Interview: ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Makeup Designer Talks Updating Worf And More Bucket List Aliens In Season 3

Makeup designer James MacKinnon began his career working on Star Trek: The Next Generation, First Contact, and Deep Space Nine, where he got his first Emmy nomination. He has since won six Emmys over his career, including awards for both Discovery and Picard season 1. On Star Trek Day (held a few days after he lost out at the Emmys for Picard season 2 to Stranger Things), TrekMovie had a chance to briefly with MacKinnon about his work on season 2 and what to expect from him and his team for season 3.

Firstly, condolences for not picking up another Emmy for season 2 of Picard, but I guess you don’t have to make more room on your shelf now.

I know, right? Well, that category was so full of great, great artists. I never like to lose, but I don’t mind losing to five amazing friends that did beautiful, beautiful work. We all pulled it out of the lake this last weekend for the shows.

Looking back at Picard season 2, what was your biggest challenge? Was it the Borg Queen?

Yeah, it was the Queen. It’s not recreating a Borg Queen that is from our past, but a new Borg Queen that has a new look, a new style. And it is for the new century that we’re doing the makeup, so silicone is now used. Back on First Contact, it was all foam latex. So technology and cameras have changed, so we have to elevate as artists as well, and change in our applications. So being able to do that—it was a four-hour makeup with sixteen pieces. Annie [Wersching] was a trooper. We did it a lot of times, that was the funnest makeup for the season.

James MacKinnon (center) working on Annie Wersching for Picard season 2

As a vet of DS9, was it a sort of homecoming [working] with Michael [Dorn] for season 3?

Yeah. You have already seen Worf on Picard. Just to be able to recreate and elevate Michael Westmore’s makeup from DS9 to a current-day version with Michael Dorn was a true, true pleasure.

Did you get the time in the chair for him down compared to the Westmore days?

Oh yeah. We got the time in the chair down. Obviously, the test always takes longer, and then each day you do it does go faster. Foam latex back in the day is opaque, so you have to paint the depth. Now, with silicone, it’s see-through so you got to splatter the depth. And then there is a lot more airbrushing, it was like acrylic paints back in the day.

Season 3 Worf character poster

Can you talk more about the makeup challenges from season 3?

And I can’t say much more about the looks, but you guys are going to be shitting your pants when you see what I can’t talk about.

I know you said you wanted a chance to do the Borg again years before you got the chance for season 2, so are there any other bucket list aliens you got to do for season 3?

I got to do three.

Three you have never done before on Star Trek?

Yeah. It’s going to be fun.

More Picard from Star Trek Day

For more about Picard season 3 from Star Trek Day, check out our detailed interview with showrunner Terry Matalas and a quick chat with actress Michelle Hurd.

And here again is the trailer released on Star Trek Day.

Star Trek: Picard season 3 arrives Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. Following its premiere, new episodes of the 10-episode long final season will be available to stream weekly on Thursdays. Picard streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. and is distributed concurrently by Paramount Global Content Distribution on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.

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I don’t want to shit my pants, MacKinnon. But I look forward to seeing what’s coming.

I love the way the conversations with the behind-the-scenes folks are a little more raw than the conversations with actors and showrunners. :-)

I wish you had gone more in depth about the updates in makeup technology for the alien stuff. Some of the advances in 3d printing and silicone molding are absolutely remarkable. The complexity involved in, for example, the Saru makeup is something that just wasn’t possible back then, especially on a TV budget.

The flip side of that is that even if you are recreating a look from the 90’s, you still have to redesign it from the ground up because the materials and processes are so different these days, and you have to consider the actor’s comfort and how long it will take to apply and what it will look like on an HD camera. The Worf paint job on TNG is amazing, but on HD with those bright TNG lights it looks like what it is – a paint job. You can really see the artificial contouring on the ridges and the optical illusion they’re trying to create – that’s not a criticism, that makeup was never designed to be seen in the full range of the 35mm film they shot the show on. It looks much better on DS9 where it’s not in HD and the lighting is more subdued.

