Syfy Press Tour: "Face Off" Returns for Season 2

By Jamie Ruby

Ve Neill and McKenzie WestmoreSyfy's breakout reality competition Face Off returns for a second season on Wednesday night with fourteen all new contestants. The competition centers around practical makeup effects and tasks contestants with challenges where this season the expectations are even higher.

The series is hosted by McKenzie Westmore (Passions). There are three judges that remain the same throughout the competition, including multiple academy-award winner Ve Neill (Pirates of the Carribean, The Hunger Games), as well as Glenn Hetrick (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Heroes) and Patrick Tatopoulos (Independence Day, Underworld).

Westmore and Neill appeared at the Syfy Digital Press Tour in October in Orlando, Florida, where they talked about the upcoming season.

Ve Neill and McKenzie WestmoreWestmore talked about some of what we an expect to see this year and how it will be different. "The ante has been upped so incredibly: the foundation challenges, the spotlight challenges, a lot more women this year, which I found very interesting, which, with our first challenge, we break them off into two teams, the men versus the women."

One of the challenges Westmore talked about is when she took the contestants to Linda Vista Community Hospital in downtown Los Angeles. Most of the competitions were done in groups, but here they got to see their individual work. Neill said, "Up until this challenge, we never really got to see what they could do individually. So this was really kind of a breakthrough challenge for us as judges to really be able to see their accomplishments."

Neil wanted to be surprised this year with the challenges. "I want to be surprised when we go into the challenges, and I want it to be, you know, a surprise to me when I go to see it and to judge it. I don't want to have to think about it ahead of time because I don't want to have any preconceived ideas."

Westmore also talked about how this season she got to experience first hand some special effects makeup. "I actually got to experience it for the first time as we are going to change some of our campaigns being the face of Face Off. So I got to have my first cast done and experience that and what it's like to do all of this covered in goop and rubber and everything...So that was really fun."

To read the full interview, you can read the transcript below. Also stay tuned for more exclusive photos and interviews for Face Off.

Syfy Digital Press Tour
Face Off
Ve Neill and McKenzie Westmore

October 10, 2011
11:00 AM ET

MARK STERN: All right. Let's talk about "Face Off." So Face Off is one of my favorite shows. It is a breakout reality-competition show that involves makeup-effects artists. We are in the middle of shooting Season 2. So we don't have any footage to show you, actually, but we have something better, which is, we brought with us as -- it kind of ruined my intro -- Ve and McKenzie here to talk about it. Face Off premieres -- the Season 2 premiere is January 11th at 10 p.m. I don't know that that's news, but I'm going to play my little -- I'm going to play my horn anyway. Okay. I didn't prep. Like, during the break, I kind of screwed myself over. I'm sorry. Let me play my horn.
(Telephone app played of sounds of an FBI agent.)

Anyway, so that's the news. Please welcome multiple academy-award winner and one of our judges, Ve Neill, and our host, McKenzie Westmore.

VE NEILL: Good morning.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Hi everybody.

MARK STERN: Good to see you.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Good to see you, too. Hi. How are you?

MARK STERN: I'm great. So, first of all, thank you guys for coming down here today. I know you are in the midst of shooting. So tell us, I think, first of all -- well, actually, before we get into the new season, I've got to talk about -- you watch a lot of these competitions and reality shows, and the winner wins money, or you win some other things. But in the case of some of these, you always wonder what happens after it, and I really have to -- I wanted you to talk a little bit about what happened to the winner of Season 1 because, obviously, it was very much involved with you being --

VE NEILL: Right. Yes. He -- it worked out really well. Conor McCullagh, who was our winner last year, it just so happens that he is a resident of North Carolina, and I just finished shooting the film The Hunger Games, which is a very, you know, exciting project for all of us because it's probably going to be the new set of films that's going to take over from the Harry Potter, you know, the "Twilight" series.


VE NEILL: It's a really exciting young adult book series. So I just happened to run into Conor at Monsterpalluza, and I said, "I just found out you live in North Carolina. Would you like to come be my third on The Hunger Games? So, needless to say, he was really excited about that. So that was kind of cool. And just prior to that, I was shooting the film "The Amazing Spiderman," and while I was in New York, I hired two more of our contestants, Tate and Anthony. And they came and worked with me on Spiderman while I was in New York. So it's really -- it was really neat to be able to hire these gentlemen, you know, post-show, and it was very exciting for our show as well, I think. So it was -- it was really cool.

MARK STERN: Yeah. I thought that was awesome that they had that exposure.

VE NEILL: It was neat, yeah.

