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Face Off Set Visit: Get to Know Host McKenzie Westmore and Judges Ve Neill, Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page [Exclusive] 

“I need to lube up my model. Anybody got any KY?” “I do!” Yes, this was an actual exchange I overheard during ‘last looks.’

Face Off

I was excited to visit the set of Syfy’s Face Off because the series is immensely popular and showcases an art form that would otherwise go virtually unseen – the behind-the-scenes world of creating special effects makeup. Now airing its eighth season and still going strong, Face Off has constantly provided jaw-dropping reveals and nail-biting drama from the competition itself – not by fabricating it from contestants cat-fighting like we’ve seen on so many other reality shows. I had the chance to sit down with the show’s host McKenzie Westmore, and judges Ve Neill, Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page to gain more insights into what makes this show so utterly compelling.

TV GOODNESS: Why do you think fans have fallen in love with Face Off?

McKenzie Westmore: “You get to have that instant visual gratification. I also think the fans have really latched onto and love the camaraderie. They love the kindness and the love that happens between the contestants. There’s no backbiting, no house drama. We pride ourselves on that.”

Glenn Hetrick: “Audience members are so jaded by reality television that there’s an inborn assumption that because it’s a reality television show someone must be writing our drama, but nope. Don’t need to. It’s just about the art and it’s absolutely real. What you see is what you get.”

Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/Syfy
Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/Syfy

TV GOODNESS: How did you get your start in this crazy business of special effects makeup and design?

Ve Neill: “I always wanted to be a makeup artist ever since I was a little kid, but I was always told I couldn’t do it because I was a woman. I looked into it and sure enough there [were] only men doing makeup. I thought that was so weird. I mean, what do they know about it? They don’t even wear it for God’s sake, ya know? And it’s still a boys club basically.

I just went in through a back door. I had a business making vintage costumes for rock bands and this one band said this is great, but now we want big heads and pointed ears and stuff. I said I don’t know how to do that right now, but I will go find out. So I went to a Sci-Fi convention and asked some guys in Planet of the Apes makeup if they could teach me how to do that. And they said, ‘But you’re a girl!’ Anyway, that’s how it started. And the rest is history.”

Glenn: “It was like I was born with this. When I was a kid I would watch nothing but Adam West’s Batman. If it wasn’t horror, science fiction, or super heroes, I had nothing to do with it. I’ve been reading every word of Fangoria for as long as the magazine has been around. The first time they gave us clay to play with in school, I tried to sculpt this relief of one of the faces from Planet of the Apes. I was obsessed from childhood. The biggest influence was absolutely the Hammer horror films. Every weekend I watched Hammer movies over and over.”

Neville Page: “My background is actually industrial design. So I went to school and studied product engineering. It was a hybrid of pure engineering and art. So when I graduated college I went into medical products. I was doing everything from wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds. I always liked creatures and thought it would be cool to do it for fun, but as a career it was never endorsed. There was no place to go to become a creature designer.

We ended up having the opportunity to design a vehicle for a theme park ride at Universal Studios Florida because they needed someone who knew wheelchair users. That ride that we were developing was Men in Black the ride. I thought if they let me design the ride, maybe they’ll let me design a creature just for fun. I ended up leading the whole project for the vehicle, the guns on the vehicle, the interface and I got to do about 75% of the creatures.”

TV GOODNESS: Since you all already had thriving careers in film and television, what made you say yes when you were approached to do Face Off?

Photo Credit: Tommy Garcia/Syfy
Photo Credit: Tommy Garcia/Syfy

McKenzie: “When Face Off came along, to me that was like the stars aligning because here I’m really carrying on the family name. And I got to work with my dad [Michael Westmore], and it was a show about what our family has been involved in for 100 years now.”

Ve: “I think all of us deep down inside, that have done this for so many years, we’ve all thought why don’t they do a reality show on this kind of stuff because it’s so much fun? And everyone always wants to know what we do. So when they asked me I said, ‘Heck yeah, I want to do that!’”

Glenn: “When this show came along I thought, ‘That’s really exciting.’ First my only concern was that’s gonna be good for one season, but then where are you going to get people who can keep up with that pace? Because two days is like nothing. I think that anything you manage to sculpt, get a mold out and get on someone’s face in two days is awesome. That’s what I liked about this show. I liked the idea of seeing what 13 different people would come up with in only two days each. I can’t get a better job than this – looking at monsters every week? I’m there!”

TV GOODNESS: Some of the current contestants on the show actually decided they wanted to become makeup artists because of watching Face Off. What is your response to that?

Ve: “I think it’s amazing. I mean were building our own contestant list. It’s inspirational to give them something to aspire to. I think acknowledgment for the craft is really great. That part is wonderful, because it’s nice for people to know how it’s made and why it takes so long to do it right.”

Glenn: “We’re starting to grow our own audience. That’s wild. That’s incredible. It’s awesome that our show is making people aware of makeup effects and taking artists that didn’t know that they enjoyed this particular paradigm of expression until they see the show and turning them on to it.”

McKenzie: “I love it because I’ll get fan letters from parents saying, ‘My ten year old now wants to be a special effects makeup artist because of your show.’ To me there’s no bigger compliment.”

