When you watch Netflix’s magnificent Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, you are immediately struck with how detailed and opulent the crafts are. The sets and costumes have rightfully been given a lot of chatter, but the hair and makeup department needs its due as well. Makeup and hairstyling head Sharon Martin detailed how collaborative the set of David E. Talbert’s film was.
Since we have never seen a film like Jingle Jangle before, Martin and her team had to create all of the extravagant pieces that we see. She told me that when someone asked about what she was working on, she would have to show them specific pieces since she couldn’t pull up examples on Instagram. Her work on this film is so unique and singular.
Martin and I discussed several characters in the film, including the regal Phylicia Rashad and the spunky Madalen Mills. There is a clear and thoughtful line drawn between these two actresses, and Martin told me what working on this film really meant to her.
Awards Daily: This has been such a passion project for David E. Talbert. What conversations did you have with him about what he wanted for this film?
Sharon Martin: We never stopped having conversations. David came to London and I had been approached about it and sent the script. I remember reading it around spring or summer time and I rang my agent and told him that this was bonkers in a good way. Just the whole concept of having fantasy and period and our own world, it’s a wonderful playground. He’s been working on this for about half his life.
AD: Yeah, it boggled my mind when I found out how long it took him to get this made.
SM: It’s been in many different forms. The whole conversation was really around being iconic. That’s something we all agreed upon. When you think of iconic characters, you think of Mary Poppins or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Shrek. We had to get looks that would be iconic like that and we launched from there and had this joyous ride.
AD: I feel like a lot of the looks are already burned in my brain already but there is something very timeless about the film.
AD: In terms of looks, I have to start with Phylicia Rashad. Even though we don’t see much of her, I can see her very specifically in my head. She has such a warm presence.
SM: Journey carries the film all the way through. It’s such a strong, timeless look. We had to make sure that this timelessness continues. By the time we get to that bit of the story, it’s loosely 1950’s. That was what we decided on with Michael [Wilkinson]’s costumes and that’s how we would marry them. During the discussion with David and Lyn [Talbert], we wanted her to have dreadlocks because she’s an adventurer and a nonconformist. That’s how locks have always been seen–as a nonconformist hairstyle. And then we look at Phylicia Rashad and it’s kind of the equivalent of putting dreadlocks on The Queen.
AD: (laughs) True.
SM: We all agreed on that. We haven’t seen that before. Let’s go for it. You look at women like Toni Morrison who have a head of heavy dreadlocks but we also wanted to keep that kind of finesse look where Journey’s hairstyle is so sharp from when she was younger. So she’s not bushy or wooly and had beautifully manicured locks. Then we needed to think about color. We wanted to give her a salt and pepper color and the tone would work with Phylicia’s skin tone. When I look at designing with hair and makeup, that’s really important to me. We tried a different few but some were too white and some were too yellow. The hairstyle had to also reveal the hairpin and that’s when we had to conceptualize a way to have them be easily released, presented, and put then again put away. With the nice victory rolls that she has and then we could disguise it. It was quite layered and there is a lot of backstory in that look.
AD: That look has much more carefully implemented but it’s also a very character-driven moment.
SM: Exactly. Phylicia has that warmth and you don’t want to take away from that. At the same time, she looks connected to the real world and grounded in reality. That was the things that David wanted to balance. It’s fantasy but grounded in reality.
AD: Let’s keep talking about Journey, because Madalen [Mills] really bursts on the screen. Her hair is so beautiful and I love the gears that are in it. Her hair is even styled to kind of look like the wedges of a clock. How did you want to give the character that confidence?
SM: Madalen doesn’t need help in the confidence department (laughs)
AD: That’s very true! (laughs)
SM: Let’s clear that up–Madalen is fully formed in the most wonderful ways. David had written the link in the script, so I think the original script she had a blue yarn woven into her hair. We went through so many different hairstyles to incorporated into it. It’s an actual plot point, so we can’t disregard it.
