McKenzie & Mike Westmore Talk Face Off, Trek & More
There’s Star Trek DNA, and plenty of it, coursing through the veins of Face Off, the Syfy reality series that tomorrow will return for its third season. In fact, you could call it Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show, a competition series, aims to find the next great Hollywood special-effects makeup artists, and it’s hosted by McKenzie Westmore. She should be very familiar to Star Trek fans. McKenzie is the daughter of Oscar- and Emmy Award-winning makeup artist Michael Westmore, and they’re both part of the legendary Westmore family dynasty. Mike, of course, worked on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, as well as the four TNG features, while McKenzie, though best known as an actress and soap opera star, appeared on TNG (twice) and Voyager, as well as in Insurrection. StarTrek.com recently had the rare and entertaining opportunity to chat with McKenzie and Mike together.
Let’s start with Star Trek, if that’s OK. McKenzie was an extra a couple of times on TNG…
Mike: We had this whole classroom full of kids for one episode. Somebody said – and I’m assuming it’s the director – “Well, we have all these aliens on ship. We ought to have one of the kids as something. Can you do anything?” McKenzie was there. I said, “Yeah, we can make one of them into a Vulcan really quick.”
McKenzie: Gee, I wonder which one.
Mike (Laughs): We took her to the makeup trailer and she became the Vulcan child.
OK, but what episode was that?
Mike: It was a Wil Wheaton episode. It was based around Wesley and it had all the kids in there.
Next up was “When the Bough Breaks.” What the heck were you wearing, McKenzie?
McKenzie: I was in a potato sack. I was about 12 then.
You were the right kid in the right place the first couple of times, McKenzie, but how did you land your role as Ensign Jenkins in the “Warhead” episode of Voyager?
McKenzie: I went in and I auditioned like everybody else. I went in and read and got called back, and then I was lucky enough to get it. It was really interesting over at Star Trek, because I’d auditioned for several things before that and did not get them. So there certainly was no nepotism. It’s not like they were looking at me and saying, “Oh, that’s Mike’s daughter. We have to bring her in.” No, I went in and I auditioned, and it was all on the up and up. Around that same time, I’d been auditioning for other stuff, and I’d auditioned for Passions. I remember getting a call from my manager at the time, who said, “You know, they’re considering making this a regular role on Voyager, but it’s not a done deal.” At the same time I’d gotten a called saying they were offering me a three-year deal on Passions. So it was real tough for me because I was thinking, “Do I sit and wait for a maybe with Star Trek or do I take the offer sitting in front of me for three years with Passions?” For me, at 20 years old, I said, “Three years on a television show? I can’t say no to that.” The rest is history.
What intrigued you most about Jenkins as a character and, if you had gotten to play her on a steady basis, in what ways do you think she might have developed?
McKenzie: I know what they were talking about, which was making me the love interest for Ensign Kim. That’s the direction they were going in. I was going to be the new girlfriend. Looking at Star Trek historically, I was only the second female ever, other than Janeway, to run the ship, to man the helm. So that was a cool thing. But they were looking at me to be Ensign Kim’s girlfriend.
Mike: If you remember, McKenzie was in the teaser, in the front, and that’s all it was going to be, that it was night duty and it was just she and Kim on the bridge talking. Once they cut it together, someone -- and it was probably Rick (Berman) – loved the chemistry and so they wrote a scene in, which was not in the original script, which was the two of them back on the bridge at the end of the show, for the closer. Then they started talking about, “Well, maybe we can work this out,” but then McKenzie got the job on Passions and that was the end of that. But when you see the episode, it’s a wonderful little piece between McKenzie and Garrett (Wang).
McKenzie: I loved all my years on Passions (she appeared as Sheridan Crane Lopez-Fitzgerald in 1700-plus episodes across the better part of a decade) and am so grateful for them, but looking back I wish that Voyager could have come through faster. I would have taken that in a heartbeat.
Now, let’s get really arcane. McKenzie, you also played a Ba’ku in Star Trek: Insurrection…
Mike: I’ve gotta tell you about the Ba’ku woman. Out of all the Ba’ku, wardrobe put McKenzie in platinum blonde hair – because all the Ba’ku were blonde – and they put her in a white, cloth, long robe. Rick used to joke about it, saying “It’s the McKenzie show,” because you could always see her. There was one place, where we were shooting outside, in the hills. You have you A.D.’s standing on each side, off camera, sending the background people back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. So, one of them would say, “McKenzie, walk that way.” Then another one would send her back. Well, you can actually see McKenzie every time she’d walk back and forth. Rick joked about it, but it got to the point where they actually wrote a line in for McKenzie, which they shot. They actually established her character, but it got cut out because of timing on the movie. But they gave her a few words to say and bumped up her salary because they paid her as an actor (instead of as an extra).
