For over 250 episodes, Michael Dorn played the iconic role of Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spin-off, Deep Space 9. Now he’s reprised the role – sort of – for Ted 2, which is released on Blu-Ray and DVD today in the UK and on December 8th in the US. We used this opportunity to talk to the man himself to get the story behind his cameo, as well as an update on his current projects.
So, let’s start with the main event. How did you get involved in Ted 2?
Seth Macfarlane and I met when we doing Family Guy. He had the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast on the show and I met him then, and then we talked after that – just briefly – because he was interested in doing Blunt Talk with Patrick Stewart. There was an evening where we got together for drinks with Jonathan [Frakes], Patrick and I think Brent [Spiner], and Seth came along with these other writers and we all sat around and had a great time. So we kind of initiated Seth into our little club like that.
Then a few months later I got a call and my agent said “Hey Michael, you’ve got an availability request from Ted 2” and I said “oh, perfect!” and that’s how it started.
Obviously MacFarlane hasn’t hidden that he’s a big Star Trek fan, so what sort of questions was he asking you when the cameras were off?
You know, he wasn’t like that. He wasn’t like “Hey Michael! Let me ask you about that one episode where…” – although he would just kind of allude to things occasionally. He loves to talk about it so we talk about it, but it wasn’t like talking with a fan. It was talking with a friend about your work. The thing is that he knows all of us, so it’s not like I’m giving him information that he doesn’t have!
In the movie there’s a fairly lengthy sequence which appears to have been filmed at New York Comic Con. Was that actually NYCC, and when did you shoot it?
It was a year ago now! The exteriors were in New York, but the interiors were actually in LA. They recreated the whole thing inside the convention centre in LA, so it wasn’t the actual convention.
So when you’re at a convention, is it possible for you to get around without being bothered? Do people look for you or do you get away with it because they’re looking for Worf?
Well, I’ve never gone to a convention in make-up. Whenever we go we’re part of the draw, so we’re not actually walking around the floor, that basically never happens, especially not in make-up. So when Seth said that’s what we’re going to do, I thought it’d be fun. The only thing I thought would make it better was if I wasn’t in full make-up, the whole three hour thing. I thought the joke would be funnier if Michael Dorn had the worst Worf make-up that anyone’s ever had.
I imagine you’ve done the make-up thing enough times as well.
Oh yeah. I gotta tell you, when they started doing the make-up for the movie, I was like “oh my god, I forgot how terrible this is.” I just went “what was I thinking!?”
It’s probably fair to say that you’re best known as a dramatic actor, but on TNG there was a huge amount of comic timing in your performance as Worf, and you’re playing comedy here in Ted 2. Is that something you’d like to do more of?
The funny thing is that I did a lot of sitcoms before and after Star Trek. Interestingly enough, the producers hire you and you get there and start doing your thing – I’ve always found it funny how they all say “Hey Michael, you’re actually really funny!” and I’m like “well yeah, I know, that’s why you hired me, remember?” Like you say, you get known for a particular thing, but yeah – I like comedy and I’m sure I’ll do more.
So off the back of that, I was wondering whether you’ve found that being a recognisable sci-fi actor means you’re typecast into specific roles, and whether you worried about that becoming the case when you first started on Star Trek.
You know, the truth is that I’ve always been grateful for work. I never thought of how it would affect my career – to have that kind of situation, a weekly show that runs for years? That puts you in the top .1% of all actors in Hollywood.
For me it was even better because I went onto Deep Space Nine, so that was 11 years on TV and then five movies – that’s quite a career to have in this business! I’m not concerned about how that might negatively affect anything. If someone said “hey, you’re going to be typecast in sci-fi for the rest of your career” I’d be like “hey, great, as long as I’m working. I don’t care what you do to me!”
One of the things that happens in this business is that if you hang around in this business long enough, things come around. And I think that’s what I always thought – I’ll save my money, not be frivolous, and that way now I can still choose the parts that I want to do. So no, I never had an issue with typecasting.
I guess it also came around in that people like Seth MacFarlane loved you in Star Trek, so they get you in for stuff like this.
Exactly. And the other thing too is that there were a lot of movies that weren’t sci-fi that I got calls from because of Star Trek. They said “oh, we’d love to have you in our movie.” I did many, many movies because of Star Trek, so it was no bad thing. I wonder if it might’ve been different if I’d been out of make-up and identifiable. But no-one’s saying “we don’t want to cast Worf in our courtroom drama,” because Michael Dorn is not Worf.
I think I’m right to say that Worf was in more episodes of Star Trek than any other character, so clearly he’s popular with the fans. And for that reason I have to ask, is the Worf Chronicles pitch dead as a result of the new series, or is there still hope?
You know… I don’t know. The business has changed so much, there are so many platforms for TV, there’s Netflix, the cable outlets. You never know. My impression is that the new series will be the JJ Abrams universe, so I would say that probably is the nail in the coffin for Worf. If something comes up, great, but I’d say it’s probably done.
But it’s not a negative thing. We were always aware that this was a possibility and we have a Plan B – that’s what we’re calling the script, Plan B. The idea that we have is a great idea, so what we’d like to do is use it to start a new franchise, which means taking the idea – not Star Trek, but the idea of a science fiction show in space, on a ship – and start a new franchise.
Which is not difficult, because there’s so much out there. There’s Starz, there’s Netflix – with the popularity of us as actors, I think if we populate it with Star Trek franchise actors, I think that’s a good place to start. We’d be able to promote it through the conventions we already do, and the great thing about it would be that we’d own it. We’d be free to do what we wanted to do. We don’t have Paramount and CBS telling us what we can and can’t do. And that way you get to keep all the money! I think it’s a good idea.
So do you imagine this as a sort of utopian sci-fi show like The Next Generation was, or do you like the more realistic, gritty approach that’s popular now?
I think because of our world right now – the Internet, the video games – you have to keep pushing the envelope all the time. If TV doesn’t push the envelope in terms of sex and graphic violence, it’ll be left behind. It’s almost like it’s necessary to be successful.
I’ve always felt that if I was going to do a show, I’d want it to talk about what’s happening in our world. Reality is stranger than fiction any time. That’s why the Worf Chronicles idea was right in that wheelhouse, because the Klingon Empire is gritty. It does have a dark quality. It’s Shakespearean, it’s about assassinations and coups, the power behind the throne – so we’re going to continue that with plan B.
I can sort of see that, a kind of ‘Game of Thrones in space’ idea?
[The PR person tells us our time is up. Boo!]
In that case, there’s just one piece of business left to clear up: What’s your favourite Jason Statham movie?
The first Transporter.
Yeah. I can watch that over and over again!
Michael Dorn, thank you very much.