EXCLUSIVE: Face Off's Ben Ploughman: 'I knew that I wasn't gonna win' (PHOTOS)
We were the first to interview Ben Ploughman just moments after he was revealed as a runner-up on Face Off's ninth season. Although he was a strong contender in most challenges, Ben explains in our one-on-one chat the mistake he made with his female victim character that he believes led to his loss. And just where did he get a T-shirt so quickly that represented his awesomely weird inappropriate uncle character? The answer will surprise you!
SheKnows: When you were standing on that Face Off finale stage waiting for the winner to be announced, how confident were you? What was going through your mind at that moment?
Ben Ploughman: I knew that I wasn't gonna win. Immediately. I knew it as soon as we stepped out of the last looks. I knew that's how it was gonna end up. It was a toss-up between the other two [Nora and Ben]. Nora, it seemed like toward the end of the season, she kept getting amped up and so much more energized throughout the process. Evan was really starting to step up. He and I were both up and down toward the end of the season. If I was on bottom, he was on top and vice versa... after the makeup test, he went back and remade everything. He really stepped up and owned it... Evan and Nora had these really big characters. Honestly, that's what a lot of the audience really likes to see. That played against my third character in design. I knew it was gonna be a toss-up between either one of those guys. I was happy for them. I didn't feel bad about it. I was so happy to be where I was at that point just standing there next to those guys, hand in hand, waiting to see which one of them would take it home.
SK: So you felt like you weren't going to win even before you had the opportunity to see the final makeups you were competing against?
BP: None of us really saw anybody else's work. I just knew. I just felt it deep in the bowels of my gut. I just felt it. I wonder if maybe that resonated onstage. I wonder if the judges saw that lack of confidence in me.
SK: Did your lack of confidence make the stress level a little easier as you stood there waiting for the judges to reveal the winner? Were your nerves eased a little since you thought you weren't going to win?
BP: I don't remember. It was so cold that night. We were all shivering. There was probably 20 or 30 percent of me that felt it was still a possibility they would choose mine over theirs. I felt like there was so much working against what I put up onstage and in front of that camera.
SK: After Nora won, you had some very kind words, saying she deserved to win more than anybody else. In most other reality competition shows, those who don't come out on top aren't typically the nicest toward their competitors. What makes Face Off so different than something like Survivor?
BP: I never once felt like we were competing against each other. It was more competing with each other. We all kind of helped each other grow. I think Nora is the one that grew the most out of it. She came straight out of school. As much as the edit shows her being very calm and cool, she gets amped up. She gets really excited about stuff. We're all there supporting each other. We were all fairly honest about what we thought about each other's work. We pinpointed the shortcomings of our work, but we were tactful and respectful. We wanted each other to succeed, and we wanted to see each other put the best possible work up there. If we had any advice for each other, it just made the competition that much more interesting. Everybody was putting their best foot forward, which I think made it that much harder for the judges to make their decisions. Nora is the one that grew the most out of everybody. As the season progressed, she really just took every challenge and just ripped it to pieces as much as she could. She just did so much. For me, fatigue started to take hold. I don't know if it's my age or what. She just wanted it so much more than anybody else. She has more passion in her than almost anybody I've ever met for makeup effects. I love it and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I can imagine Nora taking the world by storm in the effects industry over the years. She's got a lot of potential and a lot of drive. I think that's what makes her a winner.
SK: Tell us what it was like working on a film set for that last challenge.
BP: Being on a film set isn't something that is foreign to me. I've spent pretty much the duration of my effects career being on various independent films. I've had plenty of experience with that. But it was such a huge production. There was a lot of crew there. It was pretty amazing that they were all there for the three of us.
SK: What was going through your mind when McKenzie Westmore revealed you all had to create an additional third character in the finale?
BP: We had a feeling. We felt it was gonna be a little too easy to have a whole extra couple of days just to refine or redo what we had already done... when they did announce that we did have extra people to come in and help us put that third character together, it was kind of a relief.
SK: The judges really appreciated the first two characters you created. The third character, the victim, is where your final work fell apart for the judges. Did you think that makeup was up to finale standards?
BP: With that character, when we were designing it, we were going through a number of ideas for the materials. Scott had a great idea of using this encapsulating material, which you can also use as a prosthetic material. It's a water-based encapsulation material called watermelon. You can layer it on and it blends away very nicely. The edges disappear. When we molded it, we started to run it in silicone as well so we had our options when we went into application day... when we arrived on application day, we evaluated all of our pieces and the silicone one looked so nice. All the edges looked really, really thin. Basically, during most of the way through application, Jason found the edges around the lip weren't blending away. He just could not for the life of him blend that edge away. I think because of my sculpting, there wasn't enough of an air channel, so it was starting to build up moisture. That was working against us and the piece started to lift. After we had our last looks, it was a battle to try and keep that edge down and hide it. As we kept touching it up, we just started to lose the transparency. It started to look really muddy. It was something that we just didn't know how to maintain and make it look reasonable. The whole idea behind the character was to keep her beautiful. We wanted to set her so far apart from those other characters... in retrospect, I wish I had just used that watermelon piece because I think we would've had a secure piece. All our edges would've been great. But hindsight is 20/20.
SK: Do you believe that third character was your ultimate undoing when it came to winning the season?
BP: I think so. Yeah. I think if I had nailed that third character that it would've made a huge difference. It was just poor decision-making on my end that kind of screwed it over. One of the great things about having Scott on my team — he's just a material master. He's trained in the school of makeup effects. I'm self-taught. It's about what materials I can get my hands on to make things work. Scott works for a materials retailer, so he's just a library of knowledge and I wanted to utilize that for my team. I just wish I had followed his advice in using that for the piece. I really think that's what made the difference.
SK: When you look back at everything you did on this season, is there one particular character you're most proud of?
BP: The creepy uncle, for sure. The style of makeup wasn't very outrageous. It was very subtle. It was proportioned in caricature. It was funny. It got a really great reaction with the judges. By the time I had put everything all together, I was just having fun with the entire process. I think that shows and I think that's why it was so successful.
SK: The viewers loved that character and gushed their praise for it on social media. What was it like getting that type of positive reaction and finally being able to see the character onscreen after all those months of waiting for the episode to air?
BP: It was so fun [laughs]. As soon as we got out of filming, that was the one that I was just so excited to see on camera. It was funny onstage and it was so terrific to see it on the show. The reception from the audience has just been overwhelming. I don't even know the words to describe it. It has just been so fun interacting with everybody and just seeing how much everybody loved it. I loved it so much. It's just exciting.
SK: Some viewers were also asking on social media how you were able to have a T-shirt printed that quickly representing the innappropriate uncle character (see photo above). Any behind-the-scenes details you can dish about how you were able to get that shirt made so quickly?
BP: That's a T-shirt of me, actually [laughs]. I had been wearing it throughout the season; it just hasn't been shown very much.
SK: If you were given the opportunity to compete on Face Off again, would you do it?
BP: Absolutely; 100 percent.
SK: Anything you would do differently going in?
BP: Honestly, no. I felt uncomfortable the first couple of days because I wasn't familiar with the lab. But once we got going in there, it all felt very second nature to me. I never really got too stressed out about things and I think that helped me do well.