Michael Dorn Talks Trek, Kickstarter & More, Part 1
Michael Dorn is eager to talk. He’s got a new project in the works that will take the participation of his fans across the world to help make a reality. Dorn first mentioned the enterprise to StarTrek.com during the recent Creation Entertainment Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas earlier this month and then, right after he returned from the convention, he jumped on the phone for an extensive interview in which he talked about his years as Worf on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, TNG’s 25th anniversary, his recent stint on Castle, upcoming film work, and that in-the-works project, which is a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $750,000 necessary for him to produce, direct and star in Through the Fire, a romantic comedy feature that would co-star such Trek alumni as Marina Sirtis, Armin Shimerman, Nana Visitor and Robert Pine. Below is part one of our interview with Dorn, and check back tomorrow to read part two.
You just got back from the big convention in Vegas. You’ve not been doing a lot of convention appearances the past few years. So, how did you enjoy that? And with TNG’s 25th anniversary approaching, how many more reunion cons are in your near future?
Dorn: I haven’t been doing that many, that’s true. In fact, this year is the first year I’m doing as many as I used to do, and that’s because of our 25th anniversary. It’s very interesting. We always knew that the fans were loyal and all of that, but I think it’s been a real shock to the promoters how big the reunion conventions have been. The first one was in Calgary and they sold out all the tickets within 24 hours and had to put more tickets on. We were in an arena with 6,000 people or something like that. They’re shocked by that. We’re not shocked by it, but because of that, we’re doing more. At this point in my life, these are things I can do. They don’t take a lot of time. You go to cool places. All of us or a lot of us are there. So it’s become a lot more fun than it was before. Before, I did them, but I missed a lot of things in my life in terms of people’s birthdays and anniversaries and parties, because the conventions are always on the weekends. So I stopped because I really wanted to get back in touch with my friends and family. Now, though, I have some more time and I’m doing some more of them. I think we, as a group, are doing at least three more this year. There’s Austin, Dragon-Con and then San Francisco. And then I think we have four scheduled for next year already.
How much does it freak you out that it’s 25 years since you started work on TNG?
Dorn: It’s surreal. It really is. It doesn’t feel like 25 years. The only time you know it’s 25 years is when you look at people’s kids who were two or three years old and now they’re out of college and working and getting married. Then you kind of go, “Whoa.” But otherwise, it’s an amazing thing. What I reflect on, just speaking for myself, is how close we’ve been all these years. It just doesn’t happen like that in this business. You have people in your life that you’ve known for 25 years, but it’s not usually people you worked with. These people are still in my life. I still have a ball with them when we’re together. That’s more than just surreal; it’s really special and I always feel extremely fortunate to have been in Star Trek at all.
Be honest: when you won the role of Worf, did you think, with an ensemble so big, that you’d be given the time and space and the scenes with which to evolve the character?
Dorn: No. I basically took it a day at a time. My main thing was getting the part right and being as good as I can. I just didn’t think about the future like that. It was a little rough at first because people were getting their footing, the actors, the producers, the crew. Everybody was running around. They were doing their jobs, but you could tell they were trying eke out their future, basically. You want to be friends with Data. You want to be friends with Geordi. You want to be friends with Picard. You want to align yourself with all these people because their feeling is the writers write relationships and, if you have a relationship, they’ll write more of the relationship for you. Personally, I just went, “Who cares? I’m going to be this strange, mean, pissed-off guy.” Fortunately, the writers took off with that. All that stuff they wrote about Worf being an orphan and being raised by Russian parents, that’s all the writers’ stuff. I didn’t do anything about that. I just gave them what the character was, and that was it.
We are not going to ask you to go through TNG and DS9 episode by episode, but what were the developments that intrigued you/challenged you most as an actor during your time on the two series and what was a storyline you wish had never been broached?
Dorn: The one challenge was the son, having a son, because Worf was not a great father. He basically shoveled his son off to someplace else. That was a big challenge and the episodes were pretty good. The evolution of Worf was great, especially on Deep Space Nine. It was just fantastic. The father thing, I thought, was a real challenge. What do I wish was not broached? People may expect me to say the Worf-Troi romance, but I actually liked that. I felt that was a good thing because Troi was so not like Worf. That worked for me, but Marina didn’t, of course. She and Jonathan (Frakes) just go, “Oh, that was stupid. We hated that.” There wasn’t anything, really, that I wish they hadn’t done. There was an episode I wish they hadn’t done, but luckily I wasn’t in it. That was “Code of Honor.”
Your latest project is something you actually have been working on for years. You even shot a pilot about 10 years ago. Tell us about Through the Fire…
Dorn: You’re right, it’s something we started a while ago and we’ve been trying to get it produced for a long time. It went from a sitcom that we were pitching to a feature film. People I knew, producers, said, “Michael, this works better as a feature.” So I rewrote it with my partner, Anne-Marie Johnson, and it turned out very well. We’re really happy with everything, but, as you know, getting things produced is brutal. It’s a crazy business. The one thing that was more important to me than anything else was to be able to do it without a lot of studio people telling me what to do or what not to do. I really want it to be on my own terms. The only way to do that is to raise the money yourself. There are a couple of guys I know who had projects, and they went on Kickstarter to raise the money to get them done. Some did it for albums they were producing. Some did it to get startup money for a product they wanted to bring to market. And they did very well on Kickstarter. They got a lot more money than they thought. I was talking to them and they said I should try to raise money for a Through the Fire movie on Kickstarter, and I thought, “Why not?” The way Kickstarter works is that people aren’t just giving money and that’s it. They get incentives for that money. It sounded very interesting. It sounds like a way to get funding for small movies without having to go through the studio system.
Let’s break some of that down. What’s the basic premise of Through the Fire? And would you also direct and star in the film, as you’d done with the TV pilot you shot?
Dorn: Yes, if it goes, I’ll direct and star in it. The basic set-up is that two dazzling New York urbanites get set up on the worst blind date ever. He’s a theater critic and she’s a theater actress, and they’re both fairly well known. They’re not famous, but well known. They’re successful, smart and erudite, but they’ve never been able to find relationships, and their friends have had it with them. And this is the last straw. It’s like these are the last two people in New York not in a relationship. So we’re set up and what comes out of that relationship is more than just, “Oh, it’s a love connection.” They realize that when a relationship would end or wouldn’t go well, that they could always retreat into their work. That was always the safety net, work and their friends. They were so busy they couldn’t think too much about it. What they discover is that they really care so much about each other that the work has to come second, not first, and that doesn’t sit well with either one of them.
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read the second half of our exclusive interview with Michael Dorn. In it, he talks more about Star Trek and Through the Fire, discusses his role on Castle and fills us in on his other current projects. In the meantime, click HERE to check out Dorn's Kickstarter page for Through the Fire.