Glenn Hetrick "Face Off Divide & Conquer"

Exclusive Interview With Glenn Hetrick, Judge From SyFy’s ‘Face Off,’ On Work, Life, Love, ‘Star Trek’

The artistic creations made by Glenn Hetrick and his team at Alchemy Studios is the stuff dreams are made of. In addition to creating the special effects makeup for Mad Men, The Hunger Games, Marvel’s Agents of SH.I.E.L.D, and the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery, he is known as a judge on SyFy’s hit show Face Off.

Hetrick is difficult to classify, as he is an original amalgamation of rock ‘n’ roll, intellectual, creative genius, kind person, team player, teacher, professional, businessman, and just the embodiment of cool.

He comes from Hellertown, Pennsylvania, and always had an interest in makeup and theater. After college, he worked as an actor and as a special effects artist on independent films and collaborated with musical acts Type O Negative and the Misfits. Then, he moved to Los Angeles where he began working at Optic Nerve Studio, where eventually he worked on making corpses for Crossing Jordan, as well as doing makeup for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and The X-Files. He also continued acting and had roles on The Shield, Heroes, and the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Hetrick then returned to his first shop, Optic Nerve, with a new leadership position, CEO, and reinvented it to be more modern and offered even more services. Soon after, he and fellow Face Off judge Neville Page expanded and renamed it Alchemy Studios. In addition to his makeup creations for television and film, he also collaborated with Lady Gaga.

Glenn Hetrick spoke with Michelle Tompkins about his career path, what it’s like to work with Neville Page and Ve Neill, his favorite things about Face Off, his idea of launching a makeup line for men, advice for those who want to become special effects artists, and his personal life, including his recent wedding to the stunning makeup artist Michele Monaco (they were married on May 13 in Riverside, California), plus much more.

Last week, I married the love of my life. It was the most amazing and beautiful day and even a week later I CANT stop thinking about it. Walking down the aisle towards my new husband was truly the most magical moment of my life, and it will be never be forgotten. Thank you for the MOST amazing wedding party, from my gorgeous & lovely bridesmaids to Glenns INCREDIBLE Groomsmens (who each And everyone are like family to me. ) Not only do Glenn and I love you all, but it was so special to see all our friends become friends with each other, and bond over this last week. Glenn, you're my best friend, partner and soul mate. I love you always and forever, – Your Wifey! #wife #mrandmrs #wedding #bride #missioninnhotel #love #ido #glennhetrick #weddingfun #arletbridal #earthbabyflowers

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He’s working on Star Trek: Discovery

Michelle Tompkins: What are you up to these days?

Glenn Hetrick: We’re working on several shows for Marvel and we’re also working on the new Star Trek series, which is one of my favorite things we’ve ever done.

MT: Can you please tell me more about the Star Trek series?

GH: I cannot.

MT: Oh, so we have to wait and learn more later?

GH: Yeah. I don’t have clearance to discuss that show at all. Everyone knows it’s happening and it’s out there that we’re working on it, but I can’t discuss any details. It’s too early.

MT: Do you know when it will be out or is that not supposed to be discussed either? Will that be coming out in 2018?

GH: No. I believe that we’re going to start airing in Fall of 2017 on CBS All Access and CBS primetime with Netflix. I think that’s sort of the deal.

(Note: It has been announced that Star Trek: Discovery will air on September 24 on CBS All Access.)

MT: Well, I’ll look forward to learning more as time goes on with that.

GH: Oh, I wish I could [say more.] I wish I could, it’s amazing.

MT: Well, I like that you’re excited about it. I like everything you do, and I’m a Star Trek fan myself, so that’s good.

GH: Me too. And because I’m such a Trek fan, it’s one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever worked on. They’re incredibly — They have raced our process and allow us to have a level of creative input and allow us to explore beyond the normal, sort of, “Okay, we’re creating makeup.” And it’s an amazingly fertile fostering environment that we’re working with, with the producers. They’re just incredible.

How he got started in special effects makeup

MT: I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear that — or read that. When you were younger, were you always interested in drama and art?

