Inside the weird world of monster extras: “This is the coolest fucking thing that’s ever happened to me in my life!”

Movie and TV extras from 'Game of Thrones', 'Lord of the Rings', 'The Walking Dead' and more reveal what life is like under the make-up

A little while ago, an intriguing casting call went out in Auckland, New Zealand. An agency was desperately seeking extras with missing teeth, wrinkles and an over-abundance of body hair.

It doesn’t take a detective of Columbo’s calibre to figure out the call was in aid of Amazon’s forthcoming Lord of the Rings TV show. And, given the popularity of the LOTR films, it’s a call that plenty would have no doubt responded to, if indeed they possessed the requisite body-related attributes.

This got NME wondering: just how easy is it to become a movie monster? And is it as glamorous as any other role in Hollywood, or is the time spent in the make-up chair, squinting through latex and sweating in the beating sun, as hellish as it sounds?

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With Halloween dress-up season now in full swing, we asked five movie and TV monster extras to tell us what life is like working under the prosthetics.

White Walker

white walker game of thrones
‘Game of Thrones’ (Picture: AA Film Archive / Alamy Stock Photo)

Played by: Ross Mullan, 54, an actor from Montreal, Canada

Appearances: Game of Thrones (‘Oathkeeper’, ‘Second Sons’, ‘Valar Morghulis’)

How did you get started?

“I wanted to be an actor, but the roles weren’t regular [enough] so I was doing jobs I hated in-between. When I got offered monster roles I wanted to do them. I mean, what’s a werewolf movie without a werewolf?!”

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Tell us about Game of Thrones

“My agent asked me if I was interested in Game of Thrones, and I’d never heard of it. But he convinced me, so I showed up at the audition and thought it was a game show! They explained it, and so I showed them what it was like to terrify a baby with a cardboard sword at my audition and got the job! From then on, everyone wanted me to do monster roles: now all my work is monster-related.”

What makes someone want to be a White Walker?

“Quite simply, I like being other beings and people. That’s my thing.”

Scare Factor: 9/10

Varmik

Played by: Paul Warren, 46, an actor from London

Appearances: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

How did you get started?

“I saw an open audition for Harry Potter and they were looking for a body double for Daniel Radcliffe. I was 32 at the time: I had lived a life, and hadn’t considered acting. I went along and I got on the broomstick dressed up as Harry, and that was my first job.”

Tell us about Star Wars

“As a creature actor it’s usually a scene here, a scene there. Sometimes you get to act with the main stars, but then you’re out and onto the next one. On Star Wars it was crazy. I’m sitting there looking through an alien mask at Han Solo and Chewbacca in a space bar. And I’m part of it! Next minute, Mark Hamill is coming over and introducing himself, saying, ‘So how does this work? Is your suit remote control?’ He’s not even in the scene, but he’s there asking questions like he’s still a kid. He’s geeking out on it like me!”

What makes someone want to be a Star Wars monster?

“It was the pinnacle of creature work. It was everything I could dream of to be involved.”

Scare Factor: 5/10

Orc

The Lord of the Rings orc
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ (Picture: LANDMARK MEDIA / Alamy Stock Photo)

Played by: Kane Bixley, 42, a multimedia designer from New Zealand

Appearances: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Return of the King

How did you get started?

“About 10,000 Kiwis went and did extras work on Lord of the Rings, but I’m average height and they were looking for tall or short extras. But somehow I got in!”

Tell us about Lord of the Rings

“I spent four hours in make-up with about 400 other people, then got loaded onto a bus full of other Orcs and ferried down the highway. We pulled up next to a car at the traffic lights and this guy looked over and freaked out! When we got on set, [director] Peter Jackson gave a big speech about how important it was to New Zealand, got us ramped up and the fighting was almost real after! Some guy ran up to me and knocked me down during the Helm’s Deep battle, and kept hitting me with a spear while shouting, ‘That’s gotta hurt!’”

What makes someone want to be an Orc?

“It was great to be part of something so important. And it got me into acting. It was my first-ever extra work, so I trained at drama school straight after and acted for 10 years.”

Scare Factor: 8/10

Undead Walker

Played by: Don Teems, a DJ/actor from Atlanta, Georgia

Appearances: The Walking Dead (‘Welcome To The Tombs’, ‘Home’, ‘When the Dead Come Knocking’)

How did you get started?

“I initially turned it down as I wasn’t really into the zombie thing. But then I met Norman Reedus [who plays Daryl on The Walking Dead] at a convention and he explained it to me and said, ‘You gotta come be a part of this show’. He made a call to get me in.”

Tell us about The Walking Dead

“There are varying degrees of walker. You have deep background walkers just wearing a mask, but then prosthetics for ‘hero’ walkers that are in close-up, which is what I mostly did. You go to zombie school, where they teach you what not to do as a zombie. Don’t drag the leg, do the Frankenstein thing. They tell you to pretend you’re drunk and stagger about, before pointing at something and telling you to go attack it. You could spend a lot of time on something and find out later only your hand was in shot!”

What makes someone want to be a walker?

“I had a great time on set, but a lot of people think it’s all fun and games. You’re working in the Atlanta heat all day and it’s work, you know: it’s work! Sometimes people pass out, so they just edit in a bullet wound!”

Scare Factor: 7/10

Predator

the predator
‘The Predator’ (Picture: Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / Alamy Stock Photo)

Played by: Brian A. Prince, 32, a stunt performer and illustrator from Atlanta, Georgia

Appeared in: The Predator, The Walking Dead

What got you started?

“I’m the tallest parkour runner in the world! So I got offered some work, mostly background stunts. Eventually someone recommended me to the studio in LA where they were making The Predator. There was no pressure so I had fun with it, and the next day they said, ‘We want you to be the Predator’!”

Tell us about The Predator

“They just told me to figure out how to be the Predator. I’m an illustrator, so I took what I do in drawing characters and what I liked about other characters, like Kratos in God of War, and turned that experience into how I would play the Predator.

“This character never looks behind, he’s always going forwards. I made a playlist of angry fucking music and put it on while I was putting on the suit, and I would mix that with parkour, dance and stuff that [original Predator actor] Kevin Peter Hall did. I spent hours getting into this zone. I’d get up in the night to go to the bathroom and I would walk like the Predator through my apartment!”

What makes someone want to be The Predator?

“Are you kidding me? I get to be the Predator, this is the coolest fucking thing that’s ever happened to me in my life!”

Scare factor: 9/10

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