Cersei

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Margaery:

Margaery is known for her signature cut-out dresses and cleavage. Her hair style also reflects that bare, sexy aesthetic, and it's directly influenced by her gowns.

"What we did with Margaery that we hadn’t done with anyone else is we followed the line of the costume," Alexander said. "We pulled so much more hair away, so it makes her more distinctive and different from everyone else," Alexander said. (Sansa and Cersai usually wear their hair completely down.) "With Margaery, I wanted a lot more to be showing, I wanted a lot more flesh on her. We wanted there to be a little more sexiness."

Mission accomplished, we'd say.

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Sansa

Sansa's hair seemed, well, sad this season, and Alexander doesn't disagree. "Everyone is breaking Sansa, all the way through the third season. They’re chipping away at her bit by bit," he said. "As time goes on, she starts to not care. We didn’t want her to go too glamorous." There is one moment where she wears her hair up and back, because she's been influenced by Margaery (above right).

Of course Sansa had one major hair moment this season: her wedding. Alexander was really excited to do Sansa's hair in the elaborate 'do (below), because as he put it, the team is usually "deconstructing" hair on the show--making it look dirty and disgusting. For Sansa's big moment she wore twisted braids woven through with tiny pearls and gold thread.

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Jon Snow

Jon Snow's hair gets a lot of well-deserved attention.

Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, might not be as thrilled about it. "I would never have to have this cursed hair had I not had Game of Thrones," he told Vulture. "And now because it takes so long to grow back, I have to keep the ringlets, definitely. If I didn't have to have this, I'd have short hair."

Alexander calls bullshit.

"He loves it. He might say he doesn’t, but he loves it!" Alexander said. If you love it, too, and are having Jon and Ygritte fantasies, here's what you should do to your bf/hub/sig other's hair to make it look like that.

Alexander dyed Harington's hair darker, and to get that dirty ringlet effect, he dampens the hair and then puts in a mixture of wax and hair putty before the hair totally dries. This combo keeps the curls soft and movable--if you put it on dry hair it would be stiff.

Robb Stark (RIP) got the same hair treatment. "It looks romantic, but still masculine. It makes the boys looks beautiful," Alexander said. "The little curls individually drop in front of the boys' faces--that’s what people want!"

Indeed.

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Missandei

Missandei (played by Nathalie Emmanuel), the ex-slave who is Daenerys's new side kick, hasn't said much this season, but we have a feeling she'll be contributing more in future seasons. She also has some of the most distinctive hair on the show, and it's not a wig--it's her real hair.

Her style undergoes a subtle shift when she goes from slave to free woman. "Because she’s a slave, the first few scenes you see we’ve got material around [her hair] and we kept her bound," Alexander said. "And then as she becomes Dany’s helper, that’s when we let it all out. We put a braid through the front and brought it around to the side--it’s got a gold thread through it."

The desert wreaks havoc on Emmanuel's hair, though. "We had to use coconut oil spray to keep the moisture in, as well as a cream. It keeps her hair supple," Alexander explained. "But with the desert there, you can’t put too much in because any slight amount of sand can cling on to all of that oil and then we’re in trouble. You’ve got to find balance."

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Daario

In the book, the dashing Daario--and potential Daenerys crush--has blue hair, a blue beard, and a gold moustache. That was not going to work for the TV series, because the producers want things to look as realistic as possible and not too cartoonish.

So the hair team looked to Native Americans for inspiration. "What we wanted to do was keep that slightly more romantic longer hair, but it also had to be practical."