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TV Goodness Q&A: Mackenzie Westmore and Glenn Hetrick Discuss Face Off Season 5 [INTERVIEW + Preview] 

Photo Credit: Syfy
Photo Credit: Syfy

You have probably heard about the big twist this season: eight special-effects makeup artists will be competing against eight returning contestants from past seasons of Face Off. TV Goodness participated in a press call with host Mackenzie Westmore and judge Glenn Hetrick. They discussed what to look forward to this season, how the veterans stack up against the newbies, and what kind of challenges they’d like to see if it was up to them.

This season on Face Off, what changes or possible improvements did you see in the contestants in comparison with previous seasons?

Mackenzie Westomre: “I think there’s just a real shake-up, especially for the newbies with the veterans coming back; it’s a big twist for this particular season. It’s just a whole new season in itself. It’s kind of a standalone because it’s the first time we’re doing this and I think it’s going to be really interesting for the viewers to see some of their old favorites come back and some newcomers that they might fall in love with now for the first time too.”

Can you talk about the decision to bring back the veterans?

Mackenzie: “You know for Face Off, with each season, [we] have to go bigger and better and it was time for a little shake-up. It was time for a little bit of twist.”

Are there going to be more challenges where it’s newbies versus vets or are they going to be more broken up after the first episode?

Mackenzie: “They will be more broken up but initially that first foundation challenge of the masquerade ball is everybody – each man for himself – and then it does get broken-up here and there into newbies versus vets.”

Can you discuss the process of who was selected and why?

Glenn Hetrick: “Actually, we’re not involved. We found out when we got there and it’s purposefully done that way. We don’t want to have any preconceived notions. It’s really about the work each week, so it was a surprise to us as well.”

Were you surprised about some of the people who were chosen?

Glenn: “I can’t really say that I’m surprised. Everyone that comes on the show, regardless of how much they succeed or fail in a given [challenge], they’re very impressive artists. They’re trained to do anything from concept to application in two days and it’s insanely difficult. So, anyone that’s been on the show, belongs there. It was sort of just a mixed bag of people. I know they wanted to have different seasons represented.”

Do you hold the veterans to a higher standard?

Glenn: “I wouldn’t say that we’re looking at the newcomers going – well, you can get away with a lot – but there’re certain things that we expect out of the progression of each season. There’re just certain repetitive things almost to the point of redundant themes in what we’re asking them to do so, yes, they’re held to a higher standard in Season 5 but not unfairly so. Not that we expect the veterans to do something different than what the newcomers are doing but there’s also the added aspects of this challenge where the newcomers are coming in and they sort of have the benefit of adrenaline. They haven’t been there before and the veterans are a little more comfortable but they also have a greater opportunity to second-guess themselves. They have already been there and eliminated once so the only mature advantage the veterans have is they’re familiar with the lab. They know where everything is and they’re a little more comfortable in the process. That actually could be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you look at it.”

With the vets, were there any that really came back and blew you away by their improvement since their appearance on the show?

Mackenzie: “Most definitely.”

Was there any one in particular that stood out?

Glenn: “For me I think Miranda’s growth in-between her season and this season was pretty remarkable.”

Mackenzie: “Yes. That’s exactly what I was going to say.”

Glenn: “It’s just the first time Miranda came out, we didn’t see her for very long. The competition affects each contestant in a different way. The pressure is not only how good the other people are around you but they’re scoping right next to you so you’re second-guessing yourself as you go and you have no time. Then on top of it, you’ve got cameras shoved in your faces which is something that most people aren’t nice with. So, to be dealing with all of that can be quite overwhelming. Maybe the combination of Miranda having worked a lot in-between and all of them coming back and knowing what to expect, I think they’ve gotten over the fear of being thrown off the show once. Look at how different Nicole’s work was in her season after she was brought back in the challenge that Patrick judged that allowed a contestant to come back in their season. It changes them…”

Mackenzie: “She did [say] that fear was gone.”

Glenn: “…yes, and I think that they all have that now. Coming back into it, they’re a little more comfortable with exploring their own visions of things and they know the drill a little bit better.”

What do you think was the most challenging task for the newbies and the most challenging task for the vets, if they’re different?

