When Kevin Lewis was a kid, he had a deep love for Universal's classic movie monsters like Frankenstein, the Mummy and Dracula. So, naturally, at Halloween, he wanted to dress up as one of them. None of the store-bought costumes would do, so he picked Lon Chaney Jr.'s Wolf Man and made his own costume.
"I was really interested in the characters but also how Hollywood brought those characters to life because back then, obviously, there was no CGI or anything like that," Lewis says from the Dallas Makerspace studio in Carrollton.
Lewis' childhood obsession with making monsters has grown into a full-time hobby. Both his original creations and scary accurate movie and TV re-creations are starting to attract serious attention from national conventions and even the Nerdist's online network.
"I just love bringing characters to life," Lewis says.
Lewis rediscovered his love for costume creation while working on the party-planning committee as a creative art director for a local ad agency. His contribution to the costume contest won him the top prize, and every Halloween party after "became this thing where I had to outdo myself every year."
Lewis decided to put his costumes before a bigger crowd at his first convention in 2012. He designed an outfit for Darth Maul, the evil Jedi from Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace whom — spoiler alert — Lewis was disappointed to see die at the end of the movie.
He also tried his hand at making a costume of Spider-Man's arch-nemesis Green Goblin that was more accurate based on the comic books than the tech-heavy recreation from Sam Raimi's hit film. His creations were so well done that he started to develop a small following although he didn't know anyone at that first convention.
"One thing that really just kind of hooked me was when I had some kids come up to me and were like, 'Oh, wow, can I get a picture with you?'" Lewis says. "When they look at you, especially when they're younger, they think you're the character."
His costume for the Night King, the wrinkled, armor-covered leader of the White Walkers on HBO's Game of Thrones, gave him his biggest breakthrough so far as a costume designer.
"As soon as I saw the White Walkers, I thought, 'Man, this is cool,' and I'm digging this," Lewis says, "but when I
saw the Night King, who's the leader of the White Walkers, I knew I had to do that at some point."
His appearance at the last Fan Expo convention not only earned him accolades from his fellow attendees, but it also scored him coverage in publications like Cosplay Connection magazine and interest from the producers of a new online series for Nerdist, created by comedian Chris Hardwick. The online network is party of Hardwick's massive media empire.
Legendary Entertainment hired Lewis to appear in his Night King costume for a new Nerdist science show called The
Lewis' costumes take quite a bit of time to get into because they are more than just masks and outfits. He makes facial accessories in latex pieces that allow more realistic facial movements and can blend into the shape of his face.
"My big thing is I always want to have movements in the face, so I can show some facial expressions as opposed to just putting on a mask," Lewis says. "The flip side is that it's a pretty long process."
It took about three hours to complete his Night King look for the Nerdist shoot. However, once he stepped out of the makeup room in his full costume, Lewis says, it transformed him in more ways than one.
"What was funny is I go to the makeup studio [on the Nerdist set], and three hours later, I come back out in all the Night King stuff, and it's almost like I was the celebrity at that point," Lewis says. "They were like, 'I gotta get a selfie with you.'"
Lewis' work continues to attract attention and new opportunities from the local and national cosplay and convention communities. He recently accepted an invitation to participate in the newly formed Famous Monsters convention, and he's already lined up offers to talk about his creative work and judge costume contests at conventions like the city of Arlington's
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He's also dedicated a huge chunk of his costume work to local charities like the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Scottish Rite children's hospital, which have invited him to appear as some of his more famous characters for children.
"I love doing the charity work stuff with the kids," Lewis says. "I get a lot of joy seeing the kids get a kick out of it and the smiles on their faces."
Lewis says he's not sure where his costumes will take him.
"I don't know where all of this is going to lead," he says. "It's definitely taken on a life of its own."