A few weeks ago, I was invited by Disney to attend the premiere of BLACK PANTHER. While attending the press trip, we had an opportunity to sit down with Costume Designer, Ruth E. Carter and Production Designer, Hannah Beachler at the press junket.
Ruth is a veteran costume designer who in concert with Academy Award®-nominated special effects makeup designer Joel Harlow and hair department head Camille Friend captured the heart and soul of Wakanda’s people.
She worked closely with the production design team to develop a complementary color palette chock full of vibrant African color, patterns and ultimately capture the African tradition and weave it throughout their visual landscape and story-telling.
From the Sundance Film Festival prize-winning “Fruitvale Station,” to the gritty box office hit “Creed,” the pair have crafted a shorthand that often has Hannah anticipating what Coogler will gravitate to.
“Black Panther” may be production designer Hannah’s first foray into the comic realm but the talented designer embraced the unique opportunity to conceptualize and articulate the multifaceted vibranium–infused landscape that married the traditional African aesthetic with a highly evolved modernity.
They entered the room, sat down, and the interview began. We talked about everything from Ryan Coogler’s suit and Tom Ford tie for his wedding to the creative process of the design. One of my most favorite parts of this conversation was the respect they held for each other’s work.
It was inspiring to hear them talk about their feelings and excitement when they found out that they were working together on BLACK PANTHER.
“When I left I had such a warm feeling. You know when you’re in the right place and in the right space. That’s what I felt like when I left. And I knew that Marvel takes a while to make their decisions. So, I made sure I said to Ryan, let me know. They made the decision and there I came.” – Ruth
“Yep, it was pretty awesome. So, that was an honor for me because I know Ruth’s work. And so that just made everything. You know what I mean? It was like, okay, we’re all in good hands.” – Hannah
We were there to interview them, but they were in a world all by themselves and their synergy was a lot like the others we had interviewed – harmonious. The only difference was they were not discussing their roles as cast but how they were able to bring Wakanda and its people to life.
They were so energetic discussing the research trips to Africa. How they pulled from Cape Town for architecture and how they were able to mix ancient indigenous tribal culture with modern. It was very informative and intense – late night call, very little sleep, and overcoming unforeseen obstacles.
Ruth told the story about 200 blankets that needed to be more pliable. She and her team worked through Christmas to get the blankets right. A team member told Ruth that she would shave the blankets down one by one. Ruth said,
“So, she took a blanket and she shaved it. It took her about two hours to shave one side. And we said, no, we can’t take two hours on 200 blankets. Someone else came to the table and they said if you — what if we burn them. So, we burned them. They lit a match outside and it burnt the cotton fibers and the part of the fiber that was synthetic stayed. And that’s how they were pliable.”
Then Hannah said something that spoke volumes, she said, “And that’s the level for which when you get to this level that you work. ‘Cause I know I — she called me a couple times. It was like one o’clock of the morning.”
As moms we have to apply this concept to our everyday thinking. There may be times that we have to reinvent ourselves, and the way we teach our children. When things don’t go as planned, we must come up with creative solutions. The world is evolving and so must we.
When I think about the impact of BLACK PANTHER and its success, it takes me back to Hannah’s statement. I’ve had an amazing opportunity interviewing many of the cast members for BLACK PANTHER and time after time they spoke of their commitment to bring their best self into their character. Even Winston Duke, although this was his first movie you certainly could not tell.
To achieve a greater level of success, we must perform on a higher level. This was a reminder that I too must always rise to the occasion. If I want to make a greater impact, I must invest a greater level of work.
There are so many amazing Marvel movies and BLACK PANTHER is certainly one of them. It is my favorite Marvel movie to date, with Thor: Ragnarok trailing slightly behind.
Have you seen BLACK PANTHER? If so, what do you think about the set and costume design by Hannah and Ruth? Please share, I would love to hear from you. If you have not, it’s in theatres NOW!
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