Trek's Go-To Borg, Patrick Barnitt, Remembers His Many Treks
By Patrick Barnitt - June 24, 2013
Patrick Barnitt was a particularly ubiquitous presence across the Star Trek franchise, though odds are you won’t recognize the name. That’s because, for his appearances on Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, as well as in First Contact and Insurrection, Barnitt went uncredited. Barnitt was one of Trek’s go-to alien guys, a favorite of Jonathan Frakes, and often encased in Borg costume and makeup. Barnitt, in Borg get-up, even graced the cover of TV Guide, the First Contact theatrical poster and on one of the discs in a Trek DVD set. StarTrek.com invited Barnitt to contribute a guest blog recounting his wide-ranging Trek experiences and filling everyone in on his life today, and he graciously took us up on the offer.
I have dreams of dark, smoke-filled corridors, the sounds of distant screams, clanging metal, mechanical arms and the hypnotic murmurs of the Queen, of assimilation and the buzz of the Collective. I look to my left and through the mist I can see Jean-Luc standing frozen in the pod next to me.
And then I awake with a start, sweating and realize that I am, in fact, not a Borg, but merely human.
These memories are embedded in my unconscious, like a cold implant deep in my skin. Occasionally, in the middle of a conversation, I will drift off and stare listlessly into space and utter, "Lower Your Shields." It's time for my pill.
I worked as a Borg in First Contact and for several seasons on Voyager. I started as a Bajoran, one of Kira's foot soldiers on DS9 (“Through the Looking Glass”). I heard they were casting for First Contact. Jennifer Bender sent me over. Thank you, Jen! I think Michael Westmore, the legendary makeup artist, remembered me from my time on DS9. There was a giant call at Paramount. Four people sat at a long table: Westmore, Jonathan Frakes and a few others. There were over a hundred guys there to audition. Stand in a formation. Turn to the left, now to the right. Walk like a Borg. I made the first cut. Three more auditions would follow. The last one involved racing across town, getting a traffic ticket and sprinting across the lot to the Cooper Building to be the very last guy seen. I burst through the door to be met by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, the producers of the film. "We can't have two bald Patrick's in the same movie," said a smiling Rick Berman as I shook his hand and left the room. Dejected, I stared down at the floor. I wiped my brow with my shirt as I practicalIy fell down the stairs. A few days later, the phone rang. I guess they needed more than one bald Patrick. I had the gig.
A typical day started at three or four in the morning in the makeup lab, which is a galaxy unto itself. Alien masks and prosthetic pieces adorned the walls and shelves of the lab. Hundreds of them. The Borg makeup took about three hours. First, they applied the skull cap, as If I needed one. Now there's a laugh!
Pax was then applied. They then began the gluing of the pieces, tubes and the eyepiece. The final phase was the airbrushing. The amazing team of makeup artists was able to create the illusion of many more Borg than there actually were. Every day that we worked we were turned into a different Borg. You can see this on the poster for the film. They used about four of the same guys on the one-sheet. They would a move a tube, change an eyepiece, or change the suit slightly to make it appear as if there were a legion of Borg.
I had a wonderful makeup artist, Camille Calvet, who gave me the name Baby Borg because my skin could not withstand more than four days of glue and makeup in a row. A few of the other superb makeup artists were Jake Garber, Natalie Wood, Brad Look, Belinda Bryant, Scott Wheeler, Perri Sorrel, Mary Kaye Morse, and James MacKinnon. Then it was time to suit up with the Todd Masters FX crew, who were the creators of the legendary Borg suits. It took at least two guys to help us into the suits. We were literally glued into the suits and then painted. We were then wired up with the lights. Alan MacFarland, Derik Wingo, Greg Johnson, Bill Fesch, Tom Bacho, Patrick Gerrety, Scott Tebeau. etc. Brothers in arms! Rosemary Cremona, the 2nd AD, also took great care of us.
One of the more memorable moments on First Contact was the deflector dish sequence. They had built this enormous ark-like structure against a green screen. We worked for a week on that sequence. I remember Patrick Stewart wishing the late legendary makeup artist Monty Westmore a happy birthday on the set on the first day of shooting. Jonathan Frakes used a megaphone to direct us from video village. He had nicknames for all of us: Patrick Borg, Louie Borg, Monty Borg, Joey Borg, like we were on basketball team. My Borg brothers were all fantastic guys. There is a picture floating around somewhere of several of us on the lot smoking cigars! One day a few of us wandered across the lot and snuck onto the Soul Train soundstage. We jumped up on the blocks and started boogey-ing underneath the giant gold Soul Train sign. What a sight. The only thing missing was the great Don Cornelius. Another afternoon, I was headed back to the stage past a few trailers. I looked to my left at someone sunning themselves in a lounge chair. He turned his head and looked over the rim of his aviator glasses. Mr. Paul Newman.
Jonathan was hilarious. "I'll be here all week, folks!," he bellowed through the megaphone. "Don't forget to tip your waiters." On the dish, there were all sorts of very cool stunts with wires, sparks, Borg floating over the heads of Picard, Worf and Hawk, etc. We had to simulate zero G’s with a very slow, deliberate walk, walking with our backpacks, putting spires into the dish. When the brackets snapped on the dish, they lifted us a good 50 feet in the air to the top of the soundstage, then down again, and then back up. Look mom, No hands! It was sweltering. It was over 100 degrees in those suits. A fantastic weight-loss regimen.
Another great memory was in the hive when Data was captive on the rack. Working with both Brent Spiner and Alice Krige was a real thrill. I was the Borg with the mechanical arm grafting skin onto his arm. They only had one arm, so we only had one shot at him backhanding me. Jonathan turned to me and said, "You ready, Patrick"? "Yep," I replied. "OK, let's do it. Action!!" Data backhanded me, I flew onto the Starfleet Borg (Eric Steinberg) and then landed on the ground with a heavy thud. The arm was intact. How the hell did that happen!!
Another Jonathan Frakes story: We were shooting the scene of the Borg coming out of the mist with our laser eyes. Some residue had gotten in my eye and it was badly irritated. He stopped production and insisted I go to the medic. "It's your eye, man!" A great guy. I also remember the kindness of the late Jerry Fleck, the 1st A.D. on First Contact, with whom I later worked with on Voyager. Jerry was a tremendous human being and AD. He always made sure that we were taken care of.
One day on Voyager, the producers sent Louie and I over with Kate Mulgrew to a TV Guide photo shoot. They were simultaneously filming a segment for Access Hollywood. I think this was for the cliffhanger of the season, “Scorpion, Part 1.” This was very exciting as we not only ended up on Access Hollywood, but also on the cover of TV guide!
In this episode, I had to grab Kate Mulgrew and push her to the ground. I made sure that I grabbed her gently for the rehearsal. Afterwards, she turned to me and said, "Patrick, really push me down hard on the next one," to which I replied, "Sure, Kate." Take two. "Action!!" I grabbed her and threw her down with all my might. "Cut!!" "Jeeezus, Patrick, that was great!!" Method acting, at its best.
I worked with Jonathan on a few of his other films, Insurrection and Clockstoppers, along with another one of my Borg buddies, Louis Ortiz. In Insurrection, I played a few aliens and also doubled Patrick in the Baku village exodus scene. They sent the doubles into the village with the villagers and then started blowing it up as we frantically ran for our lives. It was a lot of fun, until I got wacked in the head with a small piece of wood! I recently ran into Jonathan at a restaurant here in L.A. It was wonderful to see him. I heard him telling his friends, "See that guy over there? He was one of my Borg." Once a Borg...
On Voyager, I had the good fortune of working with some terrific directors: David Livingston, the late Rick Kolbe, Terry Windell, Robbie Duncan McNeill, and also Marvin Rush, the amazing cinematographer who gave the show such a dramatic and cool look. I also had the privilege of working with the lovely and talented Jeri Ryan. I worked on most of the big Borg episodes: “Scorpion 1 and 2,” “The Raven,” “Dark Frontier 1 and 2,” “Unimatrix 1 and 2,” etc. I was beamed up to the Enterprise as a Brenari telepath in “Innocence.” I also worked on the episode, “Prophecy” as a Klingon.
Apart from the Star Trek universe, I have appeared in such shows as The Shield, Eleventh Hour, Las Vegas, Working, Spin City, The Wayans Brothers, Santa Barbara, etc. I originated the role of the Crooner in the award-winning, L.A. musical, Shag With A Twist, and appeared as Otto Preminger in NAACP nominated stage production, Dorothy and Otto. Recently, I appeared in the YouTube sensation/horror-comedy web series, Ginosaji vs. Ginosaji, directed by Richard Gale. Also on YouTube, I can be seen in the comedy short, A Date, Kinda... written by Krista Melbardis. I reteamed with Voyager alums Robert Picardo and Tim Russ in the Funny or Die comedy, Chad and the Alien Toupee, written by Cary Anderson and directed by Peter Paul Basler. Most recently, I can be seen starring in the indie horror/thriller, Coffin, with Kevin Sorbo, Bruce Davison, Sunny Doench and Johnny Alonso. It's currently available on Redbox Instant, Netflix, and Amazon. When not on set, I can be found singing jazz in clubs all over Los Angeles. I perform regularly with Marty and Elayne at the famed Dresden Room in Hollywood. I will be appearing in the upcoming Kelly Olsen documentary, Marty and Elayne: Stayin Alive at The Dresden. My debut record is "When the Time is Right," a collection of jazz standards from the great American songbook.
I am now on the convention circuit thanks to my tremendous booking agent, Missy Gordon, of the Scarlett Abbey. I recently appeared on a Star Trek panel at Con X in Kansas City with Walter Koenig, Denise Crosby and Glenn Morshower. What a treat! I look forward to meeting you at a con soon.
No matter where I go or what I do, she still speaks to me in the night. I can hear the drone of a thousand lost souls. I am lost in the dark maze of the Cube. I cannot escape the Borg visions, or, should I say, the nightmares. Like Picard, I peer into the mirror, sweating as I grab my face. Am I morphing? Is that the faint outline of a Borg implant? Or is my mind just playing tricks on me?
Resistance is Futile.
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Album: Prop Shop
Caption: My Federation jacket insignia. The final piece to make my uniform complete.