David Harbor in “Stranger Things and the True Story of Head Shaving”

The fourth season of Stranger Things was full of iconic moments. We learned about the origins of Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) powers, saw Sadie Sink’s powerful performance as Max, reminisced about the brilliance of Kate Bush’s music with “Running Up That Hill” and much more. On top of that, we also had a plot in which Hopper (David Harbour) is caught alive and imprisoned in a Russian prison, with bruises and a shaved head, caught on video.

There was nothing fake about Hopper’s head shaving in the fourth season of Stranger Things.

What you saw was not computer graphics. In fact, there was nothing fake about it. Harbor actually had his head shaved on camera, and as you probably know, this can only be done once, so it’s best to do it right. While it wasn’t as dramatic as, say, Natalie Portman’s head shaving in V for Vendetta, it was still a risky proposition for a shaving actor.

According to Insider, head hair designer Sarah Hindsgaul asked a “gulag hairdresser” to run some tests on the other captive actors to make sure everything was going smoothly on camera. He posted a video on Instagram in which he explained that the Lithuanian extra played a hairdresser and trained “on all the other inmates before that big moment when Hopper gets his hair cut on camera.” Harbor shared the video and added, “We only had one opportunity.” This may seem like a small thing, because for some guys it’s just a bald shave, and they should look like prison cuts. They don’t have to be perfect. However, Hindsgaul found out something about these extras. Explained:

“When designing Russia, we knew that we wanted to show on the shaved heads of the prisoners the injuries received due to the abuse they were subjected to in these labor camps. However, when we arrived in Lithuania, our local artist team informed us that some of our extras may already have scars on their heads from living in Lithuania when it was occupied by the former Soviet Union. Also, adding details like this to our set of additional materials can be potentially provocative, so we need to proceed with caution. It was an important lesson that was passed on to us and that we will continue to remember as we continue to make films.”

Hindsgaul said it’s important not only to understand and tell what life was like under such regimes, but also to be sensitive to the people who help tell the story in the first place.

Seasons 1 to 4 of Stranger Things are streaming on Netflix. Production on the final season has been suspended due to the WGA and SAG/AFTRA strikes.

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