MARK STERN: So tell us a little bit about what we can expect in the new season.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Oh, my goodness. Season 2 --

VE NEILL: It's pretty exciting.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: -- the challenges are just -- the ante has been upped so incredibly: the foundation challenges, the spotlight challenges, a lot more women this year, which I found very interesting, which, with our first challenge, we break them off into two teams, the men versus the women.

VE NEILL: Yes. We actually have equal amounts of women this year. Like, last year, we only had a few women. This year it was -- we started off with 12. Was it 12 contestants?

MARK STERN: Fourteen.

VE NEILL: Fourteen? So we have seven women and seven men. And, yes, our first challenge --


VE NEILL: -- was the men against the women, which was kind of cool.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: It is neat, especially in this industry. As you know --


McKENZIE WESTMORE: -- it's a predominantly male industry. So to see the women kind of breaking through the industry is nice to see. So we started off with -- it was a Wizard of OZ theme, and it was reinventing The Wonderful Wizard of OZ, the original book, and they had to reinvent the three main characters. So it was fascinating to see the choices that they made as far as doing whatever they wanted with the Tin Woodsman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow. And then we moved into -- our next challenge was then --

VE NEILL: Well, the important thing to mention about that was we really didn't want them to do anything that was in the movie --


VE NEILL: -- because we were actually going off only the book. So they really -- and it was a themed challenge. So the women --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Which they got to choose.

Ve NeillVE NEILL: Yeah, which they got to choose. I think the women picked the most popular "Wizard of Oz," which was really interesting.

MARK STERN: Yes. You know, a little cliche if you ask me. I've seen it so many times.

VE NEILL: They rocked on that one.

MARK STERN: It really tests me to see a post-classic (ph) Wizard of OZ.

VE NEILL: Yeah. The girls really rocked that one. They did a great job, and the guys did kind of like a horror --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: A dark horror.

VE NEILL: -- dark horror, scary thing, yeah.

MARK STERN: There's not a lot of songs in -- yeah.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: It's kind of hard to sing those tunes.


McKENZIE WESTMORE: So then we went into -- next was the aquatic creatures. I took them down to the Long Beach Aquarium, and they got to travel through the aquarium and take a look at all of the different animals and create a human aquatic creature. And the fun thing about that -- and they always love when they hear my heels clicking because they know that there's some twist coming.


McKENZIE WESTMORE: They are starting to not like me now. So I told them last minute -- not last minute, but I told them that, on top of having to create this creature, it now has to be waterproofed. And they then had to figure out how to make their entire makeups, head to toe, waterproof so that their models could be submerged in a tank for five minutes.

VE NEILL: And they also have bits and pieces of, you know, fabric or clothing on them as well because, obviously, they are not going to be nude, but -- and then they were completely submerged in a giant tank that we had right on stage.


VE NEILL: And they had to be able to stay in the water for five minutes, each one of their creations.


VE NEILL: So that was kind of really cool and interesting.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: That was interesting.


McKENZIE WESTMORE: To see it beforehand, to see it in the water, and then for the judges to see it after, to see how the makeup has held up --

VE NEILL: Exactly.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: -- because that happens. That happens on set.

VE NEILL: Uh-huh.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: After that, then we had our infamous nude-body-painting challenge, which also increased this year because the models were doubled. Each contestant or teams of two had to do two models. They had to choose a background, and one had to blend, and one had to be a character. So that was also really interesting, had a little drama that day as well, which people will find out.

MARK STERN: Yes. Actually very interesting, like, what happened that day --


MARK STERN: -- which we are not going to talk about.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: We are not going to.

VE NEILL: I don't --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: You will have to wait and see. You don't know. I was the only one there.


MARK STERN: The judges are kept --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: No. The judges are kept quiet. They are kept out of everything.

VE NEILL: As a judge, we really only get to see what comes on the stage. So if it's not shown to us while we are on stage or if we get to do a walk-through, which I've already done -- I've done two walk-throughs already.


VE NEILL: I'm getting to do more walk-throughs this year, which is kind of cool. And, yeah, so far, these few challenges that we've done have all been in teams.


VE NEILL: So our next challenge --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: The next one after that was I took them to Linda Vista Community Hospital in downtown Los Angeles, which is a --

VE NEILL: Which is a really creepy, scary, closed-down place.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: A very haunted landmark of hospitals in America.


