All too often, TV actors who've played the same character for a long time grow resentful and dislike talking about their experiences in the role. Not so for Michael Dorn, who played the Klingon Worf on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" for 11 years.
Amiable and incredibly friendly, Dorn's booming voice and imposing physical presence belie his gentle nature. HuffPost TV caught up with the sci-fi legend to talk about why "Star Trek: TNG" never seems to get old, and he finally clears the air regarding that online rumour about an impending Klingon "Star Trek" spin-off.
So, all these years later and "Star Trek: TNG" is still huge. Are you surprised at its longevity?
No, not really. The time thing is the interesting part. Like you said, it's been 25 years, but we didn't get the humongous amount of adulation until about 1994 or 1995. Then it was huge. We could see that it was getting bigger and bigger, and the fans were multiplying. We thought that, after [the series] was over, we'd have a couple of years of fan conventions and then it would die out. Obviously, we were wrong -- but this 25th anniversary stuff really did rekindle interest in the show.
What is it about "TNG" particularly that makes it stand out from the others?
The actors they hired for the show were this group -- and I don't want to sound egotistical about it - they're wonderful actors. It's like a fantastic combination of acting and chemistry. I don't think anyone did it on purpose, it just happened that way. The writing and producing are the other pieces of the puzzle. Absolutely brilliant. I recall one show where [Worf] was going to let this Romulan die, even though he needed my blood to survive. I went to Rick [Berman, a writer] and I asked, "Are you sure you want to do this? This is quite a departure." And he said, "Yes. We want to show that Worf doesn't have the same sensibility as human beings." That's the type of thing that made us stand out from the others. As good as the others were, they just didn't rise to that level.
How fondly do you look back on your time as Worf?
It's part of me, in terms of my career. It was the most brilliant 11 years that I've ever spent on television. The seven years spent on "TNG" were the best years of my life. "Deep Space" was also a great experience.
So many actors never get to play a character they love for so long; and so many of the ones who do end up regretting it. You're actually fond of it, which is nice.
Oh God, yeah. It's also my small-town upbringing, where a job is a wonderful thing. [Laughs] They had to pry my hands off the gate when we ended the show! [Laughs] I see that a lot with actors, where we really are striving to get a series. In some cases, it's like winning the lottery. We're happy at the beginning, but after a little bit of time we start complaining that it's tedious, you know. You see it all the time, but that's not me. And the core group of people on "TNG," that's not them either. In fact, we were shocked that it didn't go the full 10 years. But LeVar [Burton] said something interesting, which was that not a lot of people, including professional athletes and the like, get to go out on top.
LeVar's always right.
[Laughs] For the most part, yes. Or at least that's what we tell him to his face!
Did you bring anything to the character that wasn't already a part of the role?
The character didn't have any back story. He was a name on a sheet of paper, that was it. I think the third or fourth day of shooting, I went up to Gene [Roddenberry] and asked him what he wanted from this character. He told me to make it my own. I took it and decided that the character was going to be the opposite of everybody else on the show. And the writers took it from there, and Worf became one of the best characters ever.
Can you recall a favourite episode or moment for Worf?
There was an episode called "The Drumhead." It wasn't a very physical episode ... in fact it was a courtroom drama. Worf's growth in that one episode wasn't huge, but it was definitely substantial. At the end, [Captain Picard] tried to explain to me that villains come in all shapes and sizes, that you can't tell what a person's like from the outside. You have to be vigilant. It was one of the coolest endings, at least to me, when Picard says, "Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That's the price we must continually pay."
Have you ever had any weird fan experiences?
You know, over the course of this many years, I have never had a weird fan experience. The one thing that's good about Worf is he's such a bad-ass. I think people are a little shy about doing stuff to him. The voice, everything like that. I have my sarcastic streak, so people don't want to risk it. [Laughs]
I've read some things about a Worf/"Star Trek: TNG" spinoff. Is that true?
No, that's not true. There was a blogger last year who asked me that question, and I said that there's a place for "Star Trek" on TV again, and I had started to write a script. It would feature Worf in the Klingon universe. A lot of people read that and it's taken on a life of its own. You never know in this business, though, I gotta say.
You can meet Michael Dorn at Toronto Comic-Con this weekend, or catch him on some recent episodes of "Castle."