Actor Mick Ignis is about as charismatic as they come, yet most of his time onscreen comes inside all variations of demonic creatures. Ignis, 29, is a former animator turned master of inhabiting dark characters. He’s appeared as four separate demons in IFC’s horror-comedy Stan Against Evil, a show that undoubtedly has a deep affection for not only homages to classic monsters, but also exciting new eerie creations.
“As a huge nerd for this kind of stuff, this is like a dream show,” Ignis says of working on Stan Against Evil. “This is summer camp.” And we all know nothing creepy or slashy has ever happened at a summer camp.
Ignis, who also does puppet work on a wolf named Edgar in Netflix’s spooky cooking-themed show The Curious Creations of of Christine McConnell, took off his mask to share horror tricks of the trade with a gathered group of reporters on the set of Stan Against Evil season 3 earlier this year. Here’s what Mick had to say about breaking into acting, the art of the scare, and his favorite moments from the series.
Which season have you enjoyed the most so far, and why?
You know, last season the stuff we did with Ida Putnam was beyond awesome; getting to do that epic battle with Stan in the finale; getting to rip off Leon’s head. That is probably my favorite horror scene I’ve ever had to play just because they made a copy of Nate [Mooney] that looked so realistic. Through the extra layer of fog on the lenses, I could barely tell the difference between this being a dummy and me literally just ripping of I looked over. I looked over at Nate and he had his hand in his face as he’s watching himself get his own decapitation on screen.
This season I’ve got six episodes. Horace is the first character that I play who isn’t going to be a one-shot character. He’s kind of like a monster but he actually plays a significant part in this season. I’m having a lot of fun with him.
How does one become a movie (or TV) monster?
You know, I had a funny introduction into performing. It wasn’t the first thing I did in entertainment. For years was a stop-motion animator. So I studied motion animation before I got into this, and that was a lot of involvement in puppetry, watching your performance, and transferring them to the animated characters. It was years of animating characters that were across every spectrum of age, gender, species, and I didn’t realize until later how much I picked up on that. So when I actually decided that I liked animation a lot but it wasn’t the career field I wanted to dedicate myself to, I went back to acting school. The roles that came quickest to me were all character ones, building a character from the bottom of your feet up because it’s more or less what I’d been doing for years as an animator. So working within that realm and coming over to this world, and playing things that were outside of myself, that weren’t just a slightly different version of me, a different situation, that gave me a great frame of reference to play characters like this.
And I love working on a blank slate. It’s not nearly as interesting for me to just play another dude showing up to set. It’s way more exciting for me to imagine the last 24 hours of what this character was doing, which is you know, that thing I try to do for everybody. It’s not just imagining what they’re doing in the scene, but what world they come from and where this character has been beforehand. And it looks so cool. Your storytelling mind just goes off in different ways of ‘okay, what is this character? Where did they come from? What did they do you know, off of the page?’ And be able to play around that so when you step into the scene it’s a more fully realized character than just a scare that’s popping up, it makes the scene a horror scene.
Can you walk us through what it’s like to go through a day of shooting in costume?
I would start probably at 6:00 a.m. We usually put aside anywhere from three to four hours to get makeup done, and you go into a very zen like state. I’ve done some time lapses that give you the scope of about how long it takes to put one of these together. For big makeup, I usually have two artists working on me at the same time, if not more. And then the suit is very tight. It takes a little bit of work to get me fully, fully in that and mummified, and one of the things you probably can’t see in the table [points at the Horace costume], is that there’s no fly on this. So as far as going to the restroom or anything like that, there will be none of that until the very end.
It’s really hard to eat when you have no human features. The artists always are looking out for me, continuously concerned and making sure that I’m okay all the time.
How do you prepare for the physicality of your characters?
I work a lot beforehand depending on if it’s something that really changes me quite a bit. We went back and forth initially on whether Horace was gonna be on stilts, then we changed to these very tall KISS type boots. They have like a seven foot sole in them which raises you pretty high, and were very easy to move in. I’ll show up to set hours beforehand and put on those boots and then just walk around, and just figure out like, okay what can I do in these? They got a bit concerned at first for some of the stuff I was doing thinking it would be difficult, and I’m like, ‘Oh in these boots I can get on the tips of my toes. I can walk around very easily in these. I can jump in these.’ I can do a lot more in the suit than I would think.
So there’s always been a great mix of digital and practical effects. I know Dana Gould is a huge fan of creature features and you guys are always paying tribute to that kind of stuff.
Keeping it practical and keeping the stuff on set is what gives the show it’s charm, and also what makes it so fun. It’s not as fun to act against somebody who’s in a green screen suit or is going to later turn into something really cool, versus you know, last season John and I did a fight and find those people with Demon Witch, and what you see is what you get. What we were doing on set looked exactly like Stan fighting this evil witch. So it’s very easy to build an episode around that and make sure we’re giving the fans something very cool to check out.