You might not know the name Bill Blair, but you know his face. Actually, you might not know his face, either. Let’s put it this way: if you regularly watched Deep Space Nine, Voyager and/or Enterprise – not to mention loads of other sci-fi shows from Alien Nation to Babylon 5 – then you’ve seen a lot of Bill Blair over the years. Blair is one of Hollywood’s busiest, most in-demand portrayers of aliens and, as such, often finds himself buried deep beneath makeup and prosthetics. He’s so accomplished at it that he’s become prolific, and he’s so prolific at it that on Sunday, October 9, he will be honored for having set the Guinness World Record for “most special effects characters portrayed in a career.”
Those who do know Blair, know him real well. He’s written a book. He’s got a big, active fan base and a popular web site, and he counts among his fans and friends everyone from Walter Koenig Robin Williams and Gary Graham to George Takei, Kevin Sorbo and Rod Roddenberry. Many of those fans and friends are expected to join Blair on Sunday, as the Hollywood Rotary Club honors Blair first with a press conference and red carpet event for fans at the Guinness World Records Museum in Hollywood and then at a star-studded red carpet event and party at Trastevere Restaurant in Hollywood. StarTrek.com recently caught up with Blair to talk about his life, career, the upcoming Guinness World Record event and more.
Blair: This is a feeling of accomplishment, something I didn't even think of until about five years ago. When I first began looking into this type of record I learned from the Guinness people they had nothing like it and they invited me to submit for what became this category. I am proud of this accomplishment and it tells me I spent a lot more time in make-up and latex than I had ever imagined. It truly is a great honor to be a part of the Guinness World Record files and I hope that I can continue to add to the record number over the time I (continue to) spend in the entertainment business
Oct. 9 should be a very memorable day. Take us through the schedule and what excites you most about what's in store.
Blair: I plan to arrive in a very special character at around 3:15 p.m. that my make-up artist and I will put together ahead of time. Exiting the limo will be the biggest moment for me, as I see all the fans, friends and press there to observe this day and to honor and learn more about me and the life I have led to reach this goal. After greeting everyone and stopping for some photos on the red carpet in character, we will have a press conference and during that time reveal the true me under the character. It will be a joy to see the expressions of those that have never seen the real me before and how the transformation comes about, followed by more time to take pictures with fans and friends on the red carpet with the real Bill. The VIP reception party and charity fundraiser will start at 6 p.m., and I will greet more fans and friends and the press on the red carpet. There will great food, music and entertainment during the next three hours and, of course, the opportunity to raise lots of money for a great charity organization: The Global Alternative Energy Alliance.
So, what's the secret to playing a convincing alien character?
Blair: Being someone that can live in a make-believe world and can also believe he/she is form somewhere other than here and has fun with it. Also, the ability and personality to wear all the make-up and costuming for long, long hours, doesn't hurt either.
How did you land your first gig on DS9, and what episode was it?
Blair: My first memorable episode was “The House of Quark,” where I was a member of the Klingon High Council listening to Quark's explanation of the financial facts of the situation. I got the job by being available at the right time when casting called me after another actor had to cancel at the last minute. Right place, right time – and luck.
You appeared in three dozen episodes of DS9. What were one or two of your most memorable experiences on the show? Which one or two characters did you most enjoy playing?
Blair: Overall, number one is having been able to work with an amazing cast and crew on set. That always made the job and experience so great, which made every episode special. The best individual experience was when I played four different alien races in the same episode, and that was the last two-part episode to conclude the series. I always enjoyed playing Klingons and Cardassians the most, as I liked the character make-up for them the most and I liked how much I could do with each personality. Once I was a Cardassian jail guard who let Kira out of jail; it was a silent, straightforward part, but oh-so-important in character and attitude.
You appeared in at least seven episodes of Voyager. What were a couple of the more memorable experiences on that show, and which one or two characters did you most enjoy playing.
Blair: My best memory of Voyager was being a Klingon traveler in the episode “Prophecy” - lots of fun reactions and moments as B’Elanna told her story. And then there was “Friendship One” as one as one of the alien races that had suffered terrible radiation. I got to guard Neelix, and it was so important to hold the stern character and attitude during the scenes. I also have fond memories of “Critical Care,” where I went through three character options before I was finally cast as the assistant to the doctor, a very important role as a plot point and a constant in certain scenes in the show
You were also in Star Trek: The Experience, in the Borg Invasion 4-D film, and in one of the fan films, New Voyages: Blood and Fire. How did you enjoy working on them?
Blair: I loved playing the Borg. Hot as the set was, I never thought about it as much, as I enjoyed the 3-D filming experience and getting to play yet another classic character from the Star Trek franchise. Playing Commander Blodgette in Blood and Fire was so great, as I got to co-star with Denise Crosby. She was excellent to work and play off of as an actor, and the rest of the cast was so open and welcoming to me. I also did all the special effect make-up for part two of that episode.
You returned to Trek again for Enterprise, appearing in several episodes. How did the first one come about? Whose idea was that? Was it an audition? And how was the experience.
Blair: I auditioned/interviewed for a part in the episode “The Andorian Incident.” I got to work with Scott Bakula for the first time since one time long ago on Quantum Leap as a waiter in a restaurant. We had a great interaction in one scene that made the whole episode so special. It was also only the second time in my career getting to play a Vulcan, another great, classic race from the Star Trek franchise that I’d wanted to do at the time. I returned to Enterprise three more times as different Vulcans and also a homeless vagrant in another.
There are a lot of Trek fans out there who are Bill Blair fans and many people who don't realize that you appeared as so many characters in so many episodes. How amazed are you to have a devoted fan base and what's the reaction you get from people when they put two and two together and realize that this character and that character and that character and... were all you?
Blair: When I attend the conventions around the world it is true that most (people) have never seen the real Bill, and they are fascinated by the stories and remembering all the characters one by one as I go through the series and episodes. The most memorable of all of them involved Armin Shimerman at a con in Las Vegas. I went up to speak to him, and he knew my voice but not the face. I introduced myself. He knew the name and remarked how he loved finally meeting me in person rather than in alien as it were.
Aside from Trek, what would you say are some of your most familiar/popular roles, in and out of makeup?
Blair: From my very early days, people remember me as a recurring face on the series Dallas and then Knots Landing. In more recent years, from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and the popular series Heroes. Those were all, of course, as the real Bill. In makeup, I recall fondly the time at Disney World when a young fan recognized me from a specific Minbari I played on Babylon 5. I was standing in a ride line and he came up to talk to me and we got into some more of the characters I played. He then found out why they are not supposed to approach celebrities, as I was then hounded by about 20 young ladies, all with cameras wanting photos with me. It was a lot of fun and I had a great time with everyone there that night. The overall most-popular roles have to go to the Brakiri priest I played in the Babylon 5 episode “Day of the Dead,” and the Vulcan I played on Enterprise.
What are you working on these days?
Blair: Most recently, last year, I was on Mad Men, NCIS and Men of a Certain Age. This year, I have been working on and off in the TV series Raising Hope, How I Met Your Mother, also Jane by Design, iCarly and films like a yet-to-be-released movie. It’s still untitled, but is a major film that will be known in 2012). I’ve also shot Argo (with Ben Affleck and Bryan Cranston) and Gangster Squad (with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone).
To learn more about the Guinness event in Hollywood, click HERE. And to visit Blair’s official site, click HERE.