Lawrence Davis is a master of wigs. The Hollywood hairstylist custom-designed the hair pieces for countless acclaimed period films and TV series, including Mudbound, Greenbook, and Mare of Easttown, for which he's currently nominated for an Emmy.
Davis' impressive resume landed him the role of Hair Department Head for the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, out today. In a recent interview, Davis tells Refinery29 about his relationship with star Jennifer Hudson as well as the late Franklin herself, and all of the custom wigs that helped tell the story of her life and musical career.
According to Davis, Franklin pursued this biopic for almost two decades. She considered a handful of actors to take on the main-character role, but in the end, it was Jennifer Hudson that she wanted to tell her story. "The great part about this story is that Ms. Franklin picked Jennifer herself," Lawrence explains. "So that right there was almost like a permission slip for all of us. And it made me want to be on point and authentic and definitely give one-thousand percent to this project."
Still, transforming Hudson into Franklin was no easy feat. Respect spans Franklin's life and career through the '50s, '60s and '70s, so the hairstyling had to complement the costumes and serve as an accurate representation of each era. Through the process of filming, Davis paints the picture of wigs everywhere. "There were about 89 to 95 [wigs] that were prepped on the counters in the trailer, from the front door to the back door," he says.
Davis says that not all wigs are created equal. The wigs that Hudson wears during her musical scenes, performing onstage, took the most work. "The performance wigs, they were more elaborate than wigs for everyday life," Davis explains. "So I had to go to a different place when I thought about how to create them. It took me merging sometimes two or three wigs together just to get one wig and the look that was necessary. I knew that I had to step it up some kind of way and achieve these looks."
Respect premieres in Australia on the 19th of August.