GH: Absolutely. From the time I was very, very young when I was a tiny kid before 5 even, we lived in a different house so I can remember how much of it— it really started even before 5. I was obsessed with Hammer horror films, it’s what I grew up on, Spiderman and Batman. So that was pretty much all I would watch as a child and I’ve never wanted to be anything but an actor and a makeup artist. So when I was young, I very much did not understand that actors and make-up artists are two different things and so, like Mancini, I had always assumed I’d go on to be an actor who created his own creatures and monsters. And that was my dream since— I mean, literally since probably before I could speak. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. So, during those formative years, just a rich diet of old horror and science fiction and fantasy and loving comic books. I got very into horror and fantasy literature at a young age too. So, I was reading Tolkien probably in third or fourth grade. I had a librarian that got me started on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at an incredibly early age. So, sort of as I grew up, that the parameters expanded into Poe and Lovecraft and all those things cotangent to pursuing theatrical acting. I worked a lot in high school plays and things of that nature. I played Bill Sikes in Oliver and sort of just— there’s been a synergy to my career from the very start. And so, back then I would audition for commercials and stuff in New York before I was even out of high school and when I went to college. My parents really didn’t think that an art degree was the best way to go, so, I had to get a “real” quote-unquote degree. So, I chose speech communications and that’s what I hold my degree in. Mainly because it allowed me to, in a clandestine plan of my own, take all of these electives that were theatrical-based, so I was still able to take radio and television productions, stagecraft.

During that time, I started working as an actor in indie films and graduating, any indie films that I was doing in the boroughs, this was all in New York City, at the time was a burgeoning early ’90s, indie-horror scene, so I’d act a lot and stuff, and then I’d tried to do any makeup effects there were. So, I just kept working on the special effects makeup and self-taught. I grew up doing resin-kit models and makeup for myself and then eventually learned how to sculpt and paint from that angle. Then started combining them, doing these indie films and things and, eventually, got to work with some of my favorite bands. I had an opportunity to work with Type O Negative and I worked pretty extensively with the Misfits when they reformed with Michael Graves. That led to being able to do stage makeup with them and working on — helping produce, put together and supposed to do the makeup for a George Romero video with them, for the “Scream!” single. And that was kind of as far as I could get back home, so that’s when you pack everything into a car and drive to Los Angeles and start from there.

MT: Did you put makeup on your parents, siblings or the dog, or anything like that when you were growing up?

GH: No, pretty much always on myself. I very much experimented on myself. My brother wouldn’t have it. I had to do everything — Halloween, of course, I’d get a few extra victims that would allow me to play, but most of the makeup I did on myself.

MT: Do you go back to Pennsylvania often?

GH: Not as often as I’d like. The first eight to ten years I didn’t get back at all. I think I went back once for a high school reunion. More recently because I get to travel to celebrity signings at different conventions and things. It pays off. I’ve been able to get within proximity and I’ll usually add a day or two and go back there and visit my friends at home. So more now than I used to, probably once or twice a year maybe.

What were his first gigs when he got to Los Angeles?

MT: That’s still good. What happened when you moved to L.A.? Did you start getting work right away? How did things it start for you?

GH: Humility is such an incredibly important catalyst when you’ve come to the industry. You haven’t worked in anything big and you have all these people around you that are so talented and know so much and you want to share in their knowledge. You have to be very willing to start at the bottom. So, I did. My first big job was at Optic Nerve. It took about six months or something to get a foothold at a job. And back then John Vulich did and they were doing Buffy, Angel, X-Files and a bunch of other things. The first thing I got to work on was a bunch of mutated babies in the X-Files and so I got on and we were pouring up so many copies — a 150 out of five molds or something of these resin babies. And then I got to paint those and go to set. So I kind of got spoiled on the very first thing because I got to do all these amazing things right out of the gate with a supervisor at the time, whose name is Jason Hamer, who now works with us at Alchemy.

