Earlier this year we were lucky enough to visit the set of IFC’s Stan Against Evil. In anticipation of the show’s panel at NYCC on October 5th, and the premiere of Season 2 on November 1st, we wanted to provide our readers an interview about one of our editor in chief’s favorite aspects of any show–the special/practical effects!
Stan Against Evil is one of the rare shows on television that tries to rely on practical effects as much as they can, instead of relying on CGI effects. Key to all of this is Autonomous Effects, the SFX house that works with Stan Against Evil to bring all these creatures to life. However, prosthetics and makeup are nothing without someone to wear them, and truly inhabit the character–and that is where Mick Ignis comes in. Last season we saw him play two creatures (pictures seen below), and this next season he will be playing two more. He sat down with us to discuss what it is like to work on the show, and the special challenges that comes with acting under large amounts of makeup and prosthetics.
Mick Ignis: Every season is a new set of challenges. The great thing about this show, that I love so much, is that it’s very clear to me that the people writing it actually like monsters. You get the sense that these people love to use practical effects– to have the monsters standing in front of you, instead of doing things in CGI. I’m significantly less terrifying in a green unitard with pingpong balls on me. [Laughs] Actually, last season I had already worked with the crew for about a week before anyone knew what my face looked like.
Ed Tapia (Producer) : I’m the producer of the show, and I didn’t know what Mick’s real face looked like until I met him at the premiere party. Every time I saw him, he was in full makeup as one of the monsters.
Ignis: It’s always interesting to see people’s reactions to me outside of makeup. But it provides a unique challenge, because now I’ve played four different demons on this show, and that’s four different character performances to give. For example, when you’re playing the different witches, you don’t want each witch to look and act the same every time–you don’t want her to have the same physicality. The great thing about working with Dave and the crew at Autonomous Effects is that you go in with a certain idea of the character once you read the script, but once the makeup is on, it becomes such a collaborative performance. There is so much personality–not just in the sculpt, but in the color of the piece, and how it allows you to express via facial movements. You might have some idea regarding facial expressions for the character, but once you have it on, the character really comes together; the entire performance is elevated to a different level.
It’s a wonderful opportunity as an actor to live and die in the episode, and then come back and do something completely different.
Tapia: The guys at Autonomous start working on the effects long before we start shooting; creating models, etc. So once we start our prep here in Atlanta, they’ve already been working on the show for three months. Once we start shooting, they work longer hours than anybody on the show. I feel very lucky that we get their expertise in a show like this. IFC has been very good to us as well, and allows us a lot of freedom. That freedom allows us and Autonomous to play out our fantasies. When I see the original drawings, I’m freaked out–and I do this for a living. The original drawings/renderings–they are scary.
Ignis: It’s been amazing working with everyone on this crew. They are juggling so many things in an effort to keep the show practical, and trying to make sure what you get shot on camera is more or less what you see in real life. It’s great for when I’m working with these actors, because they don’t need to stretch their imagination too far to understand what should be happening right in front of them. It’s easy for them to be in the moment, and to have that direct actor-to-actor response. It’s very difficult to duplicate that with CGI–you won’t get that very real, very visceral response.
There are also some very grisly deaths this season, and without spoiling anything, me being there, on set–they looked so real I had to take a step back.
Tapia: One of the great aspects of this show, because of it’s nature, we can kill anybody.
Ignis: Yeah– if you’re favorite character dies, expect to see them next episode in some completely different way. It’s just really fun to kill people–it’s just fun to tear someone’s flesh out. [Laughs] And it’s obviously hilarious when someone get’s eviscerated.
Q: Does it help you to be in the makeup longer, so you can figure out the character?
Ignis: I don’t listen to music or watch anything while getting ready, I just watch these guys [Autonomous Effects] work. I honestly love watching them do what they do. I’ll see the character come together as they’re making it. I was trained as an sfx artist myself, so I get the work put into the prosthetics. While some people, when they are are under them for the first time, when it’s glued on–it’s like they have a piece of cardboard glued onto their face.
Dave Snyder (Makeup Artist for Autonomous Effects) : We’re super lucky to have Mick as well, because it’s not easy to have someone get up very early in the morning, come sit still in a chair for hours while people glue stuff on your face, go through the entire process, and then go out and really perform.
Ignis: It’s such a blast doing this, though. Doing scenes like we did for this season, all the elements come together so well. I even got to work on stilts–the studio called me, and asked whether or not if I’d be comfortable walking on stilts. Honestly, you expect a lot of weird things when you’re doing this sort of work, as you aren’t always playing a human character– so I picked up the skill to walk on stilts, years ago. Though we were getting a lot of rain out here in Atlanta. The very first day they got me in one of the prosthetics– it was about four and a half hours of makeup–they got one shot of my hand, and all of a sudden there was thunder and… done for the day! You have to roll with that stuff, because anything can happen on set. .
Q: So when you were working on a movie, obviously you have a lot longer to work out a character and get those movements down. For this, especially because you’ve played four characters, how do you deal with the much quicker turn around on having to deal with coming in to that character? Do you just rely on how those prosthetics feel to get into the character, or do you have another method?
Ignis: I actually go around and scare people on set. [Laughs] It is quick–a lot of the work is done in the makeup trailer, when I’m sitting there. I practice facial expressions, take pictures with my camera to see how far my mouth can stretch with the teeth in, and whether or not I can properly talk. I often don’t get to see what the prosthetics look like until I am on set and in the trailer. It’s a unique challenge– everything about an actor is void, because you’re not using your normal acting skills. If I walked around on set in the makeup the way I do normally, it would look fake–no one would buy it.
You have to forget everything about the way you move, talk, the way you express yourself–everything goes. For this show it’s been even more unique as you can’t do the same thing; each is different. I can’t pull from the same box, as if these are ‘witch tricks’. So I try to make each creature unique, because each has their own personality, and their own backstory–they all have their own reason why they are really pissed off at Stan. So all that comes into play; some are more angry and vindictive, while others are just really having fun being horrible bitches.
No matter what the motivation, it’s clear that Mick has a blast playing his characters, and Autonomous Effects work hard to create scary (and sometimes funny) characters that come to life on screen.
Catch the premiere of Stan against Evil, Season 2 on November 1st on IFC!
Follow Stan Against Evil on twitter at: @StanAgainstEvil
Autonomous Effects at: @Autonomous_FX
Mick Ignis at: @IgnisTwote