Vaughn Armstrong not only holds the record for the most roles played in the “Star Trek” universe, but he also holds the record for the most different kinds of aliens played. In his three-decade-long Trek career, he’s been a Klingon, a Cardassian, a Romulan, an ex-Borg, a Vidiian, an Alpha-Hirogen, a Kreetassan, and a human.
Because of his breadth of experience with “Star Trek” aliens, Armstrong is somewhat of an expert on the Trek makeup department. He’s spent countless hours being transformed into the creatures, which makes him the perfect person to weigh in on which Trek aliens were the best and worst to create.
The Best and The Worst
Armstrong said that the easiest makeup job out of all the aliens he transformed into was the Romulans. He commented that to become a Romulan, he only had to deal with a wig, a simple forehead prosthetic, and some relatively light makeup. This was a breeze compared to some of the other aliens he embodied.
However, Armstrong said that some of the guest actors on the show couldn’t deal with the alien makeup, even the simplistic Romulan makeup. He recounted a time when one actor got so fed up with the makeup that he stormed off the set and threw his wig in a trashcan on his way off the Paramount lot.
When Michael Westmore, the famed Trek makeup director, found out about this he exclaimed with dismay, “That’s a two thousand dollar wig!” Armstrong said that Westmore ran off the set to retrieve the hairpiece.
Armstrong recalled that creating the Kreetassan was the most difficult makeup process he’d ever gone through. He spent six or seven hours in the makeup department for that role. Becoming a Hirogen was also arduous because, in addition to the complicated makeup, he had to deal with a complicated costume.
“The Hirogen was probably the worst because they cover everything… Your body is completely covered and you’ve got the gloves on and the stuff is lightweight, but thick on you. Really, it’s warm, the only I could sweat was out of my eye holes. They thought I was crying, I guess… That was probably the most uncomfortable.”
Armstrong went on to say that the first time he played a Klingon was rough as well.
“That first one that I did, that Klingon, that makeup. I don’t think they were as used to it as they got later on, because I got a horrible reaction to it on my forehead… This horrible rash. They fixed it up and it was better after that first day. That was the most extreme effect on me.”
Armstrong played a Klingon two more times after that role, and he grew used to the makeup process after that.
The Makeup Made the Characters
Armstrong emphasized that though the makeup was intense, it didn’t bother him.
“I think part of why they kept hiring me is I didn’t mind that much, all the makeup. It kind of took a meditation to not pay any attention to it and kind of make it part of the character.”
Armstrong went on to say that he used his time in the makeup chair to figure out the personalities of his characters.
Every moment I’m trying to figure out what it was in their evolution, what effected their evolution to make them turn out that way. It’s an interesting process. The Klingon I did, I always pictured him… growing up butting heads with a goat in the backyard. Just for fun. So, they developed the need to butt as much as a dog needs to chew. And they sharpen their teeth as well, so they also gotta be chewing on the bones with the dogs in the back… So, that gave me a certain posture because I got the feeling we used that forehead for a weapon. And when I come into a room I’d kind of prepare the head to butt and it gave me a certain posture… The Cardassians, their necks, I thought, they had to be straining with such pride for so long that it started to do this to their neck muscles. That tension and hatred of all around, turned them into this creature.
So, his hours in the makeup chair were well spent. The insights he gained about the aliens he was becoming during that process allowed him to portray them as authentically as possible.
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