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The second victim on Syfy’s makeup competition series FACE
OFF, Nicholas “Nix” Herrera, met his maker after he and fellow competitor Jerry
Macaluso (in the bottom two for the second time in a row) failed to sufficiently
waterproof their turtle-human hybrid.
FANGORIA: What were you doing before being cast on FACE OFF?
NICHOLAS “NIX” HERRERA: I’m actually a freelance artist. I’m
known for my body painting, but I got my start in the haunted-house industry
back in 1989. So during the summertime I body-paint, and then from fall to
winter is all Halloween. I actually had some of my work in FANGORIA back in
2000, from a local haunted house here in Orlando called Skull Kingdom. So it’s
pretty cool talking with you guys now, 12 years later.
I’ve been here for the last 20 years. Orlando has been the
best place for me to be. It’s where I got my start in the industry. I started
out as this character at a year-round haunted house, and that’s where I pretty
much learned the trade, from the FX artist putting a bald cap on me every day
and airbrushing me from waist to head. Everyone asks me to move to LA, but
[Orlando] is the perfect pace.
FANG: Are you self-taught?
HERRERA: Pretty much—just watching the other artists work on
me, or having the opportunity to work at Universal Studios during Halloween
Horror Nights, or Grinchmas. I was fortunate enough that people saw something
in me worth taking a minute to teach me. It’s ironic, because my mentor, Bill
McCoy, ended up teaching at Joe Blasco, and the girl I’ve been dating for the
last six years, before I met her, went to Joe Blasco and had Bill as her
teacher. I’m just so fortunate to have very good friends.
FANG: There’s a lot of production down South; have you also
been working on commercials and TV shows? Or is it mainly body painting for
haunted house-type stuff?
HERRERA: It’s pretty much split between the two. I haven’t
done a whole lot of work on films. It’s mostly the body painting. I do a lot
for celebrity parties, or competitions, promotions for Budweiser and different
companies. And then from August until November, I actually go overseas and work
for a theme park called Ocean Park in Hong Kong. It’s one of Asia’s biggest
haunted attractions, which is really cool. It’s very different with the horror
fan base in Asia, because they’re more about taking photos with the characters
rather than being scared by them. Which makes a makeup artist’s job that much
more difficult, because it’s being captured on film. For instance, there’s a character
called “Kappa” who has a bowl of water on his head, and to defeat him you have
to bow, so he pours the water out. And you look at this character and think
it’s completely silly, but the Asian culture loves it, they just eat it up. It
keeps us away from doing Freddy and Jason, those kind of characters. I’m the
type of person who gets bored easily, so having the change from body paint to
Halloween effects is a good mix for me.
FANG: What was the biggest surprise about being on a reality
HERRERA: I like to put a lot of time into research. After
watching the first season maybe 20 times and trying to figure out what the
challenges are going to be, coming onto the first episode, not knowing what
anybody’s abilities were, and being put together in a group challenge—we didn’t
expect that. We knew season two was going to be a step above last season, but
we had no idea it was going to be that intense right off the bat. So it didn’t
matter how much I tried to prepare myself.
I thought I’d at least make it to the top three, but then
when you go in there and see so much talent…I think that was the best part. I’d
rather lose to someone amazing than to someone so-so.
FANG: What about having cameras in your face all day?
HERRERA: When you watch the show, you never see the cameras
everywhere. Being miked the whole times is pretty weird because the cameras are
on you, and you say something, then [think] “Oh my God!” You don’t think about
this stuff. It’s really cool. I’ve always wanted to be on a reality-type show.
So when FACE OFF came about, it was the perfect opportunity.
I think with season two, we all had this incredible bond
together. You’d never have thought that when you’re competing for something in
your industry. Our setup was awesome; the house we stayed at was amazing, the
studio was great. Season two, they’re not messing around. I was honored to be a
part of it, even going out as soon as I did. I have a new family of friends,
and we’re all very, very close.
FANG: Would you do a reality show again?
HERRERA: I would love to. I hope in a couple more seasons
they do an all-star reunion and bring back a few people for redemption. I’d
wouldn’t mind going up against Frank [Ippolito, season-one contestant]. He’s
super-talented, and since the show I’ve been working on stepping up my game. I
have even more to prove now than before. I loved it. Being able to show people
my personality and style, and what talent I do have, on TV was pretty awesome.
I want to be like a rock star of body painting or special effects, like a Rick
FANG: What are your general thoughts on your last episode?
What do you think went wrong? How about your working relationship with Jerry
HERRERA: It was difficult. [In the first challenge] Jerry
definitely had an idea of what he was doing, but with him having immunity it
was hard, because having somebody lead the group in a direction we’re not sure
of—I just didn’t want that to happen. So he and I kind of went at it back and
forth with what we thought should happen, and I wanted it to be a team effort
where it wasn’t Jerry leading the group. But I also didn’t want to be the one
who was telling people what to do. So we decided to work together as a team;
we’d all jump back and forth, work on each other’s projects. So when we found out
we were working together for the second episode, neither one of us were
thrilled about it. But that’s kind of the way the industry goes. You’re not
always going to work with somebody you necessarily get along with. He and I
definitely work well together. We tried to meet in the middle, and had a
give-and-take relationship. There were things about the turtle I didn’t agree
on that he did, and he gave a little, and I gave a little. But when it came
down to the end, it didn’t work out.
I was in the bottom two in the first episode, and I was in
the bottom again in the second. I don’t think it would have been fair to keep
me. I think they made the right choice to let me go and give somebody else the
opportunity to really show what they were capable of. I love Jerry. He and I
have become good friends. He definitely has a lot to show America,
personality-wise. If I’d gone on to the end and won, I probably wouldn’t work
as hard as I plan on working now. So leaving was kind of a good thing. At
least, I tell myself that [laughs].
FANG: Last season, Conor McCullagh won, and he’s obviously
incredibly talented. But afterward, the boards had a lot of chatter about, “Why
did they bring this guy onto the show who is already so far up the ladder in
the business?” It sounds like maybe you think the opposite, that having people
on the show with a lot of experience is a good thing.
HERRERA: I think they did well with casting this year. It’s
very diverse. You’ve got Ian [Cromer], who is out of school, and you have
Jerry, who has been in the industry, who has left and come back. That’s what I
loved about the talent on the show. It was anybody’s game. The next episode was
the body-painting challenge; I was out one episode before, and didn’t have a
chance to prove myself. And watching Conor last season, he ended up bottoming
out on the body-painting challenge. Everyone has their strengths and
weaknesses. If it was the next episode, everybody would have been, “Nix has got
this one.” But then again, it would have been worse if I had been the one voted
out on a body-painting challenge.
FANG: When I talked to Tom Devlin last season, one of his
main complaints was that the days were so long, the models would literally be
taking off their appliances during breaks in filming. Did they figure out a
solution for season two?
HERRERA: We have an idea of how effects work on movies; the
performer has to take breaks. So we try to make it as convenient for the models
as possible. We try to make sure that what we do to someone else is what we’d
do to ourselves. You wouldn’t want to put somebody in a situation you wouldn’t
feel comfortable in yourself. You know that your model is going to have to go
to the restroom, or eat after a while. So you try to do the face prosthetic
last. Or if you’re putting nails on a character, you do it last-minute. There
are certain people who can’t be in a prosthetic; they don’t quite understand. I
think even with movies, a lot of times people who do a horror movie, after that
they’re like, “I don’t think I’ll do that again. Being sticky in blood all day
is not what I had in mind.”
FANG: It’s like Tom Savini, who says being in prosthetics is
his nightmare, and every time he’s in a movie, they immediately put him in
prosthetics. What is your next move now that your name is out there,
HERRERA: The show has been an eye-opener. I’m known as a
body painter. I do special effects, but people don’t know that about me. I want
to start getting more into movies. I want to be the kind of talent and artist
Rick Baker is. I’m hoping to reevaluate the direction I’m going with my career.
I’m on the road half the time; I do the haunted-house trade shows, body-paint
competitions. So six months out of the year I’m pretty much in and out of town.
So I don’t think a whole lot is going to change, but I’m definitely going to
step up my game.
FANG: But you don’t want to move to LA?
HERRERA: I’m in LA at least once every two months. I’ve done
stuff for the Playboy Mansion and conventions out there. But Orlando is the
perfect place for me. You go to Vegas, and three or four days later you’re,
“Get me out of here.” Same thing with Miami. I love being in Orlando. I don’t
think I’m going to be going anywhere anytime soon.
FANG: Any last words?
HERRERA: One of the greatest things about the fact that
there’s a TV show like FACE OFF is that it gives artists the chance to showcase
their work. When you watch a movie with special effects, [people] are always
complimenting how the creature looks, but they never get that inside view of
what actually goes on behind the scenes. That’s what I love about it: It
actually gives these people who are slaving away, making these molds in their
shops until 4 or 5:00 in the morning, the opportunity to give America the
understanding that there’s so much work that goes into creating these things.
Check out Herrera’s work at www.facebook.com/thebodypainter.
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