If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
It was zombie week on Syfy’s makeup FX competition show FACE OFF, and not one but two contestants took proverbial bullets to the brain. The first to recover tells his story below…
Anthony Pepe sparred with Frank Ippolito, kept the censors busy bleeping F-bombs and created at least one breathtaking, series-standout creation during his time on the show.
FANGORIA: The first question is always, “Why did you apply for the show?”
ANTHONY PEPE: Actually, I wasn’t going to at first. I thought it was a goof. My wife convinced me I had nothing to lose. So I was kind of like, what the hell, I’ll try it, see what I can get out of it. I found the show very interesting because of the fact that, after doing this for so long, there was going to be a reality show about my craft. “I’ll try to be one of the first ones on there.” My wife convinced me to send in the audition tape. I did it just to see what would happen, and the next thing I know, I’m going out to LA.
FANG: Do you watch much reality TV?
PEPE: Not really. I watch HELL’S KITCHEN because my brother’s a chef, and I just love Gordon Ramsey. My wife is more into that stuff—RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE and all the other annoying crap like JERSEY SHORE and God knows what else.
FANG: Then she should have known that one of the things about reality TV is they could edit you in a certain way—I’m actually surprised she thought it was a good idea for you to go on the show!
PEPE: I knew going in that yeah, they were gonna chop us up and make someone the bad guy; they ended up making me the loudmouth—the New Yorker loudmouth. It seems like I’m the only one on the show who got bleeped the entire time. [Laughs] Everybody cursed, but I’m the only one who got bleeped!
It seemed like a fun time. It was an adventure. My wife was all for it. The whole idea of being edited wasn’t a concern of mine.
FANG: What were you doing before getting on the show?
PEPE: I’ve been in the business a while. I ran a company called Demonic Pumpkin FX here in New York. I’ve been doing makeup and FX for about 15 years now on independent films. I’ve been working on movie after movie. I’ve been featured in FANGORIA before. [Pepe was featured in a piece about Mary Lambert’s THE ATTIC in issue #270.] I used to co-run the New York City Horror Film Festival, and got involved in the Fango community through that.
FANG: Up until your elimination episode, you seemed to have higher highs and lower lows than the other contestants. Good makeups vs. bad makeups. Do you think that’s accurate?
PEPE: Absolutely. I tell everybody it was a rollercoaster ride, and I’m a fan of rollercoasters, so it was fitting. It was one of those situations where I’d never worked under someone before. I’ve worked independently my entire career. I run my own studio, the only people telling me whether my work is good are the directors who are paying me and hiring me to do it—I’m creating their vision. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done on my own. So being put in the situation where I was being judged by my peers, as well as the competition and the time constraints, and the stress, and being sequestered in LA—all those factors played into me just to the point where one minute I was on the top of the world, and the next minute I was just hating myself.
From the body-paint episode—which I didn’t think I was going to win, I thought Tom Devlin was going to take that one—then the next when I got into the thing with Frank, and then the villain episode, I just didn’t have anything. I totally crapped out on that, and I knew it. As an artist, I get to go home at the end of the day. I get to relax, and just clear my thoughts. But in that situation, a competition setting, I had no moment to just remove myself from it. So I cracked under pressure, and excelled under pressure. I would definitely say high highs and low lows.
FANG: How would you describe your working relationship with Frank?
PEPE: What you saw on TV was relatively accurate. The thing is this: I don’t hate the guy. He has his own opinions, and I have my own opinions. The way I see it as far as teams go, when I worked with Megan [Areford] on the ostrich, we worked out our differences and we worked really well together. When I did the bride and groom thing with Tate [Steinsiek], we worked [well together]. With Frank, there was no level of compromising. I tried to offer ideas, he didn’t like them; he tried to offer ideas, I didn’t like them. We just couldn’t find a happy balance. And I think the thing with Frank was, since he had worked on major motion pictures, and is in the LA scene, and working with the studios and big names, he had this kind of attitude that I was just this little shit, small potatoes from New York City doing indie films, and I really should just follow his lead. And since I’m the not the kind of guy who bends over and takes it, I think that’s where the clash [came from], because we both have pretty strong personalities.
There were some things that were a little one-sided in my “battle” with Frank. I mean, Frank wasn’t a bad guy. When we were at the house, we were talking, we were laughing, everything was good. But when he got on camera, he became a different person. What was really going on wasn’t really portrayed on the show.
FANG: Since you’ve worked for a while, where did the judges fall as far as fellow makeup artists? Superiors? Colleagues? Peers?
PEPE: Absolutely superiors. I honestly didn’t know who Glenn Hetrick was. I would definitely consider him a superior—he owns Optic Nerve, a big studio. Anybody who’s working in the business and has a studio, I’d say they’re superiors, but colleagues at the same time, because I’m sure if I needed a question answered by Ve Neill, she’d tell me. So I consider her a colleague on that level. But these are people who have been in the business long enough, and have actually made names for themselves. I’ve been doing it for 15 years, and I’ve made a name for myself on the independent scene in New York, but outside the Tri-State Area…LA isn’t calling me, if you know what I mean.
FANG: And does that bother you?
PEPE: I’m a born-and-raised New Yorker, so I’ll be honest with you: If LA doesn’t call me, it doesn’t bother me. There’s plenty of business to be done here. I’m just not a big fan of Los Angeles in general. It’s a pretty city, I like to visit, but living there just isn’t my kind of thing.
