‘The Harder They Fall’ hair department head Araxi Lindsey on helping Regina King break bad [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Emmy Award-winning hair department head Araxi Lindsey originally met Regina King on the set of “Southland,” the first television show Lindsey joined after working with Will Smith and Jada-Pinkett Smith. But despite later becoming King’s personal stylist and frequent attempts to connect in a professional capacity on another project, Lindsey was always too busy with her responsibilities on “Black-ish,” the hit ABC comedy that won her recognition from the Television Academy, to collaborate with King again.  So when Lindsey got a call saying famed producer James Lassiter (numerous Will Smith films including “Ali” and the forthcoming “King Richard”) was producing the Netflix film “The Harder They Fall” starring King as a villainous outlaw, she jumped at the chance.

“We’ve never seen Miss King in this role,” Lindsey tells Gold Derby about King’s character, “Treacherous” Trudy Smith, who serves as the right-hand of Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), the film’s main antagonist. “That was one of the main things I wanted for her. The bigger question was how do you showcase a lovely woman who has been around since she’s a child and give her a whole different persona on top of what she’s naturally going to do as an actress?”

Released November 3 on Netflix, “The Harder They Fall” is a revisionist Western that puts the Black experience at the forefront. As director Jeymes Samuel literally displays onscreen at the beginning of the film “these people existed,” not that previous Westerns paid much mind to non-white characters. “I wanted to make sure I paid homage to cultures: Native American culture, African culture, European culture, Latin culture. I wanted to make sure that we exercise and showcase that,” Lindsey says about her role in bringing the film’s ultimate vision to life. “I believe that’s the good amount of ethnicities that ran through the Western time period.”

King’s character, “Treacherous” Trudy, is a saloon owner in an all-Black town, who has served as the settlement’s de facto leader while Rufus Buck has been in prison. She’s one of the main villains in the project but given a tragic backstory that provides a layer of nuance not necessarily expected from the typical bandit. To create her hair, Lindsey asked herself a number of questions. “Does she have time to go to the beauty parlor? Would she take time to roller set her hair at night? Does she give herself 100 brush strokes like they did back in the day? No, she wouldn’t,” she says. “I wanted to show over time that, yeah she’d brush her hair but she’s put it in a way so she can get on a horse and do what’s needed.”

That’s why Lindsey landed on giving King dreadlocks to play Trudy. “It’s something most people only attach to the Caribbean Islands like Jamaica. But they’ve actually worn them all over Africa, Ethiopia. In the present day, I have them,” she says. “I wanted to show those hairstyles that are historically known to cast someone in a certain genre or group that it can be used for a professional or higher class.”

That level of detail and thought went into each hairstyle on “The Harder They Fall,” not that anyone who has followed Lindsey’s work should be surprised. She’s worked in the industry for years, not just winning Emmy recognition for “Black-ish” but helping create Jada Pinkett-Smith’s iconic hairstyle for “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”

“I try to put myself in the place of the characters when I’m reading the script, and I try to visualize what I see that would be a pivotal point to tell a story through hair,” she says of her process. “I use my imagination as well as chatting with the writer, director, actors what they see and then I make this huge gumbo of my interpretation while doing the homework of showcasing the hairstyles.”

For Lindsey, the homework on “The Harder They Fall” showed her how the West was a lot more than just white cowboys who dominated the Western genre in Hollywood for decades. “In ‘Tombstone,’ you wouldn’t see other ethnicities. You might see a European person dressed as a Native American,” she says after the 1993 classic is broached in reference to “The Harder They Fall.” “You weren’t able to see things in color or that vibrant for that time. But it did in fact exist. For me, I was just really happy to showcase the color that has been missing. Like literally the color, not speaking figuratively.”

Watch the full interview with Lindsey above.

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