One of the breakout stars of the 2011 Video Music Awards was Jo Calderone, the smoke-spouting, slightly stained mechanic who stormed the big show to deliver a lengthy monologue about his former love Lady Gaga, and then launched into an epic performance of her current hit, "Yoü and I."
And while you may think that Calderone was just Gaga playing dress up, well, you'd be wrong. Because for all intents and purposes, Gaga became Calderone ... diving deep into the character during, after and, rather surprisingly, before the show.
"We had talked to her about the creative [for the performance] a few weeks before the show. We had a call with her, and it became clear that she's going to be Jo," VMA Executive Producer Dave Sirulnick explained.
"She showed up as Jo, rehearsed as Jo ... if you said 'Gaga,' she wouldn't respond. After rehearsals, she comes over, she says to me, 'It's nice to meet you,' and I say to her, 'I know your friend Gaga,' and she says, 'That Gaga, what a bitch!' " Sirulnick recalled. "She did not break character once. She walks in backstage and, in front of a whole bunch of people, went into the men's room. Later, we had all the Young the Giant fans lined up waiting for the band to rehearse their performance, and Jo was walking out of the building to her dressing room and someone yelled 'It's Gaga!' But she didn't respond, just kept on walking, until finally someone yelled, 'Hey, Jo!' and then she turned and waved."
So given all that, it wasn't exactly shocking that the commitment to character continued long after Gaga — er, Calderone — had finished the show-opening performance of "Yoü and I." Jo, of course, not only returned to the stage to help pay tribute to (and kiss) Britney Spears, she also accepted the Best Female Video Moonman for "Born This Way" with an impassioned speech.
But even when she wasn't in the spotlight, Gaga didn't break ... not even for a second.
"Over the years, lots of people have done lots of things, lots of people have worn lots of things, but no one has been that committed, that in character," Sirulnick laughed. "She's smoking in the building, she was holding court in the crowd, you know, Kanye, Katy, Adele, Tony Bennett, they loved it. They respected her commitment and her level of artistry."
And, of course, they couldn't help but be inspired by it too. Because by never wavering, by putting it all out there as Jo Calderone, Gaga raised the bar for her fellow VMA performers, too, and it was up to them to match the heights she achieved.
"For her to go out there and just be so into this character, it was fearless, and you saw a lot of that at the VMAs," Sirulnick said. "Chris Brown was fearless in the way he flew across the stage. Beyoncé was fearless in her amazing vocal performance and what she revealed. Jay and Kanye were fearless in saying 'Here we are, watch us.' Adele was fearless in her performance, doing it in one shot, saying 'I'm going to stand here and put it all on display.' "
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