×

How Zachary Quinto Transformed Into a 135-Year-Old for ‘NOS4A2’

Much of an actor’s job is to convey a character’s inner emotional truth. That can prove complicated when the character requires layers of prosthetics and specialized makeup to come to life. Such was the challenge for Zachary Quinto, who portrays Charlie Manx in AMC’s “NOS4A2,” an adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel about a supernatural being who feeds on the souls of children to replenish his youth. But Quinto had the aid of special makeup designer Joel Harlow, with whom he had collaborated on the “Star Trek” films.

“There are five phases of [Manx’s] aging process,” Quinto says. “We isolated what each of those phases would be, so I was able to adopt specific physical characteristics that would correlate with each one and become progressively more grotesque and decrepit.”

The youngest version of Manx was close to Quinto’s actual age and therefore represented a more real-life look; the oldest was a 135-year-old who was “incredibly closed in, hunched over, really warped,” notes Quinto. In between, the character was depicted at ages 65, 80 and 100.

Harlow says that while extreme elements might be needed for some of the looks, generally “we’re trying to portray realism — otherwise he would just stand out too much.” The makeup artist says Manx is at first trying to charm people: “If he looks like a monster from the beginning, that doesn’t really work.”

To create each version of Manx, Harlow and his team made casts of Quinto, sculpting each stage simultaneously so they could “gauge how much you’re adding to each sculpture.” Once a sculpture was finished, it was broken down into key pieces, including the cheeks, nose, neck, forehead, ears and even hands, with molds fashioned to generate silicone prosthetics.

“Most of the silicone appliances overlap each other in a very specific way so that when you’re finished gluing everything on, it’s a matter of painting and adding contact lenses. The makeup technique is very similar throughout all of the stages,” Harlow explains. “It’s just that the sculptures are different.”

Quinto would shave his face and head at home before arriving to set. Once he got in Harlow’s chair, his skin would be cleaned before they began gluing on the pieces, starting from the neck. “Then you tie it all together with paint, both airbrush and traditional-brush makeup, glue the wig on — and at that point you’re pretty much off to the races,” Harlow says.

The 135-year-old version of Manx allowed Harlow the most creativity because there are no references to real-life people that old. He took some liberties, differing from Hill’s description of the character — most notably by giving Manx hair to offer “a clearer visual representation of his age.”

However, a few elements were plucked directly from the source material: “His teeth are deteriorated, yellowed and broken, as are his fingernails, and they get progressively more so over time,” Harlow says.

In the end, the different stages of Manx’s appearance greatly informed Quinto’s performance.

“I think it’s really important to understand from a psychological perspective … the horrific nature of the trauma he experienced as a child,” says the actor. “If we as human beings don’t deal with trauma … and emotional wounds don’t get healed, they live in places in our bodies. So the oldest versions of Manx are these incredibly twisted and decrepit, locked-in expressions of what he didn’t face and what he didn’t process in his younger life. And he’s always reaching for something outside of himself because he never was able to cultivate a sense of contentment or a sense of fulfillment from within.”

More Artisans

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

  • Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor

    Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor Veteran Executive Martin Cohen

    The Motion Picture Editors Guild will honor veteran post-production executive and producer Martin Cohen with its Fellowship and Service Award. Cohen worked at Amblin, DreamWorks and Paramount. He was a co-producer on “The Hunger Games” and supervised the restoration Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy and “Jaws.” The award recognizes an individual who embodies the values set [...]

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content