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How Practical Puppeteering Aided in Pivotal ‘Twilight Zone’ Reveal

In this installment of Jordan Peele’s reimagined anthology, a mysterious visitor (Steven Yeun) crashes a Christmas party at a small Alaskan town’s police station. His presence is resented when he seemingly reveals the secrets of everyone in the room. But the traveler carries a secret of his own: He’s part of an alien species bent on taking over Earth. In the final moments of the episode, piercing lights fill the night sky, signifying the impending invasion. The visually expansive moment is immediately contrasted by an intimate, close-up shot in the jail cell as the traveler, now in his true form, caps off his successful journey with a bite of pie.

Bill Terezakis
Makeup FX supervisor
“We see the hand of the alien, which is played by Sandy DaCosta, and which is separate of Keith Arbuthnot, who played the head. We took a mold of Keith and then did a sculpture over the top of Keith’s head to make the profile as non-human as possible. And then the prosthetic blended into his mouth so we had full mobility in the mouth so that he can eat the pie. We wanted the hand to go in low, scoop up the piece of pie, and then bring the pie and the fork up, up, up to the point where we no longer see the actor that’s sitting next to the alien, just to imply that the alien’s quite tall. As the hand comes up, Keith opens up his mouth, the pie is fed to him.”

Mathias Herndl
Director of photography
“Bill built really, really amazing puppets for our alien, and we also had the luxury of having Jordan Peele in town right at the time we were shooting that particular moment, so we actually were able to shoot it all live action in-camera. It took us seven or eight takes to get it perfect, but we had the chance because we were shooting it on a set that was built for us, so we were able to remove some walls. The lighting in that jail cell was very moody and they kept the whole thing very dark because we were able to create an atmosphere where there was some curiosity about Steven’s character and who he is and what he’s eventually going to become. It’s like the shark in ‘Jaws’: the less you see, the more effective it is, and we just tried to keep it very minimal and give a lot of opportunities for our audience to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.”

Pictured: Jordan Peele as the Narrator of the CBS All Access series THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Photo Cr: Robert Falconer/CBS © 2018 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.
CREDIT: Courtesy of CBS

Ana Lily Amirpour
Director
“Leading up into the transformation into this creature, the main thing for me was doing it all in-camera. I’m a big fan of practical effects, like [in] ‘American Werewolf in London’ and ‘The Neverending Story’ [in which] real magical beings and creatures, monsters come to life. And then to also do it in a way where we could do everything in one shot, with no cuts from Patrick Gallagher to the creature, and then over to Jordan, because that would be really looking sexy and fun. So we had a place where we could hide the puppeteer, because this is a man wearing that alien prosthetic. And then there’s another puppeteer puppeting his hands, and she was wedged down in between Patrick and the alien. So there were technically several balls in the air.”

The Twilight Zone: A Traveler
CREDIT: Courtesy of CBS

Robert Habros
Visual-effects supervisor
“What they asked our department to do was to help out just a little bit on top of the prosthetic makeup, so we were able to make the eye blink; we were able to take the nostrils and swell them a little bit as if the creature was breathing. We just did some blending and stretching on the skin in a more natural way while he was eating. Because Bill did such a terrific job with the prosthetic, you’re able to just touch it up just a little bit in a digital fashion.”

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