411Mania Interviews: Face Off host McKenzie Westmore
Posted by Al Norton on 01.14.2014
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with McKenzie Westmore, host of Syfy's hit series Face Off.
While McKenzie Westmore will always have a legion of fans for her role as Sheridan Crane on the daytime drama Passions, she is best known for her work as the host of Syfy's hit reality competition series Face Off, which begins its sixth season tonight at 9pm.
Al Norton: Can you take me back a few years and talk about the process by which you got the job hosting Face Off? I think most people understand that for acting jobs, you go in and read lines, but for a job where you are being yourself it's got to be different…
McKenzie Westmore: It's a really interesting process and funny enough, it's not that far off than for a theatrical role. I went in with Syfy and Mission Control (the production company) and I went on tape four times. The first time they didn't want me so "host-y", the second time it wasn't "host-y" enough (laughing), so it kind of went back and forth.
What they loved was the family lineage and what a lot of people don't know is that while I was on a soap opera for 10 years, I also did study make up and I did take classes and I stayed by my Dad's side and watch him in the lab. A lot of people don't know that I have a background and saw me as a soap actress and wondered what I was doing with the show.
I went in for four time; one time I had to read lines, the next time I just spoke about myself and my background and my family's background, and we just kind of went from there. The next thing I knew I was on set in that first set up we used, with Glenn Hetrick in the hotel and giving time call outs.
Al Norton: What do you know now about the job that you didn't when you started?
McKenzie Westmore: It's so different from acting. I was scared walking in – I'm not used to being myself, I'm used to being another character – so over the years I've gotten so much more comfortable, especially after doing that live episode. I've learned to become comfortable in my own skin. I don't want the focus on me, I want it on the artist, and I look at it like my job is to give them the information clearly and precisely, make sure they know what they are doing, and then act as sort of their one person cheering squad throughout the challenge, especially on the elimination stage. A few contestants have said they like to look over at me during that part of the show because I always have a smile for them.
Al Norton: Are there other hosts of competition shows whose work you admire?
McKenzie Westmore: Of course, there are many. I've always thought Heidi Klum is amazing. Padma (Lakshmi) is great. Honestly, you know who my favorite is as far as the host of a show? Henry Rollins. He's great; I watch him and think he's unbelievable and I love that show.
Al Norton: Not that everyone doesn't want their projects to be successful but were you at all surprised by how well the show has done and the life that it's had?
McKenzie Westmore: Yes and no. I wasn't surprised in that the show was in the making for so long that I knew it would get out there and that first episode and the magic that happened with the artists, that really made the show. I've got to say Mission Control really did an amazing job putting the show together; everything they do from start to finish is fantastic, running a tight ship from start to finish and always with a smile on their faces. Syfy does a great job as well, so in some ways it was just kind of a perfect fit.
Even still, you get through that first season and I had no idea if we'd be back. You don't know how advertisers will feel, if people will watch and if they do, if they'll like it or not, you just never know. I was on pins and needles that first season and even though the ratings were good, I had to get through two or three seasons before I felt even the littlest bit comfortable.
When you do a show like I did with Passions, for eight or nine years, and then it's cancelled, ever since then I never expect any job is going to continue.
Al Norton: One of the ways I knew the show was established and a hit is that I found a lot of the people I talked to who watched the show weren't actually people who would watch the types of movies these creations would be in yet they loved it.
McKenzie Westmore: Yes, I agree. I think it resonates with people because of that behind the scenes factor. It almost doesn't matter what genre it is, everybody likes to have that bird's eye view of how things work. That's what I love about the show, it gives people a look into this side of the industry that they've never had before. And for me it's my family's business, so to show the hard work that goes into the magic is fantastic.
Al Norton: How hard is it for you to bite your tongue sometimes when the judges are talking?
McKenzie Westmore: (Laughing) I think they have to take the camera off of me. I can hear them laughing in the control room sometimes because there are days I can't hide my emotions, I am not good at that. I can act but when I am being myself you can read me like a book and there are days when I'm on stage and I am like, "are you kidding me right now?!?!" It finally got to the point where I started to do my own walk-up inspections off camera because I started to think, "am I crazy here?"
There were one or two times where I did that and thought, "oh, I get it now." 90% of the time the judges are right on but there's that 10% where I am like, "guys, come on!!!"
Al Norton: You had acted for a long time before getting into the hosting business…
McKenzie Westmore: Since I was three years old…
Al Norton:…So once you start being yourself on camera, does it then become harder to have casting directors look at you as an actress?
McKenzie Westmore: Oh yes, definitely. People have really putting me in the world of hosting now, which is fine because I love what I do and I can continue on in hosting, that's great. I have started to look at guest spots, little roles here and there to get back out there, but to be honest with you I love what I am doing and if this is the path I am meant to be on, so be it.
Al Norton: You mentioned your role on Passions; daytime fans are legendary for their devotion, so do you still on even a somewhat regular basis get approached about Sheridan (Westmore's character) and the show?
McKenzie Westmore: I would say weekly still, to this day. My hair is longer, I am older, and I still get stopped, usually while I am getting coffee, and someone says, "oh my God, I watched Passions every day in college, I loved you." It's pretty cool.
Al Norton: What do you watch on TV?
McKenzie Westmore: Modern Family. I am thrilled that USA has reruns now because it's one of those shows you can watch over and over and over. It's such a brilliant show. I watch a lot of documentaries. I love that Henry Rollins show (10 Things You Don't Know About on H2).
Al Norton: Can you tell me a bit about the new season of Face Off?
McKenzie Westmore: The biggest change is that we travel. We go on a really big trip. I surprise the contestants with a trip to Japan and as soon as we step off the plane, they go to work. It really throws them in the trenches and very much to real life with what make-up artists have to deal with sometimes. Between the sights and the challenge, it will be great for the viewers.
Also the artistry this season; I've got to say in every season past I could usually pick out who would make it to the finale by episode two or three but you can't this season. They are all so good and the greatness bounces around.
Don't miss the season premiere of Face Off, tonight at 9pm on Syfy