“I am a Kelpien,” Doug Jones told StarTrek.com, lifting the veil on Lt. Saru, his character on Star Trek: Discovery, during a quick conversation at Comic-Con. “Lt. Saru is a species of alien you've never seen in any Star Trek canon before. That's the exciting part for me, that I get to help develop him. I would’ve been terrified to take on a species that had already been established because the fans are watching every move, jot, and thing you do.
“This one, I get to create,” he continued. “That's exciting. It's also daunting and terrifying because I want to get this right, so that he becomes one of those characters that can be beloved and appreciated and can be emulated in later incarnations down the road through someone else.”
So, what does Jones think fans will love and appreciate about Lt. Saru?
“I think a couple things,” the actor replied. “He's 6'8". I'm the tallest character that's on the show right now. I'm delicate and gazelle-like in appearance, but I'm also wicked when pushed into a corner. So, he has colors and layers. Every character on the show does, by the way. And the writers are just kickass in creating an onion in each one of us to peel back the layers and see colors and smells that weren't there before.”
Jones is no stranger to sci-fi fans. The actor, who is very tall and extremely lean, not to mention a contortionist and mime, played Abe Sapien in the Hellboy adventures, both the Pale Man and Faun in the acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth, the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, one of the Gentlemen in the “Hush” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as the Ice Cream Man in Legion and Cochise on Falling Skies, among other memorable makeup-heavy roles.
Material- and dialogue-wise, Jones told us, Lt. Saru is richer and more layered than anything he’d done before as a creature.
“The makeup is very elaborate, but it’s actually become one of the easier experiences for me because they've got the four-hour process down to two hours now,” he explained. “We've been doing the show since January, so with that much practice, that much repetition, comes speed. And, my makeup artist, James McKinnon, has been kicking ass. His detail and his finery of getting this on to me every day is amazing, but he's getting faster at it. Mercifully so. When you're doing a long-running series, you don't want to be in makeup four hours a day. So, getting it done in two is very helpful.”
And, how about Lt. Saru’s crazy heels and the resultant unusual gait?
“Now there's a design,” Jones marveled. “The shoes, my boots, are made to go over my hoof feet. So, going with the gazelle analogy has been made a lot of time with my character and my species’ kind. We're beautiful, we're bouncy and we bound along. But we have a mean kick as well. With that comes the hoof. And, walking around on those hoof feet, I'm on the balls of my feet all day. I’m balancing on the balls of my feet because I don't have a heel behind me. So, they’re like Lady Gaga shoes. It's a beautiful look. It's a gorgeous look. But those boots and that foot shape inform how I walk and my posture and the swing of my arms and everything. I really like how that came together so easily, because those shoes have informed how I had to stand and it was like, ‘Oh, that's beautiful.’ And it's very alien. So, it worked so fast, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it, and to see Lt. Saru.”
Visit StarTrek.com tomorrow for our conversation with Jason Isaacs.
Star Trek: Discovery will debut September 24 on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Space Channel in Canada. The series will premiere on Netflix in the rest of the world on September 25.