It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since Star Trek: The Next Generation first graced television screens. And while the Trek franchise has gone on through many movies, several spin-offs, and an outright “re-imagining,” but back in 1987 it took some fans a while to be convinced that a new Trek series was a good thing. After all, this was the first new Trek on TV since 1969. And who was this bald British guy with the French name? This was their idea of a worthy successor to Kirk? Turns out fans weren’t the only ones who didn’t know what to think of Picard; Michael Dorn was skeptical of his casting at the time, too.
In an interview with Hero Complex, Dorn admits that he was, like many fans, first comparing Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard to William Shatner’s iconic performance as James Tiberius Kirk. “I was skeptical when I met Patrick [Stewart] and saw him,” says Dorn. “I thought, ‘Well, this isn’t Kirk. This isn’t even near Kirk.’ But once I started acting with Patrick I knew immediately it was the perfect decision.”
Dorn also opens up about the fact that he didn’t exactly received the warmest of welcomes when he joined the show. He says that he wasn’t even present for the original cast photo, because his character was something of an afterthought. “It couldn’t have been more fun to do this, but when I was cast, nobody knew me on the stage — I wasn’t introduced to anybody, there was no ‘Hey, guys, this is going to be Worf.’ I just showed up one day, in makeup, and started working.” As far as afterthoughts go, the role of Worf proved to be a good one. In addition to appearing in seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dorn then joined the spin-off, Deep Space Nine (along with Chief Miles O’Brian, played by Colm Meaney).
That’s a lot of television for anyone to ride out while encased in an elaborate head prosthesis, and Dorn says that the make-up process was a pain. However, he says that whenever it would become uncomfortable or irritating, he would weigh that against how much fun he was having with the cast and playing the character, and that kept him going. The make-up also offered up interesting challenges and rewards for Dorn as an actor:
As an acting experience, being in a mask is very exciting too for an actor. You can be anything without the constrictions of the way you look. Like anybody, I thought, ‘I would love to do a show with makeup.’ That’s a wonderful thing, but you just have to be careful what you wish for. I forgot to say, ‘Only for like a day or two. Not 11 years.'”
You can read more of the interview with Dorn right here.