Exclusive: Special FX Makeup Artist Myke Michaels Talks Guardians 2, Stranger Things…and Zombies…Oh My!!!

“Bringing your furthest imagination, to reality”!

Myke Michaels
Myke Michaels

 

What can be said about Myke Michaels that hasn’t already been said by the man himself? With a rap sheet as long as Santa’s list, Myke has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, altered the t-shirt, sold it for a million dollars, and went straight back to work on Stranger Things and Marvels new soon to be monster hit…Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2!!

Yvette: Over the last 4 or 5 years you have been working nonstop. With your company Wolf Pack Film Works being extremely successful, how do you go about getting the work? For example, you did a stint doing Special FX Makeup on Vampire Diaries, which is a huge hit, were you approached for that?

Myke Michaels: Mostly from word of mouth, producers, recommendations.

Stranger Things...Myke Michaels

Y: Do you contract yourself for a certain amount of time? With Stranger Things you did six episodes, with Vampire Diaries you did 13 episodes.

MM: On Stranger Things, I did all 8 episodes, but left a couple weeks early to work on Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. I had a choice between 4 months on Guardians on 8 weeks on Stranger Things, and I chose the 4 months and it was a blast! I had already completed all my work on Stranger Things.

Then, I went off to do Uncommon Grace in Kentucky, which was great, with Sean Faris and Kelly McGillis who are wonderful to work with, and it is a really beautiful movie, that is definitely Oscar worthy and they’re going to be entering it into all the film festivals and then I went off and did Jumanji with the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Y: Wow, now to go back a moment, you said you designed most of the effects on Stranger Things

MM: I designed everything, except the purple monster. The monster was designed about 6 months before we even started shooting. It was originally pink but unfortunately it didn’t come out how they really wanted it, so they changed the color to purple, and enhanced it with CGI.

Y: I tell ya, it sometimes comes in handy, call me old fashioned, but I am a huge fan of Practical!

MM: I love doing practical, but thank God for CGI because it really helps when needed like with the monster, which looked great, I designed and worked on the slime, when the restaurant guy gets killed, all the makeup on 11, the eggs, even the deer that gets killed by the monster.

Y: So when you have to design all makeup and FX as the head of makeup, I would imagine, that has to go through a whole approval process ahead of filming?

 

MM: Oh yes! All of the drawing, negotiating with the producers, making the models, last minute changes from the directors. We had anywhere from a month to a few minutes to make these changes and finalize the designs.

Y: So you really have to be on your toes and prepared for anything.

MM: Exactly, cause things could change immediately. But the crew, the cast, the art department, they were all great to work with and made my job so much easier!.

Y: That’s great! To steer you off a bit though to next round of questions, at RICC they had a walk-through for Hellevator. What was it like working on that?

myke michaels hellevator

MM: It was a blast!, I did Hellevator after working on Guardians Of The Galaxy and I loved it! I have been signed to do the next season…coming up soon.

Y: Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from it at first, but I absolutely loved it and seeing you run out in your ref shirt was great and then seeing it at RICC, I was telling Nick and Jake, that this is the show Myke worked on!

MM: I was actually invited to go down to do it at RICC, but I was busy on another project so I had to pass haha!

Y: Amazing haha! What can you tell me about Guardians Of The Galaxy 2?

MM: It was so much fun! We had a huge team and they were amazing! We worked our asses off and EVERYBODY is in this movie! Sylvester Stallone…Nathan Fillion…Everybody! When you end up seeing it, your mind will be blown!

Y: So did you do most of the makeup on it, or were you part of a core team??

MM: Pretty much everyone did everything. It really was amazing. We had a ton of the extras we had to work on  anywhere from 150 to 250 that had to be done in full makeup.

Y: Holy crap…For 4 months? Now, were you filming at different locations?

MM: Nope. It was all done in the Pinewood Studios in Atlanta. We had 5 of the sound stages to work with. and our makeup room was a gymnasium at the high school across the street.

Y: Now, you are doing a new tv series titled, 86 Zombies, and I love it because most of the people in this show I have interviewed and absolutely adore! haha

86 zombies myke michaels

MM: The awesome thing about 86 Zombies, is that it’s strategic series of how the zombies are created, and how they come to life. I can’t really say much more but it’s very intricate on how zombies come to life that people are automatically going to know it’s different from your normal zombie  tv shows or movies. For 86 Zombies, I have design about 40 different kinds of zombies.

Y:Seriously?!

MM: Oh yeah, we’re going to have 12 different kinds of full prosthetics, we’re going to have 20 different kinds on each one of those 12, and then we have ones for partial prosthetics, so we’ll be pretty busy making all these pieces.

Y: Okay, so what time period do you have to prepare for a project like this, because I would imagine that they have a date they’re ready to start shooting.

