EXCLUSIVE TV Goodness Q&A: Get To Know Face Off Judge Neville Page [INTERVIEW + Finale Preview]
I’ve been a fan of Face Off since I stumbled upon it a few years ago. I always love reality competition shows that are mostly about talent, and only a little bit about the behind-the-scenes drama. With this show, it feels like we’re always seeing new and fresh ideas and some seriously impressive work. I spoke exclusively to Face Off judge Neville Page about how he got his start in the industry, which makeups have impressed him the most and what to except in this season’s finale.
TV GOODNESS: When did you know you wanted to be a creature designer and how did you get started in the business?
Neville Page: “Well, I knew I wanted to do it at a very young age, but I didn’t know it was a career. I have to admit that Star Wars was the impetus for it all and seeing a guy named Rick Baker, who is a very well known makeup artist in the film world. Those were the moments where I thought this was a really cool thing – to create creatures and monsters – but being unexposed to the world and the profession, it was not something that my family could really endorse. It just didn’t sound like a very sensible career title anyhow. So I ended up going down the path of industrial design because I liked to design and I went to college in Pasadena, studied there, got a degree as a product designer and what’s interesting is how incredibly full circle all of this can be. My industrial design career has crossed over very much into the creature world, the film world with designing films like Tron and working on Oblivion and even working on Avatar. A lot of my industrial design was applied to the creature process.”
TV GOODNESS: I know you’ve worked in both television and movies. What’s been the most fun project to work on?
Neville: “It’s a very difficult question to answer because I’m a positive person inherently and I look for the good even in troubled projects. Every project I’ve been on has an element of pleasure to it whether it just be the people I’m working with or specifically some of the characters I’m designing. But I think as a whole, any time I’m working with J.J. Abrams, it tends to be pretty damn fun because he has the mind to create a very collaborative, fun environment. I mean, really. He, I believe, wakes up every morning and says, ‘I’m gonna make today fun for everyone else around me,’ and the consequence- all of us that work with him on his productions whether it’sÂ by his side, which I’m fortunate to be a lot of times, or in another room or another part of the country, it’s always a treat and a pleasure.”
TV GOODNESS: When did Syfy approach you about Face Off and did it take any convincing for you to come on board?
Neville: “I had not seen Face Off. I’d heard about it from a lot of people, a lot of friends kept saying, ‘Hey, you should go on that show,’ whether as a participant- I don’t think they meant, ‘Hey you should be a judge.’ At the very least they thought I’d enjoy the show because of what it is. I tend to not watch a lot of TV – not because I’m disinterested, just because I’m busy – so I hadn’t seen Face Off and after season 2 aired I got the call that they were interested in talking to me. I thought, ‘Hmm. That’s so ironic,’ because I was just reading on Facebook about opinions about the show. What is interesting is that I know a lot of people in the makeup world because of having designed on films like Star Trek and there’s a lot of naysayers and negativity out there as well as positive, as I’m sure you’re well aware. Negative people tend to be more vocal than the positive and they tend to get more traction sadly, so when I was reading this on Facebook it was a lot of negativity and I thought, ‘That’s really a shame.’ Particularly since about an hour before I was just offered this opportunity to come in to talk about being a judge. They weren’t offering it to me flat out, it was essentially an audition process. Long story short, when I met the producers and I met McKenzie [Westmore] and we talked about the show it was clear to me that the show had nothing but good to offer. The negative kind of diatribe that people tend to harp on in the industry is that it’s not doing the industry any service or presenting what makeup artists do in a positive way, which is so ludicrous, so silly, which is why you can’t take that stuff to heart. At the time I had no alma mater going into Face Off. It’s not like I was biased at that point. I still don’t think that I am. I just found that what the show is doing is – and this is punctuated every day I have a new fan on twitter or Facebook – because Face Off introduces young, creative people to what it is I was never introduced to and it presents that this is a viable career to be had so I think it’s fantastic for that.”
