“Black” of All Trades: Stacey K. Black on Songwriting, Styling, and Storytelling

November 8, 2013

Stacey K. Black is a creative force. A multimedia maven. Possibly a legitimate superhero. Her talents range from directing to hairstyling to singing and songwriting to filmmaking, and she’s most excited when she gets to leverage several of these gifts in a single project. At the moment, she’s doing just that as she completes production on a documentary she shot about songwriters in Nashville, set to debut in January. But fans don’t have to wait that long to see her work: Stacey takes over the director’s chair once again for a winter episode of Major Crimes, and of course, she’ll continue to dispatch her velcro rollers on the head of series star Mary McDonnell.

Stacey took a short break from shoots, sets, screens, and stages to answer a few questions about her creative pursuits, her work-life balance, and, oh yeah, working on that famous mane.

For many, Stands With a Fist’s hair was one of the most memorable parts of Dances With Wolves, and Mary has said that her hair has always “entered the room” before she does. Is there any extra pressure in working with someone whose mane is so iconic?

OHH yeah. And it really does enter the room first. I remember the first time she came into the Hair and Makeup trailer for her guest starring role on The Closer, I nearly fainted. Mainly because it was MARY MCDONNELL y’all! Hello!? And also because, well… that HAIR! I have a general rule and it works with everyone. “Respect the hair, and it will do what you want.” I am not kidding. Don’t try to force hair to do something it doesn’t want to do, or it will not be happy.

“Respect the hair, and it will do what you want.”

Sharon Raydor’s hairstyles have evolved from her early scenes on The Closer through the new season of Major Crimes. How have you used Raydor’s changing hairstyles to help in the development of the character?

My second-in-command, Mary Stultz, had the honor of taming Mary’s mane, up until this year. I was heavily involved with Kyra Sedgwick’s “Brenda Leigh Johnson ‘do,” so I assigned Mary M. to Mary S., to even up the workload. When Major Crimes started last year, I decided since it was working so well, I would leave those ladies together. Then this season, I started doing Mary’s hair. And I LOVE doing her hair. She’s so much fun and she makes me laugh every day. I don’t know how much her hair has really changed over the years, apart from being straighter, or wavier, or sometimes a little bit pinned up, but mostly Sharon Raydor wears her hair down and proud. It’s a part of her character.

How do you prepare for each episode?

Every character (mostly off-camera) wakes up in the morning and gets ready for their day. I use their personalities and behavior to determine how the character would do their hair on any given day. So after reading the script a few times, I let the characters’ storylines throughout the episode decide how their hair will look. It’s more like storytelling that way.

What kind of input does Mary give regarding Raydor’s hair?

She is a dream. She mostly lets me do my thing, and luckily, we are always on the same page.

We know that during the final season of Battlestar Galactica, Mary spent several hours a day in hair and makeup to have her bald cap applied. I hope the prep time for Major Crimes is much shorter! What’s a typical morning routine for Mary in hair/makeup?

When I blow-dry Mary, it takes longer than I am used to, because she has such a massive amount of hair to deal with. But it’s so well-behaved, I can usually get her done in 45 minutes, which for me, is kind of a long time. But generally, it’s a blow-dry, a couple velcro rollers, and that’s about it!

Can you give us a rundown of the products you’ve been using on Mary this season? Is there anything in particular that she requests you use?

I am not a fan of using a lot of unnecessary products. I feel they tend to weigh down the hair. For her initial blow-dry I like to use Alfaparf Keratin Therapy 3 along with a teeny tiny amount of a product called Blow Pro. Then for maintenance and flyaways, I use a small amount of DermOrganic sculpting spray, on my fingers, and then brushed onto the areas that need it. That’s about it. I never use hairspray, nor do I ever spray anything directly onto her hair. Oh! I also love when she uses DermOrganic shampoo and conditioner. It’s wonderful.

You’ve made the unusual jump from hairstylist to director. Did your years of experience working on sets in a hairstylist role give you any insight that helped with directing your episodes of The Closer and Major Crimes?

I feel like my entire career has been me getting paid to attend film school, because I stalk the directors I work with, every single day. So when Michael Robin, Greer Shephard, James Duff, Rick Wallace, and Kyra Sedgwick first gave me the news that I was getting a shot, back on season 6 of The Closer, I thought I had already learned SOOOO much, that it would be easy…. HA! I can’t explain how difficult directing is. It is SO hard that every day I feel like I am about to pass out from the stress. But at the end of each day, the sense of accomplishment greatly diminishes that earlier stress, and I can’t wait to do it again! But to answer your question, yes, my years on the set helped greatly, but man oh man, do I still have a lot to learn!

You have an impressive creative resume, including film work as a writer, director, producer, and composer, and songwriting and performance both solo and with your band, Nobody’s Station. Are any of those passions stronger than the others? Or are you someone who needs a range of outlets to be fulfilled creatively?

I need a vast range of outlets to be sure, but music is definitely my number one passion. I started studying music when I was seven, and there is nothing that soothes me, moves me, and warms me like creating a piece of music. Or listening to someone else’s creation. It’s what I live for. I also love filmmaking, which is another way to tell stories, and I am so grateful that I have found a few different ways to make a living under that umbrella of filmmaking, and that music has become a small part of it.

Balancing work and creative pursuits is a challenge that many of us struggle with. How do you maintain a high level of performance at your job while preserving time and energy for your own projects? (Do you ever sleep?!)

I don’t know exactly how to answer this one. Um…I think because I am in such a creative field, that I never feel as though I am wasting time and energy “at work.” I love working in the film industry, and I love being a part of this amazing, supportive company, the Shephard/Robin Company. Having said that, we are about to go on a four-month hiatus between seasons 2 and 3 of Major Crimes, and I am very excited to get as much done with my personal projects as possible! And I do sleep, but sometimes not a whole lot. Ha!

You have a feature-length documentary in production right now. Can you tell us about that?

Send My Mail To Nashville is the perfect blend of my passions: music and movies. I first visited Nashville, Tennessee, in 2009, and I spent two months playing at open mic nights five nights a week, listening to original music, taking more music lessons, and I met the coolest group of struggling songwriters who all quickly welcomed me into their lives. I talked about them so much during the next two years back in California that my boss, mentor, and friend, Michael M. Robin, finally suggested I buy a couple of cameras and go make a documentary about them. So I did. My movie centers on about 20 songwriters who all moved to Nashville to pursue their personal musical dreams, and I gotta say, it’s pretty fantastic! I shot five months last year, and have been editing all this year on the weekends and after work and before work and whenever I can carve out some time. It’s almost complete and I plan on screening it for the cast and crew in January, in Nashville. I cannot wait! Then, it’s festival submissions and crossed fingers!

“…the perfect blend of my passions: music and movies.”

You’ve become a real favorite for The Closer/Major Crimes fans through your Livin’ the Dream blog and your Twitter account. What effect, if any, does the fan interaction have on your work? On your life?

Wow, thanks! I love how loyal the fans of The Closer and Major Crimes are! I’m so proud to be affiliated with these shows, and just humbled that I am allowed to write (and sometimes shoot) the blog. The only effect the fan interaction has on me is a positive and grateful one. Thanks for watching the shows, and thanks for reading my blog! And thank you, MostlyMary, for letting me participate in your interview!

Find Stacey on the web at staceykblack.comfacebook.com/staceykblack, or @staceykblack. On iTunes, check out her solo album, Guarding the Castle (Again), and the debut album from Nobody’s Station, A Borrowed Road.

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