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Tasked with creating the Nuckelavee, the newest creature to go up against Nick Burkhardt on Grimm, special makeup effects designer Barney Burman knew he was in for a challenge. ''I got nervous because I thought, 'How are we going to make a horse-like, man creature and make it scary and not silly or ridiculous?''' says Burman, who got some help from this concept art by Constantine Sekeris and Jerad Marantz. Next, Burman, who won an Academy Award in 2010 for his work on Star Trek, then studied real horses in an effort to ''find the details in there that I don?t normally think about — the texture of the nose, the shape of the mouth, the coloration of the hooves.''
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Burman (left) and key prosthetic make-up artist Stevie Bettles (right) begin the three-hour process of transforming actor Caine Sinclair by layering on silicon prosthetics. Burman and his team decided the Nuckelavee would have hairless, translucent-looking skin, which means they can?t paint over the prosthetic pieces — instead they used different colors of silicon during the casting process, injecting them with tinted silicon to create the appearance of veins.
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''We didn't want to go with horse teeth exactly, but we certainly wanted to bring those human teeth much closer to what horse teeth are like,'' Burman says of the design of the Nuckelavee's teeth. After fitting Sinclair with the costume chompers, Burman and his team made a lifecast of the actor's face, in order to shape facial prosthetics that could accommodate the effect of the mouthpiece.
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Burman found inspiration for the creature?s nose in a gift from an Atlanta-based makeup effects artist. ?He gave me this set of animal noses that he cast from taxidermy models and one was a horse nose,? Burman explains. ?It was incredibly helpful to look at shape and texture of that nose.?
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To create a seamless finish around the eyes and ears, the Grimm effects artists used a thickened prosthetic adhesive called Bondo, which dries clear for a translucent effect.
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Burman decided to give the Nuckelavee thumbs and hooves to make it easier for the character to hold objects. ''I very intentionally wanted this guy to be able to handle a weapon,'' he said. ''His hooves are already weapons as they are, but I thought, if he needs to pick anything up or grab somebody, opposable thumbs do come in handy.''
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The creature's wig — made of real human hair — is applied with a matte prosthetic adhesive. Since the character morphs from human to Wesen creature, Burman picked a wig that matched the actor's real hair color but that could be cut into a length and shape to look like a mane.
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Since Grimm uses both digital and makeup effects to create its ever-expanding collection of fantastical creatures, Burman says the fact that the appearance of his Nuckelavee design might change in post-production isn?t something he thinks much about. ''The director, the producers, the writer, I want all of them to see it on set with their own eyes and be wowed by it,'' he says.
The Nuckelavee will appear during the episode of Grimm airing Friday, Sept. 28.