Morris Roots Locs His Magic In New Marley Movie

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By Essiba Small

Ever noticed when word gets out that a biopic is in production, the first thing that comes to mind is the likeness of the actor to the person he or she is portraying? It happened with Ray, played by Jamie Foxx, Malcolm X, played by Denzel Washington and Gandhi, played by Ben Kingsley.

Often overlooked, but equally important to ensuring that characters are more believeable, is the transformation of an actor’s hair. And for Bob Marley: One Love Movie (which sat at number one in US at the time of writing this article), the scouts knew just who to call-Laventille-born, UK resident Morris Aberdeen, known widely and professionally as Morris Roots.

A former barber, who had a thriving business selling clothes he bought in Margarita and Curaçao at the drag mall (aka People’s Mall) in Port of Spain, Morris fell in love with locs in the 80s,when the UK singing group Jazzie B and Soul to Soul ruled the local radio airways and made dread-wearing cool.

Morris told Kitcharee he was headhunted on seven different occasions, through different people,to transform coifs in the movie.

‘My friend who is into movies, a fellow Trinidadian, he told me about the movie first.

‘At the time I had just finished doing the hair of Lenny Henry for The Witcher. A lady by the name of Nora Robertson-who is huge in the movie business as a head of design called me and said she had a friend who was doing the Bob Marley: One Love Movie. I had about three different calls after that. Then I got an e-mail about it, and then I got another call about it.

‘After that, I went in for my first meeting in September 2022, and that’s when prep started.’

Department head hairstylist/designer Carla Farmer, who is credited for movies like King Richard and Coming to America- among others, served as Head of Hair on the One Love movie project and became fast friends with Morris.

‘She’s well known in Hollywood and is a good friend of mine, now that we’ve shared this experience together.’

The first wig Morris created was for Lashana Lynch’s Rita Marley character.

I remember doing her first camera test in London and the creation of her wig was a work in progress, until we got it right. ‘Colour, sizing, measurements, movement, everything – even all of her head wraps, which I did.’ Morris’s headwrap experience emerged from his childhood,coming from a family of ‘very spiritually-based women’-his mum, auntie and grandmothers-who always had their hair wrapped.

‘Then Carla said to me, ‘You’re going to Jamaica, because we need you there.’ And the rest was history. ‘

Morris worked on the coifs of several actors on set including Sevana (who plays Judy Mowatt) to Sheldon Shepherd (who plays Neville Garrick) to Kingsley Ben-Adir (who plays Bob Marley).

But it was his transformation of Hector Roots Lewis’s hair-from shoulder length dreadlocks to an afro that was special to Morris.

Morris well known by celebrity clients

Lewis plays Carly Barrett in the movie. ‘He came in to have his camera test done and they wanted to cut his hair, initially. But the minute we connected; it was all good vibes. ‘When we did the assessment, I told the team ‘You don’t need to cut his hair. I can give him a ‘bump-down’ and I explained to them what that meant and how we would bring the length down to 3-4 inches to give it an Afro look.’The technique involved was much like twisting or corkscrewing the locs downward to the desired length.

‘When it was done, people went crazy when they saw it,’ Morris beamed.

‘His hairstyle was the first ‘miracle’on set that really showed people the power of hair.

‘I want to give Carla praise because she’s been so instrumental in making sure that the hair was authentic. She looks after everyonethe actors and the staff-and she has got to get her flowers.’

Morris is no stranger to celebrity clients, local and international, including Stevie Wonderwho remains his friend, Machel Montano, Russell Latapy and Bunji Garlin (when Latapy and Garlin wore locs).

US rapper Quavo, frontman of Migos and filmmaker Ava Du Vernay have also had their locs done at his salon.

‘It’s a shared responsibility and honour that I have with my colleagues at the salon. We look at everyone as part of the community, not just the celebrities, and we’re happy to welcome anyone to the space.’

Morris, who returns to T& T often and even played mas here a few weeks ago, reminisced about his entry into the hair industry.

‘I started my own locs journey in Trinidad. In the People’s Mall, the guys who worked there were some of the first who had dreadlocks in unique hairstyles,’ he said.

By the time Morris got to London, he already knew how to create dreadlocks-starting with his own hair; but he continued to work as a barber at the salon of a friend, who was also from Trinidad.

‘I wanted to transport beautiful locs the way that we did it in Trinidad-to bring that versatility, pride and joy. I hung out a lot with people in the British spoken word community and met many people who had that hair interest. So, while I was barbering, it was easy to convert people into twisting their hair.’

He opened his own locs salon in 2000 at Tooting High Street, London, which has grown to four, including the Morris Roots Academy School of locs; and a line of hair products.

Morris could laugh about it now, all the way to the bank too, but in the beginning his parents were not fans of his career in dreadlocks, even though they supported his career as a barber. Having seen his work in One Love, they are still trying to wrap their minds around how far his loc business has taken him.

‘Nobody believed that I could make locs popular

in London-even the guys in the barbershop at the time laughed at me, saying that they would remain barbers and wait for everyone to cut their locs.

‘I laughed back because I told them because of religious and cultural influences that locs are here to stay.’

To Morris, creating dreadlocks is more than just ‘doing hair’; he also has a genuine interest in its history.

‘I visited countries such as Kenya, researched the Maasai Tribe, visited villages in West Africa to better understand the history of locs. It was very personal to me and I developed different techniques along the way. Most of the styles that you see developed around locs, I was responsible for that and I can take claim to a lot of it.

‘There are people who are doing it brilliantly now, much better than I probably could, but the source of it, prior to the 2000’s-outside of people in New York like Nikita Evans and Derek Scurry-the genesis was Morris Roots in London.’

Just as Bob Marley’s legacy continues to inspire generations, Morris said he wants One Love, and the work done by everyone from the front to behind the camera, to continue to inspire T& T citizens and those around the world.

‘Great people and things come from Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.’

What’s next for this talented coiffeur? ‘I think for me, being a part of this hair team for the Bob Marley film is almost like my ‘retirement’: you know when you’ve done everything that you can do? The Bob Marley movie is the final straw that makes Morris Roots complete. ‘There is nothing that will top this for me in terms of my professional career. Bob is the biggest artiste in locs, in reggae music, and the influence of locs as a culture… there can never be nothing bigger. This is my pinnacle.’

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