TV GOODNESS: What have been some of your most unforgettable moments over the course of the show?

Neville: “Day one of season 3 was quite a day because it was all new to me. It was my first day on the show. I didn’t know if I would fit in. I didn’t know how I would be received. It felt good. It felt right, but we had a contestant who very got upset. This guy was very sensitive, ran off and it got dramatic.”

McKenzie: “Going all the way back to the season one finale. Gage [Hubbard]‘s makeup that he made in that finale just blew me away.”

Ve: “I couldn’t pick just one. There have been so many cool ones. There was this really cool pumpkin head makeup that Miranda did [in season 5].”

Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/Syfy
Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/Syfy

Glenn: “One of my all time favorites was definitely Tate and Miranda did this scarecrow pumpkin thing which I thought was absolutely gorgeous. There are so many great makeups. There are things that come out so finished I cannot comprehend how it was done in two days.  Rayce [Bird, winner of season 2 and season 8 mentor] has done some incredible designs. One episode Wayne [Anderson, season 4] came out with a demon that had these giant horns sculpted. There are moments like that in every season where you just go ‘I cannot believe you managed that.’

I really hope they put a book together of the best of. We’re over a hundred episodes at this point, so it would be really great to see a lot of this stuff celebrated beyond the time it spent on stage in one episode. That’s how much I like the stuff they do.”

TV GOODNESS: Tell us about what’s happening in season 8 right now. What have been some of your stand out moments so far?

Ve: “We have these champions back and out of those champions those guys did some of the most amazing makeups we’ve had on the show.”

Glenn: “What’s so cool about [season] eight is you have the champions coming back and guiding them, trying to avoid those pitfall mistakes that they all know so well because they’ve all done them at least once.”

Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/Syfy
Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/Syfy

McKenzie: “Miss Intergalactic which aired last week was one of my favorites. I love it when we have fun and goofiness and a touch of beauty. And to throw an alien aspect into it was amazing.”

Glenn: “The alien beauty queen episode. We had a really fun time with that. There were some really gorgeous finished makeups in that. There was something about throwing a beauty element at them that made them try to finish with more finesse than if it was just creatures.”

Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/Syfy
Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/Syfy

TV GOODNESS: And what about having Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson on as a guest judge this season? How did that come about?

Ve: “They said, ‘We want to do a Hunger Games inspired challenge. Do you think you could get one of the kids to come?’ And I said, ‘I’ll certainly try!’ Josh just happened to be in town and he loves the show. All the [Hunger Games] kids love the show because they watch it. So Josh said, ‘Yeah I want to come on it!’ It was cool. He had a ball when he was here.”

TV GOODNESS: One of the difficult parts of a competition is that only one person can win. How do you deal with such talented contestants being eliminated each week?

Glenn: “If I had my druthers all thirteen of them would compete for all the episodes and we’d pick a winner in the finale. I’d rather see thirteen makeups each week. I hate seeing people go home – even though people blame me because I’m the one that delivers the bad news. In fact the deliberation process is far more lengthy than you see on-screen. And we argue a lot. It comes down to what were the specific rules and requests of a set challenge and who delivered.”

Neville: “I have been cruel a couple times. And it has not been my intention. I have not gone out there thinking ‘Today I’m gonna mess somebody up, do a little Simon Cowell.’ But I have gotten lost in the passion of ‘You’ve got to do better. This is unacceptable.’ And some people can’t handle it. Having made one contestant cry, a young guy – that hurt me. I really felt it. I’m not good at upsetting people.”

Photo Credit: Tommy Garcia/Syfy
Photo Credit: Tommy Garcia/Syfy

TV GOODNESS: Is there anything you can tell us about yourself or your co-stars that we might not know?

Neville: “I’m fortunate that the biggest dream I’ve had for many years is coming to fruition – which is directing. So I’m directing my first feature. We are supposed to do principal photography in November. We’re shooting in Bangkok. It’s story-driven, a genre piece. It’s horror. It’s a dream come true. It’s titled The Disembodied.”

Glenn [on his many tattoos]: “One of my other passions is the intellectual study of the occult. So everything on my body is a sigil or symbol from one of the ancient religious systems, mostly Judeo-Christian and the whole suit was designed as spiritual armor, if you will. So it’s all interconnected with catalytic lines and it’s just so many hours. I’ve been drawing them since I was in my twenties. It’s years and years of work.”

Ve: “Glenn looks like he’s always mean and angry, but Glenn is the most fun, coolest guy you’d ever meet. He’s one of the most intellectual men I know. And Neville is so well-educated and such an incredible artist in his own right. I feel like a monkey sitting between them half the time because they both have such huge intellects.”

McKenzie: “I love cats and so does Glenn. He told me he takes his cat out in a baby Bjorn on Halloween to look at the decorations.”

Edited for space and content.

Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/Syfy
Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/Syfy

“Super Selfies” synopsis, from Syfy:

The seven remaining artists find themselves staring down the most daunting challenge in Face Off history, as they must create and apply superhero makeups to themselves!

Face Off airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Syfy.

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