Part of the fourth generation of the famed Westmore family makeup dynasty, McKenzie Westmore returned to her roots after a decade of acting on the soap opera Passions to host Syfy’s successful makeup competition show Face Off, which now also features her father Michael acting as mentor to the contestants. The fifth season currently airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on Syfy, with individual episodes available via iTunes and Amazon. McKenzie took time out from her crazy busy schedule to chat about the show and her Hollywood family history.
Your father, grandfather and great-grandfather did makeup, and you went into acting. What was their reaction?
They loved it. In fact, I read an article when I was 12 or 13 that called my dad the last of the living dinosaurs. Everything is compartmentalized today—you have the person that sketches and creates it, the person that runs the rubber and has the lab, then the makeup artist that applies it, like our judges. It’s very much about different departments. My dad was the last to do it all. He sketched it, ran the rubber, and ran the lab, which is attached to our home, then be on set and apply the makeup. He was a one-man show.
So when this article came out calling him the last of living dinosaurs, it broke my heart. I thought, “I can’t let this legacy die. My family is synonymous with special effects makeup, so I can’t let this go.” I went to school to study makeup and took classes, but after a while it wasn’t where my heart lies. I had been singing opera since I was seven and dancing since I was five—I was in Raging Bull with Robert DeNiro as his daughter when I was three and a half—so I was already bitten by the acting bug. My dream at that time was to do Broadway musicals, and my family was supportive and got me into singing lessons and dance school. They were so cool and so open about it.
In a way, you’re continuing the family legacy by hosting the show.
It’s funny because I said this earlier to somebody—I feel like I’m following through on that childhood dream because I wanted to continue the name on, and I thought it would be through acting. I’m living the dream that I had as a little kid, which was to continue my family’s name on, so to me this is amazing.
You have a young son. Do you think he’ll have any interest in makeup?
He’s definitely talked about it. He’s surrounded by so many people in his life that do this, but at the same time he is my little scientist. He’s almost seven, and he’ll ask me about wormholes and fractures in time. I’m like, “What are you talking about?” I have to Google half of the things he asks me. He is all science, but he loves art and he says he wants to do what Deda [his grandfather, pronounced Dee-dah] does. We could start now if he wants. Whatever he wants to do, I’ll support. As long as it’s legal and he stays out of jail, it’s fine.
What advice would you give to potential Face Off contestants after everything you’ve seen on the first four seasons?
I would say team playing is a big thing obviously. It’s talent to begin with, but it goes beyond that. It goes into being a team player. Try and study as much as you can. But then you get someone like Rayce [Bird] who didn’t study and just happened to pick it up. His first makeup application was his audition tape. Somebody like that is a total fluke, but it happens. If you want to come to the show and compete, go to school and take classes. Learn as much as you can.
The biggest thing that I see contestants make a mistake in is time management. They don’t budget their time properly. They’re all fantastic artists, even the ones that you don’t expect. They are all in their own right creative. If they can just let the ego go, pump their self-esteem up and feel confident in themselves and manage their time properly, I could see a lot of them [past contestants] having won over the ones who did win.
THAT MAGIC NUMBER — Doesn’t it strike you odd that both the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” in A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and the number of the famed (and now retired) jersey of baseball legend Jackie Robinson is 42? Okay, it’s a coincidence, but it’s a funny thought. This year’s highly lauded sports biopic deserves the praise heaped on it. Relative newcomer Chadwick Boseman shines as Robinson, capably capturing his suffering and struggles as Major League Baseball’s first African-American player. It’s a rough, bumpy ride, and Boseman strikes a balance between frustration and anger and intense self-control in the face of belligerent racism. A prosthetic-wearing Harrison Ford shows us a different kind of heroic persona as Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, who turns the league upside down with his bold new choice of rookie and acts as a father figure to his star player. There’s also plenty of stirring action on the baseball diamond for sports aficionados.
A FITZGERALD FACELIFT — Australian director Baz Luhrmann seems like an odd choice to being the iconic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby to the screen for the sixth time, but he imbues it with a grand sense of style, cheeky humor and modern touches (hip-hop-flavored jazz in the score) that make this adaptation his own. The film certainly sparked its share of debate when it came out (especially since the 3D version is ultimately unnecessary), but Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as his lost love Daisy Buchanan and Tobey Maguire as their out of his depth friend Nick Carraway play well off of each other. The digital environments and set extensions provide the necessary opulence for the Long Island scenes and the dirty, gritty look into Queens (as it was being built in the ’20s, no less). Although the film may be a bit ostentatious for some, it has its moments.
DREAM WARRIOR — Francis Ford Coppola takes the low budget horror approach with the surreal vampire tale Twixt. A “bargain basement Stephen King” by the name of Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) is passing through a small town on yet another book tour when the kooky sheriff (Bruce Dern) interests him in collaborating on a story about a local murder that may be connected to alleged vampire killings from the past. (More specifically, young children murdered by a religious nutcase.) Baltimore experiences historical flashbacks through dreams, led along by the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin) as he tries to unravel the mystery of what happened. Adding to his discomfort are his grief for his dead teenage daughter, who looks like the vampire girl visiting him in his dreams, and the mysterious, stake-impaled corpse in the local morgue that first lured him in. Twixt is not standard scare fare; it’s more of a supernatural black comedy with tragic undertones and beautifully shot dream sequences. It’s odd tone may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely a fresh addition to the overcrowded horror marketplace, especially with Kilmer’s quirky performance.
MULTIGENERATIONAL MESS — That whole cliché of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the sons is certainly apropos for The Place Beyond The Pines, the intense indie drama from Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance. After a traveling motorcycle stuntman (Ryan Gosling) discovers that he got a young woman (Eva Mendes) pregnant the summer before, he seeks to provide for their son even though she has a new man in her life. The troubled drifter ends up getting involved with a low-life mechanic in a bank robbing scheme that turns sour, which leads him into a deadly confrontation with a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) that will transform the two mens’ lives and affect their progeny as well as the officer’s future political ambitions. The film has an unnerving realism that Cianfrance excels at, making it both uncomfortable and compelling viewing, particularly the scenes in which Cooper’s cop must confront corruption in the Schenectady Police Department. (By the way, the meaning of the Indian name Schenectady is the film’s title.) There are no easy answers to be found here, but many troubling questions.