This is why I don’t really critique makeup changes on the new stuff – the technology and practice is just so so so different, both in the makeup and in the cameras and lights and all the gear. It’s the same reason bridge sets are so big now – the widescreen image requires a wider bridge to film in.

Hopefully the Season 3 Blu-Ray will have BTS segments on the makeup.

On my 4k big screen the make up in tng hd is holding up enormously well!

Well, I still remember being a kid and seeing Dorn being interviewed about how the makeup he got for First Contact was more detailed then whats done for him on DS9 because it has to hold up to 35MM film and the big screen, but there were days he filmed scenes for both First Contact and then DS9 so they got the “movie quality” makeup.

Would be interesting to go back and check if you can see the difference on DS9.

Klingon physiology, TNG style. In other words, a shirtless, older Worf. That would be awesome and canon developing since we only ever saw the bumps on his feet.

In that episode featuring the spinal chord transplant, I’m pretty sure we saw bumps along the spine.

I think you are right! I’m betting there will be more of that kinda stuff, maybe something that bridges the gap between TNG and DIS.

James MacKinnon: “You have already seen Worf on Picard.”

When was that?

There’s also the brief “stock image” of Worf and Picard from “Sins of the Father” shown in “Remembrance.” That was the scene that immediately popped into my mind.

I’ve heard him mention the 3 bucket-list aliens before, and that some of them are very obscure. Anybody have any guesses? Did he do the Ferengi and Cardassians on Discovery? Those would be on my bucket list if I were him, we haven’t seen any of them on Picard for example.

But they said three he has NEVER done at all. I have no clue what he did on TNG or DS9 but since Cardassians and Ferengi had a big presence on both shows he probably did make up with them before. So it’s a huge question mark, especially since those shows covered the gamut of aliens, especially DS9.

Maybe it’s TOS aliens that never appeared on the 24th century shows like the Andorians, Tellerites and/or the Gorn.

Trelene, Organians, and Metrons….nah, that’s too easy.

LOL yeah probably! Or maybe this time they will give the Metrons nose ridges!!!

The skin looks great, but the hair seems too tidy, and the white color is not helping. It doesn’t have to be the same as in All Good Things (all the other characters look different anyway, because they aged differently), but the more messy hair from All Good Things looks more like the Worf we know.

Well I think personally Worf looks great. But to your point, we know Klingons live well over a century so I’m not sure if Worf is actually old enough for this look. But honestly I love it all the same.

The guys beautifully manscaped. A little Klingon Botox does wonders for smoothing out the ridges. I’ll be he’s baby soft….

I think Worf looks amazing and Michael Westmore should be proud! It completely honors what he did but upgraded the look since the technology has improved greatly over the years. And I think this is a look into the future of how live action Klingons will appear if and when they show up on Discovery and SNW.

If they really wish to flesh out the Gorn, this is a perfect opportunity to do so. Ideally it would be great if he was talking about them but I’m seriously doubting it. Not only would using the Gorn in this timeframe be perfectly fine but they likely don’t want to cross other shows like that. Even if it were to fix a mistake. This group never owns up to their errors.

Honestly, I can’t really think of any TNG era aliens that were used once or twice that resonated so I honestly cannot think of what other aliens he is doing that could be a big deal for him. I can only conclude they are ones that he has a personal connection to in some way.

Maybe we’re finally going to get to see more of the Breen? We saw the Breen frequently in DS9 when they joined the Dominion, but the Breen species wasn’t ever fleshed out. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the Vorta … Other than Weyoun we only met a couple. I mean, speculation is kind of limitless on this one.

Not bad. I also mentioned in another article thread that the Breen would have been a really good alien to use on SNW in lieu of the Gorn. There is nothing known about when they were first encountered and I’m sure the creative folks could have a grand time designing what is under their helmets. But alas… That is part of the problem with SH.

Being that this deals with the aftermath of the dominion war, could it be the Vorta, JemHadar, and Founders?

Listening to Terry, he indicated they don’t have the budget to do a visit to DS9, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they pass by DS9 and end up in the Gamma Quadrant. That would fit with the Titan getting isolated and out matched without immediate help.