McKenzie: I actually got a credit in the film. But the scene ended up on the cutting room floor.
McKenzie, you’ve spent your career acting. You’ve been on Voyager, Passions and Dexter, and you’ve got the indie films Vial and Dose of Reality coming up. So how did Face Off come about?
McKenzie: I never really saw myself in the world of reality television since it wasn’t something I was thinking about or considering. I was on soap operas for 10 years and guest starring on shows. I was fully going in that direction, as hard a direction as that is. To be a working actress for 10 years, that’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to say. When this whole thing came up one thing that has always been a driving force for me, really, since I was a little girl, was to carry on the family name. I always said this to my dad; that I wanted to carry it on somehow. I always felt that it’d be through acting. I never in a million years thought it’d be through actually doing a makeup show. So, when Face Off came up, it was such a perfect way for me to give back to my dad, give back to our family and continue on in this way.
Mike: The thing is, as far as I can think of, she’s the only person who could do this show. I had been called in as a potential judge on the show. They were interviewing different makeup artists at the time. I was talking with the producers. We’re chatting, and I said, “What are you going to do about a host for the show?” They said, “Well, we’re thinking about having a makeup artist for the shows. We haven’t quite figured it out quite yet.” I said to them, “Hey, what about my daughter, McKenzie?” One of the producers had actually worked in soaps, and he goes, “Oh, I know who she is.” I said, “Well, I don’t know anybody who knows more about the makeup business than she does. She actually grew up in my lab. She knows what a mold is. She knows what clay is. She knows what sculpting is. She’s been exposed to this her whole life.”
It was interesting, because I could see light bulbs going off over each producer’s head. So they brought her in and tested her, several times, I guess, on camera. It finally came through and she wound up getting the daily, permanent job as the hostess of the show. It’s interesting to watch her be able to go through the contestants. I’ve been a guest judge several times now, and to see her be able to talk with the contestants, because she knows what’s good and what’s bad from all the exposure she’s had, it’s worked out just perfectly.
Give us a preview of season three of Face Off, McKenzie…
McKenzie: The season starts with a bang. We open it up with a Star Wars theme. The contestants are asked to create their version of what you would have seen in that Cantina scene. We even have it set up on the elimination stage, with that whole theme, with the same music playing. All their creations came out and sat at the bar, and it brings you back to the first Star Wars and that iconic scene. There are some really cool challenges that go on throughout. One is Chinese New Year’s Dragon, which is one of my favorites. They had to take the traditional Chinese Dragon and recreate their own take on it and have it dance on stage, in a fully choreographed dance and music routine.
Mike, were you at all worried about the show revealing too much of the magic behind how special effects makeup is done?
Mike: The people who are watching it being done don’t seem to be saying, “Oh, I know how he pulled that out of his hat. I saw his hand.” It’s more of an educational show for people watching how it’s done, how a mold is made, and the struggles that these people have. And they do. The contestants aren’t trained makeup artists who’ve been working for 40 years. They’re new people coming into the field and they’re going through all the things that I had to go through, and that every established makeup artist has gone through, where you’re learning at the same time. So, the viewers are seeing what a person has to go through in this occupation, and I think it’s more of an interest in watching that than it is seeing things exposed.
Mike, we know what McKenzie is doing these days, but what about you? What else do you have going on?
Mike: I’ve been writing. I literally started, in 2004, writing my biography. I thought I was done with it until I spoke to some writers and publishers. I hadn’t put in anything about my career with Star Trek. It was all about my career with Elizabeth Taylor and Sylvester Stallone and all my back stories about the movies and my personal associations with them. Everyone said, “No, no, you’ve got to put Star Trek in.” So I am literally back to the computer and I’m adding in a good full chapter with highlights from working on all four series and on the movies. I’m just trying to give a little Star Trek meat to the book. Also, as soon as I first finished Star Trek, I started working on a Bollywood film that took me two years to do. I never went (to India), but I sent artists over there. Then I’ve been going in to be a judge on Face Off once in a while, and I’ve gone in and kind of wandered around to see what the kids are doing and to give them some advice. And I’m enjoying watching McKenzie doing what she’s doing on Face Off.