MM: Usually anywhere from 2 to 4 months depending on how elaborate the prosthetics and the makeup will be. If I have to build something then it’s gotta be of every single actor that’s wearing something and if it has to be a custom fit instead of generic. Then I have to make the face and sculpt what will go on the face and then blow out the mold, use silicone or foam, then paint it and repaint it, then get it ready to put it on, then put it on and repaint it. So as you can see, it’s a lot of work.

Y: And you do this in between other jobs?

MM: Correct, and I hire a crew or work with other people like Jerry Constantine over at Constantine Labs, so a lot of times we’ll sit there and start designing things together and then we’ll have other people like Douglas Noe, who will hopefully be up for an Oscar Nomination. I work with a lot of different people, and try to bring as many people that I can trust on board. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun!

Y: You have been doing so much since we met in 2010 and have worked in almost every genre of the industry, is there any specific one you like the most?

myke michaels with daughter Maysen Chantelel

MM: Are you ready for this? I started in high fashion and I would much rather make a woman look beautiful than make people look ugly. I love making special effects, don’t get me wrong, but I love making women look beautiful, so I can’t complain.

Y: Do you get to do a lot of beauty makeup anymore?

MM: Of course! On An Common Grace there was no special effects in it, I did a little bruise on the face, but otherwise it was all beauty makeup.

an uncommon grace myke michaels

Y: I’ve seen both from you and it’s amazing, even your body painting. I am blown away at how rounded and versatile you are.

MM: Thank you!

Y: With that, do you prefer TV or Film?

MM: Definitely film.

Y: Is it because it’s a longer shoot?

MM: Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind TV. I love film more because of the creativity that you get with a full movie much more than you get with a TV show. Makeup can get a bit repetitive, and with film I get to go more wild. I don’t believe there’s a box, I don’t believe there are boundaries anywhere. and one of my motto’s is “Your furthest imagination, I’ll bring to a reality”!

Y:Oh gosh…I love that!

MM: That’s what I say to people though is that my objective is to take your furthest imagination and bring it to a reality. It’s what I do, you tell me what you want and I’ll do it.

Y: So I have to ask because it is one of my favorite shows. What did you do as the Makeup Department Head on Vampire Diaries?

MM: I made arms and hands where on one episode, they had to cut all five fingers off and squirt blood so there were 4 of us manning the pumps because you could only work one at a time, otherwise it’s a $100,000 situation and it was only a $3,500 situation, so we had 4 people working the pumps. We sliced Ian Somerhalder (Damon Salvatore) chest open during an episode where they experimenting on him.  I had to build a full chest cavity with the heart, lungs, guts, and chest bones, because when they cut him open, he had to be awake during it.

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Y: When he was a lab rat!

MM: Correct! Then there was another guy I did, where he went crazy we had to make facial features with veins popping up and out the whole time and since I was there the whole season I made brand new teeth for all the actors, and new nose pieces for when the nose would move out and then CGI the with and without the piece together which for TV I was fine not doing a practical movement, because otherwise it would have been a 3 hour shoot to accomplish that and most of the time you only have 20 minutes to shoot it. And as a department head, I understand it because you have to know the finances and budgets of having to shoot and design certain prosthetics and what will be better for time when it comes to costs. so that’s one of the things a lot of people don’t know as well is that it’s part of the production work where you have to deal with everyone like the writers, producers, directors, distributors, everyone really.

Y: Which really shows the difference between TV and film because TV you have 7 to 10 days to shoot the script and then you move onto the next one and with a movie you have months and that liberty can be swayed one way or the other because you actually have a little extra time. Plus you already know what you’re doing ahead of time I would imagine?

MM: Right, With TV it’s bam, bam, bam.

Y: With Film you have a little more time to figure out what the goal is.

MM: Well the goal is the product for everybody to enjoy and appreciate it. When everybody’s looking at the finished product, you want everyone to think it was great and love it. What you don’t want are people to say “Oh, well, I want my 2 hours back“. I’ve watched movies where I’ve coming out of the theater saying exactly that.

Y: I feel ya, I’ve walked out saying I want my $9.00 back haha!

MM: Haha, so you just kinda have to say oh well, and onto the next thing.

Y: Which brings me to my next question. You have a lot going on, and when I look at your work some of it is post production or a lot has been announced, now going into 2017, what is the first thing you’ll be tackling?

MM: There are 2 things right now I’m looking at, I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing although one of them leads into more work so that’s what I’m leaning more towards.

Y: Good! So you’ll have to announce that once it is finalized, because I’m guessing it’s super secret.

MM: Oh of course haha!

Y: It’s really great to catch up with you and thanks for taking time out to talk to us!

MM: It was great to catch up too and it was a blast, thank you so much!

With that we wished Myke a Happy New Year, and look forward to seeing his work in 2017!

Myke teaching how to apply prosthetics…