Star Trek TNG: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Never Knew About The Makeup
The Star Trek franchise has introduced us to some of the most exotic alien life forms ever to appear on television. Beginning with Star Trek: The Original Series through to today, each new bold journey expands the universe that much more. As the next Star Trek series to take the torch in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generationimproved on everything included in its predecessor, and then some!
With the help of Michael Westmore and his crew of makeup and hairstyling specialists, the main cast and guest stars of TNG were transformed into fearsome Cardassians, inscrutable Vulcans, and even an android using modern special effects that were light-years ahead of those used before. Incredible silicone casting techniques allowed for authenticity and improved realism while still allowing the actor's performances to shine through. Here are 10 behind the scenes secrets of the makeup of The Next Generation.
10 MAKEUP WAS BASED OFF OF MOLDS OF ACTOR'S FACES
Before makeup is applied to an actor's face, a silicone or plaster cast is made of their face. This prevents the actor from spending hours in the makeup chair while the artist experiments with different looks. Using modeling clay and sculpting tools, the makeup look is brought to life.
Liquid latex is then whipped up in a blender like "chocolate mousse", and the modeled mask is dipped in it. When it dries, it will be a rubberized, applicable version of whatever prosthetic is needed to create the various ridges, fins, and nobules of a Cardassian, a Klingon, or a Ferengi.
9 CARDASSIANS WERE MEANT TO LOOK COLD, MEAN, AND SLIMY
To make the Cardassians look menacing, makeup artist Michael Westmore was tasked with creating a life form that was cold, mean, scaley, and slimy. He borrowed some concepts from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but with more spiney ridges and less fins.
The character of Gul Dukat, first seen in TNG but given a much larger role in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, influenced all other Cardassian makeup because actor Marc Aliamo's neck was so long and his shoulders were so broad. Westmore stuck to the wide-necked look because he felt it looked so exotic on Aliamo.
8 THERE WAS A HUGE TEAM OF SPECIALISTS
Michael Westmore may have been the creative genius, but he had an entire team of specialists behind him. A total of 10 makeup artists and hair stylists worked on transforming main cast members and guest stars into the unique beings living in the Star Trek Universe.
On a day involving many actors in alien makeup, such shooting a sequence involving the Klingon Empire, a Romulan warship, or the Borg Cube, that team will increase from 20 to 50. Their days would be 16 hours long, with each actor spending up to 3 hours in the chair for a complete transformation.
7 THERE WERE 3 SPECIFIC REASONS WHY ALL ALIENS WERE HUMANOID
In-Universe, there's one good reason why most of the aliens the Enterprise encountered in TNG were humanoid: they descended from genetic material dispersed throughout the universe by humanity's ancestor who was known to create life out of a sense of loneliness.
In reality, there are two reasons why the aliens are humanoid: 1) because Star Trek never had the budget of Star Wars and 2) they couldn't produce the same level of non-humanoid creatures in a TV show. That, and series creator Gene Roddenberry never wanted the eyes or mouth covered to allow actors to emote.
6 ALL OF THE FERENGI WERE BASED ON ARMIN SHIMERMAN
As the first Ferengi in Star Trek, Armin Shimerman (Quark on Deep Space Nine) had a lot to do with how the Ferengi behaved every time they appeared. Though their aesthetic was designed by Michael Westmore, it became increasingly tailored to Shimerman's face.
Even out of makeup, there are aspects of Shimerman's face that Westmore drew on such as large ears, a button nose, and a toothy grin. His makeup process involved 2 "streamlined" pieces: a "helmet" of forehead, ears, and brow ridges, a prosthetic nose, a cheek mask and of course, dentures of sharp, pointed teeth.
5 FAMOUS FACES WANTED TO BECOME TNG ALIENS
Tom Morello, lead singer of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, was apparently such a big fan of The Next Generation that he asked for a part in one of the feature films. He appeared as a Sona alien in Star Trek: Insurrection and marveled at how meticulous the makeup process had to be.
He began his filming days at 5 AM, which included a few hours in the makeup chair while artists applied his silicone mask. It was sculpted to his face and allowed for a reasonable amount of movement, resulting in a better capture of his facial expressions.
4 SOME OF THE MAKEUP INVOLVED ADDITIONAL APPARATUS
To create the iconic sequence where the Borg Queen's top half connects to her bottom half in Star Trek: First Contact, a unique apparatus was built. ILM made the neck and prosthetics which were fitted to actress Alice Jennings wearing a blue bodysock on a crane.
After spending hours in hair and makeup, she was lowered to her standing lower half of the Borg body. There was a brief cutaway to Data's face as she settled in, and then it was back to the fully assembled Borg Queen. All evidence of the crane was seamlessly removed in post-production.
3 MICHAEL DORN ALREADY KNEW HIS MAKEUP ARTIST
You would think spending two hours in a makeup chair would mean an actor would get close to the makeup artist transforming them. In the case of Michael Dorn (who played Lieutenant Worf on TNG), he had already met Michael Westmore on the set of Rocky when he was doing the fight makeup for Sylvester Stallone.
Though sitting still for two hours while his Klingon ridges were applied may seem like a burden, Dorn welcomed the chance to play a character that was rough around the edges after a career of playing cops and "nice guys."
2 IT TOOK A WHILE TO GET DATA'S LOOK RIGHT
Despite being humanoid in appearance, Data still proved challenging in unexpected ways. As an android, Data needed to be human-like yet uncannily alien, enough so to make certain members of the Enterprise crew uncomfortable.
Brent Spiner wore yellow contacts so that he would be distinguishable from the humans in the crew, and sat in the makeup chair for over an hour while pale makeup and gold powder was applied all over his face. Before the gold was decided upon, Data also had makeup tests in mint green and pale blue, which his gold skin ended up resembling in certain lights.
1 SOME OF THE CAST WERE MEANT TO LOOK VERY DIFFERENT
Just like the alien and android characters did, the humans aboard the Enterprise also underwent extensive hair and makeup tests. When Patrick Stewart was cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, it was thought no one would take a balding captain seriously. Fortunately, producers thought the toupee looked horrible, and what has now become his iconic look remained.
Deanna Troi also underwent some changes of her wardrobe. Originally, she was conceived as a three-breasted alien which, given the provocative nature of her non-Starfleet attire, would have proved very distracting. Luckily, her appearance was made slightly more sensible.