But then there is months and months and months of sweeping floors, helping move molds, etcetera, etcetera. The greatest thing about how busy that shop was is if you were willing to work long hours there are so many opportunities for you to try different things that so many people don’t learn from. And it was an environment which not all shops were like. That was an environment in which people shared information. So, I was able to learn a great deal in those first few years working at Optic. I then jumped around and worked at other places, on different shows for different companies. But then after I think Blade II, I came back to Optic. It was shortly after that I ended up being a showrunner there and then eventually bought the company. So I eventually bought Optic and then we doubled the size and got into 3D printing, costuming, specialty wardrobe and conceptual design, partnering with Marvel and then renamed it Alchemy. But it is quite literally the same place where I had my first job where I go to work every day and that’s incredible.

Several of the movies and TV shows Glenn Hetrick has worked on

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MT: It is indeed. What is the difference between beauty makeup and special effects makeup?

GH: There couldn’t be more of a difference. They’re two almost completely separate art forms— beauty makeup, well done beauty makeup, is so incredibly difficult and all of its challenges is more of a two-dimensional art and it’s more connected to drawing and painting on canvas than special effects makeup. So, it’s three dimensional because its sculptural. Of course, the face is three dimensional. Taking someone and learning how to accent their best qualities. It’s its own art form and it deserves to be. People that excel at that should be very much recognized as beauty makeup artists. Special effects is so removed from it because depending on which shop you’re working with. At our shop, 97 percent of it is done before you get to set. I mean sort of the conceptualization, the sculpture. The logistics, the schedules, making things happen, choosing how you’re going to do them and being able to deliver them on a television schedule or a film schedule. And the molding, the replication, getting every piece to be exactly the same. The seaming, the pre-painting, the hairpieces. There’s all of these different art forms that go into creating prosthetics before they get into the trailer. And then that’s the final step, the application and blending of the makeup on the day.

Glenn offers tips on how to become a special effects makeup artist

MT: What is the process — I’m sure it can be different for everyone, but what is the process for someone who wants to start out in special effects makeup?

GH: It’s so different today than what it was when I grew up. When I was growing up, you had to — there’s a few books. There’s two Tom Savini books, a Dick Smith book and a book called Richard Corazon’s Stage Makeup. And you basically had to read those books and do it. I still think this is an important part of the process. Do it all wrong, until you figure out why it’s wrong, so you can start to do it right. So, you just have to repeat it over and over and over again. I taught all of my skills to myself in the basement, with some books. There were a few videotapes back then, on how to life-cast, maybe one or two on mask sculpting and that was it. So back then, that’s how it was. And then you had to come out here and work your way in. Then, if you were lucky and you stuck and you showed that you were serious, then you could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people that had all these amazing secrets to share, and it was a very, very, very guarded industry at that time. No one was willing to pull back the curtain and you had to really earn every little bit of information that was shared with you. Today, it’s much more open. There’s so many amazing makeup schools, and for me, the way that people go about it — if it were me and I was doing it myself today I would go with either Gnomon School of Visual Arts or Stan Winston’s son, Nat, runs the Stan Winston School, you can buy these DVDs and you can stream them and get a hard copy and watch them over and over again. Then literally teach yourself anything and be able to watch it. The best people in the world show you exactly how they do what they do and you can watch it over and over again in the comfort of your home. There’s an exponential level of accessibility today which simply did not exist in the ’80s and ’90s.

MT: I read that you also sculpted masks for Halloween companies. That sounds fun. How does that work?

GH: Oh, that was the very beginning. I answered an ad in the back of a magazine. You’d sculpt them up and then mold them and make like six master copies and then send them in and they would be reproduced overseas. I still have a great love of masks. I wish I could get back to it. But that was sort of one of my first paid gigs in between Indie horror films and I would sculpt masks for mask companies in the back of Fangoria. It was so much fun.

MT: What’s the process of learning about a project and getting it to making it happen? Do you hear about something or does somebody come to you? How do you get a gig, and what’s the process from getting a gig to making something happen?

GH: Different parts of your career that’s different for many, many years. Whenever I wasn’t I sculpting or painting on something or on personal projects, you have to work the phones, you have to find out about projects and different programs, like development leads as opposed to all productions going in the pre — You can get the modern development of pre-production and you can send them out in a package and try to get a call, try to get a meeting. At some point, you hope to be fortunate enough to be where — We’ve gotten to where people call us. We’re known for our work and it’s awesome to be at that level. But it took almost 20 years.

