5-minutes with Green Book’s Yolanda Mercadel

With 3 Academy Award wins (including Best Picture), Green Book had quite a road trip last winter. The socially conscious drama, fittingly named after The Negro Motorist Green Book, follows the unlikely friendship between Jamaican-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his Italian-American driver Tony Vallelonga. 

We had a quick Q&A with key hair designer Yolanda Mercadel (Planet of the Apes, 12 Years a Slave and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) on recreating civil-rights-era inspired looks for the race relations drama.

Where were you born?

Los Angeles, California. 

What was your childhood dream?

To become a make-up and hairstylist for the movie industry.

Which female has been your biggest source of inspiration?

My Aunt, she is an actress and my idol. During my childhood, several movies were shot at our home. That was when I knew I wanted to do makeup and hair one day.

What TV shows or films inspired you growing up?

TV shows: Bewitched, I love Lucy, I Dream of Jeannie, Brady Bunch andGood Times. As for films: The Wiz, Valley Girlsand Silence of the Lambs

Do you have a mentor?

Yes. My grandmother, Pauline Mercadel. She inspired me to be a hair designer and has always been my go-to person.  

How did you get involved with the utterly charming Green Book

I got a call from Green Book’s Department head, Geordie Sheffer. I worked with her many years ago on Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

Linda Cardellini and Viggo Mortensen in GREEN BOOK. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Green Book marked your first collaboration with Farrelly. What was it like working with him?

It was amazing. He knew what he wanted and went for it. It was a pleasure working with him. 

How did you go about designing the hair for both Tony Lip and Don Shirley? 

The 1960s were heavily influenced by the working classes, music, independent cinema and social movements. Geordie Sheffer and I looked up various hairstyles from the era. We then compared notes, cut out pictures and collaboratively created a board. Finally, we discussed the looks with the actors. It was an absolute pleasure working with both Mortensen and Ali.

What do you enjoy most about being a hair designer

The fact that no two heads are the same, I enjoy being challenged. I enjoy learning and crafting new hair techniques. I enjoy meeting new people. I enjoy collaborating with other make-up artists, designers and special effects mavens and coming up with something really beautiful and creative.

You’ve wrapped up the hotly anticipated The Secret, a feature film adaptation of the best-selling self-help book.Can you give us a teaser of what we’ll expect to see? 

I cannot say much about that film because it’s not in theaters yet. But I will say Katie Holmes was amazing to work with. I feel the film will open many people’s eyes.

You have worked on a wide genre of films.What’s your favorite project so far?

So far it has to be American Horror Story. I enjoyed working with Angela Basset, Kathy Bates and Gabourey Sidibe.

What type of project would you like to work on next?  

I would love to do a suspense drama, I love working on those types of films. Very adventurous!

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to become a hair designer?        

Do not be afraid, practice makes perfect! Play with your family and friend’s hair and go buy yourself a mannequin head.  

by JSK

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