SyFy's Face Off may be the most unique competition series on television. It's not a talent show, it's not about crazy stunts - instead, it takes us inside the world of movie makeup to see who can create the most magic. BFTV connected with series host McKenzie Westmore last week to chat about the currently airing sixth season and her own Hollywood career - including if soaps or Star Trek has the more passionate fan base.
"When I started Face Off, I really went into it with what's meant to be will be," she told us, reflecting on the success of the show. "You just don't know. In the beginning, we felt like the train that could. We stuck together as a little family and we still do. What we have behind the scenes on the show, it's very rare. You don't see camaraderie like that. I'm buddies with the cameramen; I'm in the control room."
Which brings us to the first thing that makes McKenzie awesome. The best hosts don't just read a couple of lines off a TelePrompTer and walk away; they serve as the audience's bridge between the show and its talent, and they work just as hard as anyone else. You'd likely be surprised how many hours she logs every week. That includes getting up at 5 AM to be on the road for location shoots, and elimination days that can start at 11 AM or noon and go as late as 2 AM the following morning.
"It's changed through the seasons as we've changed the format here and there," she told us. "What you see on TV is not all [that happens]; there's just not enough time. Kudos to the editors, because there's a lot of footage they've got to go through."
But it's all worth it, not just for the success of Face Off itself, but for the artists who participate. "A good majority of our contestants that come on the show, the employment rate is really high. And that's one of the things I love about Face Off," McKenzie said. "Face Off is the best calling card, it's the best resume. It's showing their work right there on TV to industry insiders. There are a lot of industry insiders that watch the show that you don't hear about. And the judges. [Regular judge] Ve [Neill] is, she's always hiring people."
Another thing that separates McKenzie from the pack is that she's not just another pretty face in a hosting gig. Hollywood, and specifically makeup, is literally in her blood; her father is Michael Westmore, Academy Award-winning makeup artist best known for his work throughout the Star Trek franchise, and who serves as a mentor to the contestants on Face Off. She knows what she's talking about.
Hosting hasn't kept her from continuing her own acting career, either. "It's interesting how, because we're a pretty well oiled machine, I've been feeling more confident getting back into acting," she told us. "I've started auditioning again. I'm at least getting to explore other acting opportunities, and even other hosting opportunities."
She has experience with two very large fan bases; she appeared on both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, as well as the TNG feature film Star Trek: Insurrection, but she's best known for her role as Sheridan Crane Lopez-Fitzgerald on the soap opera Passions. Knowing the fervent devotion of both sci-fi and soap fans, we couldn't resist asking: which is the more ardent group?
"I would say it's pretty even. It's probably 50/50," McKenzie said. "It's like daytime versus primetime. Both are amazing. I have people still following me and who have come over to the sci-fi world because they remember me from daytime.
"I kind of have the best of both worlds with these amazingly passionate fans," she continued. "I'm here because of these people. I have longevity because of these people."
That's just another reason why we love her. McKenzie might be part of Hollywood creative royalty, and she might have a pretty impressive resume herself, but that's not what it all boils down to for the amazingly down-to-earth actress turned host. Ask her about the greatest thing that's happened to her over her career, and you'd be hard-pressed not to smile at the answer.
"I just had it happen over the weekend," she said, telling us about meeting young fans at a local park, and their parents who told her, "[They said] 'Our daughters were so scared of monsters until they watched your show, and they saw that they're not real.' That to me, we walked away and we're like, 'Oh, my God.' That's why we do what we do. That's why I love this show." How's that for excellent reality TV?