Jesus Christ Superstar Live received 13 Emmy nominations this year, including a nod to seasoned makeup artist Joe Dulude II for Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special. Dulude talks to Awards Daily about the concept for the show.
NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert received13 Emmy nominations this year. Makeup artist Joe Dulude II received a nomination for Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special. Joe is most well-known for designing the original makeup for Wicked.
Joe and I caught up recently to talk about how he went from LA to NY and how a two-week job for Into The Woods turned full-time opening the door for him to work on Broadway’s Grease!, Into the Woods, Allegiance, Anastasia, and the recent Spongebob Squarepants The Musical.
With Jesus Christ Superstar Live Dulude wanted to create that feeling of the Middle Eastern area and give a dewy, fresh and slightly dirty look on all of the ensemble. Read our chat below on how Dulude created the concept for the show.
For Jesus Christ Superstar, Joe was given the freedom to use the inspiration from all the design elements (costumes, sets, etc) and to create a dewy, fresh and slightly dirty look on all of the ensemble. The tattoos he designed were based upon sacred geometry and religious iconography representing the Holy Trinity, crosses, churches and stained glass windows.
I’ve been following your career since the days of Wicked, but tell us how you got into this?
I have been doing makeup for 20 years. I started working for MAC Cosmetics and my focus was a lot of editorial and fashion. I quit working for MAC and decided I was going to move to LA to do more film and television. I wanted to go to school to learn about prosthetics because it was something that always fascinated me. I happened to be back in New York working for the Style Network for Fashion Week and I got a call from Kate Best who is Vanessa Williams makeup artist and she was working with Vanessa on Into The Woods on Broadway. She needed someone to come in for two shows and I said yes. The two shows turned into eight shows. I went back to LA and she calls me the following week and asks if I could come back for a week because she needed to take another week off. She flew me back, I worked a week, and I went back to LA. Then she said, “Will you come and take over for me on the show because I can’t do this anymore.” She is a freelancer who loves to do different projects, so for her to sit in a theater eight shows a week, that wasn’t for her. So, I said, “yes” knowing that I’d have to move back cross country again. I knew it would get my union status which is something that I had been striving for. I was doing jobs and trying to get jobs out there, so I knew if I did this show I would get my status on the East Coast and it would also get me into theater which I had always loved.
I went in finished the run of that show. Susan Hilferty who is the costume designer of Wicked was the costume designer of that. I said, “I would love to work on the show.” I ended up getting a call to come in and design it. I meant doing the makeup. She called me in to interview to design it and they liked what I had because I was an editorial makeup artist. They wanted someone with an editorial background.
What a story.
I always thank Kate because, without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
So, you went from two witches, green and the Wicked Witch to Jesus and Judas. Charles LaPointe was in Wicked too, right?
We work a lot together. Chuck and I met on Wicked, he was the associate wig designer there. We met and became instant friends. He actually is responsible for getting me a lot of my work because he will get hired for shows and they don’t have a makeup designer so he’ll always suggest me.
Last year, as a freelancer, the work goes up and down. I’d gone through a period where you don’t get any work. I was supposed to be teaching at Pace University but because of under-enrollment in my class so I had lost that work. There were no new shows coming up and for months I had no work. I was getting disillusioned and took a part-time job because I needed to have money coming in.
Out of the blue, Chuck text me asking how I was, so I told him that I wasn’t that happy with my part-time job and how I needed to focus my energy on doing makeup. He told me to text Paul Tazewell about getting on the Donna Summer musical. Paul text me back and said, “Let’s talk, I’d love for you to do Donna Summer with us, but there’s another project that I really want you to do.”
I immediately said yes to that. I had made that decision in my life to refocus my energies on my career and my makeup career, but especially my design career and so that was the universe listening to me. It brought this into my life and from that point on it’s been one thing after another. I sometimes think it’s not real. It seems so amazing to me and even after all this time, I still find things like this and being nominated, I can’t even put into words. It’s so dynamic and so incredible. To have that recognition is worth it for all the work I’ve done.
What’s the scope of doing a show like this and how you approach it? The most you have with this is tattoos and no green paint this time.
We had many tattoos.
OK, let’s talk about your process of approaching it?
I’d done film and TV and I understand how they work. The process with this is my regular process. I speak to the costume designer and find out what their concept is and their idea of the world is. I look at the sketches, renderings and reference pictures that they might have and I take off from that. I do my own research, I start to investigate and I start to look at different pictures that can inspire me on the look.
Paul said he wanted it to have that feel of the Middle Eastern area, we were in the desert. I call it, clean Queen post-apocalyptic world that’s not dirty like Mad Max, cleaner but in that area.
You’re in that Mediterranean area so people want to look sun-kissed, dewy and that they’d been in the sun, but you’d also have the black eye kohl look. We’d bring it back on some and intensify it on others just to give them their own specific character.
What was your intro into Jesus Christ Superstar?
The movie from the 70’s. I loved it. I had worked with someone who was a big musical theater fan. We would work together and she’d bring in soundtracks. I had heard the music when it was on cassette tape. She would bring that tape in. I’ve always had an affinity for rock musicals because I’m a huge rock n’ roll fan. For me, I was really drawn to the music, but then I saw the movie and I loved it. I loved the styling and everything about it.
I’d always liked it and have the soundtrack myself. I did see a tour of it in Rhode Island. At the time, it was modern to the time. I think Ted Neeley was in it. He was actually playing Jesus in this production. My niece also loves the soundtrack, every year for Easter, she is always blasting the soundtrack. I hear it every Easter when I go back home.
I bet she was freaking out when she heard you were on it?
She freaked out because I invited her to the dress rehearsal in New York. Her, her sister and my brother came and they loved it. She couldn’t put into words how much they loved it.
OK, let’s talk about putting tattoos on Brandon and how that worked out?
I think that was the most challenging part of the design. Paul told me he wanted people to have tattoos. He specifically wanted a chest tattoo for Brandon. He specifically wanted a head, neck and shoulder tattoo for Eric who plays Simon. Other than that, I had free reign. No tattoos on Sara and John. I started to research Ancient Sumerian symbols and text and tried to figure out things to go from there. I wasn’t getting a clear idea. Paul sent me a modern image of a model and this model had this tattoo that had a line that went all the way down his arm and he had a solid black band that went around his arm and as soon as he showed me that, I knew exactly what I was going to do. I pulled from sacred geometry. Everything is with circles, squares, triangles or lines. I grew up Catholic so I knew the Bible really well. I started pulling things and when I started designing, I started doing things in threes so that it represented the Holy Trinity. Eric’s head, neck and shoulder tattoo is actually one tattoo ten times on him. That tattoo was to symbolize an abstract version of a church.
Brandon’s middle piece was designed after the sacred heart of Jesus. I thought that would be a cool juxtaposition for him to have Jesus’ heart on him. I took ancient text and redid it so it looked like flames. It was important that his tattoos were not overwhelming. We didn’t want people to be staring at his tattoos the whole time and that’s why everything was done with fine lines on him so it wouldn’t be distracting. You’d see it, but it wouldn’t overpower the performance.
Is there a difference between doing a live performance v doing a Broadway show?
There’s a little difference because with live TV you have a very limited amount of time and then you’re performing. It’s not like you have previews and there is time to fix things and you have two weeks to fix them. Everything is done super quick and then you have the performance and you have to make sure you get everything right. If something is wrong, you find the solution as quickly as you can. It’s how I work in theater, but at least in theater, you have your whole tech process, then you have the previews to work on things. It’s not as quick as this was.