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'Face Off' exit Q&A: 'It was all conscious decision-making'

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Image Credit: Nicole Wilder/Syfy

The latest episode of Face Off certainly lived up to its title. In “Monster Twist,” the contestants battled it out in a monster-making competition that included (here comes the twist!) a previously-eliminated contestant.

Who got a second chance and who was sent home? Read on to find out.

First up, Nicole Chilelli — who was eliminated three weeks ago — won the Foundation Challenge, which earned her the right to re-enter the competition and join the other contestants for this week’s awwww-inducing Spotlight Challenge; creating a makeup look inspired by a child’s drawing of a monster. Once children from the L.A.-based non-profit organization City Hearts: Kids Say Yes to the Arts provided the artwork, the makeup artists did their best to bring the creatures to life.

Though contestant Rod Maxwell was confident that he had stayed true to nine-year-old Sofia’s vision, he was sent home, along with the criticism that all of his designs look like “big, fat baby heads,” as judge Glenn Hetrick put it.

Maxwell talked with EW about the experience of working with a nine-year-old client, hearing that his designs look too similar, and his reaction the big twist.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What did you think when the kids walked through the door?
ROD MAXWELL: All of us were trying to figure out what the challenge was gonna be, and I think a lot of the cast members were afraid it was going to be a body-painting challenge. That was one of everyone’s biggest fears. So we were expecting nude models to be walking through the door, so when little kids came through that door instead, it was slightly different than we expected. [Laughs] And the kids were so adorable. I think all of us just let out a collective “awww” when they came out.

Did you get to show the kids your completed makeup look?
No, we didn’t. We thought it would be great if that happened, but no, we really just worked with the kids for that short amount of time. For pretty much the 30-minute design stage that we have on our own usually, we did it with the kids. And then we said goodbye. I had Sofia select my model for us. I wanted to give her as much creative control as possible. We didn’t get to see that on TV, but she got to pick the model. And that was kind of it, and then we said goodbye.

Tell me what it was like to work with a nine-year-old client.
I have to say, the show’s done an excellent job at being accurate [in its portrayal of what happens on set], so when you watch me take all those notes, and they cross-fade and cross-fade and cross-fade, it really was for that full half hour. She had a ton of ideas, and my job was just to be a sponge. A lot of us we had the option to work with the kids and say, “How about this idea?” But for me, once it became very clear that she had a plethora of ideas and she was so, so crystal clear what she wanted, that’s when I just sat back, and I really was like, ‘Give me as much information as you’d like, and I will do my best to absorb it all and create your vision.’

And another twist was that the kids picked you.
You couldn’t have written it better. Here I am standing there, feeling like I’m being picked for dodge ball in elementary school where you’re the last one standing there, and it just was fate that Sofia, whose monster had the big, round head, would end up selecting me.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done anything differently with your monster look?
What I set out to do and what Sofia described to me – I really felt like that’s what I brought to life. I knew that some of the judges might have an issue with it. It really was a creative choice that I worked with Sofia on. If I’m gonna go home, that’s OK ’cause I really did my best. It wasn’t as if something went wrong. It was all conscious decision-making. My arm [which was injured early in the season] had been getting worse, but that didn’t really have too much influence.

Maybe technically how I approached the back of the head instead of doing what they call a cowl and you make these big molds, right side and left side and you make it like a hoodie basically in foam – for me, I physically couldn’t do that, so I came up with a way of creating that back of the head but on a flat surface, so I created what they call a flab mold. So I made these separate pieces to accomplish the same thing, but I really was brainstorming how to do something I wasn’t physically capable of.

The judges had very different opinions about the completed looks. 
I think that Ve was more open to the fantasy element of it. I think Glenn is just edgier, so for him fun fur definitely was not his world. So his aesthetic with it –  he’s just more an edgier guy. Ve is apparently more into the fantasy. So I think Ve had the most fun with the challenge.

