Sam Huntington of Being Human [Syfy, Mondays, 10/9C] is appearing as a guest judge on Face Off [Syfy, Wednesdays, 10/9C] this week, charged with helping judge an appropriate challenge – creating a makeup effect for the ravages of a werewolf attack.
Last Monday, Huntington talked with bloggers/journalists about the second season of Being Human and the opportunity to appear as an expert judge on Face Off. As usual, Huntington’s excitement and enthusiasm was infectious.
Hi Sam, thanks for taking time to talk to us today.
Sam Huntington: It’s my pleasure.
So 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?
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 puts unfortunately a couple in the bottom.
So yes, that was my role and I think what I was able to bring to it is, like Brenda said in the introduction I obviously play a werewolf on television, have worn a tremendous amount of effects makeup in the past and not just Being Human, but on previous work that I’ve done.
So yes, so it was a really cool experience. I watch a lot of reality TV when I can and so it was neat to kind of play a different role. As not an actor, but yourself judging something that I felt pretty close to. So.
No, this was just one of the quick challenges, so you didn’t have to sit and watch people get makeup for like six hours or eight hours?
Huntington: No, no. And in fact, that was one of the more impressive things about it was these people, these contestants were able to perform amazing – these amazing makeups in like an hour and a half I think is what they had which was so impressive.
So how did you like get involved in being on Face Off? I mean, did you go after it?
Huntington: I did.
Or did they come up to you and say, ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’
Huntington: It was a little bit of both actually. We had an event at – it was last March I believe at the Paley Center in New York. It was a Syfy upfront and like then we had a panel and we screened an episode of a show and it was a big to-do.
And I had been thinking before that first of all how cool the show Face Off is, I really enjoy it because I’ve done so much prosthetic makeup. But also that I might be able to – it might be kind of a cool cross promotion and that I think it would be cool to be on the show.
So I talked to the president of production, Mark Stern, at the Paley Center in New York and I just suggested it to him. I said, ‘It’d be really cool if I could maybe do an episode of that Face Off show. I think it would be really, really fun and hopefully I’d be, both shows to benefit.’ And he immediately was like, ‘Oh yes, that’s a great idea.’
And so, as so many of these things go, you kind of forget about it. I made the suggestion and I was like, ‘Oh, maybe it’ll happen.’ And then sure enough, Syfy followed through with it and then created this Foundation Challenge. Kind of tailor made it to what I know, as far as makeup and so yes, the rest is history.
Now I’ll ask you about Being Human.
Huntington: Do it.
So can you talk a little bit about kind of the new werewolf we’re going to see this season and how they are obviously are different from Josh in that?
Huntington: Yes, I don’t know if I can tell you exactly what they are. I think I probably can.
Go for it.
Huntington: I don’t know, I always feel like I’m trapped in these kinds of situations. What I can say is they represent a real threat to Josh and not so much physically, but more socially. And who they are is also a threat to the people that Josh loves. So like I don’t really want to give you more than that because it is like thinking about the episode now where they’re introduced, 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, even though I may have already done it in the previous interview. But I don’t think I have. What I can promise you is that they’re really bad ass and cool.
Okay, great. Is there anything you can tell us about your previous love interest then or is that kind of under wraps too?
Huntington: My what?
The – I guess not necessarily love interest, but your love from the past is supposed to come back.
Huntington: Well, I can say that it happens very soon. You find out kind of a very revealing tidbit about Josh’s former flame and actually it’s in this coming episode. So…
Huntington: Yes, so maybe you’ll see something about it tonight. It’s possible.
Hey listen, SFX Magazine is a UK magazine.
Huntington: Yes, yes.
Isn’t it great? Yes, it has that great interview with you.
Huntington: I haven’t seen it yet.
And I don’t know if you’ve seen it. It’s great; it just came in my mail like two days ago. So I’m sure that we’ll see a certainly beautiful picture of you and (unintelligible) what’s going on with Josh this season. And one of the things they say is that – or they have you saying is that the transformation effects have become more streamlined and more CG. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Huntington: 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, one; and, two, that was lucky for me because it damn near killed me every time they did it.
