If any competitive reality series merits a Halloween season finale, it’s “Face Off.”
The Syfy program is all about horror makeup, so the traditional night for macabre disguises couldn’t be better timing for the show’s Season 3 winner to be declared. More is involved, since host McKenzie Westmore — who hails from a legendary family of Hollywood makeup artists — will preside over the finale live (in the Eastern half of the country; on tape delay elsewhere) for the first time Wednesday, Oct. 31. And in another first, viewers can decide who wins by voting after the previous night’s episode.
“Face Off” has redefined the television image of Westmore, previously best-known as heroine Sheridan Crane Lopez-Fitzgerald on the now-defunct NBC daytime serial “Passions.” Unlike the first two “Face Off” seasons, she’s had a break between the weekly episodes and the finale, which she deems “really interesting. We’ll see how things have progressed for the people, and I’m so curious to see who America chooses.”
Contestant challenges this season have involved “Star Wars,” pirates and characters inspired by unusual cars.
“As with every show on television, you have to find new, inventive ways to keep hooking the viewer back in,” the friendly, energetic Westmore tells Zap2it, “ways to go bigger and broader. I think that’s what’s such a cool thing about what we’re doing; it’s a way for us to involve the viewer more. Syfy and Mission Control [the studio behind ‘Face Off’] are so much about the fans. They’re truly listening to what they have to say and think.”
Because of that, Westmore is convinced the selection of the Season 3 “Face Off” winner “will go beyond just a popularity contest. I see it on my Twitter feed all the time: The fans of Syfy really do have their own opinions on the artistic value of what they’re seeing in the makeup. It’s not just, ‘Oh, I really like that person.’ Granted, they’re not seeing in person all the stuff we’re seeing, but we’re essentially asking America whether it’s camera-ready.”
The mention of Twitter isn’t merely lip service by Westmore, since even the most casual social-media observer can recognize what an active “Face Off” supporter she is.
“I really take pride in doing it all myself and taking that extra step,” she says of her very active Tweeting. “I feel so lucky to be a part of this, and it’s the fans that keep us going, so it just seems natural to pay it back to them. I love listening to what they have to say, and I also love responding.”
That’s also due to Westmore’s long-vested interest in the subject. Some of her childhood was spent as a test vehicle for “Star Trek” creations by her father, Michael, who won an Oscar for designing Eric Stoltz’s extensive makeup for the 1985 movie “Mask.” Her dad has been a guest on “Face Off,” and this season, such notables as actor Sean Astin, filmmaker Kevin Smith, and producers Brian Grazer (“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) and Gale Anne Hurd (“The Walking Dead”) have participated.
Observing the “Face Off” judging by such experts as Oscar winner Ve Neill (“Beetlejuice”) and Glenn Hetrick (“Heroes”) sometimes is tricky for Westmore.
“The first two seasons, it was difficult for me to just stand there and nod,” she confirms. “I am the host, so I have to be impartial, but I’ve gotten to speak up more and more this season. I can maybe voice a bit more because I’m not judging. I can tell a contestant, ‘You might want to think about this,’ just to open their eyes. They are stuck in such a bubble, sometimes they need that.”
With a Season 2 finale that set a ratings record for unscripted Syfy programming, the success of “Face Off” is clear, its Halloween-night showcase surely being another big testament to that.
A Season 3 renewal was a given, as was the one the show recently received for a Season 4, with filmmakers Bryan Singer (“X-Men”) and Jon Landau (“Titanic”) set to guest. The “Face Off” producers also earned an order for something of a spinoff, the Syfy set-design contest “Hot Set,” which Turner Classic Movies’ Ben Mankiewicz now hosts.
Westmore has experienced other bonuses of “Face Off.” She hosted last month’s horror-oriented Eyegore Awards at Hollywood’s Universal Studios (“It really felt like a good test run for the live ‘Face Off,'” she notes), and her latest acting roles have been in the suspense-thriller movies “Vile” and “Dose of Reality.”
“It’s like coming full circle in some ways,” Westmore reflects of her “Face Off” job. “Am I doing this as a makeup artist? No. Do I know this world very well? Yes. To be able to carry on the family name and legacy, in a way that makes me happy, is such an honor.
“I sit down with my mom and dad every week to watch ‘Face Off,’ and to get to do this for what the Westmores have always stood for is so amazing for me.”