Two years ago, Ellicott City resident Janice Kinigopoulos was given two weeks to complete a tall order.
The hair stylist and makeup artist, whose styles have appeared in movies like "Runaway Bride" and "Head of State," was asked to step in last-minute to whip up eye-catching hairstyles for the star-studded new HBO series, "The Deuce."
The cast for the David Simon drama includes James Franco, Maggie Gyllenhaal and the rapper Method Man portraying fictional characters in the dark, many-times unpleasant world of prostitution and porn in 1970s New York City.
With a tight deadline looming, Kinigopoulos, who has worked on Simon's projects dating back to "Homicide," immersed herself in research.
"I delved into books and the old movies like 'The French Connection.' I also referenced 'Gentlemen of Leisure.' The hair, clothes and makeup in this book made me drool," she says. "I just inundated myself as much as possible with all kinds of research."
That willingness to jump in made Kinigopoulos the right person to oversee the hair department for the series, says George Pelecanos, co-creator and executive producer of "The Deuce."
"She's very creative and engaged," says Pelecanos, who has known Kinigopoulos since 2002, when he started working on "The Wire." Although it was the first time they met, he was familiar with her work and also knew her husband, George, from playing basketball against him as a youth in the Greek Church League. "When she takes a job she immediately starts to research. She wants to know about the characters."
It wasn't easy. Kinigopoulos faced a number of obstacles when taking on the project just two weeks before the pilot was set to shoot.
First, HBO was shooting the pilot for "The Deuce" in New York City while it was also filming "Vinyl," a now-canceled drama based around the same era. That meant that there was a dearth of resources in the region for Kinigopoulos to get her hands on.
So she became resourceful. In addition to combing through as much information about the period as she could find, she also turned to her own collection of wigs in search of the perfect look for each of he characters in the show. In fact, that's where she found the inspiration for Gyllenhaal's scene-stealing coiffed blonde wig.
"I found it in my basement," she says with a laugh.
The initial response to the hair — especially Gyllenhaal's — has been great, according to Pelecanos.
"Everyone is talking about that [hair] right now," he says.
Pelecanos says he has been impressed by the authenticity Kinigopoulos brought to her work — especially for a period show.
"Often a mistake made is that [hairstylists] will go through old magazines. It really was what Madison Avenue was trying to sell you. It doesn't necessarily mean that is what people were wearing. Janice will dig deeper."
He was also struck by the work she did with black characters.
"It is unusual to get a white hair stylist who understands how to style and cut black hair," he says.
The accolades come to no surprise to staff at T.H.E. Artist Agency, the Washington, D.C.-based agency that has represented Kinigopoulos since it opened 32 years ago.
"From our first meeting, I knew that she was special," says company president Lynda Erkiletian, who was a cast member on "Real Housewives of D.C." . "She had an unparalleled eye combined with expert technique and a unique aesthetic perspective."
Ellicott City resident Janice Kinigopoulos created distinct looks for the characters played by the star-studded cast of HBO's "The Deuce."
Eileen "Candy" Merrell
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays prostitute turned pornography director Eileen "Candy" Merrell. Her hair, which is a wig, is a platinum blonde, curly afro that Kinigopoulos describes as "very distinct and large."
She explains: "She's a working woman. She's a mother. It's a very personal perspective."
Kinigopoulos considered the gamut of hairstyles or the era before picking a wig for Gyllenhaal that she had in her basement from her work on "The Wire."
"When I pulled it out, everyone looked at me like I was crazy," she says. "But Maggie was game. She tried it on. It wasn't until they saw the footage, that they fell in love with it. I think she really liked it, too."
Frankie and Vincent Martino
James Franco plays a set of twins on the show, which required Kinigopoulos to craft two similar, yet separate, looks for the actor.
"I wanted their hair to be different but still have the same quality, same color," she says. "It sounds small, but you can say a lot of quiet things through hair. To be able to create hair for an actor playing twins is pretty cool."
Kinigopoulos describes the character Frankie Martino as "more reckless." She adds: "He always owes money. His hair a little bit behind. He was the type of guy that had a great hairstyle in high school and never really let it go — someone who holds on to it forever, but he looks good. His hair is greasier, slicked back and longer."
Although both twins have a chestnut brown mane, there are subtle differences
Vincent Martino, the other twin, is more groomed, with a shorter cut and of the moment, according to Kinigopoulos.
Franco was a good sport of the entire process.
"He was very patient," she says. "We did not have the luxury of time. It was a process. He was very patient and embraced it. I was very appreciative of that as his hairdresser. We made it work, but it was a process."
Rapper Method Man plays a pimp named Rodney.
"It was a real treat with me to actually collaborate with him with a hairstyle that he felt comfortable with and spoke to his character," Kinigopoulos says.
For this character, Kinigopoulos worked with Pelecanos, who suggested that she look to the movie "Super Fly" for inspiration. She did, and based Rodney's hair on the main character, Priest from the 1970s blaxploitation film. That meant Method Man wore a relaxed, bone-straight, silky-smooth and shoulder-length wig for the role.
"I thought that hair was totally perfect for him. He looked like one smooth dude," she says.