McKENZIE WESTMORE: And they had the challenge of taking a phobia and incorporating it into their own thought of a horror one. So they were then individually locked into rooms, not locked, put into rooms for 30 minutes --

VE NEILL: Locked up.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Locked up. All right. To inspire -- inspired them to create their horror (unintelligible). So it was fun. It was a really interesting, fun challenge. And then they got to see them as individuals and the talents that would start to emerge, broken away from team challenges. Up until then, this was the first --

VE NEILL: Yes. Up until then, we got to see -- up until then, we really couldn't tell who was, you know -- I mean, we'd get to ask them questions --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Who was going to break through.

VE NEILL: -- "Who does what?" You know, "Who did this?" "Who sculpted?" "Who molded?" "Who did most of the application?" But, up until this challenge, we never really got to see what they could do individually. So this was really kind of a breakthrough challenge for us as judges to really be able to see their accomplishments.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Uh-huh. That's very true.

VE NEILL: Uh-huh.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Then we had dangerous beauty, which --

VE NEILL: Do we have any more challenges in between there?

McKenzie WestmoreMcKENZIE WESTMORE: Well, we had foundation challenges. Each time we had foundation challenges --

MARK STERN: That's okay. You don't need to do that. They have the catalog. Somebody you want them to watch.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Yeah. These foundations challenges were --

MARK STERN: They were very good.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: -- were extremely fascinating this year --


McKENZIE WESTMORE: -- with a lot of our guest judges. Those were to be just as fun this year as the spotlight and just as daunting for the contestants to try to get through that two hours as opposed to their full-on, you know, dinner --

VE NEILL: And we have lots of really great guest judges this year.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Oh, gosh, yes.

VE NEILL: And so it's really going to be fun, some from our Syfy family.

MARK STERN: Indeed there are.

VE NEILL: Yes, there are, which is kind of cool.

MARK STERN: Talk a little bit about -- I think what's really fun -- and you mentioned how many more women (unintelligible) you were able to get. There's no question that Season 2 -- and being part of the casting process on the other side, we -- I felt like we got not only more applicants, but a higher caliber of talent.


MARK STERN: Did you find that?

VE NEILL: I think so. I think we have really a lot of people this year that have a lot more experience and perhaps a little bit -- I don't want to say more talented because we really haven't -- we really can't tell yet, funny enough. I mean --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Well, even some, though, that aren't quite so talented, without naming names, there are a few that really aren't even so familiar with what was even in their box to begin with.


McKENZIE WESTMORE: So it's really interesting to see. Across the board, they are very -- it's a pretty level playing field, I'd say, this year.

VE NEILL: Yeah. And even, you know -- even a couple of the contestants that weren't really familiar with the products that they were going to be using are using them in a really --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Ingenious, inventive way.

VE NEILL: -- ingenious, inventive way.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: I was shocked.

VE NEILL: And they are actually doing some techniques that I haven't seen in a really long time, you know, like construction-type techniques, which, you know --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: I remember you even saying -- you are like -- you are going to have to remember that one.

VE NEILL: This one did this thing that I couldn't believe. I said, "That is the coolest thing I've ever seen." You know, it's like even -- Glenn didn't even realize. He says, "How did that kid know how to do that? That's so cool." He said, "We use that all the time." It like something that was a little-known technique, and it worked so great. It was so simple.


MARK STERN: So has that stepped up your game in terms of the challenges or how you are judging or what you are making them do?

VE NEILL: Well, you know, we don't really have any control over the challenges, per se, you know. I mean -- and they said, "Well, do you want to know what you are doing this year?" And I said, "No." I want to be surprised when we go into the challenges, and I want to -- I want it to be, you know, a surprise to me when I go to see it and to judge it. I don't want to have to think about it ahead of time because I don't want to have any preconceived ideas, you know.


VE NEILL: So I don't know what the challenge is until the day we get there.


VE NEILL: And I, like, would kind of like to leave it that way. You know, I said to the other guys, "Do you want to know?" And they go, "Well, maybe." And I said, "No, you don't want to know."

McKENZIE WESTMORE: See, I don't want to be surprised. I want to know everything. I want to go in knowing everything.

VE NEILL: Well, you have to know everything because you are there every day. We just kind of come and go.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: I want to know way ahead of time.

MARK STERN: Is it harder -- has it been harder this year to be a host? because, obviously, everything has been stepped up more. And now we are going some more places, and we are doing more things. Has that been more of a challenge?

McKENZIE WESTMORE: It's interesting because it's harder in some ways but easier in others because, you know, coming from a theatrical background and having hosted last year, it was like, "Wow. Okay. This is a learning -- a little bit of a learning curve for me." I mean, knowing the makeup world, knowing how to run a lab with my dad, and knowing all of that side of it made it easy for me to speak as a host in this realm, but the hosting genre itself is a whole other beast. This year, coming into it, it's so much easier because now I know what I'm doing. Now I know how to host. Now I know I have a -- I've gotten into a groove with the challenges and the foundation challenges and the spotlight challenges and how to deliver them and what they need to know, the specific information that each contestant needs to know.
The only thing I would say that's -- and it's not even difficult. I don't want to call it "difficult," but it's been different going to all of these different locations. I mean, 2 a.m. at Linda Vista Community Hospital --

VE NEILL: Oh, yes.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: -- which is one of the most haunted hospitals in America --

VE NEILL: They woke the contestants up.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: -- we woke the contestants up at 1 a.m., got them there at 2:00 to deliver the challange to them. And, of course, I'm there wanting to explore around and "Where is my flashlight so I can go ghost-hunting?" "Oh, no, no. We are not doing 'Ghost Hunters' on this show. We are doing 'Face Off.'" "Sorry. I forgot." It was so much fun, though. So that would be the only, like, major difference for me is getting to travel all over and getting to see all of these fun places. And, too, for me, I love to see the contestants' faces light up as soon as they walk in whether it's we are in a location, and they are looking around like, "Oh, my goodness. Where are we? What's happening?" And now, when they find out the challenge and how extremely difficult it is -- God bless you, by the way. When they find out how challenging it is, they just, like -- I can see either their faces light up, or their faces drop in complete and utter fear. So it's fascinating to watch them and see, okay, who is freaking out this week?


McKENZIE WESTMORE: That's always fun.

MARK STERN: That's great. All right. Well, let's open it up to your questions.

Ve Neill and McKenzie WestmoreQUESTION: Thank you. There's a lot of appreciation for makeup now, especially with Greg Nicotero taking over as co-exec producer, Walking Dead, and guys like Tom Savini getting interviewed at conventions and things like that. So I'm kind of curious about people that are, you know, your colleagues or people that have inspired you. What are they saying about the show? Do they like it? And, also, what ideas are they coming to you with for challenges?

VE NEILL: Are you speaking to me, personally?

QUESTION: Both of you.

VE NEILL: I -- you know, nobody has actually come to me with challenges because I've made it very clear to them that we are not involved in that. And I think it probably might be a conflict of interest. I'm not sure. But, for me, I think it's better to let -- they have a really great team figuring out the challenges, and for me, every time I hear a new challenge, I am totally mind-boggled. I'm like, "Oh, my God. How did they figure that out? I never would have thought of that." So I think they are really doing a great job of initiating the challenges and all of that. And all of my colleagues, as far as what they are saying about this show, they think it is really fabulous.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: They love it, yeah.

VE NEILL: And they are really excited about it. I mean, every time I talk to a makeup artist, they are going, "Oh, my God. It's so cool" --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: They love this show.

VE NEILL: -- "that they are finally showing everybody how this works." My only fear is that the producers are going to think now that we can do everything in 15 hours.


VE NEILL: They have to remember that that stuff falls apart the minute those guys are off camera.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: It is true, though. It's really nice to hear from the industry, from an insider's point of view, the appreciation and the love that true industry people have across the board at all levels, really do love the show because it does show a true look at behind the scenes of what goes on.

QUESTION: I'm going to preface this by saying this may be a stupid question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. How important is funding for proper makeup? I mean -- or how important is money to creating, like, real proper makeup? And my second question is how has digital technology affected how you approach door makeup?

VE NEILL: Well, those are really two different, completely separate questions. First of all, you know, depending on what the makeup is, yes, some makeups are much more expensive to create than others. You know, it depends on how elaborate it is, what technology you are using, what type of product you are using. So it just depends on what is required, how long it has to be -- how long -- the longevity of it, how many times it has to be applied. All of these things are taken into consideration when you are budgeting for a prosthetic makeup. I hope that pretty much answers your question without going into anything in detail.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Unless you are looking for, like, Halloween ideas.

QUESTION: Yeah, because I just always --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: That's a whole other ballpark.

VE NEILL: As far as the digital technology, I believe that we can really work together in a very symbiotic way --


VE NEILL: -- because when I was doing the pirate films, I worked very closely with the guys who were doing all of our digital technology. And they actually took pictures of our makeup, Bootstrap Bill, which we did, and they actually applied that to the actual digital characters that they were building so that they looked like our makeup. And I think as long as we have our digital technology working with us, you know, in conjunction with us, I think we can really find really clever ways of making this work.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: There's room for both.

VE NEILL: Yeah, I think so. I think everything has its place. I don't think it's ever going to really replace an organic makeup, which I feel is really important because -- and also, for the actors --


VE NEILL: -- it's really difficult for actors not to be able to have --

McKENZIE WESTMORE: -- that tangible feeling, yeah.

VE NEILL: Yeah. They -- I mean, a perfect example is as I was speaking about Bootstrap Bill, he went through six or seven stages of makeup, and he was only really supposed to be in the makeup for two stages, and then the digital technology was going to take over. And he liked being in the makeup so much that we continued on with the makeup as opposed to turning him into a digital character. So it really is helpful for the actors as well to have that organic matter on them, you know, for their character.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: That's very true, which I'm actually getting to experience for the first time now because I just had my first lifecast done --

VE NEILL: All right.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: -- ever, which is odd. Everybody's says, "Well, you are a Westmore. You should have had it done when you were one. What's wrong with you?" So I actually got to experience it for the first time as we are going to change some of our campaigns being the face of "Face Off." So I got to have my first cast done and experience that and what it's like to do all of this covered in goop and rubber and everything. So --

VE NEILL: Are you claustrophobic?

McKENZIE WESTMORE: I am. Yeah, I am. So that was really fun.

MARK STERN: So what was that like? Was there a lot of visualization of, like, calm summer nights?

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Oh, I so went to my happy place. I was humming in my head. "It's okay. It's okay." And I got through it. I think there was a split second where Greg --

VE NEILL: Did anybody hold your hand or anything?

McKENZIE WESTMORE: No, nobody held my hand. No. I was like this the whole time. I didn't even realize --

VE NEILL: They missed their window of opportunity. What a bunch of dummies.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: You are so cute.

MARK STERN: Other questions?

QUESTION: Hi. You have had a lot of experience being on the makeup chair when you were on "Passions." How was it different when you were doing it this time? Was it more intense for you or --


QUESTION: Being in the chair. When you just said you were doing a body cast and everything.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Right. This was definitely more intense. I mean, I've had prosthetic pieces put on before but very minimally. I mean, on "Passions," my goodness, I did a lot of past-life things, but they were more about the beauty makeups, whether it was "Cleopatra," whether it was being on "The Titanic." There was one time where I did play a man. So there were more prosthetic pieces that went into that. Then, when I was on "Star Trek," the extent I had of that other than being Starfleet was being a Vulcan. So the ears weren't too bad. This was definitely a completely different realm for me to have all of this done and to see the cast now afterwards and to see -- to know what's coming up as far as having the application of the specific makeups, which I'm not going to tell you, to knowing what's coming up is going to be really exciting. I'm so excited to have all of this done, everything from contact lens to prosthetic pieces, to teeth, to everything being done. Yeah.

VE NEILL: You are telling them everything.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: No. But they don't know what it is. I'm just saying what's coming up.

QUESTION: One more, if I'm allowed. You did hosting and acting. What's next for you as far as your celebrity bucket list?

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Well, I'm loving doing Face Off right now, and we've got a lot of stuff coming up on the pipeline. I'm working on some product lines. I'm doing -- working on a couple of different projects on more of the production side as well. So I'm definitely always looking back into the theatrical world. I never want to step away from that, but I am absolutely loving hosting right now. So I'm happy where I'm at.

VE NEILL: Are you going to cast her in a movie now and take her away from us?

QUESTION: We can work something out.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: I am Canadian as well. So --

MARK STERN: We have time for one more question.

Ve Neill and McKenzie WestmoreQUESTION: Well, you have a plateful of things like "Pirates," The Hunger Games," "The Amazing Spiderman." What's the appeal of going from something -- the appeal of going from all of those kinds of big projects to serving as a judge on Face Off? I'm just curious what the appeal was for you.

VE NEILL: It's fun. I mean, I love my job, and I love being on the movies, but this is like a completely different thing. I mean, it's so much fun not to have the pressure of actually doing the makeup but sitting back and watching somebody else getting to do it.


VE NEILL: And, you know, it's kind of great. It's almost kind of like a mentoring thing. I mean, I know sometimes the way I'm edited, I'm kind of like the Simon Cowell of the show even though Glenn is the one scowling. I actually, you know, eventually talk to them a little bit. You know, as I said, I've hired several of the makeup artists. So it's actually quite fun. I really -- I really enjoy it.

MARK STERN: Great. Well, thank you very much for being here --

VE NEILL: Thank you.

MARK STERN: -- for coming down here.

McKENZIE WESTMORE: Thank you, everybody.

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