By: Jaimz Dillman
What do you do with a graphic design degree from Indiana State when you don't want to sit behind a desk all day? You pivot - just like Andy Wright did - and you just might find yourself in the middle of some Stranger Things.
Wright, a special effects makeup artist and owner of Makeup & Creative Arts, started down a zombie and monster-filled path after seeing a friend's portfolio who had just gone to makeup school. "I did a bit of makeup through school and was always interested in learning more. I was always interested in anything artistic," he said.
Following that passion led him to Florida in 1997, working odd production jobs here and there to build his own portfolio. Starting out in film and television, he would work mainly on sculpting and molding prosthetic pieces and assisting in their application. Early credits include Sheena and Mortal Kombat, which he was brought on by Lee Grimes. But it was his seasonal hire at Universal Studios for the fledgling makeup department, led by Jim Udenberg at the time, that would shape the next 16 years of his career. "I was full time within a year and a half, working on everything from Beetlejuice to Halloween Horror Nights, and later helping to create icons like Bloody Mary," said Wright.
He also took a turn on stage for a few seasons as the mean green one himself during the holidays. Doing double duty, he spent half the week creating the residents of Whoville, and the other half terrorizing them for audiences. Wright says of The Grinch, "One of the most favorite characters I ever had the pleasure of performing. There is a very deep and special space in my heart for him. And always will be."
Continuing to mold and sculpt on his own, his online company started as a fluke. "'Around the time of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I made pieces for a party with friends." Not wanting material to go to waste, he pumped out about 100 pieces from each of the 4 molds and sold them on eBay. They sold out in three weeks. More and different characters followed, thus Morphstore.com was born to create and carry prosthetic pieces. By the time the industry needed more special makeup effects, they were ready for it.
Between the store, the makeup effects company, and still working in the park, Wright had to make a choice. After consulting with often-time makeup model and wife Lynda Gale Wright, he left Universal and never looked back. Wright says, "I try not to turn away anything creative or challenging, but I make it a point to not get overwhelmed."
Now supported by constant outside contracts at all major area attractions and project work, MCA was in a good position for Wright to step back into film and television.
Creative collaborations with theme park connections brought work with groups like VoicePlay and PattyCake Productions. “Ann-Maree Hurley helped me to be a small part of season one of David Makes Man, filmed in Central Florida. I then went on to the second season under department head Shawna Maharaj, and became a personal makeup artist to Travis Coles for season two, and that was an amazing, stellar experience. The makeup department was really great. Shawna told me about other jobs, and then networking brought me to a long time friend and colleague Devin Morales who brought me on to have a short but wonderful couple of days on Stranger Things, Season 4," he said.
He's watched the show with his three daughters (ages 11, 13, and 15), and says they all got sucked in. "The differences between seasons 1-3 were more creature-heavy, and this one is more nightmarish," Wright said.
“Even though it was only a couple of days for me,” Wright says, “the camaraderie amongst the other artists was helpful and everyone was willing to assist in any way. The actors all had roughly the same makeup application, and then their noses were removed with digital effects."
When asked if he still gets excited to work with celebrities, he does allow himself, on occasion, to "geek out." But it is just everyone working together at a job. "You get paid to be here. To make monsters. Every day, no matter what, there's always something to learn. Every day is something new. Products are always changing. I'm never going to think I know everything," said Wright.
With quite a few other productions Wright has coming out this next year, Stranger Things is the only one he can really talk about at this moment. "It really ended up renewing my love and passion that I have for this craft. It's like a rekindling where it almost said, 'C'mon, let's have some fun.'"