So, today we get the call and you still have to bid it. You get the project, you break the script down and you figure out what your approach to it is. Some of the main things you come up with some concepts that you’re going to use to try to share your vision of what the project is. And then you bid it out. You kind of do rough numbers on everything, see what production’s looking to spend and see how close you can get to that. And there’s usually two or three companies involved in that process. That’s generally the way, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes with certain shows, we just go right from one thing to the next. Like the relationship I have with Jim Corey and Jeph Loeb, who are the heads of Marvel television, goes back to Crossing Jordan. I was working on a show, which I loved, called Crossing Jordan, where we really figured out how to truncate silicon process use so that we could bring, what were three-month body builds for forensic purposes on screen to two weeks and we had them on the television. So I did Jordan for seven or eight years and those producers went on to do a show called Heroes. And on Heroes, they brought Jim Corey and Jeph Loeb in, and I worked with them throughout Heroes. So, that eventually led to Jim and Jeph calling me for Agents of Shield and some of the things even that we’re working on today. So, some of the jobs come from longstanding relationships with producers that you have worked with on other shows.

MT: And you actually acted on Heroes, correct?

GH: I did, yeah. I try as much as I can to still do both wherever there’s time. But there’s still jobs that we see, that I hear about something and will actively pursue it. Star Trek was not something that we had a shoo-in, so we went after Star Trek hard. We wanted to be involved in that show.

MT: I would want to be involved in that one too!

GH: Yes, of course.

MT: What’s the biggest mistake you made professionally, and how what did you learn from it?

GH: I worked on a film that was an absolute nightmare from a major studio and it was because they had a first time director and at that point, I did not have the knowledge or the confidence. I saw the problems happening, but I wasn’t adamant enough with the producers to fix it before it went wrong because the problem, especially today, is that production happens so fast and digital has affected development pre-production so much because so many choices are deferred until after they shoot the film. So, with practical makeup effects, or props, or sets, or wardrobe, you can easily today get in a situation where you have far too little time. And, most of that time is used with people just because so many studios are involved in each show now, just talking about it. Then, you don’t have any time to build it.

There’s one film that I was involved in where we were building stuff and the amount of vacillation that occurred on certain huge elements of the show just went on and on. Then eventually by the time we could build it, what we were building was no longer my vision. Someone else said that we were building specialty suits, they brought a wardrobe designer on last second and it changed everything. I knew it wasn’t going to be what the show needed and certainly it wasn’t what we had sold to studio on in terms of our vision. I went along with it and kind of got out there and then you’re shooting this seemingly difficult schedule and the stuff is coming out and going on screen and people were going off saying, “Well, that’s not what we thought it was going to be.” Then you end up in a position where you’re going, “Oh well, yeah but, this person changed that. Didn’t you see that email? Didn’t you see that art?” So, it turned into what was the worst experience of my life and it taught me that, you know, all those battles creatively are worth in a very polite, professional manner upfront and can just be as confident as one can be in your vision. And, doing that in pre-production and sticking to your guns is so important because once the thing’s built and the money’s spent and the camera’s rolling, there’s no going back.

So, I never really allowed that sort of interdepartmental involvement with our work since then because it leads to problems that are caused by people who aren’t ultimately fiscally or creatively responsible for the product that you and your company are. I shouldn’t even ever say I, it’s we. I have a huge team of amazing artists and without them, none of it would be possible. So, in that leadership role, that’s sort of where I had a lot to learn when I started doing bigger shows as a CEO of a company, balancing that sort of need to please, because you want the job, with being able to repurpose your own ideas and be stalwart in your defense of those ideas. So that when it ends up on screen, it’s something that you’re proud of and it’s what the fans want.

MT: How do you research doing forensic makeup and stuff you did for Crossing Jordan and basic human anatomy kind of questions?

GH: We have a massive reference library. A lot of that was before the Internet was what it was. And so, of course, the web is incredibly important. But on Crossing Jordan — I’m still friends with him to this day— we had a forensic expert from the coroner’s office. And so, we would confer with him constantly about exact cause of death, little things like petechial hemorrhaging in the eye, where the veins will burst in your eyes depending on whether or not you were asphyxiated just before you died. And if the cause of death is — if there’s choke marks on your neck, for instance, but there’s not petechial hemorrhaging, there’s a good chance you might have been strangled after your heart started pumping. So, learning fun little details like that, but [laughter] this whole journey of— when you look at my forensic career, it’s kind of crazy because the amount of seasons we’ve done, many of them cotangent between Jordan and CSI New York and Three Rivers. We get calls to do autopsies and this, that, and the other thing here and there. It all totals well over like 17-18 seasons of forensic stuff.

MT: That’s a lot of experience.

GH: It’s a lot of dead bodies. I think that the second full-size shark we built just so we could fish an arm out of its belly for a story point, I thought you know I think we’ve done enough forensic television now. I love it [laughter], but we’ve sort of seen it all at this point.

MT: Not one shark but two, that’s cool [laughter].

GH: Two. The second shark I went yeah, that’s uh, yeah, we’ve come full circle now.

MT: What kind of makeup did you do for Mad Men?

GH: Oh, I actually can’t talk much about that. They want it to remain top secret. Even though the show’s aired obviously, is over obviously. But it was a very top secret makeup that I’m super proud today people still aren’t sure if it was the makeup or if it wasn’t the makeup. That’s the most successful you can be with a realistic makeup is for people to question whether there was anything done or not. If it was digital, physical, if the person was old, if it was a double, if they were heavy. So when you’re doing naturalistic makeups like that, that’s sort of the ultimate goal is to do something very extensive and then have the audience not be sure whether you were there or not.

MT: How did The Hunger Games come to you?

GH: That was all through Ve [Neill] because Ve and I started working on something called BioShock, which is a huge video game franchise that started and we— the film never happened. We were in prep on it and started producing these amazing makeups and it got hung up and went into development hell and so it still never happened, but this was years ago. Ve and I had met on Pirates. As an actor, I was working as one of the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean, under Barbosa. So [laughter] I was on Barbosa crew, different story but one of my favorite things— I would harass Ve whenever I’d see her walking by. I was there in the six-month grown beard and fingernails and trying to put a portfolio in front of her and I never really got a chance to show her the work. And so, it was a few years later that we ended up working together on Bioshock and becoming extremely close friends. This is all before Face Off. So BioShock went so well, even though the film never happened, we loved working together and that’s what led us to The Hunger Games.

MT: Now, how did you decide to create your own studio?

GH: Like I said, I’d worked at Optic for many, many years and I started supervising shows and I really, really, really wanted to stay here. And at that time, the ex-owner, who very sadly has passed away in the last year, he was going to focus on producing and directing and so, there was an opportunity here where the shop sort of wasn’t getting jobs. And I could’ve gone and started my own thing. A lot of shops have done that they kind of take some clients, they get a new building, they go down the street and I really didn’t want to do it that way. So, I was up absolutely at a point where we were growing to the point where I needed to be in my own studio and I needed autonomy. But the opportunity here was that because John was concentrating on other stuff so I offered to— I made a deal with him and took over Optic Nerve and then eventually, after running Optic for a few years and owning it, we transitioned into what we are today, into Alchemy.

Makeup for men?

MT: I read that you wanted there to be a makeup line for men. Any thought of producing your own line?

GH: Yeah. That’s not something that’s being pursued right now, but I do think that there should be a line for men so that there’s a more clear carved-out niche in the marketplace that when you walk in, you don’t have to go to the lady’s counter to get makeup. I think there should be a men’s counter for makeup.

MT: I think so, too. My dad wears a little bit of powder himself from time to time.

GH: Yeah. I think liner and some — you know, not a huge amount of products. It could be sort of like — I do have some plans for a line. It’s not something I’ve actively pursuing at this moment, but just so that there’s sort of endcap or something that it is specifically for men. So it takes the confusion out of what products work right for men.

MT: You’ve been so busy. You have multiple projects going on at the same time.

GH: It’s so much. And they’re all over the world, so there in different time zones. It’s quite literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s only an hour or two per night that the phone is not ringing and buzzing and I have to answer almost every single call.

All about Face Off

MT: I’m glad you’re able to juggle it as best you can. How were you contacted regarding Face Off?

GH: To audition? They called me and asked me to audition.

MT: Oh, it was an audition? That’s interesting.

GH: Everyone did, yeah.

MT: And do you have any favorite challenges that you’ve done?

GH: Oh, there’s so many of them. I particularly like the one that we did in Las Vegas for the finale where we at Le Reve. And during the water show, seeing if the makeups would hold up to the rigors of live performance. That was phenomenal!

MT: Do you keep in touch with any of the past contestants after the show?

GH: There were a few. I can’t discuss who they are, but there are a few who are working for me on Star Trek, so some people have come and worked in the studio. For the most part, no. Just probably three or four. I’ll see them occasionally at a convention or something and a few of them that have actually relocated to Los Angeles that are available to work, there have been a few people that have worked on the show.

MT: How are the actors/models selected for the show? Are these performers tested so you know that they can withstand hours of makeup application?

GH: I don’t know anything about all of that process — that’s all production process. I mean, some of them have been on since season one or two so it’s amazing they last as long as they do, but I’m not sure how they go about selecting the models.

MT: When it comes to you applying makeup on people, have you ever had an actor not be able to withstand the time?

GH: They all react differently. When it’s only a few days it’s usually not as bad. It’s usually when you have to do something that’s so repetitive that they’re in it for weeks and months at a time. It can get really arduous. Arduous for the makeup team applying because it’s redundant. Arduous for the person having it applied to them. It’s often, it’s 2:30, 3 o’clock in the morning. The three or four-hour makeup we almost will always start applying at 3:00 a.m. so that they’re ready for a 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. call. Sometimes earlier, sometimes 2 a.m. because you have to factor in wardrobe. Depending on how complex the wardrobe is and when they’re going to eat, sometimes we’ll start at 2 or 2:30 a.m. to have them ready for 7 or 8:00 a.m. set call. So, yeah, I can tell you, I’m doing tattoos on– Paul Bettany, we were getting up at 3:30 every morning on the Sony film Legion. Just to get his body covered in tattoos, we were starting at 3, 3:30 or something like that every day. And we were on set with everyone else until 11 or whatever, 12 so a lot of times you’re barely getting any sleep.

MT: And with you being as busy as you are I don’t think sleep finds you very often anyway.

GH: Luckily, I’m not as much — I can’t be on set so I usually establish makeups and then leave. So today, because I’m working multiple shows designing and building on multiple shows, I usually only get to go on set for hero makeups the first couple of times they work to work out the bugs and then it’s on to the next thing.

FACE OFF — ‘Gargoyle Guardians’ Episode 1113 — Pictured: (l-r) Glenn Hetrick, Ve Neill, Neville Page. [Image by Jordin Althaus/Syfy]

MT: What is the best thing about working with Ve and Neville?

GH: On the show I think that we each bring very different experience because of primarily beauty background and know so much about beauty makeup, which is not either of our things, so Ve has an eye towards that. Neville is a digital designer and works primarily in the digital, and both of those perspectives are very different than mine as a makeup builder, designer, and application artist of effects. They’re all three very different perspectives, we see different things in the contestants’ work.

What are Glenn’s thoughts on working with Lady Gaga?

MT: You also do some work with bands. What did you do with Lady Gaga?

GH: When I first started working with her it was before she had actually become a famous artist. They knew she was about to, they were promoting her. So the first thing that I did, they called me and I built a bunch of different, very anime-looking body armor for her in different versions of cobalt blues, grays, metallics, one was a Chinese teacup, it was white with a blue flower pattern on it, so we built her all this armor. She went out and toured with that, and we built her version of her disco stick and then eventually built some of her— several of her instruments. There’s an M.C. Escher sort of pure middle structure that houses or keytars, or the purple and clear version of that. Then we built something called Emma, which was this stand-up bass, essentially. But it’s built with a modern electric bass with this stand-up bass that looked like it was on two hearts fused into a single rosewood instrument. And it also housed a keyboard and an NPC, which is a sampling engine. So she could do all of her sampling on stage. So it was like a hybrid instrument. So through the years, it’s been different things here and there. I also did hundreds and hundreds of tattoos on people for her telephone videos. So it’s always different every time she calls.

MT: I bet she’d be fun to work with.

GH: She’s incredible to work with. She’s very collaborative. She’s gives us an idea and lets us run with it. And then when you turn in the work and you show up on set, she’s also very appreciative more so than a lot of other artists that works with you.

MT: Is there a kind of makeup project you haven’t done yet but want to try?

GH: No. I think that you can just back and forth whatever we’re doing too much of. For years we did so much forensic television. I had always been a Buffy and X-Files fan and thought, “We are doing so many monsters and aliens and stuff to shop and I was still growing as an artist and I really wanted to work with highly realistic silicone procedures that I was starting to become familiar with and by the time we did seven seasons of Crossing Jordan, then seven, eight seasons of CSI: New York and several other shows, that’s just years and years and years of forensic television where you’re building hyper-realistic bodies, body parts, organs, head replicas, body replicas, so I very, very, very much wanted to get back into doing creatures and aliens and so Star Trek came along at just the right time to— there’s so much to do when you’re in a universe like that, so right now I’m very satiated. We’re very happy to be back in doing creatures and aliens.

MT: It seems like steampunk is incredibly popular. Why do you think it’s so popular?

GH: I don’t know. I don’t know how it went from the super obscure obtuse subculture in which I found it and loved it to its modern popularity. I think that, unfortunately, today’s audiences are— they’re sort of just oversaturated and there’s not a whole lot of new things that are happening creatively that work. And so I think that in general, going back to the ’80s and ’90s and pulling from things that I grew up loving but that were maybe a little bit more obscure.

I mean when I grew up, listening to Misfits was a very strange thing to do and now their logo is plastered everywhere [laughter]. When I grew up, even knowing what steampunk was or playing Dungeons and Dragons was a pretty obscure thing. But I feel that today’s modern society participates in a very voyeuristic way. They sort of look at it, they know what it is, they learn a catch word or two and then they slap gears on a top hat and go to a convention. I don’t think it is steampunk, to be completely honest with you. I think that it’s far too complex of an artistic movement and a movement based in literature that I would say most people what they’re doing this — it’s sort of just an aspect of cosplay that they’re enjoying. And that’s great. I’m glad that everyone’s going to conventions and doing that. That word has gotten beaten to death though in recent times to the point where I try not to even use it anymore. Antediluvian technology, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, the idea of lost tech being powered by … I love that idea and I love that aesthetic. What it’s being used for today is sort of just this convention dress-up cosplay type of thing and it is what it is. I think as cosplay grows all the subculture references tend to grow with it.

MT: So you’ve mentioned in other interviews that you have a fondness for H.G. Wells. In The Time Machine, the Time Traveler brought back three books to re-establish human civilization. Which three books would you choose?

GH: I know that one of them is certainly collected short stories of H.P. Lovecraft. I think he’s one of the most important fictional writers ever. I think that the Lord of the Rings would have to come with me, not just because of the story but because I grew up on it, and it’s so incredibly important to me, but also the use of language. So forgetting the actual story that’s in between its covers, talking beautiful use and attempt to preserve a higher form of the English language and then I think it would probably be something like an Aleister Crowley book on meditation or magic or a Manly P. Hall Secret Teachings of All Ages, because there’s this entire repository of a lost version of our history and our knowledge of ancient societies and philosophies that are pretty much completely gone today that I think would be important to maintain.

Glenn opens up about his personal life and his proposal to fellow makeup artist Michele Monaco

MT: What do you like to do for fun?

