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Angela Bassett, ‘Black Panther’ Hair Department Head Camille Friend Talk Underwater Stylings For The Talokanil & Friend’s Path To Becoming A Marvel Go-To – The Process

Angela Bassett and 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' hair department head Camille Friend on The Process

A number of major craft challenges for hair department head Camille Friend, in returning to the world of Black Panther for the sequel Wakanda Forever, surrounded the civilization of the Talokanil — descendants of the Mayans with a kingdom on the ocean floor, who surface to go to war with Wakanda, upon the passing of its beloved king.

Weighing heavily on Friend’s mind, on one hand, was the desire to do “a great job in representing” this Latin American culture for audiences. And then, there was the practical challenge of designing for underwater scenes. “We found out really fast in testing that anything that we put in the hair as far as products, gels, hairsprays, anything, once you got into the tank, it would just make a big cloud in the water. So, that wasn’t good,” Friend tells franchise star Angela Bassett, in today’s edition of The Process. “You know, camera didn’t want to see that. So, we had to figure out, how can we make this hair work underwater? How do we make sure that the hair is staying and looking really well?”

One of the primary tools, in pulling off underwater looks for Talokan’s King Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and his army, was what Friend calls a glue hairspray. “We basically took a glue and watered it down with alcohol and made it like a hairspray. We would spray all the hairpieces so when you went underwater, there would be no product on them that was leaking. And then once you went underwater, it would still stay up in motion,” explains the designer. “So, that’s something that we discovered…something that we hadn’t done before, but we had to do it because of the need. It’s something you had to think about, [that] we had to work out in the moment.”

The Talokanil’s presence in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever emerged from the reconceiving of the sequel, following the tragic 2020 passing of franchise star, Chadwick Boseman, from colon cancer. Friend notes on The Process that the opportunity to work through the challenges of underwater production on this film were, in a sense, fortuitous, given how the experience prepared her for another major studio film showcasing “beautiful Black hair” — that being Rob Marshall’s forthcoming, live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid for Disney.

But of course, even if the Talokanil are a key presence driving the story of Black Panther forward, the primary focus of the sequel is on mourning and doing justice to King T’Challa, as well as the actor who played him. The loss of Boseman made the sequel shoot one of unimaginable emotional difficulty for the entire team. And for Friend, emotions on set were amplified even further, given that her brother was at the time fighting his own cancer battle.

Thankfully, Friend’s brother has since made a full recovery. And while Wakanda Forever was admittedly “daunting” for the designer, given its need to stand up to the original historic film while providing “closure” on Boseman’s loss, the team’s efforts to carry the franchise forward in the most dignified way possible have in the end been justly rewarded. The sequel grossed over $842MM worldwide and has also secured five Academy Award nominations, with Friend landing her first. And then, there’s Bassett, who returns to contention for the first time in nearly three decades, with her role as T’Challa and Shuri’s (Letitia Wright) mother, Queen Ramonda.

In conversation with Bassett on The Process, Friend discusses her road to becoming a Marvel go-to, beginning with 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier; trial and error in the development of “Home Depot” wigs for the Black Panther films; the work she engaged in during pre-production on Wakanda Forever; her collaboration with “fabulous” makeup department head Joel Harlow and Bassett’s personal hairstylist, Randy Stodghill; what it meant to her to land her first Oscar nomination for her work on Wakanda; the mission of her educational company, Hair Scholars; and her aspirations going forward.

Bassett speaks, for her part, to her initial concerns about character Queen Ramonda’s gray hair, as seen in the Marvel comics, and why Friend is “the prime example of what it means to fall up.”

Original Black Panther director Ryan Coogler returned to helm Wakanda Forever, once again from his script written with Joe Robert Cole. Producers on the final film in the MCU’s fourth phase were Kevin Feige and Nate Moore. Pic’s cast also includes Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena, Alex Livinalli, Martin Freeman and more.

Watch the full conversation between Bassett and Friend above.

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