Mackenzie: “Honestly I would say that very first get-go was the most difficult for the newbies obviously because they had no idea. I didn’t even know until I got my script the night before that we were bringing in eight veterans so I walked out on stage and I’m there and I’m looking at them going okay, there are eight of them and I knew that I was going to be introducing the eight veterans but they didn’t. So it was quite a shock for those newcomers to be standing there and to see eight veterans all of a sudden walk up and they knew right then and there the competition started. It was a big shock for them because the veterans obviously know the drill. They know the routine. They know what’s happening but for those newcomers, as the season goes on and progresses, you’ll see as time goes on it switches back and forth. One week it’s tough for a veteran, one week it’s tough for a newcomer so it’s really this fine line and a dance that happens throughout the entire season. Hey, Glenn?”

Glenn: “Yes, the newcomers have to figure out where everything is and how the game works. They’ve had the advantage of seeing more seasons of the show edited together and so they have this benefit that’s sort of their perception of how it works as a viewer. Their biggest challenge is trying to acclimate to the environment, figure out how the game works, how we work as people and how to give us what we want, which every season faces coming in. The returning contestants, however, have to face what must be a nagging fear and anxiety, what did they do wrong the first time? I don’t know that that’s reality just as it is for many of us. Our fears and anxieties are sort of something we do to ourselves more than situational and if you didn’t do a good job or you’re not a great artist, in that particular week that you were thrown off, someone did better than you. You’re up against a lot of great artists so they have to come back and battle. Having been there and having not made it before, they have to second-guess themselves and rethink like what do I have to do this time to not go home and they’re facing something that’s even scarier which is I don’t want to go home again. I’ve got another shot at this so if it was me, I’d be even more focused and last season almost desperate in my desire to just to make it to the finals and make sure that I’m showing my best work each week.”

Is there any particular challenge where the results exceeded your expectations across the board?

Glenn: “Happens all the time. There are certain weeks where we – and the other way unfortunately – there’s certain weeks we go I cannot believe not just one or two of the make-ups, how well everyone did this week hitting the parameters of the challenge, managing to get some beautiful technical execution. Then there’s weeks where we hear the challenge that’s pretty straightforward in terms of what it is that you should be thinking design-wise and there’s so much for your reference and so they should be able to really knock this out of the park, but for some reason as a whole they’ll be befuddled by what it is they’re supposed to be doing. They come out and the majority of the make-ups aren’t where we expected them to be. You just never know.”

What I thought was really neat last year was the fact that you had somebody eliminated but then they actually brought Kane back and won the competition. Is that something that was just a trial for that particular season or is there something along those lines being done this year?

Mackenzie: “Have to wait and see. Can’t give away too much, got to keep you coming back each week.”

Well, can you speak as to what happened last year? What do you think that added to the show?

Mackenzie: “I think it added another layer. I’m always saying that each season we have to shake it up a little bit and then making go we stick to a certain formula. But with each and every season that passes, there has to be something to go bigger and bolder with so that was for that season that was the layer that we added on to just kind of shake it up a little bit for the contestants because they can’t keep coming back and thinking oh, it’s going to be this because we watched last season. No, it’s they’re going to have a twist thrown at them.”

Glenn do you have anything to add?

Glenn: “Yes, to your first question. You had Nicole come back same season and then for the sake of just anybody that doesn’t know this, we did a Web series called redemption after Season 4 and Eric was his spot on the way back. And we affected that particular twist in different ways and I assume that the producers understand the entertainment value of that. It’s fun to watch somebody get a second chance and it’s fun to watch the transformation, what do they do differently when they come back? So I would imagine that we’ll see different iterations of that particular concept as we go. I hope that we do.

Mackenzie can you talk about some of the guest artists? You had some great ones last year and we’re looking forward to seeing who you have coming up.

Mackenzie: “We have some amazing guests coming in this year. Episode one starts off with Catherine Hardwicke, director of Twilight. She comes in for the very first foundation challenge which is a masquerade ball. We also have joining us in that first episode, Heroes of Cosplay, which is a new docu-series on Syfy. We also have Bill Corso, an Academy Award-winning makeup artist. He gives contestants some advice on their first spotlight challenge and then as far as throughout the season, we’ve got Kevin Grevioux, Lin Shayne. We have Jordu Schell, we have Elvira. We have Valli O’Reilly, some really good industry people – some amazing industry people actually – and some other fun ones along the way as well. We’ll have Dave Salmoni of Animal Planet. He comes in for a special challenge that is an animal and human hybrid. That one was a lot of fun.”