FANG: Let’s talk about the naked-body-painting episode, which you won. You created a stunning makeup/photo combo of a woman seemingly being birthed out of a burnt forest.
PEPE: The way the picture came out was actually a collaboration between myself and the model. She actually started screaming and making the faces, and it sold the picture better. That wasn’t my original idea for the pose, but the way it worked out was a happy accident.
FANG: One of the judges mentioned that the skin tone in the center took your eye away from where the makeup might have not matched perfectly with the background. Was that your intention?
PEPE: Well, I wanted everybody to focus on the center and spread out from there—you would see this shape, and all of a sudden you’d start to see the body around it. I didn’t really have any parts of the body that stood out that didn’t match. When we were doing the photos, Frank shouted, “Dude, you’ve got the Predator there!” It was completely camouflaged. The photographer gave me the best compliment of all when he took his first photo to shoot it and test the lights, looked at the camera and was like, “Dude, it’s too perfect. I can’t see her.” He actually had to have her stand away from the board a couple of inches just so he could get some shots that showed there was an actual body there.
FANG: For your final episode, what is it about zombies that makes every makeup FX artist go crazy?
PEPE: Zombies are the most adaptable type of makeup, because there are no rules to them. You can pretty much do anything you want and pass it off as a zombie. It can be drowned, rotted—there’s a million ways to die, so there’s a million ways to make a zombie. It could be an old, decaying zombie. It could be a bloated chemical zombie. It could be a fast zombie, a slow zombie. There’s just no set standard. If you’re doing a werewolf, obviously you gotta have certain rules. If you’re doing a vampire, you have certain rules. Frankenstein’s monster, anything like that. But with a zombie, it’s up in the air.
FANG: Fast or slow zombies?
PEPE: I like both, actually. I think a good mix of them definitely makes it more interesting.
FANG: You created the zombie hooker. It seems like you got tripped up on time, and other people were remarking on the fact that you painted the organs vs. sculpting them.
PEPE: I was trying to go for an inner depth layer by putting a prosthetic on top of a body paint, so I could kind of incorporate a couple of different things, but unfortunately the time just got away from me.
FANG: Do you think you should have been in the bottom three?
PEPE: [Laughs] Off the record, or on the record?
FANG: On the record, of course!
PEPE: On the record, if the judges felt it was my time to go, then yeah, sure, I belonged in the bottom three. I have my own opinions about that. But I liked everybody’s zombie, honestly. I don’t think Tom should have been in the bottom three, that’s for sure.
FANG: Based on your work, do you think it was time for you to go?
PEPE: I think that the glory of winning episode two kind of faded out by then. The bride/groom episode with Tate and I, I feel strongly that we should have won because we had the best overall concept, the best transgender swap. Maybe the judges saw that I wasn’t excelling where I should have been, and they felt it was time for me to go home. So I wasn’t too upset. I was, like, I did what I could. I did my best, and I did my worst, so I’m not upset that I went home. As far as I’m concerned, I lasted a long time. I wasn’t the first one to go home—I was happy about that.
But looking back on it now in hindsight, I wish I had done this for my villain, or that for my zombie, and maybe I would have made it all the way to the end. But, you know, what I’m taking away from the show as an artist is that I learned what my weak points are, and I’m just gonna take that and excel and go from there. Build up and become better. I think the learning experience I got from the whole thing was the best.
FANG: Where you shocked when Megan got to stay?
PEPE: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Megan’s a real sweetheart, and she’s a nice girl off camera, but honestly, when I knew I was going home, I really expected Megan to walk out from behind the curtain as well. I was not expecting Tom. But the judges didn’t see it that way.
FANG: What do you think the net impact of you being on the show is going to be on career?
PEPE: All I can really hope is that the phone rings more. I would love that the people who see me on the show see what I’m capable of, and know that it’s just a TV show. So whatever you see there, if you’d given me a real-life situation on a real job, then obviously I’d do better. It was never about the money. I was never going there to win $100,000, because that’s not the way to go into a competition. I went there mainly for the exposure. The fact that my name got thrown out across the entire country, and now millions of people know I exist, and know that my website exists, and that I’m in the business—that’s more than I could ask for. It’s the best kind of advertising. I can only hope that I get bigger and better jobs.
FANG: How hard was it to keep the secret of being kicked off the show?
PEPE: The only person who truly knew was my wife, because for the next episode, they were going to fly her out there for the challenge. It wasn’t really hard not telling people, because it’s not something you wanna go shout about: “I didn’t win! I didn’t win!” The hardest part was keeping it all a secret until they announced who was on the show.
FANG: What’s coming up for you, workwise?
PEPE: A movie I just did, THE WOMAN [Lucky McKee’s sequel to OFFSPRING, pictured right] just played big at Sundance. The [producer] I worked with, Andrew van den Houten, we’re going to shoot a new movie down in Louisiana this spring called GHOULS. I’m really excited for that; it’s going to be a nice monster movie. Other than that, I have other side projects coming up; I’m doing a lot of short films. Right now, in winter in New York, it’s slow. So right now I’m just building up my portfolio; now that everybody’s looking at my website, I’ve gotta step up my game. Everybody’s looking at me now, so I have to put some good stuff on the site.
Check out more of Pepe’s work at his Demonic Pumpkins FX website. See previous contestant interviews in our Fearful Features section.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment