Roy Wooley, with his cowboy hat and no-nonsense demeanor, is breezing through Syfy’s “Face Off” after four episodes, winning the last challenge. (The fifth episode airs tonight.)
Only three of the remaining eight contestants vying for the $100,000 and a Toyota Prius have stayed out of the bottom tier so far. Wooley, an FX/makeup specialist for Netherworld Haunted House, is one of them.
In fact, he won the fourth challenge last week: create a character from “Alice in Wonderland” who is becoming a mutating zombie from the “Resident Evil” films. The judges praised Wooley’s craft work for his demented Queen of Hearts, especially the way he crafted the peeling skin on her head into a crown.
Wooley, 46, said as a teenager, the film that hooked him on special effects was the 1981 horror-comedy film “An American Werewolf in London.” The image of actor David Naughton in the living room turning into a werewolf stuck with him.
After working at an embroidery company for 12 years in Jasper, he got involved with a video production company in Lilburn in the mid-1990s. Soon after, Netherworld started. Wooley began building props for them and working makeup during the busy season in the fall. The Norcross Halloween mainstay has since become one of the top rated haunted houses in the country.
After season one of “Face Off,” he put in a video submission “on a whim,” he says, for season two. But he didn’t get a call. So for this current season, he traveled to Orlando for an in-person audition, figuring he’d make more of impact face to face. It worked. He was in.
A private person who seems to shy away from drama, Wooley says to go in front of camera was “a big leap, completely getting out of my comfort zone.” But he says he focused on his work and would often forget the camera folks were there. (Yes, he bumped into them a couple of times.)
As a sci-fi geek, he says he has relished the challenges that have aired so far. The themes of the first two challenges were “Star Wars” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Wooley says his strength is his ability to do a little bit of everything, be it sculpting, fabrication, prosthetics, painting or makeup. He also works fast, a key skill in a competition like “Face Off.” And he says he doesn’t mind taking risks. “I’m not afraid of losing. I’m willing to go out and go all out.” His philosophy: “If I get sent home, so be it. I want to show every facet of my abilities.”
Netherworld prepared him for a show like this. “Sometimes, we need a monster made overnight,” he says. “I’m used to time constraints, to knock something out.”
Billy Messina, one of the founders of Netherworld and a makeup expert in his own right, marvels at Roy’s speed and dexterity. In the early years, he’d airbrush 50 or 60 employees in an hour. “Whatever you need, you tell him and he’ll do it. It could be 6 in the morning or midnight,” he says. And Wooley’s calm, confident demeanor, he says, contrasts sharply with many creative types who have a flare for the dramatic. “He’s not judgmental or harsh,” Messina says.
Wooley, who is now in charge of about a dozen other FX workers at Netherworld, can quickly transform existing monsters into something completely new. “We love throwing stuff at Roy,” he says. “He’ll rip the head off an old monster and make a new head and turn it into an absolutely different creature.”
If Wooley wins the $100,000, he’d like to open his own FX shop. With Atlanta growing as a home for film and TV, he figures he has an opportunity to carve out a niche. As for the Prius? “I’m not really a Prius guy,” he says. (My guess: he’ll sell it.)
Already, during DragonCon a couple weeks ago, he was surprised so many fans approached him for fans and autographs. “It’s fun for the moment,” he says, of the fame of being on TV. “But I’m ready to go back to a normal life.”
9 p.m. Tuesdays, Syfy
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk