I’ll never forget when Marvel’s Black Panther premiered in 2018. The African Student Union at my university organized a huge viewing of the movie at a local theater, complete with a red carpet and an Afrocentric dress code. It was instantly clear that this was a movie for the culture. Now, four years after the debut of Black Panther and two years after the death of actor Chadwick Boseman, the Marvel franchise excitedly yet sorrowfully continues with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The film, which hits theaters on November 11, carries much of the visual aesthetic from the first film, including the beautifully complex hairstyles created by the film’s hair department lead, Camille Friend.
In any good film, hair should act as an aid in revealing things about the characters, plot, and context of the story — and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does an amazing job of doing just that. After reading the script, Friend had long talks with director Ryan Coogler about what the characters would look like and how their appearance would communicate the passage of time between the first film and the sequel. “We wanted to give them a little age,” Friend tells me over Zoom. “How would they look if it were five years later? Especially as Black people, we change; we cut our hair, we grow it; we put weaves in or wear wigs. We’re always evolving through our hairstyles, so we considered evolving everybody to that next level of what Wakanda Forever would be.”
Of course, many fans have been wondering how the film will address Boseman’s absence and what Black Panther will even be without him. The reality of the actor’s passing certainly weighed heavily on the cast and crew, including Friend and the rest of the hair department. “[Coogler] took us all to [Boseman’s] gravesite, and that really helped us as a whole. We got to pray; we got to meditate. Drummers came, and we just got to have that experience with each other,” Friend recounts. “I think it was really important that we had a little bit of closure.” After receiving that closure, Friend felt more hopeful to forge ahead with the hairstyling direction for the film. Despite it being a sequel, Friend approached Wakanda Forever as its own independent project.
Below, Friend reveals the stories behind some of the character’s hairstyles, which pay homage to Boseman and African cultures, reflect characters’ personalities, and meld one actor’s personal hair journey with her character’s.