Colin Penman, head of makeup for Prime Video’s hit “The Boys” spinoff “Gen V,” broke down the how the show pulled off its violent puppet massacre with a crew that had no puppet-building experience, and the most challenging prop that required 1,000 gallons of fake blood.
From action-packed fighting scenes, bloody explosions to human-sized fake penises, working on a show like “Gen V” isn’t for the faint of heart. And it calls for creatives like Penman, who have a unique set of skills that can help bring the ideas that come from the writers room to life, even if it’s building puppets.
“When we pitched [puppets] initially, we were like ‘This is going to sound crazy.’ And [Penman’s] like, ‘Oh, I’ve done that before.’ We may have started [making the puppets] a little into the previous episodes, but he had done this before. I couldn’t believe it,” showrunner Michele Fazekas told TheWrap in a previous interview. “We lucked out. He built them, we got puppeteers. The puppeteers came in and helped us. We designed the set … like, how do we design this set for puppeteers? That was all integrated. You would think it’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, this humongous undertaking,’ except, oh, all of these people are subject matter experts. Great.”
As you can read, Homelander isn’t the only one who wears a cape. TheWrap asked Penman nine questions about the biggest and the bloodiest stunts he had to help craft in Season 1 of “Gen V.”
These answers have been condensed for readability purposes.
What was your first thought when you learned the writers wanted to implement puppets into the show?
We usually get the scripts maybe a couple of episodes prior to when they play, so I had no idea that puppets were on their way.
My first thought when I first read the script was, “I have to get this built no matter what.” I do have a puppet building, puppeteering background, it just doesn’t come up that often, and when I saw it in the script, I immediately sent a message to my producer and was like, “I have to do this, this has to come to my shop.” [Writers] agreed and, and that was the beginning of it with the Deep Puppet.
What was the timeline and process for building the puppets?
That first [The] Deep puppet was probably a few weeks. It was all really fast. In television, there’s not a tremendous amount of lead time, so we really had to crank on it. The costume department for “Gen V” actually made the costumes for the puppets, which was really nice. We sort of spread the love around with props, making the guns and the weapons. But it’s funny, because it’s a big learning curve. There was only myself and my shop supervisor [Daniel Baker] who had puppet-building experience. For example, the costume department had never built a costume for a puppet before. And there are differences, like four fingers instead of five fingers and that sort of thing. But all-in-all, I spent a three-week build for The Deep, and maybe about the same for the other ones. We had to bring in a lot of people to accomplish that.
How many puppets were made in total?
Including The Deep, I believe there were 16.
How long did the puppet massacre scene take to shoot?
The massacre scene was actually shot in a day. We had a couple of days of rehearsals leading up to that. We had a lot of moving parts, and [crew] built a set that accommodated the puppeteers as [the set] was all raised so the puppeteers could be standing and not be seen on-camera. It was it was a really, really cool collaboration. As far as the puppets go, we had all the “guard” puppets, there was one Sam [Asa Germann] puppet and one Emma [Lizze Broadway] puppet, but the “guard” puppets were all made in doubles. And one was sort of the “hero living puppet” and then its counterpart would be the one that either got ripped in half or his head was ripped off or its arms were ripped off. So there was one puppet dedicated for the kill and everything was completely resettable. So it went really smoothly on the day.
The puppet massacre episode build was probably about three weeks, give or take. We kind of cut our teeth on the Deep puppet. That was where we sort of of how that made a plan. And then we extrapolated from that into the massacre scene.
How many puppeteers were needed to pull this off?
There were six. There was a team of six in total on the day of the massacre [scene].
We knew all of the local, extra puppeteers in Toronto. We reached out to people we’ve worked with before and people who love this kind of thing, and who we knew would be interested in adult puppet television, and just put together a team and everybody was so happy. It was hilarious to see when people first got a puppet in their hands, you sort of have this feeling out process of what [the puppet] can and can’t do, and just watching them move around the soundstage doing little improv with each other and leading up to the rehearsals it was best thing you can see.
And the cost of the puppets’ build?
I can’t speak to the costumes, because it was costumes, props and us (makeup department). [The makeup department] did the puppet bodies. I would say they were probably in the range of $8,000 to $10,000 each.
There’s a tremendous amount of work. A lot of labor goes into building one of these things, because there’s a lot of sewing, a lot of powers, costuming-wise. The Deep puppet costume, was — if you ever get a chance to see it in person, the material for his costume was made by the Super Suit company that builds the Deep’s costume. It was all scaled down. It’s like a replica, a perfect replica, scaled down to puppet size. It’s absolutely incredible.
What was the most challenging prop, or creation that you had to make?
I would say, the next one from [the puppets] would be the giant ear that we did, that Emma’s character, Lizze Broadway, had to emerge from. We made a 15-foot ear that then had to be filled with 1,000 gallons of blood. And then Lizzie had to get into that. Essentially, she was completely submerged in fake blood. It was just a massive, massive undertaking. I’ve never seen that much fake blood in one go. The special effects [department] made this rig that would pump the blood into the ear, and as it came out it would get pumped back up, and then back through and just recycled.
We were all afraid about how it was going to stain her, potentially, which, it did, in the end, because she has blonde, blonde hair, and we thought, ‘Oh, man, she’s going to have pink hair after this,’ and ‘What are we going to do?’ But everything went really, really well and she was incredible. I’ve never seen somebody go completely under blood, and then pop out and do the scene. Incredible. It’s that iconic shot of her standing the an ear, with the camera pulling up, as soon as everybody saw that shot. We were like, “That’s the shot of the season.” It’s just amazing.
Prior to “Gen V,” had you ever worked with Eric Kripke, Michele Fazekas or any of “The Boys” cast and crew before?
No. Some of the other departments, yes. I’ve worked with the costume designer, Laura [Jean Shannon], and I’ve worked with props and most of the people I’ve encountered, but I’ve never worked with Michele, Eric or any of that universe.
Had you ever watched “The Boys”?
Oh yeah. It’s probably my favorite show. I got contacted for [“Gen V”] by Lisa Kushner, who was our local producer here. She called me. I remember I was standing in my backyard and she called me and said, “I have a show I think you might be interested in’ and she said, “It’s a spinoff of ‘The Boys’, and I was like,
“Stop there. I’m in. I don’t care what it is, I’m doing it.” I love that it’s from that universe because it’s such a great– I love it.
The full cast of “Gen V” includes Jaz Sinclair, Lizze Broadway, London Thor, Derek Luh, Asa Germann, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Chance Perdomo, Maddie Phillips Shelly Conn, Sean Patrick Thomas, Marco Pigossi and Clancy Brown.
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