Whether you’re a longtime fan of Garth Ennis’ “Preacher” comics or are newly indoctrinated to them thanks to AMC’s adaptation of the series, there’s one character that probably captured your attention more than most: Arseface. For the uninitiated, I’ll avoid spoiling just why the character looks this way, but it should suffice to say that his face sports what looks like a puckered asshole, as you might have figured out from his colorful moniker or the picture above. AMC’s Preacher, brought to the network by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, did a fantastic job at bringing this character to life, with the help of special effects guru Greg Nicotero.
In an interview with Complex Pop Culture, Nicotero talked about the difficult process of bringing Arseface to life, a challenge that had to balance Rogen and Goldberg’s vision and the design from the comics with practical effects that would allow star Ian Colletti to both appear sympathetic to viewers, and also be able to speak and emote. That’s a tall order, but I think the team pulled it off quite nicely, wouldn’t you say?
Nicotero talked about getting involved early on thanks to the level of enthusiasm from Rogen and Goldberg, who absolutely wanted to make Arseface a centerpiece of their special effects work:
“They know their shit, that’s what made this so exciting. They sent me the graphic novel [right away], so we were involved very early on. Even Seth, the first time thing he says to me was, ‘Hey, I can’t wait to do that! It’s gonna be so much fun!”
Since Arseface comes with his own particular challenges–that of balancing a grotesque but believable appearance with a design that provokes sympathy rather than straight revulsion–Nicotero revealed the amount of work that went into finding the right balance:
“We generated a lot pre-production artwork, since the character is so important. I think we went through 14 to 16 different variations of this character.” In some variations, Arseface would have more scars from the shotgun’s buckshot. In some, they played with the size of the mouth-hole and “the striations of the musculature towards the mouth.” And in other, more grotesque models, “the orifice was very puckered and sphincter-like.”
And while the design itself posed its own challenges, the fact that they had to then apply it to a living, breathing, speaking actor instead of a computer-generated model added more difficulty. The make-up itself, one big prosthetic, took about two hours to apply to Colletti’s face. Matching his jawline, shading the edges of the application, and turning his mouth into a toothless void were the main areas of focus:
“That’s the hardest part because when you’re shooting in New Mexico, a lot times an actor will start to sweat off the prosthetic. So you have to be very cautious about blending.
“We ended up needing to blacken out [Colletti’s] teeth. So what we did was we created a black dental tray, so that when he was talking you didn’t see his teeth. And we had to paint his lips, so that everything was black inside the hole.”
It goes without saying that Arseface has to talk, but that’s easier said than done with this level of prosthetics. The performance, however, is up to Colletti himself. Nicotero addressed that as follows:
“The actor brings it to life. We’ve worked on shows where we put prosthetics on a performer and it falls flat.”
Nicotero says Colletti “did a great job of elevating the look they gave him, and imbuing this grotesque-looking character with a sweetness and a personality that goes deeper than facial deformities.” You can judge for yourself by checking out Preacher on AMC. If you’ve already watched the first episode, be sure to check in with Allison Keene’s review here and Evan Valentine’s episode recaps, which will continue each week and will feature a special section for comics-related information.