Alex Casey talks to Josh Thomson about his satanic transformation in tonight’s Wellington Paranormal Christmas special on TVNZ2.
There’s a scene in the Wellington Paranormal Christmas special tonight that is sure to cheer up even the grizzliest of Christmas grinches. Due to a clerical error, Tawa Mall has accidentally booked Satan instead of Santa and he is terrifying the young ones all the way from the Life pharmacy to the Number One Shoes. Of course, there’s only one team for the job: the hapless duo of officers Minogue and O’Leary.
As they try to convince the devil incarnate not to set up his evil citadel in Tawa, you may notice something familiar about the man they call Satan – he sounds a hell of a lot like Josh Thomson. The comedy icon has a distinct Kiwi monotone that not even the heaviest prosthetics can hide. Fascinated by the man behind the mask, I gave Josh a call to find out how he became Satan for Christmas.
Step one: Make a death mask
To have the satanic prosthetics fit his face properly, Thomson had to travel down to Wellington to have his face cast in plaster and enjoy a lovely sleep. “I had a new baby and I was really exhausted, so I would start passing out whenever they put the plaster on my face. Everyone would freak out and think I was dead, but I’ve never had a better sleep in my life.” On his next trip down, he was met with the cast of his sleeping face resting on a table. “My head was just sitting there and it was real intense because I was having such a good sleep that I looked dead. So I now know what I will look like when I’m dead, which is pretty terrifying.”
Step two: Terrify members of the public
The Christmas special was filmed in a real mall in Hutt Valley, with the crew setting up just as the shops were closing for the day. “It was quite a low key crew, so I couldn’t find them at first,” says Thomson, who showed up in full devilish garb. “People were running away from me, which I can kind of understand because I was dressed as Satan. It was just a really surreal situation. I didn’t have a tie to keep the Santa jacket closed so that was opening and my stomach was coming out, it was just very awkward all round.”
Step three: Protect the eyes
The most difficult part of becoming Satan, says Thomson, was putting in his new evil eyes. “I had never worn contacts before and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s like they put it on their finger and then they climb into the world of your eye.” Unable to get the contacts in beforehand, he saved it until right before they started shooting. “There were about 50 people waiting around for me to put a contact lens in. I had to physically grab my eyelid and wrench it open while doing a loud, low scream. It was very humiliating.”
Step four: Unleash the devil’s honey
What might not be obvious on the telly is that Thomson was extremely sick under all his prosthetics. “I was blowing snot out all morning and then when they put the prosthetics on it kind of slowly filled up with my own snot.” It is at this point that he issued a formal apology to the woman who removed the mask and “recoiled”, before taking it away to be thoroughly washed.
Step five: Keep your natural voice
You might think that Satan has to talk in a gravelly growl, but Thomson had strict instructions to keep his own voice. “I pitched doing a real psycho sort of satanic voice to Jemaine [Clement] and he was like ‘nah just do it normal’,” Thomson recalled. Monotone Kiwi Satan? Why not.
Step six: Don’t you dare laugh
I wondered if Thomson had a hard time with corpsing, given the level of improvisation and crack up jokes that coarse through Wellington Paranormal’s veins. Surprisingly, he doesn’t really laugh when he’s on set. “A long time ago I decided to just die inside instead. It’s bad because the laugh is still inside you, but it doesn’t come out. I just bury it somewhere in the moment and then hours later it will come out.” He then described waking in the middle of the night by bellowing “a-HA!” about something that happened three weeks ago, and waking up the baby.
Step seven: Dance the goat dance
You may or may not encounter a scene tonight where Satan performs an enthralling dance, showcasing his delicate goat legs. “I had these green socks on, then after this guy came out with a pair of goat legs on sticks and had to try to imitate my dance moves. It was the best thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life, a really beautiful thing.”
Step eight: Have yourself a cursed Christmas
Even though he has long retired the Satan costume, Thomson still has a streak of darkness in his Christmas celebrations. Planning to visit his famous dad in the South Island, the visit will begin with a sweep of the property for weapons, traps and knives. “Dad’s been shooting a lot of rabbits at the moment so we will have to child proof it before we can relax this Christmas,” says Thomson. “It should be fun I think – aside from the potential death situation.”
Watch the Wellington Paranormal Christmas special tonight at 8.30pm on TVNZ2