TV GOODNESS: It’s interesting to see what people create and how they attack the challenges. I’m always invested every single week to see what makeups they do, what creatures they create and what the backstory is.
Neville: “One thing that I was not going to do, that I made sure when talking to the producers, is this show [is] about the contestants and the drama because when I auditioned I hadn’t seen an episode yet. So I didn’t really know the format and I just wanted to be clear that I had no interest in being part of a show that is about contestant drama. I’m interested in being on a show that’s about contributing to the forward momentum of creativity and they assured me that it is about being creative. The good news is they were honest and they were consistent with that mission statement so I’m glad that it’s not about contestant drama. There is the drama, of course, but that’s not the focus.”
TV GOODNESS: The big twist this season was veterans vs. newbies. Did you like that creative direction when they told you about it?
Neville: “I did. I know a lot of people didn’t – not necessarily within Face Off but outside I heard a lot of complaints that it’s really unfair to pit people against professional or more established [artists] in terms of the show. It didn’t bother me at all. I thought it was gonna raise the bar for those that are trying to compete as well as shock the potential complacency of an established vet who might think that, ‘I’m untouchable because I’ve done this before. I’m seasoned,’ etc. I think they got a run for their money.”
TV GOODNESS: I agree. It was a great twist and the newbies lasted for a long time.
Neville: “Yeah. Yeah, some of them really hung on.”
TV GOODNESS: What have been your favorite challenges from this or any season?
Neville: “My very first challenge, my very first episode and show was kind of my favorite challenge just because it was the Star Wars cantina. And I thought, ‘Oh my God. Of all the the things for me to have to do the first dayâ€¦’ That was a pretty good one. Some of the other challenges that I really enjoyed are admittedly the ones that Roy has participated in where he really pushes the envelope of possibility regarding what one can do on the show. He makes it very entertaining as a result, but there was a recent episode this season [“The Laughing Dead.”] It was the one where Roy had the midget that was a clownâ€¦”
TV GOODNESS: Yeah, the comedy challenge.
Neville: “Yeah. That was hilarious.”
TV GOODNESS: What’s been the most impressive makeup or creature you’ve seen on the reveal stage?
Neville: “Miranda’s makeup that was the pumpkin head.”
TV GOODNESS: That was so good.
Neville: “It was unbelievable. That girl is so talented. She has done a couple- actually and one of them that I believe got her into the bottom looks not because of the makeup, but because of how she addressed the challenge, but it was the Day of the Dead makeup that she had done. Very skeletal face, not very inventive, not very interesting as a makeup but really, really well done. But the pumpkin one is a standout makeup for sure and quite a few that Miranda has done have really stand out in my mind.”
TV GOODNESS: I was bummed she didn’t make it into the finale.
Neville: “Yeah, me too.”
TV GOODNESS: But I feel like she’ll do really well in this business anyway.
Neville: “She’s fine. When we were saying goodbye to her, it was not as if there was any concern because she’ll be ok.”
TV GOODNESS: Let’s talk about the three finalists Tate, Laura and Roy. It’s been fun to see them grow. What’s impressed you most about them?
Neville: “It’s obvious that they’ve got skill sets that are impressive and they’re very different from one another, which is kind of cool. It makes our job a lot more difficult because you’re having to judge individual artistic prowess. But what I like about the three of them is – I think this might have to do with partially why they’re still on the show – there’s a maturity that is behind how they work together or work individually. So much of this show really reveals beyond just the challenge, it reveals how well they’re gonna do in a professional scenario because of their conduct. They support one another and they had a very healthy attitude towards one another and because there’s more at stake and it’s round 2 for the three of them, they all really want this but at the same time they’re elevating their skills. The pressure’s greater, but they’re managing their state of mind quite well. And that, to me, is somewhat more important than talent. I can work with people who can be trained and elevated in terms of skill, but I can’t work with somebody who’s a pain in the ass. And I don’t want to. What’s nice is these guys, these three have the skill and I really like them as people as well.”
TV GOODNESS: It’s always helpful when you want to keep working with them.
Neville: “Oh yeah. It is.”
TV GOODNESS: You’re probably not allowed to talk too much about the finale, but is there anything you can tease about it?
Neville: “I cried.” [Laughs.]
TV GOODNESS: Wow.
Neville: “Yeah. I not really a crier, but I was so moved by the makeups and the makeups in performance, in motion. It was really quite beautiful and I remember just sitting there and thinking, ‘Oh God, I hope it’s not that obvious that I’m welling up here.’ It was such a beautiful thing to watch. Yeah. It’s damn good. The makeup – there’s one in particular and I think you’ll see it from all the judges – we are exclamatory about how fantastic it is.”
TV GOODNESS: I know you’re very busy. What do you have coming up? What have you been working on?
Neville: “Lots of stuff is in development. Don’t know where we’re at with Star Wars at this point and we know that Avatar 2 is warming up. All these sequels are starting to percolate such as Prometheus 2 and Tron 2. I’ve got calls for, ‘Are you available and interested,’ and as you can imagine any one of those would be a great project to work on so it’s gonna be tricky when push comes to shove and I have to pick one or the other. In the meantime, I’ve been directing and doing a lot of ‘classic’ Hollywood stuff where I have things in development and that is what one does, of course. But that is in all legitimacy, part of the career trajectory of trying to expand on developing things for film is developing scripts and treatments and visual imagery to support those. So I do a lot of that, I do a lot of educational workshops globally. I just came back from Brazil last week doing a workshop on design there. I’ll be off to Shanghai in a few weeks, also teaching there. Education is a real important thing for me, both my own because I’m constantly trying to learn but also sharing the wealth, sharing the information and exciting people and educating them and educating parents about the viability of this career.”
TV GOODNESS: Face Off has been renewed for another season. When does that go into production? Have they told you?
Neville: “No. I don’t think they have information on any of that at this point. After you do it for a while, I tend to just not really probe anymore. When they call me, I’m available. And I don’t really even watch the show that often, one because I don’t necessarily like to look at myself on TV- but that’s a personal issue.”
TV GOODNESS: That’s funny because you used to be an actor. You used to be on TV all the time.Â
Neville: “Yeah, but I still didn’t watch myself.” [Laughs.]
TV GOODNESS: Any final thoughts? It looks like you guys have had a lot of fun this season.
Neville: “Yeah. Yeah, we have and one thing that I guess I would say because it’s the question that’s most often asked even from close friends: How much of the show is scripted and rigged? And it’s just not at all, which is a great thing. Obviously, they have a plan for the day and they know what to shoot but it’s pretty darn real and we’re not told to say anything we don’t want to say, which is great. We’re not encouraged to say things that we say so we’ve left to our own devices and Ve [Neill] and Glenn [Hetrick] and I and McKenzie, because the three of us as judges have to collaborate so much in the moment, we get along so well. It’s really quite nice that just via serendipity and good fortune, the three of us are not only good working partners, but outside of Face Off we’ve become very close friends and support each other very closely. ”
TV GOODNESS: That’s nice to hear.
Neville: “I think Glenn is one of the most incredible guys I know, quite frankly. I hear a lot of crap about the guy because of his alternative aesthetic and maybe his delivery on the show, but he is one of the greatest human beings I know. I wish more people knew, but then again maybe that would ruin the show for them. ‘Oh no! He’s a badass. He can’t be a teddy bear.'”
TV GOODNESS: I look forward to seeing your work on the big and small screen. I really hope you get to work on Star Wars. That would be so amazing.
Neville: “It would. Yeah, it would pretty much be the package. Seal the deal. I wouldn’t have to do anything else.”
The season 5 finale of Face Off airs Tuesday, November 5 at 9/8c on Syfy.
“Swan Song” synopsis:Â For the final challenge, the last three contestants must create two Swan Lake inspired looks for a performance in conjunction with the Los Angeles ballet.
“Swan Song” sneak peek:
Edited for space and content
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