Louisa V. Anthony interview: ‘Genius: Aretha’ hair department head
Emmy winner Louisa V. Anthony first heard the “wonderful, soulful” sound of Aretha Franklin when she was growing up as the youngest of seven children. “My older brothers and sisters and parents listened to her music,” she recalls. “I think that was my first introduction to Aretha.” Decades later she became the head of the hair department on National Geographic’s bioseries, “Genius: Aretha.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
“I think [Aretha’s] genius was being able to put together the different genres of music like gospel, soul, R&B, and come up with a sound that was all her own,” Anthony describes when linking the Queen of Soul to the NatGeo series starring Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo.
Anthony leaned on over 20 years of film and television experience to come up with “hundreds” of hairstyles for the large ensemble cast in the series that spans half a century. “I was never tired of working for the Queen, honestly,” she quips. “I wanted to be able to represent in the best way I could. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the different periods at all. Actually I was quite excited about recreating them.”
“I had an amazing team of people,” Anthony explains while describing how she was able to style so many actors. “Coree Moreno worked with Cynthia directly as her personal. We went over looks, references, historic events and things of that nature. We then discussed the type of styles we wanted to have and he’d go off with Cynthia and they’d come up with something fabulous.”
Although the character of Aretha was the focal point of the series, there were many more looks that had to be created. “Hundreds of actors!” Anthony exclaims. “It was quite challenging actually. We’d start some mornings at 4:42 a.m. so that’s a 2:30 wakeup to travel to the studio. Especially during the pandemic. Everything had to be put in private boxes and bins and kept extra sanitary. It was quite an arduous task to prepare for so many people. But given the right amount of manpower and time, we could build a nation.”
Anthony won an Emmy in 2004 for her work on the HBO series “Carnivàle.” She describes that moment as a “beautiful thing” and isn’t afraid to admit “an award is quite satisfying.” The accomplished hairstylist goes on to describe the different techniques in creating styles for historic figures versus the more “fanciful” looks from some of the films she has worked on including “Black Panther,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Avengers: Endgame.”