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Style & Design

Makeup Artist Ve Neill on the 'Face Off' premiere and working on 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay'

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Image Credit: Nicole Wilder/Syfy; Tommy Garcia/Syfy

Season six of the reality makeup competition series Face Off premieres tonight, and Syfy is billing it as the “boldest and most extreme season to date.”

We caught up with one of the show’s judges, makeup artist Ve Neill, to find out what to expect.

“Everybody is going to be really surprised. I think we have some amazing artists this year,” said Neill, who called in from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay set — she’s served as makeup department head for all of the Hunger Games movie adaptations — in Georgia. “So many of the artists knocked it out of the park. They did incredible creations, far beyond anything we’ve seen before on the show. It’s going to be a great season.” The newest crop of Face Off contestants are competing for $100,000 in cash, a VIP vacation from sponsor Kryolan Professional Make-Up, and a 2014 Fiat.

Now that she’s wrapped filming Face Off, Neill told EW that she’s consumed with work on the The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. “It’s going to be pretty spectacular. Julianne Moore is on with us now as President Coin and she’s great. We have quite a few new characters who’ve joined us,” she hinted. “They’re all wonderful to work with. Jennifer [Lawrence] and Josh [Hutcherson] are absolute dolls. It’s nice to have a group of actors who enjoy coming to work.”

Read on to see what else the makeup artist had to say about the new season of Face Off and the next installment of The Hunger Games.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your favorite challenge on this season of Face Off?
Ve Neill: We have some amazing challenges this season, they even took the contestants to Tokyo. We did a whole big anime challenge based on the contestants’ alter-egos. They were pretty darn excited about going to Tokyo. That was a big deal for our show, [we've never] we’ve ever taken the contestants anywhere close to that far away. Thousand Oaks is about as far as we’ve gotten besides our trip to Vegas! There were [a lot of] cool challenges. We did dragons, which were pretty fabulous, and wizards. At one point, we had Roald Dahl’s daughter Lucy, who I just happened to have worked with on Matilda.

Do you help come up with ideas for the challenges?
[The judges] don’t actually have anything to do with creating the challenges…. It’s better that we’re not involved in that particular process.

Last season the big twist was that the newbies competed against veterans from previous seasons, but every season six contestant is a newbie. Why?
I think we have such a great formula that there’s no reason why we should alter it. ‘Don’t fix something that’s not broken,’ that’s my motto. I think it works well.

Are there any standout contestants this season?
I think there’s quite a few standout contestants and there are a couple who came from behind and kicked some butt, too. [The audience] is going to be absolutely amazed at some of the stuff that the contestants come up with this season. I was blown away many times.

What are you looking for when you judge the challenges?
We always want to see imagination and technical skills. You have to be a good sculptor and a good painter, that’s where it starts and stops.

What’s your advice for aspiring Face Off contestants?
Watch the show a lot and try to figure out what’s going on. The contestants coming in know what’s going on. They’ve watched the show, they’re not stupid. They know pretty much what to expect and I’m sure they’ve managed to talk to previous contestants and say, “What’s it like?” Stay rested as best you can because it’s nerve-wracking and it takes a lot out of you. Make sure when you come to the show that you have all the knowledge that it’s going to take in your head already. Several contestants have come and don’t even have knowledge of some of the basic, iconic films that we’ve all grown up with. Don’t show up and say you’ve never seen Star Wars. It’s like, “What?!” That has actually happened.

How well do you get to know the contestants over the course of a season? Have you stayed in contact with any of the former contestants?
We don’t get to know everybody, [but] because I work and I hire people a lot, I have hired many of the past contestants. I hired Laura [Tyler], our last winner, to work with me on Catching Fire. And I actually have Conor [McCullagh], our first winner, with me as my key makeup artist on the next two [Hunger Games] films right now. I hire a lot of the contestants who’ve been on the show and I know a couple of them.

What’s next in the Hunger Games movies and how do you help tell the story through makeup? 
We’re going into the third book, which is when they go to war. We have a lot of distressed looking makeups as opposed to glamour.

How big is the part of the Hunger Games makeup department that you oversee?
We have three makeup artists who are on all the time and we have one make-up artist who runs our tech unit, who works with us concurrently doing interior and pickup shots. She sometimes has fifteen people working with her. Right now we’re doing stuff in District 13, so we have 20 extra makeup artists, and there are even more people in the hair department. We have a lot manpower because there are over 400 extras.

What’s it like working with the stars of the movie?
They’re all wonderful to work with. They all have children… well Josh and Jennifer don’t, but a lot of our other adult principals have children and, of course, their kids are all really happy that their parents are working on the Hunger Games, so that’s fun for them. We have a terrific director and we don’t work hellacious hours. No 19-hour shoot days. They try to keep it to 12 hours so that everybody stays relatively healthy and rested.

Season six of Face Off premieres tonight at 9 PM ET on Syfy.

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