So I think because of that and because of technology is so fantastic, they decided to supplement the FX makeup more so this season with CG. The good news is – the good news all around – I mean, one, it means less time in the makeup chair for me; but, two, I think it really looks bad ass. I mean, I’ve seen quite a bit of it now — it looks really, really, really good.
I think the viewers have seen some of it too, in Episode 1 and 2.
Huntington: The – yes I mean, the other thing I think they realized is 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 they’ll just show the claws and the fangs descend or they’ll just see my face darkening. So they don’t have to go full with it every time which once again has been a saving — a real saving grace for me this year.
The cool thing is it doesn’t sacrifice any of the awesomeness of werewolf effects, you know.
Well, yes. So far they’ve been great. I would not have known there was any difference had I not seen that in the magazine.
So yes, terrific job. So what kind of effects do you most like to see as a fan versus what kind of effects are the most fun and the most difficult to work with as an actor?
Huntington: Well, the funny thing is I think those two things go hand in hand. I think the things that I like to see are often times the more difficult things to achieve. You look at a movie like Pan’s Labyrinth where there’s so much practical makeup and it’s so effective.
And I’m a traditionalist. I go back to, movies like Star Wars and, ET and some of those great, practical – really ET’s a great example because then they tried to, make it better by adding CG, 20 years later and it just screams at you that it’s (unintelligible) whereas when you see the puppet, it’s you believe it’s ET. You believe it’s a real thing, a thing with a heart and soul.
So the funny thing is I’m definitely more a fan of practical makeup and puppetry than I am of CG, but I think when you’re on a budget and you’re flying through a TV show, it only make sense to use CG and to hire the best people for the job. So I think we’ve done that.
Now I’ll ask the political question (unintelligible).
I actually did watch every episode of Being Human after I got back from that tour.
So I have a bunch of (unintelligible). I have a bunch of (unintelligible) political questions for you.
Huntington: Oh fantastic. Oh gosh, that’s awesome.
My question for you is, we’re two episodes into the new season and so far we’ve had a bunch of new characters come on board. How has that affected the dynamic of the big three and just the dynamics of the setting in general?
Huntington: That’s a fantastic question. Yes, there are a lot of new characters this year which I think broadens and makes the show more rich. But at the same time, yes, it means that the three of us, Sam and Meaghan and I, didn’t get to spend as much time with each other this year.
And the funny this is it didn’t change the dynamic between the three of us at all. In fact, what it did was that when we did get to work together which was often — less, but often — we were like school girls. It was ridiculous and it made the silliness and stupidity on set just – it brought it to levels that were just inappropriate.
You can actually tell that watching the first two episodes as if you guys are not on camera as much, but when you are it’s really electric I thought.
Huntington: It’s really like what?
It’s really electric, like you can really sense the chemistry between you three.
Huntington: Well, we love each other like siblings. I mean, it’s really truly the closest I’ve ever been with my cast mates I think for sure.
Do you miss working together as often?
Huntington: Oh yes — yes, I miss them desperately. Because the other thing is not only do I miss them personally and we have such – this crazy and amazing bond, but we know that when we’re working together, when we walk on a set we’re all working together, we know what we’re doing is going to be great.
It’s just comfortable and natural and organic and it comes out. And we’re able to help each other, and guide each other through the – it just works. It’s like we were meant to be put together, to work together. It’s a bizarre thing, it just happened immediately and it’s only gotten better. So I love them so much, it’s crazy.
So my other question is, now that you’re doing a reality TV show what did you learn about yourself as an actor and as a fan of reality TV?
Huntington: I don’t know if I learned too much about myself as an actor, I did learn – I mean, I did learn that I enjoy the world of reality television so much. I really, really, really enjoyed my time on Face Off. Not only was everyone super sweet and really professional and smart and the show is just awesome, but it was just cool to see these people who are not putting out errors, who are just doing the work that they are passionate about.
And it had nothing to do with acting. You know what I mean; it had nothing to do with normal narrative production. So it was a really, really interesting experience and one that I really hope I get to do it again. I hope that if we get another season of Being Human and they get another – I’m sure they’re going to get another a few seasons of Face Off.
Then I get to go back and do it again. I would lie in front of a bus to do it again, so.
So, I’m curious to know if you yourself could create the ultimate horror creature using some of the aspects of Face Off, what would it look like?
Huntington: It would look like – oh that’s a really good question. Well I – and I want to think of something funny. And you’ve just stumped me. How about like a – oh I got one. How about like a demon principal, like a high school principal. Is a good one, right?
Yes, that’s a good one.
Huntington: Not too far a stretch either, you can imagine a villain that’s a principal of high school, right?
Of course, who couldn’t?
Huntington: Yes, yes. Big long yard stick, for some reason I picture that, you know.
Yes, that could be the weapon.
Huntington: That’s the weapon with a sharpened – maybe with just a nail in the end of it. And after they’re done maiming you, they draw a chalk outline around you. You know what I mean?
Huntington: Pretty good, right? Pretty good. Okay.
And as a follow-up question, what do you feel it is about Being Human that resonates well with you?
Huntington: Well, I mean it’s right there in the title, you know. I mean, these three people are really — and the world has gotten bigger this year — are really, really trying to overcome and accept and fight against and their temptations and who they are. And I think that there’s so much humanity in what they’re doing that I think it’s really engaging for people hopefully.
And we say it all the time, but this show, it’s – first and foremost it’s a character drama. It’s not at a core a supernatural show. I think that heightens the world and the stakes, but I think that ultimately it’s the real human aspect that people tune in for.
Okay, my question is in regards to Face Off. Seeing how it is a reality show, was there a noticeable amount of tension among the contestants as they were doing a test?
Huntington: Yes, I mean not – god it was interesting. They pretty much kept to themselves and I was only there for like three plus hours. So I didn’t really get the full drama of the behind the scenes between the contestants. But yes, I mean I can say that when I had to put two of the contestants in the bottom two, it was very uncomfortable.
You could slice the tension with a knife, it was awful — it was awful.
Yes, I was going to ask as they progressed through their task group, was it obvious that certain routines were doing better than the others like right away?
Huntington: Yes, it was an interesting (unintelligible). Yes, I mean well not right away. Actually, you know what, they were all so fantastic. All the makeups were so great that nothing was glaring, you know. It was really it took getting right up to them and looking them over and inspecting each aspect of the makeup to make a decision.
But then yes, after that I really, there was in my mind there was a clear winner. And a clear – and unfortunately a clear loser. And that was I walked off the set and called my wife immediately and I was like, ‘That was both one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do is telling somebody that their work wasn’t up to snuff.’ So it was tough — it was tough.
Are there any moments this season that you can speak of that were really challenging for you as an actor either physically or emotionally?
Huntington: Oh my gosh, yes. That’s what’s so great – one of the things that’s so great about making the show about being on set is I’m challenged everyday. I go to work everyday and really work, I really do my best to bring the kind of beautiful writing that we’re given to life in a natural way.
We really fight against camp on this show and it, which is – it starts in the writer’s 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 people will feel like these people are human beings the viewers will feel like these people are human beings and fighting a very human fight.
Huntington: But yes, I had many moments this year where I walked to set and I was scared (unintelligible) that I wasn’t going to be able to do what I wanted to do with the scene and what the scene deserved. And luckily I think most of the time I was able to achieve what I set out to do, but you’re always – 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.
If you could have any actors guest star on Being Human, who would be and what role would they play?
Huntington: I work with – I like to work with my friends. I have a lot of very, very talented friends. I mean, listen. There’s so many wonderful – so many of my heroes I would love to have on the show Jeff Bridges, Tom Hanks. I highly doubt that they would want to come and be on the show. Maybe if they watched it, they would.
I don’t know…
Huntington: But yes, I really enjoy – realistically I really enjoy working with my friends and this year I got to have one of my very, very, very good friends on the show in a really, really integral, awesome role. And so my dream kind of came true, you know. He’s an actor you’ll definitely know and recognize, a Montreal local, and he plays someone form my past, from Josh’s past who comes back in a really interesting way. So I get to spend a whole episode with him which was great.
I just was wondering – so like if you were being judged on your acting, what bad habits would you get cited for?
Huntington: Oh man, I could tell you so many of them, then you’d know what they are. And then you’d be able to watch out for them. So I can’t tell you that or I’d have to kill you.
Yes, it’s always when you don’t really know what you’re doing that you have these kinds of fall back things that you do. Every actor has them and the really, really good actors can mask them very well. But all of us have them. And I – and every time I see myself doing it on screen, I bury my head in my hands.
Luckily I’ve got cast mates who can call me on it and can help me when I need motivation or I need direction, we’re not afraid to tell each other when we’re falling into these traps.
Okay, great. Yes you guys you do seem to work together well. I could see the chemistry on screen when I was watching.
Huntington: Thank you.
But anyway, going onto the next question. So when you were on that episode of Face Off, did you take away any inspiration that you brought back to the effects of Being Human?
Huntington: No. I mean, not really. The one thing that was inspiring was that these people were able to create these amazing makeups in like a hour and a half. That was really inspiring. But then again, that’s all the time that they’re allotted. You know what I mean? And when they’re allotted more time, they’re able to do even more which is what we luckily get to do on our show.
But we have such, life maker makeup. And (Eric Goffman) who’s, the guy who’s, basically their main guy over there, they’re so talented and they’re so creative that I feel like we don’t… we do our own thing. We – luckily we – it’s fantastic what I think they do. So I don’t know. Their perseverance probably the contestants of Face Off is inspiring. Yes, like that.
I don’t even know if that’s an answer that was like a long dance around a weird answer. Sorry.
No, it’s great. It’s fine. And I was curious like when you do film your season for Being Human, are they filming multiple scenes as a werewolf in like – did they schedule that all together like for multiple episodes so that you don’t have to go through that everyday, every shooting day? So like you’re shooting a bunch of stuff out of order with you in makeup?
Huntington: Sometimes, sometimes. Yes, a lot of times we we shoot two episodes at the same time. So we block shoot two episodes. So on any given day you could be shooting – you are shooting scenes from two different episodes. So within those two episodes, there’s werewolf makeup that’s in the same location. Then yes, they lump it all together. And that’s really helpful for me. obviously it depends on what I’m prepared for and what, I know has – if it’s something way, way, way in advance and I don’t know really what I’m doing, then that’s difficult.
But yes, they’re really smart about it and they keep getting smarter. They keep streamlining and figuring out new ways to make it better, smoother. So.
And then my last question is, were you able to give the contestants on Face Off any tips for the wound, effects. I’m sorry.
Huntington: Well, yes. I mean, it was all so specific to each makeup. I mean, each person did something so wildly different and so it was all specific to their makeup. And it’s just, I spent accumulatively months and months in a makeup chair. I did before I did – it was on Being Human, I did a television show called Cavemen where I was in full prosthetic makeup every single day for months.
And so looking in the mirror every day and figuring out what works on your face and what will hold up and what moves well with your face and what’s natural. what materials they use and everything. I think I was able to at least, give a little bit of a perspective from an actor’s standpoint for each makeup.
And then there were a few of them that I was just so wowed by that I didn’t really need to even tell them anything.
Well, listen. First off, I really enjoyed the first two episodes of the season. You guys are doing a great job once again. I wanted to find out if you can talk a little bit about them because I’m really enjoying it. I’m anxious to see where it goes. Josh and Nora’s relationship, did she – or how they’re sort of writing that? What you can speak about. And maybe what you have enjoyed most about playing that out with Kristen Hager on screen?
Huntington: Well, Kristen Hager is for all intensive purposes the fourth roommate, right. I mean, she…
Huntington: …especially this season, she is as much part of the show as any of us I think and is such a brilliant actress. So for me, I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet. My scene partners are so, so, so, so brilliant, Sam and Meaghan and Kristen.
But yes, the cool thing is like I have a deep connection with Kristen. So when we are in these scenes that are so f***ing heavy and so relatable, I mean they’re real relationship issues and, between miscarriage and, also like a pregnancy that’s probably too soon — way too soon in a relationship. These are things that people I think can probably really relate to and Kristen and I take that into everything that we do.
And she does such a beautiful job that it makes me have to work harder to keep up. And yes, as far as how they continue to write their relationship, man it’s like a rollercoaster. I mean, it’s – Josh’s – basically his main thing this year and it is all over the place and it really has to do with her being — without revealing too much — it really has to do with her being a werewolf.
And kind of the trauma that that causes to the relationship. And how Kristen reacts to it – or Nora rather. Yes.
Well, I got to tell you, the scenes in these last few episodes in the hospital and then at the party was really some greatly written stuff. And again, you guys really pulled it off nicely.
Huntington: Thank you. Yes, that party scene where she breaks down is one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever been a part of — ever.
And then Sam, just a quick follow-up question – actually a general one for you. I wanted to find out, did you always want to work in this industry while you were growing up or did you have other professions in mind?
Huntington: Always wanted to be an actor.
Huntington: Always wanted to be an actor or director — always, always, always. And knew so probably by the time I was 7. And then I started really, my mom had a children’s theater company, really acting classes for kids and then they would put on little shows called the (Blackbox Theater Company).
And then my mom went onto become a really, really, really talented playwright and wrote a bunch of wonderful, original pieces that I became a part of. And then I was also – did a lot of theater at this playhouse in my native state of New Hampshire called the (unintelligible). It’s a really, really, really, really special place.
And so – and I started doing that when I was 9. I pretty much knew at that point that not only did I love acting, but I was decent at it and I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. So…
Huntington: Yes, it was terrific. I feel really lucky to have found something that I’ve not only am I so passionate about, but I’ve been able to make a living doing.
So out of the cast, you probably have the most elaborate makeup. Was it nice to finally get some company when Kristen now has to go through what you go through?
Did you give her any advice?
Huntington: That’s a fantastic question. Yes, it was lovely. And somebody else asked earlier there are new werewolves on the show too and there are. So I had a lot of commiseration and camaraderie this year in this makeup – my makeup pain and woes. But yes, especially Kristen. Although, she handled it really well. She was a total trooper.
But yes, my words of wisdom and advice were get ready because this really sucks. And but luckily, because of what I went through last year which was hellish and other aspects like the, with the increase of the CG, I don’t think she had to endure too much crazy stuff. So yes, so yes. But it was really, really nice to have other werewolves I got to say.
Now, in last week’s Face Off, one of the models almost passed out during the makeup process. Can you talk about what was like the hardest or weirdest experience he’s had during some sort of makeup?
Huntington: Yes, last season – well, first of all I mentioned earlier I did a show called Cavemen. It’s an ABC show. We shot 13 episodes of it and it was full prosthetic makeup everyday for three months and we were doing – we had such a limited time.
I don’t know why they were doing this, but we were shooting an episode a week and the hours because we were there three, four hours before the crew got there and at least an hour after the crew wrapped, we were working 18, 19 hour days every single day.
So that entire three month stretch was – I honestly feel like I was asleep for half of it, like it’s all kind of like this hazy dream now. But last season, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And there were several days that were close to this day. Last year was I had a day when I worked a full 12-hour day on first unit which was just me – oh I think it was a couple scenes with Kristen Hager.
And then I had to sit in the makeup chair for five hours, five and a half hours, get all my stuff on and then shoot for another like six hours after that. So it turned out to be like almost a 24 hour day, it was like a 21 hour day. And then the next day we were out at the like really, really remote area outside of Montreal. So they didn’t really have time for me to go home, so they drove like a Winnebago onto what they call base camp which is like where the crew all sets up.