SM: All of the original hairstyles, we weren’t feeling it. After one of her costume fittings, the sharpness stood out to us with the shoulders and the sleeves. We knew that this is where we should be going. We decided to decide on hairstyle first and then figure out ways to incorporate an ornament or the yarn. It was one of the styles that I had in my look book that happened to be in David and Lyn’s look as well.
AD: Oh wow.
SM: We tried it and getting those really sharp, clean sections to a point like a clock like you said. This was it, but what about the blue yarn? From there, it was going over to the costume department and looking at ribbons and trying things. Once we knew we had the style, we added the gears and the cogs from the props department. I started harvesting bits of stuff from the floor and taking bits of a clock apart and ended up making and creating the ribbon. I had a wonderful member of my department named Angelo who is great at stitching. We layered them and sewed them and that’s how it was. We were so creatively broad. The hair ornament is something you might get from another department. We all designed it and made it so we could get it signed off. That’s so wonderful to see it, because when it works there’s no better joy.
AD: This movie is huge.
SM: So huge.
AD: Is this one of the biggest projects you’ve worked on?
SM: It’s not the biggest I’ve done, but creatively it’s the most overall involved. We had to be. I’ve worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies with 500 extras. Once you get involved in it, it becomes a passion for you. You get costumes involved and it becomes a passion for them. The involvement of where we were based where everyone is on site, you could walk into David’s office or Lyn’s office or another department. We are doing something that hasn’t been done before.
AD: We get to see some really beautiful hair pieces like on Jeronicus’ wife in the opening or when we see Anika Noni Rose singing in “Work Again.” Tell me what it’s like to see these Black characters with these extravagant pieces when we don’t often seen that opulence in period television and film.
SM: I’ve never been on a job before–and I’m trying to figure out for myself why–that I remember one day when I was talking to Lyn. Phylicia’s wig was in the process of being made, the wigmaker was constantly in touch and sending me updates. When I was talking with Lyn, I had seen the majority of it and it was so beautiful and so perfect. I found myself choked and nearly in tears. I didn’t know why I was crying over a wig. I think there is some thing in my DNA and in a lot of Black people’s DNA where you don’t realize what you’re missing until you see it. It touches something. This is what this film has done. The response I’ve had from the public on Instagram in private messages is really deep stuff. Seeing their hair represented in such a beautiful way really blew me away. It was a very, very amazingly timely, passionate thing that we put on screen. I remember growing up and seeing women like Ms. Johnston, for example, who were real women of the community. Very decent, upstanding, church-going, pulled together women. I look at her and see an early feminist. She sees the man she wants and goes out to get him.
AD: She is a woman who knows what she wants.
SM: Poor Jeronicus (laughs). She’s not shy. It’s all of that. My research and how I apporach my research, I looked at a lot of period hair. I looked at Regency and they used a lot of braiding and twisting. And when I look at our textured hair and how we will kind of get to those Victorian, Afro shapes, it’s a real journey into it. You look at Anika’s hair and it’s really a flat twist that we wear all the time. The fact that we have the younger Jessica and see them grown up, we have to have a link. That nice roll in the front is enhanced when she is grown up. Getting to that journey from Regency through to Victorian to all of that. Looking at our hair and seeing what it’s capable of.
AD: You also worked on His House.
SM: That’s amazing isn’t it?
AD: The imagery in that film is incredible and much like Jingle Jangle, it’s very unique. We haven’t seen anything like that before.
AD: What was the biggest challenge with His House?
SM: Shooting in Morocco (laugh). All of the scarification were prosthetic pieces and we are shooting in the heat. We had to make sure they stayed on, so that was challenging. In terms of a story, I mean, my god. When I read it, I thought, ‘Are you serious?’ I didn’t see the ending coming. That scene on the bus is just heart wrenching. That mother running behind the bus haunts me. We had these two amazing cast members who had such an incredible chemistry. They can tell the story without sensationalizing it.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is streaming now on Netflix.