Face Off host McKenzie Westmore and Being Human's Sam Huntington
In 2007, TV, feature film and stage actor Sam Huntington spent part of his workdays sitting in a makeup chair where he was transformed into a Caveman named Andy for the short-lived TV series Cavemen. A few years later he was cast as Josh Radcliff, a werewolf, in the Syfy channel’s take on the British supernatural TV drama Being Human. Luckily, Huntington’s onscreen persona only experiences his metamorphosis during a full moon, which means the actor’s handsome face is not constantly hidden behind layers of latex, fake hair and prosthetics.
Huntington’s experience performing behind a mask made him the ideal guest for another hit Syfy show, Face Off. The actor appears in next week’s “Dangerous Beauty,” airing Wednesday, February 8th @ 10:00 p.m. EST/PST. For this episode of Face Off's Foundation Challenge, the ten remaining contestants are tasked with creating an original trauma makeup featuring wounds that may have been inflicted by a werewolf. As everyone’s favorite US TV werewolf, Huntington brings his expert perspective to the challenge.
Last week, the good-natured and exceedingly fan-friendly actor chatted on the phone with me as well as other journalists about his stint on Face Off as well as ongoing work as Josh in Being Human. The following is an edited version of that Q &A. Enjoy!
It's great to hear that you're going to be on Face Off. Can you describe a little bit more of what role you take and maybe what advice you gave to the contestants?
Sam Huntington: Yes, I mean it's all so specific. I had a lot of fun watching, I judge a Foundation Challenge, which is the first challenge of the episode. It basically grants immunity to one of the contestants and, unfortunately, puts a couple in the bottom.
So that was my role and I think what I was able to bring to it is that I’ve worn a tremendous amount of effects makeup in the past as well as currently in my role as a werewolf on Being Human. So Face Off was a really cool experience. I watch a lot of reality TV when I can, so it was neat to kind of play a different role, not as an actor, but as myself judging something that I feel pretty close to.
So this was just one of the quick challenges. You didn't have to sit and watch people get made up for six or eight hours?
SH: No, and in fact, that was one of the more impressive things about it. The contestants were able to perform these amazing makeups in something like an hour-and-a-half, I believe, which was so impressive.
How did you originally get involved in being on Face Off? Did you go after it, or did they (Syfy) come to you and ask, "Hey, would you like to do this?"
SH: It was a little bit of both, actually. We had an event last March, I believe, at the Paley Center in New York. It was a Syfy up front and then we had a panel where we screened an episode of Face Off and it was a big to-do.
I had been thinking before about how cool Face Off is. I really enjoy it because, again, I've done so much prosthetic makeup, but I also thought it might be kind of an interesting cross promotion (with Being Human) and that it would be cool to be on the show.
So I talked to the president of (Syfy) production, Mark Stern, at the Paley Center and just suggested it to him that, “It’d be cool if I could maybe do an episode of Face Off. I think it would be really fun and hopefully be to both shows’ benefit." Mark immediately said, "Oh yes, that's a great idea."
So as many of these things go, you kind of forget about it and think, “Oh, maybe it will happen,” but then sure enough, Syfy followed through with it. They then created this Foundation Challenge, which was kind of tailored to what I know as far as makeup, and the rest is history.
SH: I can’t tell you exactly what they are. What I can say is they represent a real threat to Josh, and not so much physically, but more socially. Who they are is also a threat to the people that Josh loves. I don't really want to give you more than that because, thinking about it now, it is kind of a reveal in the episode. So I feel like I would be doing the show a disservice by revealing what they are, but I promise you that they're really bad ass and cool.
I’ve read that the (werewolf) transformation effects on Being Human have become more streamlined and more CGI (computer-generated image). Can you talk about that a little bit?
SH: Yes, I think last year they kind of came to the realization that they couldn't afford to lose me for six hours on end during the work day, which was lucky for me because it damn near killed me every time they did it. So I think because of that and the fact that the technology is so fantastic, they decided to further supplement the SFX (special effects) makeup this season with CGI. The good news all around is that it means less time in the makeup chair for me, and I think they (the effects) look badass. I mean, I've seen quite a bit of them now and they look really, really, really good.
The other thing I think they realized is that when they do put me in the makeup, they don't always need to show my whole body. For instance, a lot of times they'll just show my chest bursting or just the claws and the fangs descending or you’ll just see my face darkening. So they don't have to go full-on with it every time, which, again, has been a real saving grace for me this year. And the cool thing is it doesn't sacrifice any of the awesomeness of the werewolf effects.
We're two episodes into the new season of Being Human and so far we've had a bunch of new characters come onboard. How has that affected the dynamic of the three main characters and just the dynamics of the setting in general?
SH: That's a fantastic question. Yes, there are a lot of new characters this year, which I think broadens and makes the show richer. At the same time, it means that the three of us, Sam (Witwer), Meaghan (Rath) and I, didn't get to spend as much time with each other this year.
