As a makeup designer and department head, Jeremy Dell’s work has been lauded by his peers over his fourteen year career. Currently working on ABC’s reboot of The Wonder Years, Dell a versatile history which includes titles such as Black Lightning, Young Rock, Star, and Saints & Sinners.
Dell’s work on this new incarnation The Wonder Years helped propel the show into the public consciousness. Using his past experience as the personal hair and makeup artist to John Boyega, Dell delved into the makeup of the 1960s to perfect the looks for the show.
Dell spoke with Awards Focus about his creative approach as a makeup designer and department head, the philosophy that guides, and his humble beginnings in the industry.
Awards Focus: Can you talk about your approach as makeup designer and department head on The Wonder Years? Were there any key strategies or approaches you employed?
Dell: When approaching a period show or film, I do a deep dive into that era and see what trends were apparent. For The Wonder Years, I wanted the makeup to be a soft veil to the tone of the show and not distract. Lip colors were where we played the most for the 60s vibe.
Awards Focus: You specialize as a makeup designer – can you tell us more about your creative process, as well as about some of your favorite designs on your projects?
Dell: My philosophy when being a makeup designer is to make sure it’s as true as I can make it and make sure that the creators/directors are seeing what they envisioned also. Bringing visual references and tests is imperative to help to guide everyone on the makeup journey in which I may be going. My favorite thing about The Wonder Yearsis seeing all the gorgeous pops of lips we used throughout the series while keeping everything else understated.
Awards Focus: How was it working with the cast, and how do you make sure everyone is eye to eye on the looks of the characters?
Dell: When collaborating with the cast, it’s very important to have the information of approved visions at hand from the directors and creators. We are all creative and we could easily have different approaches to the same look. If an actor is adamant about a certain detail or looks that may not have been in our original look, then we usually do a test so that everyone can sign off on any changes andapproved it.
There have been times that I will sacrifice a vision I have had to make sure that the talent is comfortable with how their character comes across on camera.
Awards Focus: Tell us a bit about your background. What was your first job in the business and what inspired you to chase this dream?
Dell: You know, the funny thing is I never thought that makeup would be my career. I’ve sung and danced professionally since I was a child and I had dreams of becoming an entertainer, however, God had other plans for me. Now I get to work with amazing entertainers to bring their talent to life through makeup and hair. My first break in the industry was after I quit my job in banking to pursue a career in Hairstyling which led me to a salon near my hometown.
After working there as an assistant for a while, the owner introduced me to the world of magazine shoots and music videos. Once I was bitten by that bug, I haven’t looked back.
Awards Focus: What are some films or series that inspire you, and how did they influence your work on The Wonder Years?
Dell: The original Wonder Years inspired me to be a part of the reboot. The thought of that iconic show coming back with a black middle-class family telling the story was something I wanted to be a part of… I felt as though I could pull so much from my own familyexperience as I saw so much of them in the characters portrayed in The Wonder Years.
Awards Focus: What challenges did you face on The Wonder Years?
Dell: I can say without a doubt that The Wonder Years was such a lovely project that the only challenges would be shooting in the new climate that we are in now with COVID-19. Losing some of my team throughout shooting and having to still make sure everything went off without hesitation comes with the territory of being a Department Head. Adaptation, proper planning, and problem-solving on the spot would be my mantra.
Awards Focus: What recognition for The Wonder Years mean to you as you wrap the first season?
Dell: It can sometimes be an internal battle with yourself as a creative to know if your message was received or recognized. The recognition would mean a great deal to me and my team, knowing we were seen by our peers.