GH: There really isn’t much in between the work, to be honest. When there’s a little time, Michele and I spend a lot of time with our cats and watching horror and science fiction. When we’re not doing it, we’re watching it. That’s pretty much it. If we find any time other than that, we try to get out for a hike and we hit the gym a lot. We have a gym at the shop and we have one up the street, so trying to squeeze the workouts into making the work.

MT: If you don’t mind, may I ask about how you met your fiancée Michele?

GH: She’s a makeup artist as well.

MT: How did you propose to her?

GH: Actually we did that at the house. We have a little koi pond out front with a bridge over it and I proposed to her on that bridge.

MT: I only have two personal questions and if you don’t want to answer them, that’s fine. What do you love the most about her?

GH: We share — all of our interests are essentially the same, so it’s so easy to get along for us. When we’re not working, which is almost never, we want to do the same things. We both love horror and science fiction, we’re both into so much of the same thing.

MT: You’re going to Italy on your honeymoon, is that correct?

GH: Someday, when we have time off. I don’t know when that’s going to happen [laughter]. That’s the plan, but it’s probably not going to be until next year if we’re lucky.

MT: What are the names of your cats?

GH: There’s three and they have both their proper names and what they’re actually called. So, Agatha Kitty, the mystery writer is her proper name but she’s just referred to as Downtown Brown because we found her downtown at a wedding. She was abandoned at a hotel, I think. So we usually just call her Brown. She’s a big fluffy brown cat. And the second one is Isabella Snarfalini and she was a rescue. And she has something like a deviated septum or something where she tears and her nose runs, so she doesn’t really have a good voice. She can’t meow. So we call her Snarfles because she’s constantly snarfing when you hear her coming around the corner. She’s breaths through her nose really heavy. And the third, which is Michele’s cat, is— her real name is Mimi but we usually call her Hoggy Dog or Rat Dog because she tends to bite at her belly. And when she bends over in half to try to bite at her belly and breathes, she makes this hog noise so we call her the Hoggy Dog even though she’s a cat [laughter].

MT: What are some of your favorite movies and TV shows to watch?

GH: It changes just constantly — I mean, the last few years we had things like Vikings and Sons of Anarchy and Stranger Things. It was just so many awesome things. I loved Penny Dreadful. I’m very sorry to see that go. We like Shameless quite a lot too and that’s about it.

I’m not necessarily so into specifically just genre shows. We watch a lot of different stuff. A lot of History and Discovery Channel, a lot of anything about aliens. We watch a lot of true crime on Investigate Discovery like Disappeared and things like that.

MT: Have you ever fanboyed out at a comic con or something like that?

GH: No. I asked Peter O’Toole for an autograph when I was a very young child. I saw him in Philadelphia at a harbor and he yelled at me and ever since then, I’ve been loath to approach any celebrity for an autograph. I do autographs and we do conventions and things but I don’t really personally collect autographs or anything like that.

MT: How do you like to connect with fans?

GH: Well, like I said we do — when we can fit it in — we do these signings at different conventions all around the country when we can squeeze them in. And we love that, we love hearing why they like the show and we often find that they watch with their families that the kids love the show, which is amazing. The families, it’s something they can watch together because the children— what kid wouldn’t like it? You get to see 13 monsters in an hour instead of one monster at the end of two boring hours of a movie. So I get that, I think it’s one of my favorite things about the show, that families get to watch it together and that it’s turning kids onto art.

MT: Are you into social media?

GH: I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter. Honestly, it’s another one of those things. I just don’t have the time. I can’t get through the amount of production emails from three shows in a day. I have two shows in development so I have to find time to write and take meetings. There’s just no way I can— even posting things, it’s not something I have time to do. From time to time, if we see something cool, we’ll post it on Twitter or we’ll throw it up on Facebook, but I don’t really have time to interact directly on social media.

MT: I wish you good luck with all of your endeavors, I really think you do great work. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding, I’m so excited for you.

GH: Thank you, thank you. So are we, if we actually make it there.

Glenn Hetrick can be seen as a judge on Face Off: Divide & Conquer on Tuesday nights and come see his panel discussion at Comic-Con International San Diego.

[Featured Image by Jordin Althaus/Syfy]

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