Another season of Face Off is coming to a close, and this time the reality competition show delivers something new with an episode taped in Las Vegas.
During the finale, which airs tonight on Syfy, the three finalists – and the eliminated contestants who were brought back in to act as their assistants – travel to Sin City to create makeup for the performers of Le Rêve: The Dream at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel. The makeups by finalists Wayne Anderson, Kris Kobzina, and Anthony Kosar have to hold up as the show’s acrobats plunge into the pool that serves as the show’s stage.
EW talked about the finale with Face Off judge Glenn Hetrick, whose own makeup credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Heroes, and The Hunger Games. Speaking over the phone after a day of lecturing at York College in New York, Hetrick looked back on season 4, explained why he prefers not to give viewers the final vote, and gave us a few hints about what we’ll see in tonight’s finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What stands out to you about this season’s contestants, particularly the finalists, compared to past years’?
GLENN HETRICK: It seems to me that with each progressive season they come in more well-prepared, having had the benefit of the prior seasons, learning from what they’ve seen on the show. So I think that each season that sort of changes the game-play a little bit.
These three finalists have been so ambitious, but sometimes that’s to their detriment, like when Wayne doesn’t make enough time for his paint job. What are your tips for next season’s contestants who have been watching the show?
Wayne continually tried to do too much and didn’t get finished. He’s so good, but you gotta finish that makeup. Learning from things like that – it’s exactly what you’re talking about – watching what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and what succeeds and what doesn’t and just trying to take all the positives out of their style and get rid of the negatives.
During this season you also hosted and judged the new Face Off: Redemption web series. What was it like to spend more time in the lab with the contestants and acting as the sole judge?
I love it, it’s a very different vibe. Interacting with [the contestants] on that level is really fun, and it’s a little more relaxed. I love that it’s giving them a chance to get back on [the show]. It can get a little bit more personal with each of them in that space, and I really like that.
Was the decision to create the web series motivated by the audience response to bringing back the eliminated contestant mid-season last year?
I don’t know what that process was for the producers. I don’t know how it came about, but I’m glad that it did. I hope that it becomes an integrated part of the whole show.
There’s no audience voting this season. Are you happy that choosing the winner was back in the judges’ hands?
I prefer that. We did that live thing, and that was really cool, but personally I prefer the traditional way that we handle it [because] I do think it’s a more continuous process – that’s how we’re doing it all season. It was very exciting to do the live thing, but we work so hard to make a tough decision every week, so I like to see it through.
What were some highlights of working with the guest judges this season?
Well, it’s so cool because they do a great job of picking judges that are coming from different angles. We’ll have another artist giving their angle, John Rhys Davies as an actor will give a performance angle, and then you have Gale [Anne Hurd] as a producer come in and give her opinion, and you have Bryan [Singer] as a director give his opinion, so constantly changing the perspective of what that guest judge is bringing to it and what they’re gonna want to see out of a makeup keeps it very fresh.
How do you make a decision when you and the other judges have conflicting opinions?
It happens often. It’s not always [shown in the final cut]. We hash it out until we’re all comfortable with a decision.
What can you tell us about tonight’s finale?
It’s by far the biggest challenge in terms of production value that we’ve had on the show. It was awe-inspiring for us to be sitting there. I couldn’t believe that we were doing it – going out to Vegas and seeing this titanic show. They were so kind to let us work with them on it, but it brings the difficulty and the parameters of the finale [to a new level]. We’ve done water before, we’ve tested makeup under the conditions to see if the makeups hold up, but we’ve never done something that difficult. It has to hold up underwater and jumping and falling 30, 40 feet. I think it’s the closest we’ve come to creating real-life production circumstances and expecting them to perform on that level.
The season 4 finale of Face Off, “Living the Dream” airs on Syfy tonight at 9 p.m.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome