*Warning: the following interview contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever*
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is garnering significant awards buzz, and justifiably so, as it is one of the best blockbusters of the year. Part of the reason the movie works well is how much emotion was brought by the acting and filmmaking on display and by everyone who contributed to the project. For the head of hair design, Camille Friend, the experience of making the film was emotional. Still, she never knew how emotional the final product was going to be until after seeing the movie:
“Even after making the movie, you don’t really know how it will turn out. You know how it went, but you still don’t know how they will put it together. And when I saw the film at the premiere, through fresh eyes, I was bawling my eyes out.”
Friend’s approach to the sequel is “all about the design. When we did the first movie, we said black hair is beautiful, and natural hair is gorgeous. We wanted to continue with that thread for the sequel. But we’re also taking on a whole new culture, with Namor [Tenoch Huerta Mejía] and the Talokans, and doing it in the same care and cultural appropriation we did in the first Black Panther. And from the reactions we saw on social media, people are happy with it.”
On collaborating with director Ryan Coogler, Friend called him “a hair director. We talked about every character, from what they were in the first Black Panther to what they would be in the next, 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 involved in the hairstyles, and I’m always sending him photos, and then he sends me photos. He is very much a close partner in designing the hair.”
Coogler was also “adamant about the backstory for Ramonda [Angela Bassett] and Shuri [Letitia Wright]. They were coming out of their mourning after King T’Challa’s [Chadwick Boseman] funeral. In West African tradition, people will cut their hair off when they are in mourning. The hair story was coming out of that. What would their hair look like in the aftermath of 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 one, her beautiful locks, and continue into a different style but still keep that thread. The same thing happened with Shuri. In the first film, she had braids. She was a fashionista. But in this movie, you see that she has matured. She’s coming into her own. And what would M’Baku [Winston Duke] look like? He is mature. He is much more of an elder in this one. What would he look like? How would he evolve? Looking at the characters, evolving them, and bringing them along created the hair story.”
On designing the hair for Namor and the Talokans, Friend talked about how she worked closely with a Mayan professor who was an advisor for the film.
“Asking him questions, doing our research, and seeing where we could go with the characters was important. Doing a deep dive into their culture and understanding that was great. Even during production, working with Hannah Beachler, the production designer, as she was designing the world of Talokan, gave me so much inspiration. What we decided to do has a similar hair styling to the culture of the time. Some people use their hair, but many use hair pieces and ponytails. I was proud that we made our own jewelry because you can’t call up any place and say, “Oh, I want some ancient Mayan jewelry.” It’s not there. As a team, we made all our jewelry to make pieces that went into the hair. Everything is handcrafted.”
In designing the hair for Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine and Martin Freeman‘s Everett Ross, it was important for Friend to ask the actor what she liked directly and didn’t like about her previous appearances in the MCU with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow:
“I called and talked to her because she had been in previous MCU titles. By talking to her, I wanted to know shat 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 set, we get to play jokes with each other. I wanted to keep his hair very similar to what he was but also clean it up and give it a little bit of a new edge to his look.”
Friend also talked about the design of Riri Williams’ (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 a lot of time. What do you do? Usually, in college, especially as a Black woman, you do your hair, or your friend is braiding or curling your hair.
That’s how we ended up having braids. It was simple and looked perfect on her. Plus, it gave us foresight as to when she would wear her helmet; you always have to ensure that the hair also worked when she had her helmet on. And it all worked out that way.”
Friend’s next project is Disney’s remake of The Little Mermaid, starring Halle Bailey. While she couldn’t say much about the movie, 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’s been so much fun. I was pleased to do it, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now playing in theatres everywhere
[Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity]