Elizabeth Perkins on Big Hair, Big Wigs and Why Pounds of Makeup Can’t Compensate for a Life Lived Hard

Elizabeth Perkins on Big Hair, Big Wigs and Why Pounds of Makeup Can’t Compensate for a Life Lived Hard featured image
Photo Credits: Brian Bowen Smith

Even if you’re only somewhat up-do-date with the stockpile that is TV’s most binge-worthy shows, you’ve probably noticed that Elizabeth Perkins keeps popping up. She plays funny in Curb Your Enthusiasm as Marty Funkhouser’s new girlfriend; serious and stoic on This is Us as Mandy Moore’s mother; and “over-the-top” in Netflix’s Glow. Now, the new HBO mini-series Sharp Objects with Amy Adams also gets to count Perkins as a costar. Always the chameleon, the 57-year-old recently sat down with us to dish on behind-the-scenes beauty and style secrets from her most noteworthy roles.

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It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Big debuted and, according to Perkins, the single-word title is also synonymous with her hair in the film. “‘Big’ was all about “big” hair. I have very curly hair naturally, but this was back in the day when Julia Roberts was queen and we all wanted the full-haired, scrunched look that she made so popular,” she says. “So, not only did we scrunch it with firm-holding gel, with my head upside down with a hair dryer, but I was also given a ‘root perm’ prior to shooting to get it as large as possible. The higher the hair, the closer to God.”

The Flinstones 

Perkins says since she was playing an animated character in the cartoon-come-to-life, all of the hair had to follow suit. “It was all about the wigs and getting them as high as possible to match the cartoon Wilma. They were heavy and fell over several times! We weren’t allowed to wear shoes though—even though we had cars, satellite TVs and shopping malls, shoes somehow hadn’t been invented yet.”


“I loved playing the evil Celia Hodes. Amoral, ruthless and conniving, her hair and makeup always stated exactly where she was emotionally. Long blond hair when she was successful, a harsh wig following her chemo therapy, and dirty, matted hair when she was in her downfall. Each morning in the makeup trailer we would assess where Celia was psychologically and style accordingly.”

This Is Us

“Janet Malone is the matriarch; closed off and buttoned up, extremely conservative. A woman who has yet to discover her truths or deal with her feelings yet. Her hair is hard, pulled back, somewhat lifeless, mirroring her state of mind. Plain makeup, little mascara, earth-tone slacks; a woman longing for a splash of color.”


“As Jackie Stallone was very involved in the early days of womens’ wrestling, we used her look from the 80’s as a springboard for the over-the-top look of Birdie. Vintage YSL, hair curled and sprayed for a look that only a woman who has stylists come to her home could achieve. Less isn’t more for Birdie.”

Curb Your Enthusiasm

“She’s a wealthy westside LA modern woman who dresses for comfort and easy style.”

Sharp Objects

Perkins lists her most recent role of Jackie as her favorite character since Weeds’ Celia Hodes. “She’s fragile, loud, complicated and uses her clothing and hair as an attempt to intimidate and rule. And yet she fails. Bright colors, sweeping dresses and hair higher than the sky can’t compete with the tyranny she lives under or her true feelings of failure and loneliness. The pounds of makeup and extensions in her hair can’t compensate for a life lived hard and sad.”

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