Is the “big, fat baby head” character look your signature look, or did you just get into a rut on the show?
It was a fascinating thing when that first came up. Take a look at some of my past work, like [the short film] The Wishing Well. The big thing about The Wishing Well is I created 26 different characters on my own face for that movie. Here I am building a bunch of different characters on a platform that is the same – how do you create really different characters that do not look alike? So I take pride in that type of variation.

With that said, I like human characters. I like things we can relate to, even monsters like the Flavor Monster for Truth. I like to have relatability. That’s what I strive for in my work, that you know these people, whether they’re creatures or people, that you have an emotional response.

How did you get involved with Truth’s Flavor Monsters campaign, which spreads awareness about the consequences of smoking tobacco?
Well, Syfy contacted me, and Truth contacted me, so I don’t know the inner workings of why I was selected to do it, but I couldn’t be happier that I was selected. When I worked on that film, The Wishing Well, Carol Meikle, a friend of mine in the industry, she’s the one that taught me how to do a lot of the hair work that I know, and she was a big fan and was encouraging me to finish that film. She never saw me finish the film because she died of emphysema. It was because of The Wishing Well that I got on Face Off, so it’s kind of like a nice loop. It’s because of that film that she helped me on that I was then selected to be part of a campaign that is so directly connected to her. It was really a magical way that [it’s tied] together.

Did you design the Flavor Monster?
What they gave me was the character, an illustration they have from the game. They gave me a bunch of different characters from the game. I got to choose which one that I thought would work.

Just like Face Off.
Exactly! It was totally a Face Off challenge. I got to pick [the character], and I got to pick the model I would be working on, and I picked Eddie because his facial structure was great, and he turned out to be this really cool guy who got into the whole process.

What did you think about having the eliminated contestants return?
I was asked this during one of the on-camera interviews, ‘How do you feel about it?’ and on the spot, I thought, ‘Great!’ I know that Nicole, talking to her, when she went home, she didn’t go and hang out with her friends or take it easy. When she knew that she was going to have the opportunity to come back on the show, she kicked butt. She went home and airbrushed and painted. She was doing basically Face Off at home. I guess for me, she came in and I left. I personally have no problem with that because I think the world of Nicole, and I think she is a hard worker and truly an inspired artist. Personally, I’m good with it.

What was your strategy to work with your injured arm?
As my arm kept on getting worse, I kept on thinking, ‘I’m just gonna concentrate on doing good makeups. Go for the quality. You don’t have to go for the volume.’ My goal was really just to listen best as I could and work as hard as I could. And they even did a little special [segment] of me running – that’s because I didn’t want to waste any time. In previous seasons, at least how it’s represented on TV, you have people that are taking their time and everything, then at the last minute they’re falling apart. I was like, “I am not gonna wait until the last minute.” From the start, the gun goes off, I am going full force. And I did that on every challenge.

What’s one of your favorite off-camera moments from your time on the show?
There’s so much to talk about. I was roommates with Alana and Jason, and we would just laugh all the time. Jason actually is a hysterical person. He’s really funny. He’s very conservative on-screen, but he is just a crack-up. He had everyone laughing. We’re always saying, “Jason, show more of your personality on TV please! You’re a funny guy!”

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a bunch of different things right now. I got to go back to developing an animated series called The Dumbletons that I’ve been working on. It’s very Family Guy-esque. My Wishing Well app – I have to get that cleaned up for the new iPhone and all the [new electronics] that are coming out. People are now being made aware of The Wishing Well movie, which is child-related. It’s done well at the children’s film festivals, it’s been at Comic-Con, so it’s interesting that a child challenge is [the one] I would go home on. I’m also doing more with the Truth campaign. Good causes like that are definitely something that I’d like to concentrate on.

Read more:
‘Face Off’ exit interview: Tommy Pietch
‘Face Off’ exit interview: Nicole Chilelli
Gallery: Special makeup effects designer on how to create a ‘Grimm’ monster — EXCLUSIVE


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