McKenzie Westmore has loved acting since she played Robert De Niro’s daugther in “Raging Bull” at age three. That was when she got her Screen Actors Guild card. She came to love singing as well, and was studying opera and performing in musical theater by age seven.
But the blue-eyed, blond host of SyFy’s fiendishly popular “Face Off” reality competition show does say that for awhile, she considered going into the family business. That family business, in case you’re not aware, is movie makeup. The Westmores, going back to patriarch George (who made up Mary Pickford and the Talmadge sisters, among dozens of others), have been responsible for many of the unforgettable faces, hideous and beauteous, that you have seen on the big screen small. From “Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to all the makeup for “Gone With the Wind” to “Blade Runner” and beyond, four generations of Westmores have plied their special creative trade in Hollywood.
“The bug did actually bite me at one point, really going way back,” she says. “When I got into my teens, I thought, ‘Oh, gosh. I don’t want to see the family business die.’ I had actually read an interview, the Los Angeles Times had done an interview with my dad, and they called him The Last of the Living Dinosaurs,” she says, speaking of Michael Westmore, who won an Oscar for his work on “Mask,” was a vital part of the “Star Trek” series’ teams, and even created spy makeup kits for CIA operatives overseas. Fans of “Face Off” have seen Michael as a mentor on the show.
Continues McKenzie, “He was one of the last to do everything — conceptualize an idea, run the molds, run the lab, then bring it to life and actually do the application on the actors. You don’t really see that a lot now. When I read that article I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to see the family legacy go.’ So I started to study. I started to take classes and work alongside my dad. I helped him out in the lab. And after awhile, I said, ‘Dad, I love you. I love what our family is known for in the industry. There’s magic there. But it’s not the thing that’s stolen my heart. I love acting, and I want to continue down that path,'” she recalls. “And he said, ‘You know I support you whatever you want to do. Go after your dreams like I did mine.’ And so, I went back to acting and got ‘Passions.'”
She was on that soap for 11 years, and also accumulated credits on other shows including “Dexter,” “All My Children” and “Friends.”
With her knowledge of makeup arts, “I feel very confident to walk into the lab on ‘Face Off,’ because I do know what I’m talking about. But at the same time, I did not want to go that route in life. ‘Face Off’ is the best of all worlds for me. I couldn’t have scripted this better.”
The show boasts the crème de la crème of Hollywood makeup artists, including judges Ve Neill (“Beetlejuice,” Mrs. Doubtfire”), Glenn Hetrick (“The Hunger Games,” “Heroes”) and Neville Page (“Avatar,” “Star Trek”) — plus such guest judges as filmmakers Paul W.S. Anderson, Gale Anne Hurd, Brian Grazer and Kevin Smith.
This season, “We get to travel — a big travel. We get to go to Japan. One of the challenges I’ve always wanted to see on our show is anime, and that’s what we bring back with us from Japan,” notes Westmore, speaking of the March 4 installment of the show. “I can’t wait for the fans, even new fans who jump into the show, to experience that because we really get to show them these amazing stunning visuals of Japan, from the middle of the countryside to the urban scene. It’s really going to be fun for the viewers.”
The Japan shoot took place over one week. “We got off the plane guns blazing — the contestants had to do a challenge immediately,” she says.
With “Face Off” in its sixth season, Westmore hopes the show will go on and on. She points out, “‘Face Off’ really is a go-go-go-go-go production, but it doesn’t take the whole year. So I can go out and do other things. I’ve also fallen in love with hosting since doing this. ‘Face Off’ is my baby, it will always be number one,” she says, “but I’m looking forward to seeing what else is out there.”