Tag Archives: Syfy

Face to Face with Face Off’s McKenzie Westmore

Face Off - Season 6McKenzie 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.”

Julie Benz Enjoys Exploring her ‘Badass’ Side in ‘Taken’ Telepic

Julie Benz 'Taken' streetJulie Benz plays a New York City police detective who goes to Russia to hunt for  her missing daughter in the made-for-television film “Taken: The Search for Sophie Parker” this Saturday (9/21) on Lifetime.  It’s a role light years away from her indelible performance as doomed Rita Gordon on “Dexter” — one that fits perfectly with Benz’ predilection of late for playing powerful women.
“This woman is very strong and very direct — a kind of woman I haven’t played before.  There were a lot of physical aspects to the role and I loved that.  I’ve been an athlete all my life, so  I loved being a bit of a badass,” she says of her NYC cop character.  “I enjoyed the challenge of containing the emotion, taking the fear of what’s happened and turning it into action versus reaction.”
“Taken,” which was inspired by real-life events, is set against the world of international human sex trafficking, something that also intrigued Benz, who is outspoken in the cause of stopping such trade.
She points out that “It’s the third largest crime, globally, behind drug and arms dealing.  And it doesn’t just happen overseas in some foreign country.  It happens in our own backyard.  It happens in states like New Hampshire and Maine and California.  It happens in New York City and all over America.  The fact that it still goes on is just unbelievable.”
Shooting took place in Bulgaria, which, she says, “was fun.  We had such a great cast to work with — at the end of the day, you’d be tired but also filled with a sense of exhilaration.  We would meet back at the hotel and go out for dinner and rehash the day.”
Benz found the film industry there much changed from 10 years ago, when she made another film in that Eastern European land.  “We have a burgeoning industry, particularly in Sofia, and we have growing craftsmen within the industry.  About 10 years ago it was very rough, but going back for this movie, I was so impressed.  The city itself had changed a lot as well.”
Benz, who rose to fame as Darlah on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” found that in Sofia, she wasn’t recognized from “any of the normal stuff, but from the last ‘Rambo’ I did,” she admits with a laugh.
The NYU-educated, self-described workaholic is at the other end of the spectrum from “Rambo” girl now.  “Especially at this point in my career, I’ve been looking for very strong, dynamic women to play.  I look for deeply-flawed women in positions of power; I think that’s just the juiciest of all roles.  I look for that,” says the actress, who married marketing executive Rich Orosco last year.  She adds, “I read a lot of scripts.  I go on lots of auditions.  I think I end up with the roles that were meant for me.  They’re like a perfect fit.”
Certainly she feels that way about her part in Syfy’s hit “Defiance,” in which she’s been playing the mayor of the title post-apocalyptic town, circa 2046, where humans and extra terrestrials of all sorts dwell together. 
“Defiance” is several episodes into filming of its second season, and Benz is enthusiastic about it, to say the least.  “It’s intense, it’s crazy and the gloves are off.
“Every character starts in a completely different place at the beginning of season two from where they ended after Season 1.  My character specifically, Amanda — she starts in a much darker place.  She’s lost her job.  Her sister has disappeared and her ex-husband was killed.  And she has to find herself in this new ‘Defiance,’ because she doesn’t know where she fits in.  It takes its toll on her.  Her sister being gone, that’s like her one close relationship, so it’s like her anchor is gone.”
She adds, “We had a table read yesterday for Episode 4 and Episode 5 and — it’s such an amazing cast — even at a table read you’re getting performances that are exciting and gut wrenching.  Everyone is just so excited about the new episodes.  It’s exciting to go to a table read when the scripts are so good.”

Hunky Warren Christie Goes from Lighthearted ‘Three Weeks, Three Kids’ Comedy to New SyFy ‘Alphas’

Warren Christie, Anna Chlumsky Hallmark Channel photo

Hunky Warren Christie of “October Road” and “Happy Town” fame steps into the realm of family-friendly romantic comedy with “Three Weeks, Three kids,” premiering May 7 on The Hallmark Channel.  He tells us the change of pace project not only gave him the opportunity to reunite with Anna Chlumsky — they’d done a pilot together a couple years ago — but to show off his acting chops to his nieces and nephews.

“There’s a lot of things that I do that aren’t really age-appropriate,” Christie admits. “This allows them to see their uncle in something.”

“Three Weeks, Three Kids” has Chlumsky as a commitment-phobic, maturity-averse graphic artist, who learns some giant life lessons when she volunteers to take care of her nieces and nephew while her sister is in Europe.  Christie’s the neighbor who gets called upon for help.  “It was a lot of fun to play a nice guy in a lighthearted movie,” he says.

The actor recently wrapped McG’s 2012 action-comedy “This Means War,” with Tom Hardy, Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon.

“Mine is a small little part.  I play Reese Witherspoon’s ex-boyfriend.  Every time they run into each other, it’s awkward — for her.  Clearly, he’s moved on and his life is perfect,” says Christie, “so it’s fun.”

Right now, he’s getting ready to begin shooting SyFy’s July-premiering series, “Alphas,” with David Straithairn.  “I actually just relocated to Toronoto,” notes Christie, who grew up in the area.  “I’ll be here shooting for the next five months.”

“Alphas” is about a group of people “with heightened abilities — we’re not saying super heroes — and David Straithairn is the doctor who helps them all to cope.  These abilities have drawbacks in their personal lives,” he says of the series, created by “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “The Incredible Hulk” writer Zak Penn.  “It’s cool — a nice blend of action and comedy and all that stuff.”

‘Ghost Hunters International’s’ Kris Williams Compares Foreign and Domestic Haunts

Kris Williams Syfy photo

As the newest member of Syfy’s  “Ghost Hunters International” team, Kris Williams is among the few paranormal investigators qualified to answer the question of whether stories of hauntings are alike or different in North America and other parts of the world.

She says, “There is a difference in that there is so much history overseas.”  With the domestic version of “Ghost Hunters,” “The 1700s seemed old.  But, well, for example we walked into a castle in Germany and asked how old it was, and they very matter-of-factly said it was built in 1190.  Also, you hear more stories of torture.”  Ew.

Williams says the team has been exploring stories of hauntings that date back to World War II and World War I as well.  Next Wednesday’s (2/2) show has the team “at a fort in Serbia that dates back to the late 1600s, but there was a settlement at the same location that goes back thousands of years.  There were some battles.  There was an execution wall where they’d line up prisoners.  It was creepy.  People felt like they were being watched.  There were lights and apparitions.”

The pretty 29-year-old admits, “If you’d have told me six or seven years ago that I would be traveling around the world looking for ghosts for a living, I’d never have believed it.  It’s a lot of fun.  I’ve always been a history nerd, so this touches my interests in history, travel and the paranormal.”

But, doesn’t she get — you know — scared?  Williams laughs.  “I grew up in a house that was active, and it wasn’t unusual to have conversations about it at the dinner table when I was young.  I grew up a bit of a tomboy.  I’m not that easy to shake.”

Her first ghostly encounter was when she was four, she tells us.  “My mother told me the story of how I came downstairs and told them I was talking to my great-grandmother, who I was close to, and that she was smiling.  And I asked, ‘Why is she saying goodbye?’ That was how they found out she had died.”