The funny thing is, though, that this didn't change the dynamic between the three of us at all. In fact, when we did get to work together, we were like school girls. It was ridiculous and it brought the silliness on-set to a new level (he jokes). The three of us love each other like siblings. It truly is the closest I've ever been with my fellow cast mates.
Do you miss working together as often?
SH: Oh yes, I miss them desperately. Not only do I miss them personally and we have this crazy and amazing bond, but also when we walk on-set and are all working together, we know what we're doing is going to be great.
The work is just comfortable, natural and organic with those guys. We're able to help each other and guide each other through the process. It just works. It's like we were meant to work together, and it's only gotten better.
Now that you've done a reality TV show, what did you learn about yourself as an actor and as a fan of reality TV?
SH: I don't know if I learned too much about myself as an actor, I did learn that I enjoy the world of reality television so much, and I really enjoyed my time on Face Off. Not only was everyone super sweet, totally professional and smart, but the show is just awesome. It was cool to see these people who are not putting on any airs, but are just doing something that they’re passionate about.
Again, it had nothing to do with acting or the normal narrative process. So it was a really interesting experience and one I really hope that I get to do again.
SH: Well, it's right there in the title, you know? These three people, whose world has gotten bigger this year, are really trying to overcome, accept and fight against their temptations and who they are. There’s so much humanity in what they're doing that I think it's really engaging for people watching, hopefully.
We say it all the time, but at the core, this show is first and foremost a character drama as opposed to a supernatural show. I think that heightens the world and the stakes, but ultimately it's the real human aspect that people tune in for.
Are there any moments from this season of Being Human that you can speak of that were really challenging for you as an actor, either physically or emotionally?
SH: Oh gosh, yes. One of the great things about making the show and being on-set is that I'm challenged everyday. I go to work everyday and really work, I do my best to bring the beautiful writing that we're given to life in a natural way.
We really fight against camp on Being Human, and it starts in the writers’ room. So luckily by the time it gets to us it's beautiful material. But it's really my job to make it as natural as possible so that viewers will feel like these characters are human beings and fighting a very human fight.
But yes, I had many moments this year where I walked to set and I was scared that I wasn't going to be able to do what I wanted to do with the scene and what the scene deserved. Luckily I think most of the time I was able to achieve what I set out to do, but I'm always questioning myself and trying to better myself as an actor and that's what's kind of fun about this show. It's very challenging.
Were you able to give the contestants on Face Off any tips effects-wise?
SH: Again, it was all so specific to each makeup. Each person did something so wildly different and it was all specific to their makeup. I’ve spent accumulatively months and months in a makeup chair. Before I was on Being Human, I did a television show called Cavemen where I was in full prosthetic makeup every single day for months.
So you’re looking in the mirror every day and figuring out what works on your face and what will hold up as well as what moves well with your face and what's natural. So I think I was able to at least give a little bit of a perspective from an actor's standpoint for each makeup. Of course there were a few constants that I was just so wowed by that I didn't really need to even tell them anything.
I’m anxious to see where Josh’s and Nora's (Kristen Hager) relationship goes this season. Are you pleased with how they’ve been writing that relationship so far and what do you enjoy most about playing those scenes out with Kristen Hager?
SH: Well, Kristen Hager is for all intents and purposes the fourth roommate, right? Especially this season, I think she is as much part of the show as any of us and she’s such a brilliant actress. So I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet. My scene partners, Sam, Meaghan and Kristen, are just so brilliant.
But yes, the cool thing is I have a deep connection with Kristen, and some of the scenes we’re in together are so heavy and relatable. They're about real issues, including miscarriage and pregnancy, which are probably happening way too soon in this relationship. These are the types of things, though, that I think people can probably really relate to, and Kristen and I take that into everything we do.
She does such a beautiful job that it makes me have to work harder to keep up. As far as how they continue to write their relationship, man, it's like a rollercoaster. It’s all over the place this season and, without revealing too much, it really has to do with the trauma that her being a werewolf causes to the relationship and how Nora reacts to that. The party scene (in episode three) where she breaks down is one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever been a part of. It’s just so crushing.
Did you always want to be an actor while you were growing up or did you have other professions in mind?
SH: I always wanted to be an actor or director. My mom had a children’s theater company, really acting classes for kids, and they’d put on little shows. My mom then went on to become a really talented playwright and wrote a bunch of wonderful, original pieces that I became a part of. I also did a lot of theater at this playhouse in my native state of New Hampshire. I started doing that when I was nine years old, so I pretty much knew at that point that not only did I love acting, but that I was decent at it and I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I feel really lucky to have found something I’m not only passionate about, but that I've been able to make a living doing.
Please note, all photos copyright of Syfy.