*Warning: the following interview contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever*
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is garnering major awards buzz, and rightly so, as it’s one of the best blockbusters of the year. Part of the reason the movie does well is the amount of emotion delivered by the acting and filming on display and by everyone who contributed to the project. For hair head design, Friend Camille, the experience of making the film was moving. Still, she never knew how emotional the final product was going to be until she saw the film:
“Even after you make the movie, you don’t really know how it’s going to go. You know how it went, but you still don’t know how they’re going to fit together. And when I saw the movie at the first, through new eyes, I was crying.”
Friend’s approach to the sequel is “all about the design. When we made the first movie, we said black hair is beautiful and natural hair is beautiful. We wanted to continue with this thread for the future. But we are also tackling a whole new culture, with Namor [Tenoch Huerta Mejía] and the Talokans, and doing so with the same care and cultural appropriation that we did in the first Black Panther. And from the reactions we’ve seen on social media, people are happy with it.
When collaborating with director Ryan Coogler, Friend called him “a hair director. We talked about each character, what they were like in the first Black Panther what they would be in the next one, and how we would change and mature them. We wanted to show that some had passed and give the characters room to grow. Ryan is very into hairstyles, and I always send him pictures and then he sends me pictures. He is a very close partner in hair design.
Coogler was also ‘adamant about Ramonda’s backstory [Angela Bassett] and Shuri [Letitia Wright]. They were coming out of their mourning after King T’Challa [Chadwick Boseman] funeral. In the West African tradition, people cut their hair when in mourning. The hair story was coming out of it. What would their hair look like after T’Challa’s death?
I wanted to put them in their hairstyles in similar positions. For example, we take Angela’s hair color from the first, her beautiful locks, and continue in a different style while keeping that thread. The same thing happened with Shuri. In the first movie, she had braids. She was a fashionista. But in this film, you see that she has matured. It makes complete sense. And what would M’Baku be [Winston Duke] resemble? He is mature. He’s much more of an oldie in this one. What would it look like? How would it evolve? Watching the characters, evolving them, and bringing them with them created the story of the hair.
While designing the hair for Namor and the Talokans, Friend explained how she worked closely with a Mayan professor who was an advisor for the film.
“Asking her questions, doing our research and seeing where we could go with the characters was important. Diving deep into their culture and understanding was great. Even during production, working with Hannah Beachler, the production designer, while she was designing the world of Talokan, gave me so much inspiration. What we decided to do has a hairstyle similar to the culture of the time. Some people use their hair, but many use hairpieces and ponytails. I was proud that we made our own jewelry because you can’t call any place and say, “Oh, I want ancient Mayan jewelry. It’s not there. As a team, we made all of our jewelry to be pieces that fit in the hair, it’s all handmade.”
By designing the hair for Julia Louis Dreyfus‘ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine and Martin Freemanit is Everett Ross, it was important for Friend to ask the actor what she directly liked and disliked about his previous appearances in the MCU with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow:
“I called her and talked to her because she had been in previous MCU titles. Talking to her, I wanted to know what she liked about her hairstyle and what I could do better. We designed a similar wig that was slightly different for her, and she loved it. For Everett Ross, I love everything about him. This guy is one of my favorites, and I love Martin Freeman. On the set, we make jokes. I wanted to keep his hair very similar to how it was, but also clean it up and give it a bit of a new look to it.
Friend also talked about Riri Williams’ design (Dominique Thorne) hair, stating that “Ryan wanted the hair to make her look like a college student. Being in college, you don’t have a lot of money. You don’t have much time. What do you do? Usually in college, especially as a black woman, you do your hair, or your friend braids or curls your hair.
That’s how we ended up having braids. It was simple and suited him perfectly. Plus, it gave us an idea of when she’d be wearing her helmet; always to make sure the hair also worked when she was wearing her helmet. And everything happened like that. »
Friend’s next project is the Disney remake The little Mermaidfeaturing Halle Bailey. Although she couldn’t say much about the film, she described the overall process as “exciting” and praised Rob Marshall’s overall vision, stating that the project “has been a great journey”. It’s a little different, but it was so much fun. I was thrilled to do it and can’t wait for everyone to see it.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is out now in cinemas worldwide
[Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity]