Q & A: Make-up Artist to the Stars Wendi Lynn Avignone

Wendi with Zachary Quinto

Wendi Lynn Avignone, from her name, may not be well known in the UK, but she has over 7,000 followers on twitter and is the envy of many because of her job. She is a make-up artist in Hollywood and has worked on films including Phonebooth and Spiderman. She has worked on set with well known directors and producers ranging from Ron Howard to Jerry Bruckheimer and was the key make-up artist on my favourite television show Heroes. So I was over-the-moon when she kindly agreed to answer my questions about working on the show and her career.

You’re well known for working on ‘Heroes’ and have gained numerous followers on twitter due to your on-set stories and “Heroes Trivia”, are you aware you have more followers than some UK celebrities? How does this feel?
I feel very flattered and very lucky to have so many wonderful people support me and the show. It’s a good feeling.

As well as ‘Heroes’ you’ve worked on some other amazing shows and films, what has been  your favourite show/film to work on?
I would say it has to be Heroes, for me it has been a life changing experience on so many levels.

You’ve done some very creative make-up on ‘Heroes’. In particular, the episode ‘Homecoming’ received much acclaim for its make-up, how long does it take to make these wounds and are there ever any issues with continuity?
Continuity is a constant battle. We shoot everything out of order, so its a challenge and truly, nothing ever matches. Thats TV though, very fast paced work and much different than film when you get more time. Wounds vary by time due to their size and nature.

Your website shows many on-set photos with the cast, who’s your favourite person to work with?
I enjoy working with almost every actor that I have been able to work with. I’m very fortunate, most of them are truly interesting and a lot of fun. Milo Ventimiglia ranks high though!

Who would be your dream person to do make-up for?
I would love to work on or with Johnny Depp, Robert DeNiro, Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, Meryl Streep. There’s so many people, those are just a few of my favourites.

Do you have any funny anecdotes from the set to share?
There are so many, I wouldn’t know where to begin. We have a lot of fun though, our trailer is a lot of fun. We try to make it a loving home for our actors with all their favourite things.

If you could change one thing about your career what would it be?
If I could change one thing, oh there’s too many things to choose one. A few would be these: The lack of credit due to artists and their time allotted to make the job the best it can be. Also, the hours are criminal.

You’ve worked with a range of amazing directors and producers and even worked on Milo Ventimiglia’s series, is it easier working with a director you don’t know or a friend?
It’s always easier working with a director you are familiar with, it’s just much more comfortable.

Working on such huge scale productions must be tiring, especially with night shoots, how many hours do you work averagely in a week?
About 70 hours a week give or take.

What advice would you offer anyone looking into being a make-up artist?
Whilst I wouldn’t trade my job for the world, I will always tell them this – be ready to give your life up, or run like hell and dont look back, get out while you can. While my job has many perks, you trade your life for it. Your life breathes this job.

What was your initial feeling when Heroes was cancelled? Did you feel the story wrapped up in an appropriate way?
I was deeply saddened when Heroes was cancelled. It was very close to my heart. I did feel it was left with a lot of questions and there was still a story that needed to be told or closed, especially for our viewing audience all over the globe. Many people were and are still very attached to the show and I think that said a lot.
Wendi wrote a blog when she found out Heroes was cancelled, describing her relationships with the castmembers and also her initial thoughts of the show, check it out here.

What are your thoughts on doing a Heroes movie?
I would more than welcome a Heroes movie. I think it would be great.

Do you still keep in touch with any of the Heroes cast?
I do in fact keep in touch with almost all of my cast. We catch up on the phone, email, and occasional lunches. We were a family and we intend to keep it as close as we can.

What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a new show entitled Criminal Minds Suspect Behavior. It will be a spin off of the popular series “Criminal Minds” and will follow in its time slot on Wednesday nights beginning in February.

Here are some of Wendi’s exclusive photos of her work on the Heroes set:

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Look at Wendi’s website and be sure to follow her on twitter.

Q & A: James Buckley From The Inbetweeners

When James And I First Met in June 2009

Like my previous interview with Jack Whitehall, about a year ago I had a Q & A session with James Buckley, famous for playing foul-mouthed Jay in E4’s The Inbetweeners. At the time, James was frequently in the press as he had been filming for the prequel to Only Fools and Horses, ‘Rock & Chips‘, playing a young ‘Del Boy’, a role made famous by David Jason. Here’s what he had to say:

How long have you been acting?
I got my first professional job when I was 11.

Has acting always been what you wanted to do as a career, or did you have anything else in mind when you were younger?
I didn’t ever really decide on one thing I wanted to do as a job. Working never really seemed worth thinking about when I was mucking about with my mates at school.

What was your first acting job?
My first job was in the West End Musical ‘Whistle Down The Wind’ at the Aldwych Theatre.

How did you get the part in The Inbetweeners?
I auditioned for a pilot called ‘Baggy Trousers’, which is basically the Bunk Off episode of ‘The Inbetweeners’. I played Neil in the pilot though.

Do you have any say in any of the storylines of ‘The Inbetweeners’? How involved are you creatively?
We have a couple of little meetings before discussing ideas and us boys are close to the writers so we’ll email or text them funny stories that happened to us while we were at school but it’s mostly down to the writers. They deserve a lot of credit I think.

How did the part in the ‘Only Fools and Horses’ prequel come about?
Again, I just auditioned with everybody else. I wasn’t given any special treatment for already being on TV or anything.

How does it feel to be involved in such a huge programme, with such reputable actors?
It’s a great feeling and something I’m very proud to be involved with. Working with the likes of Phil Daniels and Nick Lyndhurst is a dream come true to a young actor. I made sure I listened to every word they had to say.

Do you have any stories from the set to share?
I did start singing Park Life to Phil Daniels one day, it didn’t go down too well.

How did it feel meeting David Jason? Did he offer you any words of wisdom?
It was a dream come true meeting David Jason. I was in absolute awe. He didn’t offer any wisdom specifically, but having lunch with David Jason, Nick Lyndhurst and John Sullivan and listening to them talk about how they made the original show was so interesting and I’m very lucky to have been in that situation.

You always seem to be busy, what do you do to relax in your spare time?
My spare time is just spent with friends and family. I’m lucky enough to have the same friends from Dagenham since I was about 4, so it might be lunch with David Jason one minute and them lot bringing me right back down to earth the next.

Finally, so many people ask whether you’re similar to Jay, do you ever get offended by that?
I don’t get offended at all. I’m so pleased to be a part of ‘The Inbetweeners’, I just take it as a compliment that my performance is so convincing.

‘Rock and Chips’ was picked up for a series, which James is now filming and there are plans for an ‘Inbetweeners’ movie, so it’s safe to say this Essex boy will be on our screens for some time.

Q & A: Jack Whitehall

Jack Whitehall

A year ago, I had a Q & A session with comedian Jack Whitehall as a part of one of my university assignments. At only 22 Jack has already fronted his own TV show The TNT Show alongside Holly Walsh and is a regular guest on panel shows Would I Lie to You? and 8 out of 10 Cats amongst others. Here’s what he had to say at the time:

You’ve done some acting in the past, is it something you would want to do more of in the future?
Yes, I’m currently going up for various roles in things and trying to develop a sitcom. I acted a lot when I was younger and I’m keen to return to it.

What television show would you love to be in?
The thick of it is fantastic. I love the fact they cast so many comedians as well as straight actors in the funny roles and the writing’s superb.

Who were your influences growing up?
I started out watching people like Jack Dee and Eddie Izzard, I then found Bill Hicks and as I went into more live comedy I became influenced by some of the less mainstream circuit acts like John Gordillo.

You’ve worked with a range of huge comedians, who is your favourite person to do shows with?
Frankie Boyle always makes me giggle like a little girl and Jason Manford’s one of the kindest and warmest people you could ever work with.

Do you have any funny stories to share from working on the quiz shows?
Frankie Boyle made a really rude joke about Adrian Chiles when Christine Bleakley was on Would I Lie To You? It was so bad they cut it from the broadcast, but it was hilarious because her parents were at the record of it which added extra awkwardness.

Your website says you were initially a child actor, what made you want to pursue comedy?
Well I was always a show off and I loved acting in sketches so it seemed like the natural thing and the purest way to get laughs.

How did it feel presenting ‘Big Brothers Big Mouth’, not having done much live television before?
I was so scared but as with all experience like that it’s about tricking yourself into being confident if you think “yeah I can do this” then you tend to be able to, so I prepared loads and then just tackled it head on. I was terrified I’d have the urge to shout c**t on live tv.

How does it feel to achieve so much success at such a young age?
It just puts more pressure on you to deliver. I don’t really think about my age just what’s going to come next.

Your jokes focus on stories of your family’s anecdotes, how do your parents feel about being the butt of your jokes?
My mum complains and my dad always just says “ha he’s talking about me!”.  He’s proud really!

How did it feel presenting ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’ this year?
Nervous but very excited, as a fan of the show I wanted to do the job justice.

Do you prefer doing stand-up, acting, presenting or being on the panel-shows?
My answer is 100% stand up comedy. There’s no one to tell you what you can or can’t say.