September 2nd, 2013
When Warpaint wanted to ensure we covered theatre as well as the blockbuster nature of film and TV makeup, we couldn’t quite believe that our first interview was with the hugely talented Joe Dulude II.
Joe began his career in the make-up mecca that is the MAC Pro Store before going on to make his name with the make-up design for the Tony-Award winning hit musical Wicked. Whilst he’s since moved on to work on such productions as The Wedding Singer, Grease! and Follies, it’s the iconic designs for Wicked that fascinated us. Here he chats to Warpaint about the legacy of Oz, and how he creates that iconic green shade.
WP: Wicked’s image is so intrinsically linked to the film and the imagery of the Wizard of Oz. Did that make your job as Make-Up Designer harder or easier? Was it restrictive, or was it a springboard?
JD: The Wizard of Oz make-up was more of a springboard. Our witch is slightly different to the one in the Wizard of Oz. First of all, in our production, she is not meant to be ugly, she is meant to be beautiful. People hate her because she is green, not because she has a long crooked nose and is ugly. I took inspiration from all over, so I looked at many witches. The Wicked Witch of the West is such an iconic character and has basically influenced witches of all genres throughout the decades. My goal was to take an icon, rework it and make it our own.
WP: Which character’s look was the hardest to create? Whose was the easiest?
JD: I wouldn’t say any character was hard to create but that a lot of work went into certain characters. In designing the Elphaba make-up, I went through many different green products and modes of application before I came upon this one. We use the MAC Chroma Cake in Landscape Green and a wide Hake Japanese style brush that you can get at an art supply store. It’s basically like water colouring. Before that I tried other similar products (they weren’t quite the right shade of green), creams and even airbrushing.
My favourite make-up design in the show is Madame Morrible. She was fashioned after Queen Elizabeth I, so I had a bit of an idea of where I was going with it, but Carole Shelley and I worked together on it. She had her own ideas of the character and had a lot of input. I finally came up with the original design for Morrible, with her help, which didn’t have eyebrows. Over the years and with each actor that plays Morrible, we adjust the make-up slightly so it will work for them. For example, for Patty Duke I made her mouth into a slight smile since on her lip shape, the colour made it always look like she was frowning. Another example is Miriam Margolyes. Her eyebrows are very big and would not look good penciled in so we actually covered them totally and redrew in smaller ones.
The ensemble make-up was fairly easy. I sat with the costume sketches, the actors’ headshots and just made them up in my head. Since it was Oz, there were no restrictions and I could make it whatever I wanted.
WP: What has the Wicked experience been like in comparison to other design jobs you’ve had? E.g. Grease, The Wedding Singer.
JD: Wicked was my first Broadway Make-up Design job. None of us knew what was going to happen with the show. I would have never dreamed that 10 years from then I would still be doing interviews and classes about the make-up. Like I said previously about Elphaba being an icon – she is one, all over the world. And I helped in creating that look. Sometimes it doesn’t seem real to me. People will come up to me or send me emails asking my advice or saying how famous I am. I don’t think that. I’m just who I am and I’m just doing a job. I once had a flight attendant recognise my name on the roster of a flight and come tell me that he was a huge fan of my work and that really blew me away. I think that’s the only difference with Wicked as opposed to my other work. Every design job I enjoy for different reasons. Follies is one of my favourites because it was so creative for me. I love period make-up and this allowed me to span many decades of make-up styles and many different unique characters.
WP: How did you make the transition into theatre make-up?
JD: It sort of fell into my lap. I had done theatre as a kid and teenager and into university. But I was a performer. Once in university I started doing more technical work. I had always loved make-up as a kid. I loved watching old monster movies like Dracula and Frankenstein. They inspired me. Then when I moved to NYC, I decided I was going to do make-up. I worked in a punk rock/rock’n’roll clothing store and photographers and stylist would come in and I would tell them I did make-up. I have an art background so that really helps out a lot. I started working for MAC Cosmetics and eventually started doing fashion shows and editorial and then moved into a little television. My friend Kate Best had designed and was working on Into the Woods with Vanessa Williams and needed someone to come and cover for her for two shows. Two shows turned into eight shows, eventually I took over completely The costume designer was Susan Hilferty and I knew she was doing Wicked. I interviewed for it and she liked that I had an editorial background and I got hired.
WP: What are your saviour products?
JD: I love MAC eye shadows. I don’t think I could live without Vanilla Eye Shadow. I use it in every show that I design where MAC is a sponsor. I also use it in almost every make-up I have ever done. Laura Mercier makes the most amazing foundations. Ellis Faas concealers are incredible. They are smooth and cover remarkably well. I just received a set of the new Make Up For Ever brushes and they are wonderful. The weight on them is perfect to hold and they apply make-up so well. They have definitely replaced a lot of my older brushes in my kit. Also their Flash Colour palette is amazing. And if you haven’t checked out Obsessive Compulsive’s Lip Tars you need to. Great coverage and beautiful colours, they go on like lip glosses but then act like lipsticks.
WP: What are your thoughts about the British make-up scene? Do you notice differences as you travel?
JD: I do notice differences. I think in America, and especially in NYC we are used to things being at such a fast pace. In the UK it is a bit of a slower pace, which I really enjoy. Sometimes we get too caught up in getting everything done immediately and create too much stress for ourselves when we can actually calm down and still get things done. I have always wanted to live and work in Europe and that is one of the reasons.
WP: What exciting projects are you working on for the future?
JD: I am designing two new shows this season – Beautiful, based on Carole King’s life and music, and Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder, opening on Broadway in October. In my spare time I am a painter. I just sold my first two paintings which was very exciting. I also plan on doing an instructional theatrical make-up book. There are no modern theatrical make-up books and all of the existing ones are out dated in many respects. I still think it is important to learn some of those things, but working in the Broadway world, a lot of that information does not apply. I am also fulfilling one of my dreams at the moment and am currently teaching Introduction to Theatrical Make-up at MuhlenbergCollege in Allentown, PA. It is my first college level class and I am so excited to teach these young adults. Teaching is so rewarding for me! I just want to continue to be creative in any way I can.