Do either of you have any input into challenge ideas or is that solely the producers that come up with all the ideas for the challenges?

Mackenzie: “It’s the producers.”

Glenn: “Yes, there’s a challenge team that comes up with these ideas.”

If you could make up your own challenge, what would you like to see on the show?

Mackenzie: “Glenn, you want to start or do you want me to?”

Glenn: “No, that’s a good one. I’m going to need a second to think…”

Mackenzie: “Okay, because I have one that I’ve been wanting for a long time. We always try to add in some sort of musical side or some sort of music dance, whatever it may be in each season. I would love to see a Broadway challenge, something along the lines of Shrek or something like that where they’ve got to do the makeup but the performer has to sing through it. We haven’t done that yet and I would flip out to see that. In fact, I would probably even volunteer and want to be one of the models for that.”

Sounds like a lot of fun though.

Glenn: “Yes, I think that mine, which I’ve brought up before, in other interviews is I am such an insane fan of Edgar Allan Poe and H.G. Wells craft and they’ve had such a profound impact on our literature through their sort of literary bloodline. I think it would be so cool if we did a challenge that was all literature, specifically horror-list inspired. Each contestant got to work within the realms of Lovecraft or Poe or so many of the images that we know and love today [come] from the minds of those very few authors. I think that would be an exciting way to expose some of my favorite literature to a wider audience but also to get back to the roots with some of the ideas that we’ve been enjoying in everything from Twilight Zone and Night Gallery up till, you know, Genno is a huge Lovecraft fan and uses the imagery in his work all the time.”

Mackenzie, your father is back again this season as the mentor. Could you talk about what he brings to the show and how the atmosphere in the work room changes when he arrives?

Mackenzie: “My dad is back and it’s always a thrill because I absolutely love and adore my dad. To get to work with him a couple of times a week and walk through the lab is just the greatest gift a daughter could have. He brings back his expertise and what he can do to help them to improve their scopes, their designs, their color palettes, whatever it is that they have questions on. It’s so fascinating to both of us that as we walk through the lab, nine times out of 10 what looks amazing in the lab and what looks horrible in the lab always ends-up reversing. It blows our minds. I would say almost to a T every challenge – it’s not always – but a majority of the time it’s just incredible because I get to be there every single day. I get to be there for the reveal, the lab and the elimination and my dad does show up behind the scenes for the elimination to see so that he can help whoever was in the bottom and didn’t go home, he can help them that next week to say this is where you went wrong. So what we are all blown away with is that to my dad and I to see that change, to see how something that can just look so terribly wrong in the lab and he gives them the advice and then whether they use it or they don’t and the times we’ve seen them really follow through and either change some of the sculpting or change what the color scheme was going to be, it’s really incredible. It’s amazing to see how things can turn out.

Glenn in the initial seasons the judges were the ones that did like that initial walk-through and gave that initial feedback. Do you miss having that initial interaction with the contestants?

Mackenzie: “Come on Glenn, you missed me, don’t you?”

Glenn: “Yes, so of course, we really enjoyed that but it helps us think in terms of adding production value to the finished pieces. We want them to succeed so getting our critiques were more nebulous like okay, this is interesting work and Michael can go in since he’s not judging them and really give them advice that they can choose to follow or not. It’s a different tone. What we were doing and what he’s doing are very different things.”

Mackenzie: “I think it doesn’t throw off in the judging aspect. The judges are looking at it through fresh eyes. They’re not skewed in any way. They’ve already had somebody else come through that just like Glenn said he’s not there to judge them, he’s there to advise them. Then it leaves the job of the judges to do exactly that, to judge what that final product is.”

Glenn, if you could tell all the contestants one piece of advice on what they should spend more attention on, what would that be? Is there anything?