I slept for four hours and then I woke up and went to work again for 18 hours. And the first thing that I did the morning that I woke up which was at like 6:00 in the morning was to lay down in the woods naked and covered in dirt and leaf litter and just, mud and muck and everything. And then I was naked for like the first half of that day.
So yes, that was one of the days that made me really sick last year. I got really sick a couple times last year just because I was so, so, so exhausted and in the elements without yes, any option. So it was intense.
You had said you were a fan of Face Off before. Was there anything going onto the show that you were surprised by when you actually worked on it that you didn’t realize – or was it different than what you were expecting I guess?
Huntington: It was bigger than I think I expected. The production value was quite high and I was impressed by the crew and I was impressed by – and how streamlined their process is and how professional they all were. Not that I expected them all to be idiots. But by any means. But I didn’t expect the production to be as big as it is. It’s a really big, impressive production. So it’s pretty cool.
And McKenzie Westmore too was an extremely impressive person. Beautiful and talented and smart and geeky just like me. So that was cool.
So you mentioned at some point there you had wanted to act or direct originally.
Would you ever be interested like directing for Being Human?
Huntington: Yes, yes.
Or even something else for that matter?
Huntington: If they’d let me, I’d do it tomorrow. If they would let me do it, I’d do it now. But you know what, we are extremely lucky to have such talented directors on the show. People who inspire me and people who help me and people who challenge me – Adam Kane, one of our executive producers, is one of the more talented directors I’ve ever worked with, so.
And is always, always, always challenging me to be better. And yes, just better myself. So it’s – yes, that being said, I would love to direct an episode of Being Human — I would absolutely love that. Some day maybe if we get like a thick season, I bet they’ll let me.
Now, I guess – here’s a weird question. If you had to choose in real life and you had to be, would you, with all the problems and everything, but still the powers, would you rather be a ghost or werewolf or a vampire?
Huntington: Werewolf. Hands down, yes there’s not question. A vampire, you’re dead and you have like a blood lust. You have to drink blood, it’s like an addiction. So you have this monkey on your back always. Ghosts, you’re non-corporeal. So it’s like you can’t eat, you can’t have sex, you can’t do anything that’s fun. You can float around, you can spy on people. But I guess if that floats your boat, you’re great.
But werewolf, you’re just basically a dude until you turn into a badass. And that’s – I’m sorry, it’s just the most obvious answer ever.
I agree. Well, since it’s only once a month is what you get.
Huntington: Once a month, one a month. And then in another month, you can turn into whatever you want. So it’s like, come on, that’s awesome! You know.
So what’s something about you that your fans would be surprised to know?
Huntington: That my fans would be surprised to know. Let me think about this. Well, I mean I think a lot of them already know that I have – I’m a father, but I don’t know. I have a 2-1/2 year old son; my wife is pregnant with out second child due in a little less than a month. So maybe that I’m a dad. I was a gymnast when I was young, maybe that will interest people. I don’t know. For years and years, I was a gymnast.
Okay, that’s different. One more thing I’ll ask you, if you could like whatever you wanted and it was your choice, what would you like to see in the future happen to your character?
Huntington: Well, a lot of it happens this season. A lot of what I want to happen happens this season. Ultimately for Josh, somewhere down the line I’d like him to find his inner peace and I’d him to be able to have the normalcy that he so desperately wants.
And I’d love him to have a family. And I just – playing Josh everyday, I like – I feel for him. I feel for him want and his need for normalcy. And so that’s what I would want for him because he’s a great guy.
What part of you do you see in Josh?
Huntington: Oh so much — so much. His nervousness, his eagerness to please, his guilt, his – a lot of his humor. A lot of the humor that you see on the show is just me being me. So much, so much. I look like just like him.
Huntington: Yes, all those things — all those things. A lot of what makes him him.
Thanks a lot and thanks for answering so many questions.
Huntington: Of course, thank you.
Photos by Nicole Wilder, Jeff Riedel and Philippe Bosse/courtesy of Syfy