How “The Book of Clarence” Hair and Makeup Head Siân Richards Turned LaKeith Stanfield into Twins
Set during one of the most influential human events ever, The Book of Clarence honors a deeply personal family rift. As the disciples of Christ spread a message of peace and brotherhood, one of their own siblings grapples with skepticism and resentment. LaKeith Stanfield devotedly portrayed both the wayward Clarence and his twin, the apostle Thomas. To aid the actor in developing two characters, hair and makeup head, Siân Richards crafted distinct looks that reflected each man’s journey.
Richards aimed to give each brother a unique silhouette and color palette. “I started to play around with the idea of, ‘let’s change someone’s eyes,’” she recalled. “I thought of Thomas, and [LaKeith] said, ‘Well, why don’t we do it with Clarence?’ So, we sort of discussed that, and I started working on getting some [contact] lenses made. We had a lens tech, and we did the lens fitting. We tried the fairer lenses with Clarence, and it just wasn’t right. I said, ‘You know, I don’t think so. I think Thomas should have the lenses.’”
Inspired by North African traditions, Richards proposed a black liner around Clarence’s eyes. The technique added depth to his already expressive features and distinguished him from his more polished brother. Clarence expresses a sacred reverence for the power of connecting through the eyes, which intensifies the effect of the design.
“We smudged [the eyeliner], and it’s always grimy, and it only gets cleaned up when he gets cleaned up,” Richards pointed out. “We did a little test with it, and he looked amazing. Immediately, there was Clarence staring at us. It was so easy to differentiate those brothers because we’ve got the silhouette of the wigs that gave that immediate so that you could tell from a distance. But then, on any close-up, you’ve got the eyes being so different, the skin tones being so different.”
Makeup guides the evolution of several characters in the film. It also has the power to shape impressions of each person and even reflect modern issues. Social standings, power, and even a person’s value can be inferred through color. Richards was deliberate in the shading and styling of both the wigs and hand-laid beards.
“The sort of curl I got for Thomas was more of a Jheri curl. It was slightly softer. You had four different colors of hair on him. There were all different types of caramels going into softer earth tones,” Richards explained. “And LaKeith sort of gave me this feedback. He said, ‘I kind of want to subtly suggest the difference between the way people of color when they’re a lighter skin tone and a lighter shade, they have a different treatment from people with a deeper melanin and a deeper hair color, and it’s a completely different approach from the general public.’ I loved that because that’s the beauty of makeup and hair. You can so very subtly tell those stories.”
As Clarence’s con turns lucrative, he begins dressing more extravagantly. Director Jeymes Samuel suggested adding stones to his style. He proposed rubies, but Richards was reluctant to infer blood symbolically, often associated with the red gem. With a deep interest in geology, Richards conceived of an even more meaningful design.
“Lapis historically goes back to ancient Egypt. They crushed it for makeup. They wore it as a good luck symbol and a symbol of health. It was identified with wealth and good fortune and prosperity,” Richards explained. “I said to LaKeith, what about if we do loc clips, and then we attach a tiny piece of lapis to each loc clip to give you that combination of colors? You’ve got that beautiful blue of the lapis with the gold of the loc clips.”
Richards’ team even manipulated the precious metal to be a more historically accurate representation of the technology available 2000 years ago. “We sort of knocked back the gold a little because the gold that you get now isn’t the same as the gold that they got then. You really have to play around with the gold, take it down, weather it, age it, and then attach the lapis.”
Clarence’s hair is a telling indicator of his poise and power. He is more polished and elaborate in times of success. Richards noted that “volume and contraction” or “looseness and tightness” can be used to reflect a character’s stability. She manipulated those elements through the beats of Clarence’s journey. “[The loc clips] worked so beautifully because his blinged-out look started to decompose a bit when he’s in jail. All those adornments started to fade or droop with it,” Richards revealed. “So, it was like they were weighing down his journey.”
Richards’ work has carried many powerful characters through dark moments. She has worked on several violent scenes, from Judas and the Black Messiah to Chadwick Boseman’s role in Message from the King. Conjuring up the brutal effects requires a peaceful environment to ease the performer into the challenging material carefully. “I’ve beaten up a lot of people in my career,” Richards laughed. “I tend to meditate on it now because I have to put energy into it. For me, it’s not just painting. It is an energetic process. I have to be in a certain frame of mind.”
In addition to the colorized contact lenses for Thomas, Richards ordered a custom pair to illustrate Clarence’s injuries. The details are graphic, but that commitment to reality honors the character’s painful journey.
“He had a blown-out eye. You see a lot of these lenses, and it’s a bloodshot eye, but I really wanted it to look like the muscle of the iris had been destroyed and broken so that the pupil, which is just basically empty space inside the eye, you could see the distortion,” Richards explained. “You could see that the muscle was actually open. It was quite horrible. People were like, ‘Jesus Christ! How do you think of it?’ And I’m like, well, it’s anatomy.”
In her dedication to accuracy, Richards has also helped to advance the entire field of cosmetics through her brand Siân Richards London. The formulas are focused on improving technology, which cuts down on retouches on set, saving the makeup artists and actors time and matching an array of skin tones that have been long overlooked. “I really wanted to make colors that celebrated people’s culture and saw people. If I’ve done anything right, it’s to see people’s skin colors correctly,” Richards promised.
With a break in filming during the actors’ strike last year, Richards seized the opportunity to meet with her Paris manufacturer and expand her product line. She’ll be introducing a foundation called Star Face, a concealer called Vanish, and a mascara later this year.
“I’m second generation. I started with my father’s makeup kit after he passed away,” Richards said. “So much of the beauty industry is still using 18th and 19th-century concepts, but we’re 21st century right now, so all of the formulas that I’m working with and using are 21st-century formulations that don’t require fixing and don’t require setting and don’t require touch-ups. It makes everybody’s life easier. Also, the pigments are the most important. I think that over the last decade of having Siân Richards London, I’m known for skin. I’ve always been known for doing great skin on camera. I wanted to bring foundations and pigments that celebrated people’s cultures.”
Richards is a beacon of preparation. With her own makeup line and a deep understanding of global anthropology, Richards is unrelenting in her pursuit of perfection. “If you want to cut corners, you shouldn’t get into this game, and you definitely shouldn’t do makeup because everything you do is seen big on a movie screen. There’s no room for skimping or compromise,” she warned.
Even with her extensive labor, Richards still noted that she and others felt a power beyond their control on the set of The Book of Clarence.
“Everything just fell into place. It was really crazy,” she said. “I would watch things happening on set, and I was like, ‘That is God right there doing that because I am not doing that. That is God. He is here. He is helping right now.’ I had taken that to LaKeith, and he was like, ‘I know. There is something going on on this set.’
The Book of Clarence is in theaters now.
Featured image: Marianne Jean-Baptiste and LaKeith Stanfield in THE BOOK OF CLARENCE. © 2023 Legendary Entertainment. All rights reserved. MORIS PUCCIO