Glenn: “Well, if I had to make one overarching like here’s the statement people missed the most…, yes, it would be realism in paint. It’s very difficult to try to do that within the time that they have but a lot of the contestants – and I understand why and how because you’re trying to go from concept to application in such a short time – but a lot of them fail to pull back on their design. The trick [of] winning a challenge is you got to come up with an idea that’s big but is manageable in the time so it’s not just a little face appliance. Then when you’re sculpting it, allow yourself to not get too caught-up in the detail but at the same time not present something that’s so raw and unfinished and you need to do all those things with the right amount of time management so that you leave yourself time to paint. We’ve seen so many people get to the point where they have a great idea, the sculpture might even be gorgeous and Mackenzie got to see that in the walk-through. Then they just don’t leave themselves time to paint and they don’t express their painting skills appropriately. I don’t think they know how much time it’s going to take to paint a whole chest, arms and the face. So they just slap their color on it and how do you present something with these big solid fields of color with no breakup, no modeling and no stippling? Those are the tricks. You need translucent layers of paint that you paint little veins in it, sort of figure eighty shapes all over in a pattern to break up the tone and then some stippling. That’s how our skins are essentially colors and whether the thing’s blue or green or whatever, you need to follow the rules of if it’s fleshy it’s got to be painted like flesh. If it’s a hard surface, it has to be painted like a shell or like metal or and those things are really complex. So I think that the one note that we keep saying over and over and over again is not because they’re not listening, it’s just because they want so badly for the design to be big and beautifully sculpted, they don’t leave themselves enough time to color it properly.”

So sometimes painting can be more important than the sculpture?

Glenn: “Yes, because you can’t go the other way. [I’ve] seen it many times, beautiful sculpture can easily be destroyed in the painting and application process. There are make-ups that when you look at the clay of it, it’s gorgeous, then you see it on and it’s a complete and utter failure. That is because the color is controlling our mind’s perception, the way that we perceive shapes is actually a function of the way we’re perceiving light and the color’s controlling that. So if you color something really poorly, you’re actually obfuscating the beauty of the forms in the sculpture. Vice versa. You could take a pretty rough sculpt that’s devoid of detail and if you really know what you’re doing  – and I’ve seen this many times in the real working professional world -  sculpts are rough, wasn’t enough time to do insane detail. So then if you got a great painter and the person applying it knows what they’re doing with the color blend, it can be absolutely beautiful and you’d never know how rough the sculpture was.”

Obviously you guys are a mainstay on Syfy at this point. What do you think is the larger impact or even legacy that Face Off has had on TV and on Syfy?

Glenn: “I’ve been on so many episodics and shows in the past and I am privy to information that happened in the direction meetings. Often the case, especially with television shows, they’re looking for a way to engage younger audiences and even with Syfy shows that you’re trying to get somewhere where the children are enjoying the show and the parents can watch with them and our show magically does that. Think about when you’re a kid: you sit through a boring two-hour, often-wretched film to get to the one shot of the monster, the end of the thing. On our show you get to see 13 monsters in an hour of television. So kids love the visuals, which is very interesting because it excites them about the art, which I think is the greatest impact we have. Being out at conventions and doing so many signings and things, again and again and again and again, I meet families who have never been to a horror convention. They’re just there because someone from the show is there and just they’re there because the child wanted to come and the child is now into sculpting and painting and all because of the show. Then I think the parents get sucked into the competitive aspect of it and then there you have it — something that people can watch with their children. They’re so grateful for that and I think that’s really the biggest aspect of our show that contributes to its success.”

Mackenzie: “And for me I think it’s what audiences really respond to and I agree with you, Glenn; it definitely is that family viewing is what’s building more and more each season. As far as reinventing the wheel, a little bit in that the reality-competition world, there’s an instant gratification of that transformation. I think that’s what the viewer’s really love to see whereas with many great reality competition shows, you really you can’t taste the food, you can’t try on the dress, but with us you get to see that instant transformation within the hour of the show.”

Heroes of Cosplay and another Syfy show coming up cater to the geek-culture world. Would you guys like to take credit for opening up that programming space for sort of movie, sci-fi and comic book geeks? How much credit should Face Off get for opening that up and making that a comfortable space on Syfy?

Glenn: “Well, it just seems our show is different from the paranormal-based shows and things in that it does cater to the hardcore fans but I don’t know. For me it’s hard to answer that question since I’m such a geek myself it just feels like a natural thought process.”

Mackenzie: “Yes, that’s how I feel. I feel it was just a matter of time. I don’t think there’s any credit to be taken or given. I think it was just a matter of time. I think we really struck gold and we got so lucky with Face Off that it’s a great format. It’s a fun show and I think it just kind of opened a door that was just sitting there waiting to be opened.”

Here’s a preview of Face Off Season 5:

Season 5 of Face Off premieres tonight at 9/8c on Syfy.

Edited for space and content.

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