February 27 2024

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Dorn: Becoming A Director

2 min read

Another Trek actor went over to the other side of the camera via the unofficial Star Trek Directors’ School.

Michael Dorn went into the business originally wanting to direct, not act. His first job in the industry was working on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, courtesy of a high school friend whose father was an assistant director on the show.

“In the middle of working on the show,” said Dorn, “they wanted me to stand in for a guest actor who had to go to the hospital. I did it. We did a run-through, and since I’d worked with the people for a year, I was comfortable. It wasn’t a big deal. I did the lines and did the action.”

The reaction to his small role was very positive. “For two weeks after that,” said Dorn, “everybody was saying, ‘Michael, you’ve got to forget about directing; you’ve got to act. You really are good.’ What made me change my mind is they said, ‘Look, it’s going to take you a long time to direct. It’s just the way it is. And in the meantime, you could act and make some money.’ Being a middle-class kid from Pasadena, I said, ‘OK, that sounds logical.'”

Years later, after his first year of The Next Generation, Dorn let a producer know that he wanted to direct, but was told he had to go to their informal directors’ school. He couldn’t do that due to his makeup requirements for his character so directing had to wait. When he went over to Deep Space Nine though, Dorn had more time as he was in less scenes and so was able to “do the directing school stuff.”

Dorn had no problem with directing, but “the politics of each show” was a challenge. “Even though these are people I’ve known for twenty years,” said Dorn, “it’s a lot of politics, and you just have to navigate it.”

The actor directed four Trek episodes. Three were from Deep Space Nine (In the Cards, Inquisition, When It Rains), and one was from Enterprise (Two Days and Two Nights). Which story did he like best? In The Cards had “a very interesting dichotomy,” said Dorn, “and I like doing that stuff. The second one I did (Inquisition); I liked that better than the first.”

Dorn is “appreciative of getting to direct on Star Trek” and he would like to “direct more,” preferring sitcoms because they are “like doing a little play each week.”

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