It’s actually quite refreshing playing a role without a face. When I’m wearing my mask, I know no one knows who I am. I can lose myself completely in the role without holding back at all.
Mark Steger has spent a good part of his career in the film and TV world as the man behind the mask. He played an “Infected” in I Am Legend. He played an alien in Men in Black II. He played a witch in The Last Witch Hunter. Throughout his career, he’s acted in a good number of roles, roughly half of which he performed in a mask or heavy makeup. Most recently, he has lent his talents to the anthology horror Holidays and, most prominently, the popular Netflix series Stranger Things.
I had the chance to catch up with Mark and talk for quite awhile about his career, his love of dance, and his favorite things about horror. Sadly, the recording service I used for the interview lost the audio recording; however, I was able to take copious notes and much of Mark’s story was unforgettable. An interesting man, to say the least, here’s just a little bit the fascinating man inside the Demogorgan suit.
Mark’s most prominent roles without a mask are likely in the character of Charles Barlow in Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact and its sequel. His face may also be a bit recognizable for his work in music videos with Tool and Metallica (in fact, he portrays Jesus in Metallica’s video for the hit single “Until It Sleeps”). However, he truly loves being able to lose himself in his many faceless roles (as quoted above).
Interestingly, one of his other favorite forms of artistic expression is quite the opposite of being behind a mask, however; he spent many years as a core member of an experimental and extreme dance troupe who performed in the buff. Doing their own style of dance in extreme climates and settings, Mark’s troupe was a large part of what shaped him.
I love to dance, in fact it was my primary gig for a long time … [now] I incorporate dance and movement not only as an actor, but also through choreography.
Mark’s resume as a choreographer is even more impressive than his unique roles and on screen performances. As a mere sampling of his work, here’s a short list of projects he’s done choreography for:
- Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
- The Last Witch Hunter
- World War Z
- American Horror Story
- Multiple tours for alternative rock/industrial band, Tool
- Commercials for Vizio
- I Am Legend
And this is just a small sample of his work. A lengthy list of choreography projects and impressive acting roles are joined also by a good amount of uncredited stunt work and numerous other creative projects.
Which brings us to 2016… first and foremost, Mark is the primary antagonist in the buzz show of the year. As the monster in Stranger Things, Mark spent hours upon hours getting in and out of a swampy, sweaty suit while filming. The suit featured animatronics that Mark had to master and operate. And, what’s more is that very little CGI was used in creating the creature we all saw on screen. In fact, CGI was primarily for augmenting and touching, rather than creating effects. Watching the show, it’s hard not to find this an impressive feat both for the show’s creators and for Mark.
Mark was involved in the project rather early on and had input into the creation of the monster. The Duffer Brothers and he spent time discussing and sharing their visions. Ultimately, the finished product was an iconic screen villain in the form of a unique and visually impressive monster.
The other 2016 release (so far, as Mark has at least one more project he’s involved with slated to release by year’s end) is the multi director seasonally themed anthology film, Holidays. In my full review of the film, I note, “Even the seasoned extreme cinema viewer will likely find him or herself asking, ‘Is he really fucking doing this? He’s not actually going there, is he?'” And, Mark agrees that his short with director and friend Nicholas McCarthy (whom he worked with in the aforementioned The Pact) created something very unique and envelope-pushing:
Yeah, that is certainly a piece that stands out. We really wanted to do something that challenged limits and pushed up against what people would expect.
The creature design is especially unsettling and impactful. The Easter story will never be the same after this blasphemous and intriguing take on the icons of the holiday.
Mark’s stories were fun and his demeanor was great. He was legitimately one of the most fun interviews I’d had in a long time. However, what speaks even more than his words is the art he creates. With that, I implore everyone reading to take some time to get to know the man behind the mask, Mark “The Monster” Steger.