Interview with Josh Turi
(October 2017)

If you've watched any of the Marvel Netflix shows, you've no doubt seen some of the amazing special make-up effects designed by Josh Turi.

I spoke with Mr. Turi about his background, how he became involved with the Marvel shows and how he created some of the prosthetics. Many thanks to him for the interview and taking the time out of his busy schedule.

All the images presented below are from Mr. Turi's Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/joshturimakeup/.

[SPOILERS FOR DEFENDERS BELOW!]

Kuljit Mithra: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. A few months ago I interviewed Nikolai Nikolaeff and he spoke highly of your work on DAREDEVIL S1. Now I'm realizing you've worked on many of the Marvel shows and others, including SNL and are a multiple Emmy award winner (congratulations!). Can you give my readers a brief description of how you got into this line of work thirty years ago, and how you specifically got involved with the Marvel/Netflix shows?

Josh Turi: First off, I just want to say thank you for asking me to do this. You have an amazing website, and it's an honor to be interviewed by you.

I probably have a very similar story to a lot of other prosthetic people. As a kid I was always into Monsters and Aliens, and just really cool characters. When I was around nine years old I had the opportunity to actually see a makeup artist working. He thought I was part of the project that was going on there, and he had me sit in the chair, and he put a cut on my cheek. That was it, at nine years old, I was bitten by the makeup bug. I had some money in a piggy bank, and the next day I ran down to a local costume shop and bought a five color small makeup kit, with a book, and started painting my face. LOL. And I just kept at it, as I was growing up, there was no internet back then, so all of the research I had to do was basically in the library. I would go there and look up any article I could find that had the word makeup in it. As I got older I found magazines like Fangoria and Famous Monsters of Filmland and Starlog, etc. Those opened up a whole world to me. And I just kept practicing, practicing, practicing.

Eventually, I think I was around sixteen or seventeen, I met a makeup artist, who I bothered enough, that he let me come and intern at his shop. Spent a few years with him, and the amount I learned sweeping floors, cleaning plaster buckets, wiping down tables, etc, was massive. He eventually started taking me to set with him, and letting me actually sculpt and build the things we were applying. And then I started bouncing around a little bit, met some other people, started doing student films, lots of student films, low budget, and short movies, anything I could find, just so I could do makeup. And I just kept pushing every day, pushing hard, out there hustling, doing everything I can to meet people, every job I went on I made sure I met everybody on that set, so when they went to another job they could recommend me. Eventually I ended up working with this company Troma films, doing movies like Toxic Avenger 4, Class of Nuke Em High 2, Sergeant Kabukiman NYPD, etc. Slowly but surely my name ended up making its way around New York, and eventually my name made it to NBC. I got hired at Saturday Night Live, and I was there for 15 years. I was the key makeup artist and lab supervisor for the show. SNL was an amazing experience not only professionally, but personally. The people I met there, I'm still friends with now, we all still work together on different projects. During the 15 years at SNL, I was still doing other projects, and working with other people. I eventually got a phone call from makeup department head Sarit Klein, who had just gotten hired to do Daredevil. She told me they were looking for a Prosthetics person, and I should send my stuff in, and she would also recommend me. So one thing led to another, I got a call from the producers, and I was hired for season 1 of Daredevil. That show was an amazing experience for me, I have never experienced a show like that Prosthetics wise, we were building things fast and furious. Well I guess they were happy with my work, and I've been with Marvel TV since. I have done Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, The Defenders, and the Punisher as well.

Mithra: When I spoke with Nikolaeff, he described how you designed the tattoos (and also the "hidden" Easter egg). I wanted to ask you how temporary tattoos like this are created and applied? I'm guessing this is the same process involved for say, Iron Fist's chest tattoo as well?

Turi: Yes, the process is similar. When getting into tattoos for characters on the show, we have to do a lot of research. Nikolai was playing a Russian gangster. He had done prison time. So we did an extensive amount of research on the Russian mob, and prison tattoos. The Russian criminal tattoo Community is very particular. Tattoos have very special meanings. So we had to really take our time and research what each one meant. If we put the wrong tattoo, on the wrong place of the body, it would definitely send the wrong messages. Some tattoos represent thieves, some represent murderers, etc. So we spent a lot of time researching what Nickolai would have. So all the tattoos on his body are particular to his character, what he had done in his past, and what ranking he had within the mob. Once we completed our research then we start the design process. I use Photoshop, and other programs of the like. We draw, and design each tattoo we're going to use. And then I put them through a process in Photoshop where we age and color them. I then fabricate each tattoo at my shop, and these are applied every day to him. They're pretty sturdy and durable, they usually last for a full day of shooting, and sometimes into the next day. When we did the Iron Fist chest tattoo Marvel had sent me an initial design, and then I had to take that design, tweak it a little bit, and fabricate the tattoo to apply. We went through 21 different tests, this included different sizes, different shades, different ages, on how to get this Dragon perfect. We were always riding the line between tattoo and Scar for Iron Fist. And as far as the hidden Easter egg tattoo, that was one of the most fun things to do. We put that tattoo on him everyday whether or not he had a long sleeve shirt on or not, LOL. Marvel wanted something there for the fans. It took around three years, for someone to actually spot it. But it was a lot of fun.

Mithra: This will seem like an odd question, but was it you who created the severed heads for these shows? I'm remembering DAREDEVIL and IRON FIST had a certain need for this (haha). Do the actors in question sit with you and get molds created? How difficult is it to make these look like the actors?

Turi: Yes, I create all the Prosthetics, body parts, severed heads, anything like that for the show. When it comes to creating a severed head, the first thing we have to do is get the actor to come to the shop, and we do what's called a life cast of them. We take a mold of their head and neck. Into that mold we pour melted clay and pull out a clay version of them. We then re-sculpt that to make it look more alive, we give it an expression, etc. We then make a series of molds, and fabricate the final head out of silicone, and then we have to bring the life into it. We put each hair into that head one at a time, we put the eyebrows on, eyelashes, we make the eyeballs, and we even make teeth for these heads. It's an extensive process, but we want them to look as good as possible. Unfortunately with these Marvel shows, usually the time I would want to make a severed head, we get about half that time, it's a quick schedule, so we've had to do things that help us cut certain corners, but not sacrifice to finally look. Plus we end up working really long hours, LOL.

Mithra: Another effect I've wondered about is the scarring, like Nikolaeff, and also Peter Shinkoda's burned face. Nikolaeff spoke about a certain "pull" his face scar had on the skin, that made it more realistic. And I imagine Shinkoda's scarring had its own special custom work. Can you speak a bit about these types of effects?

Turi: These were two very different types of scars. But both extremely fun to do. For Nikolai, we did an old-school painted scar on his face, and then we use a material called Collodian. This material has a really interesting effect, when you paint it on a fleshy part of the face, as the material is drying, it shrinks, so we would paint the scar on him, and then brush this material over the top and it would shrink and pull the skin tight around it. And we did that everyday Nikolai was on camera. Really fun makeup to do, it's an old-school trick, Collodion was used wayback even on the first Frankenstein film, that's how long this material been around.

For Peter, this was a totally different thing. His character, Nobu, was lit on fire, and fully burned to death, or so we thought. When we see him in season 2, he has been healing. So the scar on his face is the last remnants of that burn. For that one, we built a traditional prosthetic that we put on him every time he was on camera. He had to come in for a life cast, we sculpted that, and made a silicone prosthetic for him to wear every day. Still, another fun makeup to do. Plus, when you're doing makeups on guys like these, it just makes the job a blast.

Mithra: You mentioned you also worked on PUNISHER. I get the feeling you've used quite a bit of blood effects there, but all the other Marvel shows have certainly had their bloody scenes as well. One of the more iconic shots from DAREDEVIL S1 is Daredevil getting knocked down and then spitting out blood. Obviously I don't want you to give away your trade secrets, but how is this "blood" different than say a scene where blood is pooling on the ground out of a dead body?

Turi: Yes, I did do Punisher. Really excited for that show.

Blood work is a really interesting thing. We have a few different formulas that we use for different effects. Blood that we use in an actor's mouth, is made differently than blood that we would throw on the wall, or throw on the ground. Blood that you have to see flowing out of a person, has to be thinner so it can flow through the tubing that we're using. Blood that we put in there mouth is thicker so it colors the teeth colors the tongue, and sticks to whatever they're spitting on. Yes, that's my job, to figure out how different blood Works differently, lol.

Mithra: Now that I think about it, did you also do that blood that Elektra has all over her in DEFENDERS?

Turi: Yeah, I made a hundred fifty gallons of blood to fill that sarcophagus. It was a lot.

Mithra: Is there anything in DAREDEVIL that people may not have realized is an effect you created?

Turi: I hope so. Hahaha audiences are pretty smart nowadays, usually if you see something with blood, you realize that it's an effect. However, sometimes there are a little makeup tricks that we use to show something that this character is going through, that we don't want you to see cuz it would take away from the scene, so we paint things in a very subtle way. Can't really give you a specific example, but they're there.

Mithra: As with any profession, there's constant change that needs to happen to remain competitive and innovative. What has been the biggest difference for you in terms of materials you can now use that wasn't an option back in the 80's? What has been a constant? Is there anything you can do that no one else can duplicate?

Turi: We are in a really interesting time in our profession now. With the advent of digital camera technology, HD viewing, all these new things that we're using has changed the way we do makeup. Colors and techniques that we used to use back in the 80's, 90's and even 2000's, for film, we don't use now for digital cameras. Even materials that we used to use, we have switched to newer better types of materials. Years ago we used to use a lot of latex, and gelatin, and now we use a lot more silicones, urethanes, and epoxies. Silicone looks and reacts more like skin than latex does. But with that said, we still use latex and gelatin and all the other materials were used to use just not as much. It's a really fun time to be in the industry because we're really changing the way we do things, but it's making us better as artists. We've had to learn to adapt to different types of situations, and be more creative and what we're doing. And I just think that's a lot of fun.

Mithra: Last question... aside from the Marvel Netflix shows, are there any other projects you can talk about that are coming up? Thanks again for this opportunity to speak with you, I really appreciate it.

Turi: Yeah, we are in season 6 of Orange Is the New Black, I have been with them since the first season. We're just wrapping out on a new show for the Syfy channel called Happy. And we just had a lot of success with a show that was on the USA Network, with Jessica Biel, called The Sinner. Also, we are finishing up Jessica Jones season 2 and Luke Cage season 2. So there's a bunch of stuff coming out, that we are super excited about. I'm the luckiest guy on the planet, I get to work on amazing projects, and with an amazing crew. My Key artist is a man by the name of Brian Spears, he's been with me for a few years now, and I don't know how I would do all of these shows without him. We are looking forward to a lot more fun! Thank you so much for asking me to be a part of this interview, I am really proud and excited to be on your website. Thank you again.

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(c) 2017 Kuljit Mithra & Josh Turi
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
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