‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ is a cavalcade and celebration of black hair – The Hollywood Reporter

This is a fact of which Robin Thede is particularly proud: in three seasons of A dark lady sketch show, the series has never used the same hairstyle for different characters. “Our hair team doesn’t repeat a look, across hundreds of characters each season,” the creator and star of the HBO comedy series said. THR.

For the six episodes and 36 sketches of season three, that meant 148 distinct hairstyles for the four main cast and guest stars and over 300 for the background players. The hair department used 92 wigs for the main cast and 115 for the background, plus 30 synthetic braid hair bundles, 20 human hair bundles and 12 ponytails.

“My trailer was a disaster the whole time,” laughs department head Shavonne Brown, who joined the show this season. “I had these big, massive trunks filled with wigs – two just for background – and we would label them ‘synthetic’, ‘human’ and for the different actors. Robin was like, ‘Do you need all this?’ But [after the season], she said: ‘Now I understand.’ I was always ready no matter what.

Brown says the main challenge her team of six — all black women — faced was the amount of looks required, which also all had to come up to scratch. ABLSS‘ high-end production standards. For the biblical theme “The Res-herrection”, the team had to make more than 20 creepy wigs and a dozen afro wigs for all the background players. “Strictly Frizzness,” Brown’s favorite skit to work on, involved fewer characters but still needed multiple stunt double wigs.

“It was fun and creative to do,” Brown says of the skit, a video game parody in which the opponents were personified hairstyles. “[The character] The Box Braids wig was so heavy that I had to keep adjusting it for the double as it had to hop. We also had to make sure the wigs stayed very tight while still being comfortable.

Unlike other stylists, Brown does not use glue to protect the actors’ hair, instead sewing in extra straps to secure the wigs. “Because I’m an African-American woman, I get it,” she explains. “I make sure their edges are protected, and we would oil and massage their scalps daily.” The team also took great care in fitting their custom wigs and adding padding and cushions where needed.

Another look Brown is particularly proud to deliver is the style Ashley Nicole Black wears in “Ashy Sunday,” in which she plays a woman who’s flipped from head to ankle (the devil tempts her with moisturizer for her feet leper). ). “Ashley wanted something natural but not like [her usual look]says Brown, who offered to make her a custom wig with butterfly braids. “It took me about nine hours, and it looked amazing on screen, so I was very proud of it.”

In recent years, the industry has gradually begun to listen to black actresses share stories about having to do their own hair, lest they face unflattering or even damaging work from inexperienced stylists. with textured hair. “We have had [guest stars] bring bags of wigs or do your own hair before arriving. A lot of people would walk into the trailer and say, “Oh my God, it’s all black,” Brown says of his castmates, four of whom were able to join the union after working on the show this season. (the other was already a member). “They were happy to see us and they thanked us at the end of the day because I also made sure that no matter how they came in, we would put [their own hairstyles] back and make sure they were good when they left.

Thede explains, “Black hair is an art in itself, just in the world, not to mention this show. I feel like people just take [ABLSS‘ hair department] for granted because black women are always changing their hairstyles, but you have to give these artists credit.

This story first appeared in a standalone June issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, Click here to subscribe.

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