RED ALERT! This interview contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard season 3 episode 3, “Seventeen Seconds,” available for streaming now on Paramount+.
We’ve known for a while that Picard season 3 would be bringing back the main cast from Star Trek: The Next Generation. With the release of the season’s third episode for streaming today on Paramount+, the long-awaited full return of Michael Dorn as Worf has arrived!
The Beat caught up with Dorn over the phone to ask about Worf’s character arc in Picard, how putting on the Worf makeup has evolved over the years since TNG, and whether he would consider reprising the role again (including in animation)!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
AVERY KAPLAN: Did you have any particularly remarkable interactions with Star Trek fans over the years since TNG left the air?
MICHAEL DORN: Not necessarily with the fans, per se. But what kind of gets me is the level of excitement, or the level of fandom that’s still out there after all these years. You would kind of think that it would wane to where there’s ten people in a room, or something.
We did a function in New York, and there was 800 people in an auditorium – packed, sold out, just to see us on stage. So it still is quite viable after all these years, and that’s kind of a shock to me.
KAPLAN: What does being involved in Star Trek mean to you?
DORN: To me, you look back, and I’ve had a very nice career. I’m extremely fortunate, because as an actor, there’s not many actors that get an opportunity to be part of something that’s lasted this long. So I consider myself extremely fortunate.
KAPLAN: How has the process of putting on and acting in the Worf makeup changed over the years?
DORN: It started out to be a long process – three hours. They got it down to two hours over the years, two and some change.
But, I gotta say, the Picard makeup people got it down even further – to about an hour. Which helps a lot. You’re not in it for those extra couple of hours… although the process itself, the makeup and the glue and the hair and everything like that, is always a pain for me. But they made it a lot easier.
The amazing thing is, you see his ears [on Picard]. Because you never saw his ears before! And I said, “You want to see his ears?!” Yes! Okay, great.
KAPLAN: How do you feel about Worf’s new character arc?
DORN: I think they did a fantastic job. I’m one of the fortunate actors, where I never really had to go up there and kick and scream and yell about writing more stuff, or writing more interesting stuff. And maybe its just because the character lends itself to that, I’ve always been fortunate where they’ve always written incredible stuff.
I give them parameters. I like to say, “Okay, about his humor,” or, “About his lack of humor,” and that kind of thing. Otherwise, I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I think his arc in the series is an amazing arc.
In fact, one of the reasons that I took the job was that they sent me the first three scripts. And I was able to look, and go, “I like what they’re doing, and I think it’s interesting, and I want to do this.”
KAPLAN: Was there a specific type of movement or choreography for the scene in episode 3 in which Raffi finds Worf meditating?
DORN: Yes it is. It is Klingon martial arts. Dan Curry, who developed all the fighting weapons for Worf over the years, he was very instrumental in teaching me these moves.
And I’ve kept them over the years. All the stuff you see is an amalgamation of our developing that part of his character, our collaboration over the years. That’s what we see.
KAPLAN: Do you also enjoy chamomile tea?
DORN: I actually do, yeah. I like it a lot. I’ve been a vegan and a health nut and a gym rat and a tennis nut, so I’m very into health. A lot of times, when you’re sick: chamomile tea.
Although, I wanted to say one of the lines in a Worf way, and they said, “No, no, don’t do that.” When I say, “Do you take sugar?” I wanted to say, [angry Worf voice] “DO YOU TAKE SUGAR?” [normal voice] Like I hate sugar.
KAPLAN: Do you have any Worf merchandise or souvenirs that you’ve kept over the years?
DORN: Over the years – this is kind of a technical thing. When you sign a contract, and you sign for merchandise, you have a clause in there that they have to send you one of everything that they make. And so I had a ten by ten storage unit full of just Star Trek stuff. And it was going to waste. I even had a Next Generation pinball machine, still in the box, brand-new.
I said, “It’s just going to be in there.” So I sold it all. I gave it to this company, and they sold it all to people who would really appreciate it.
KAPLAN: What was it like working so closely with Michelle Hurd during this episode?
DORN: It was great. Michelle is a wonderful actress. I welcomed the chance to work with her. And once we started working together, we developed an affection for us as actors, and as people, as friends. She is just an amazing person. And a lot of stuff about our acting lives and our personal lives coincide.
I think it translated. Just like Next Generation, when we started to gel, the personal affection we had for each other showed on the screen, in terms of acting together and respecting each other. And I think that’s the same thing that happened with Michelle and I.
KAPLAN: At least up until this point in Picard season 3, we haven’t seen the whole TNG crew reunited. However, you were all together for the Picard season 3 premiere. What was it like to get everyone back together again?
DORN: To me, it was bizarre! Not because us being together, at Mann’s Chinese Theater. But twenty-five years later, you’re back at the same place… it’s pretty bizarre. Especially, this business is the one business where you go on television and see yourself age!
Its always bizarre to look at yourself age right in front of your eyes. And if you’re at the Chinese Theater with your friends, you were there back in ’95, ’96. You’re talking about a lot of years that have gone by. But it’s still nice to be on the Blue Carpet, and people still interested.
Although it’s a little disconcerting that the people who are interviewing you are like, twenty. They weren’t alive when you started the show. That’s disconcerting.
KAPLAN: Do you have a favorite piece of Worf fan art that you’ve seen (or been presented with) over the years?
DORN: I just got the latest one, that I cherish. I did The View with Whoopi Goldberg and Sunny Hostin. They presented me with an award for being on the most hours of Star Trek. It’s a very funny award, and I love it.
#WhoopiGoldberg honors her former #StarTrekTNG co-star Michael Dorn (@akaWorf) for his nearly 300 appearances on @StarTrek, the most of any actor in the franchise’s history. https://t.co/cVclFZQmjA pic.twitter.com/DXadCCnLz3
— The View (@TheView) February 16, 2023
And now, that’s the only thing that I have in my house that’s figured prominently in my little den.
KAPLAN: Did you realize that you held that honor before you were presented with the award?
DORN: I did, but not all along – somebody said something to me five or six years ago, and I said, “You’re joking.” I didn’t even think about it, you know? Did not even think about it. And then I said, “Wow!”
And along with being able to have a pretty nice career, to hold that distinction is pretty special. And now I’ve added several more episodes to that total.
KAPLAN: Would you be willing to reprise the role again?
DORN: It would all depend on how interesting it is. The one thing that I never wanted Worf to do was just to be standing around and scowling at people. If it’s interesting, and it’s going to be fun, then yeah, of course. Of course.
I love the character. It’s a really great character to act, and I was very fortunate that I was Worf.
KAPLAN: Would you be open to playing the character in animation?
DORN: If it’s interesting animation. And that’s the one thing about having done the show, to have a career like this… you can pick and choose the things you want to do.
Now, they own the character. So they can do whatever they want with it. But if its interesting, yeah, I’d love to be a part of it.
KAPLAN: Having been in Star Trek VI, I’m curious: what’s it like to be involved in the final cinematic outing for two generations of Star Trek?
DORN: I think the word “finale” is used far too often. I’ve said goodbye to Star Trek maybe four times over the years, and it always comes back.
So I don’t look at it as a finale. I look at it as another step in the journey.
New episodes of Picard season 3 are released for streaming on Paramount+ on Thursdays.
Read all of The Beat’s Star Trek coverage by clicking here!