Nick Kellington, creature performer on The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance, plied his skills as the body operator for the Skeksis Hunter, SkekMal. On September 18 on Twitter, he shared what it was like on his first day on the set of the Castle Throne room:
“The day we filmed the scenes featured in this [image] was my first day on set. It was slightly nerve wracking as the production had already been filming for a few months and so was a well oiled machine with a tight cast and crew by this point. Everyone knew their roles and how the studio floor ran and I was the newbie on set. Also, that day was the first time I’d be working with Kevin Clash who, as Lead Puppeteer on SkekMal, has creative responsibility over the character’s performance. With Kevin having worked so extensively with Hensons and especially having been Elmo, he’s one of the most famous and experienced puppeteers in the world, so I was expecting him to hold me to high standards, which he did.
“It was a big set up in The Throne Room with all the Skeksis, a few of the puppeteers I knew already, but I’d had no rehearsal for this scene at all. At home, I’d read the scripts of the episodes SkekMal was in but was only given the sides of the scenes we were filming that morning so I learned them over breakfast. On set, Director Louis Leterrier briefly introduced me to the crew as the guy who was going to be in the Hunter and then it was straight to business.
“I think I saw some faces, I now recognise, as producers and writers who were also on the studio floor. This was SkekMal’s first day on set and understandably, I’m sure they wanted to check the character out too. I was invited in for a rehearsal with Louis and the core puppeteers to block out the day’s scenes before showing them to the rest of the crew, no puppets for them (they use their hands instead) and no animatronic head for me. Thankfully in the first set up I was strung up like a marionette with all the Skeksis around me. I didn’t have any action other than to hang there so that bought me a few minutes breathing space to get into it.
“Next I blocked out a scene with SkekMal and SkekTek, played by Olly Taylor. I’m not sure why but I was delivering my lines. Kevin would usually perform them but for that very first block through I think he was organising the new RC rig that he uses to puppeteer SkekMal’s face. So with full gusto, I broke free from the ropes that bound me and angrily growled “WHERE’S RYAN?!!!”
“‘Err, it’s Rian’, said Louis in his cool French accent (Ree-an). Like I said, I’d read the script but I hadn’t double checked how to pronounce all the character names with anyone. DOH! With my first two words I’d just screwed up in front of the Director, all the core puppeteers and maybe some producers too . . . so there wasn’t MUCH more to be nervous about.
“Also Louis was really cool with me so after that, I just got on with the job and enjoyed myself from there on in. (And believe me I did!) I LOVED performing in the SkekMal suit and I hope it shows in the finished series. Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve found it interesting.
See here for Nick describing his scenes of the Hunter attacking a couple of unfortunate Gelflings.
See here for SkekMal bowling with Gelflings!