How Fox’s ‘The Passage’ Achieved Its Unique Vampire Look

Fox is betting big on its upcoming midseason drama “The Passage,” based on author Justin Cronin’s best-selling book trilogy of the same name.

In the series, a secret government medical facility experiments with a dangerous virus meant to cure all disease that instead causes humans infected with it to become vampire-like creatures known on the show as virals.

Carey Jones, who headed the SFX makeup department on the show’s pilot, spoke with Variety about how he and his team achieved the look for the virals — which they designed to be unlike vampires seen in previous shows.

How did you design the look for the virals?
Greg Nicotero got a call from Fox discussing this project and brought us on board. In the beginning, Greg and I just wanted to do something different. There’s been a lot of vampire shows out there, so we really wanted to come up with something that had a different look in terms of how they changed and what they look like when they go through different stages of the change. This particular source material allowed that because it’s a virus, and it infects [people] in different ways — the way their teeth grow is not like your typical vampire.

So we went through a lot of different designs and presented to production and the director and Liz Heldens, the writer, and collaborated on the look of these guys.

Did you draw inspiration from any other famous vampire shows or films?
We wanted to do something that was different, so we had a ton of references, but we tried to pull away from emulating anything closely. So many vampire projects have been done, and we wanted our virals to be different. When people see the show, they should know that it’s a “Passage” vampire. Like the eyes — in terms of designing the lenses, we went more cat-like with those, more of a yellow. We also went kind of heavy veiny, which not a lot of people do. And for Patient Zero, he was a bit more extreme than everybody else, so we accentuated a lot of his bone structure and his chin, things like that.

Is the approach to the design process different since it’s based on a book?
Not at all. The design process is the same. Once we get the script and we read the source material, we get with our designers here, and Greg and I sit down and
we just start spitballing ideas. It starts with the designers doing a series of thumbnail sketches. We then present those to the director, producers and writers. They circle the ones they like, and then we go further with it. That’s when it goes more into Photoshop art and three-dimensional art with coloring and mood lighting and things like that. Then once we got a sign-off on that, we did a series of makeup tests where we altered a few things. The process was relatively the same.

For this in particular, it was actually great because we got a lot of extra time to go through that process; nowadays in television you don’t get that.

How long did the process take?
We shot the pilot the first time at the beginning of last year. Then we went through a series of changes, which gave us time to hone the look. So we went through two rounds of viral looks. From beginning to end the second time, I would say we got a solid eight or nine weeks, which is unheard of.

How long do you typically get?
[Laughs] A week. But again I think it worked in our favor that they went back to reshoot. The first time I think we got about four or five weeks. Then we found out they were going to revisit a few things. From that point to when they actually started shooting it, that gave us enough time to try some different things.

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