Interview with Ve Neill, Judge on Syfy’s Face Off


By: Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)

Face Off is about to start its 10th season. What is it about the show that appeals to people so much and has made the show so successful?

I think there’s so much positive reinforcement. We don’t dwell on any drama or anything bad that goes on. It’s all about the art and how fabulous it is and how fun it is to do what we do. I think it’s just a really positive way to show our art and express ourselves. I think the fact that the show is so positive, I really think that’s what people like to see. They like to see the enjoyment of how you make monsters. The camaraderie – I think that’s why it’s so positive. We have great artists and the show is fun and it’s very positive. So I think that’s one of the greatest draws for me anyway.

The judges are obviously a big part of the show, so what dynamic do you think you specifically bring to the panel?

Both Glenn and Neville are very well-educated in their craft and it’s odd for me because I’m the only one that’s the artist on the set. Glenn is the fabricator – although he does go to the set and do it, but he’s not there everyday like I am. Neville is the design aspect of it. Not that Glenn doesn’t do that as well, but that’s the dynamic. We have the fabricator, the artist, and the actual designer. Number one, they’re men, so the dynamic is already there and I think number two is the fact I speak English and the guys don’t. [Laughs] They start using these big words and half the time, I’m sure they cut me out because I’m looking at them and I’m thinking, “Are you guys speaking English?! What the hell are you talking about?” They get so into it, especially Neville. He uses all these big words and calls everything by its proper name and it’s like, “Oh my lord, I don’t even know what that is!” I kind of feel like I’m a dumb blonde in the middle of these two incredibly educated men, but I don’t know, like I said, I think I’m the only one that speaks English.

How has being a judge changed the way you view makeup and has anything you’ve gained from the show changed the way you do things? Any new styles or techniques?

I certainly have learned a lot of really great ways to MacGyver stuff now, I’ll tell you that much. A lot of times, I just want to pick these kids’ brains because when you don’t have everything in front of you, you figure out a way to make it, which is what we all used to do when we started. And now that I have all of it at my fingertips, now we do it because we have everything available. It’s very seldom that I have to figure out how to do something without having something because I have so much at my fingertips. So I think that in general has started to make me think about my roots again and figuring out the way we used to do things. Some of the old ways are actually so cool and they look so great, so I’ve actually started using a lot of old techniques that I haven’t used in a long time whenever I can. So I think that’s brought some of that up in me, so that’s probably good. Using the old techniques and trying to figure out things without having all the groovy stuff right at my fingertips. Although they have it now and they really know how to use it and they use it in conjunction with their ways as they try to figure out stuff, so they’re figuring out new techniques as they go. It’s really cool.

I always love the guest judges, too, and I have to say I was especially excited to see Paul Reubens this season (Ed. Note: Reubens appears in the second episode of the season, which airs Jan. 20) –


– whom you’ve worked with, which I didn’t realize.

I’ve known Paul since he was at The Groundlings, so I’ve known him almost close to 40 years.

Wow! Yeah, I was a huge Pee Wee fan growing up and even saw him on Broadway a few years ago. So this is a selfish question, but what can you tell me about working with him?

It’s fantastic. What a creative mind and such an awesome guy to [work] with and so genuine and fun and endearing. He’s just an amazing guy in general and he’s a fantastic actor. You know, now he’s doing all these other things, like The Blacklist, he’s in feature [films], he’s all over the place now! And I think it’s just so cool how he’s reinvented himself and gotten past all the B.S. that went down and I couldn’t be happier for him. And I just did a Pee Wee movie with him, which is coming out very soon. (Ed. Note: The film is called Pee Wee’s Big Holiday and premieres at South by Southwest in March.)

Which I’m so excited about!

I’m totally excited about it! It’s really fun. We did a lot of innovative things to try to make him look like he did when we did Big Top Pee Wee. So hopefully some of those new things will have worked! [Laughs]

Being that he is so innovative, what kind of influence do you think his bright and imaginative style has on today’s artists?

You know, I don’t know, because there really is nothing else like him around or has come up. If something did come up, it would be fantastic, but I just don’t know what it would be. It would have to be different, but it would almost be really cool if he could train someone else to be Pee Wee and a whole new generation could enjoy him and his artistic endeavors and all of the fun things we got to enjoy when we were young. But I don’t know if that’s possible!

I mean, there’s no one like Paul Reubens!

Exactly. Maybe it could be Pee Wee’s nephew or something. I don’t know!

As a woman in a male-heavy field, what have been some hurdles you faced in building your career and what advice would you give to other women – or anyone – trying to break into the business?

The first thing I tell everybody is never turn down a job. If you have to work for free for a year, do it, because you are always going to meet more people every time you do a job. And the next job could introduce you to somebody who will give you a fabulous paying job. Every time you work, you make connections and so that’s my advice to everybody: never turn down a job. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get paid. Because what are you going to do, sit at home and play video games? Put yourself out there and network and do whatever you have to do to get credit and get experience. Because experience is the true teacher. That’s my advice and I’m sticking to it.

Yeah, I got to speak to [former Face Off contestant] Roy Wooley at Dragon Con and his advice was, “practice, practice, practice.”

Exactly. That’s exactly it.

You have a very extensive resume. You’ve worked on The Amazing Spider-Man; The Hunger Games, which you worked on with a few Face Off contestants, didn’t you?

There were a couple of them on there, yep. Three or four maybe.

You did Pirates of the Caribbean – which, by the way, I told a fellow writer you worked on and she told me to tell you thank you for putting Johnny Depp in eyeliner.

You bet, baby. That was my favorite part of the day. [Laughs]

You also did Mrs. Doubtfire, for which you won an Oscar. So what’s next for you? What else do you want to accomplish?

You know, I don’t know! I just want to work until I can’t work anymore! I never set out to accomplish anything per se, as far as winning awards or any of that kind of stuff. I just really want to be able to share what I’ve learned throughout my career with other people. So maybe teaching? That might be my next deal. You know, so I don’t have to get up at 3 and 4 in the morning every day. I could get up at 6 then. But you know, I’m not sure. I would like to tour maybe, and do speeches and symposiums and teach I guess. So that would be the next thing. That’s not happening soon, by the way! [Laughs]

So Besides Paul Reubens, what can fans look forward to on Face Off this season?

Oh, there’s just going to be so many cool things. We have some great artists this season and really cool challenges. I don’t want to get into it because I don’t want to wreck anything for anybody, but there are some pretty cool new challenges this season. We have a really exciting new finale – and I can’t tell you what that is either. I think you’re just going to have to watch the show and see! It’s going to be pretty fantastic this season. It seems to just get better and better. I’m so excited about this season coming up, I can’t tell you. I think you guys are really going to enjoy it.

By the way, did you know we’re up for the Critic’s Choice Award again for Best Reality Competition?

No, I didn’t but I know y’all have won in the past, which is very exciting!

Yeah, we won last year! We’re up for it again this year, so put a prayer in for us to win again and keep us on the air.

I’ll definitely be crossing my fingers for you!

Face Off returns tonight at 9/8c on Syfy. The Critic’s Choice Awards airs this Sunday on A&E at 8/7c. Follow Ve on Twitter at @VeNeill.

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