MWS spoke with Wig and Hair Designer David Brown about the intricacies of wig design for theater and film.
David Brown: Comparing Film and Television to Theater
You’ve been in the business for years and have worked in theater, film and television. Are there unique considerations for each medium?
One consideration would be longevity of the wigs. A theatrical wig needs to withstand 8 shows a week for years possibly, so needs to be made sturdier all over. Film and TV needs a much more delicate lace, which disintegrates quickly, and the knotting requires much more detail since it is being viewed very closely and on High Def. As far as design work goes, they both require the same amount of time, energy and detail.
When you’re creating hair and wigs for a big Broadway show, how do you navigate creating a look that will work on the actors and understudies alike? Do changes happen when a new cast member joins the team?
Unless the actor is playing a well known person where the hair has to be specific, historically, I usually design the understudies differently then an original cast member, so it will suit their face shape and coloring. Sometimes minor differences can be made and sometimes a whole new direction will happen.
How much do the actors contribute to the vision of the hair?
I always like to hear what an actor has to say about their character and ask if they had any images in their mind. After all, they’re the ones embodying the character. I take it into consideration. Mostly I collaborate with the costume designer and director earlier on, so when I meet with the actor I can put all the pieces together.
David Brown: Collaboration
Can you talk about the process of developing hair alongside the vision of the Costume Designer? How much collaboration is involved?
I think the Costume Designer has the strongest visual image of the character. I work very closely with them deciding what the appropriate look would be. If there is a differing of opinion it’s usually harmoniously worked out, we all want the right look for the actor.
What are the most indispensable talents and tools a hair and wig designer needs?
Diplomacy and being able to continue to learn from others. Along with a good eye for shape, style and color
David Brown: Lessons Learned
Can you share any stories about early lessons you learned, or unique challenges you faced on a project?
I think something I learned early on is really just a life lesson: when something goes wrong, don’t offer up an excuse, but offer up a solution. Every gig has it’s challenges, whether it be personalities, weather, hours, detail of work, etc. I love the work I do, so I like to face those challenges, not always easy, but when it’s over, it’s over and I have my integrity.
David Brown: MWS
How did you first hear about MWS and how has your relationship evolved over the years?
I’ve known Tommy Boyer for many, many years so was thrilled when he started MWS and even happier when he added a larger department for Hair Supplies. It was crazy that for so many years there wasn’t a reliable source for supplies in NYC and that most things had to be ordered out of LA. Tommy being open to stocking materials that we regularly use has also been a great help.
Thanks for illuminating us about wig design, David!