EXCLUSIVE: A Look Inside TNG’s “Identity Crisis” Makeup Process

ic_makeupLast month, a collection of rare Polaroid photos surfaced online, featuring what appeared to be behind-the-scenes photos from the Star Trek: The Next Generation makeup department - and it was later confirmed that they were in fact shots of LeVar Burton being converted into the mysterious Tarchannen III alien species from Season Four's "Identity Crisis"!

We managed to get our hands on them, and TrekCore spoke with Gil Mosko and Jill Rockow - two of the primary makeup artists who worked on this episode and appear in the photos - to get the inside story on this memorable (and Emmy Award-nominated) transformation!

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Left: Makeup artists Ed French (in blue), Jill Rockow (in green), and Gil Mosko
(in dark shirt, at the sides) transform LeVar Burton into a Tarchannen III alien (at right).

Gil Mosko: I may be getting old, but I remember everything about the day of that makeup job so well - LeVar Burton had just come off of an eight-day fast that very morning, and his girlfriend kept bringing him cups of warm water with pepper in them!

These photos are continuity shots for the makeup department. They're taken to document how a character looks in various stages of the makeup process, so that if the job ever needs to be repeated - like for a multi-day shoot, etc. - an artist can refer to them when the go to match the makeup to the previous application. This was 1991 - far before digital cameras - so Polaroids are what we always used.

Before the extensive makeup work began, we first had to apply the other components that went along with it – rubber shorts, painted to resemble the final alien design, a pair of feet, a pair of hands, and a headpiece. After all of those other pieces were glued onto LeVar, blended into his skin, and painted in the alien design, we started in on the enlarged veins.

I had manufactured bags and bags of these foam latex veins for the job. We were using a product called GM Foam - which was my company, as I supplied all the foam latex for Star Trek, from The Next Generation all the way through Enterprise.

All of the appliances were glued on to the skin with a silicone prosthetic adhesive called Dow Corning 355 – which was eventually was taken off the market due to its solvent (trichloro, trifluoro ethane) which was causing adverse effects on Earth’s ozone layer. Of course newer, “cleaner” solvents were later found, and other companies would begin to offer their versions of silicone adhesives as well.

Next, the edges of the appliances are blended in by stippling and spatulating a thickened version of the acrylic adhesive known as Pros-Aide, which is ridiculously sticky, even when dry. After drying the Pros-Aide, it’s time to paint!

The white haze you see all over LeVar in the photos is just talc applied to the blended edges to render them un-sticky; it would be brushed off and painted right over.

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In this case, we used an acrylic paint mixed with even more Pros-Aide adhesive - so that the paint would not flake off. We also mixed in a large dose of paint additive that glowed in the dark, which we referred to as “glow juice”.

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Jill Rockow: LeVar wasn’t the only one that had to be made up for this episode. The Mark & Brian morning show, broadcast by the Los Angeles-based radio station KLOS, had come in to broadcast that day’s show from the Star Trek makeup room that morning.

Both DJs were to be made up as background aliens, just like LeVar.

Gil Mosko: Mark and Brian did not have to go through the full, extensive process like LeVar did; they had pre-painted rubber suits to wear, along with removable head pieces. Since they were really only seen in the background, we figured we could get away with that – as opposed to LeVar, who was filmed much closer to the camera during the shoot.

They had to arrive quite early, maybe by 5:00 AM - still not as early as the makeup artists, of course!

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Top: Mark Thompson being made up by Ken Diaz; Mark and Brian Phelps on-screen
Bottom: Interviewing Jonathan Frakes for their morning show (via Star Trek: TNG 365)

Jill Rockow:  But even though they didn’t have the full-body makeup that LeVar wore – which he was in for one long, probably sixteen-or-eighteen hour day – there was still some specific work needed to complete their look. Their head prosthetics were actually two separate parts, a chin piece, and an overall head covering.

Having the chin as a separate component does a lot to add a great deal of movability to the actor wearing it. As we humans speak and move our heads around, our jaw tends to open and close – so keeping it separate adds to the illusion that you’re looking at a fully-realized alien, rather than an actor in a rubber mask.

Once the chin piece was in place, the head is pulled on and glued down to the upper lip and around the eyes. These areas are then made up (or colored) to match the particular skin tone of the alien prosthetics. This way, the person wearing it would be able to speak, and therefore look a lot more convincing. This was sort of a halfway point between a complete pullover mask, and the separate appliances that LeVar wore.

At a certain point, I had to move on to make up some of the other actors for the shoot – it was such a huge process, that even with three of us involved it took nearly five hours – and Kenny Diaz took over their part of the job. Mark and Brian were pretty uncomfortable during the make-up process, and they certainly weren’t shy about letting us know!

Gil Mosko: By lunchtime, they were both totally sick of wearing what was essentially a wetsuit - they got hot and tired, and by that afternoon, they were more than happy to get out of the rigs.

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Gil Mosko was part of the Star Trek makeup team for seven years, where he was part of the Emmy Award-winning team on “Captive Pursuit”, “Distant Voices”, and “Threshold”. He has also been nominated for several other Emmy Awards, including his work on “Identity Crisis”, “Genesis”, “Rules of Acquisition”, “Faces”, and “The Visitor”. He also won two Daytime Emmy Awards for “The Munsters Today.”

Jill Rockow was part of the Star Trek makeup team for twelve years, where she was part of the Emmy Award-winning team on “Captive Pursuit”. She has also been nominated for six other Emmy Awards, including her work on “Identity Crisis”, “The Inner Light”, and “Who Mourns for Morn?”.

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We hope you enjoyed this special look into the world of makeup effects - be sure to check out TrekCore's full review of the TNG Season Four Blu-ray release!

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Order Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4 Blu-ray today!



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  • Chris915

    Is that the scar from LeVar’s surgery he had during BOBW?

    http://trekcore.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ic1.jpg

  • Sykes

    Great report. Thanks Trekcore!

  • James

    I owned the Star Trek 25th Anniversary tape, and I remember the bit about this episode, and the two radio DJs making their cameo. There was a John Tesh interview too from The Icarus Factor. It sure would be cool if that made its way onto the Blu-rays.

    • http://www.randomtuesday.com/ Aatrek

      The interview with the DJs was on the Season 4 DVD set, and the Blu-rays carry that content over.

    • James G.

      I used to watch the tape a lot as a kid. This episode always stands out to me thanks to that special.

  • juhiuhih

    gr8 to read

  • James G.

    “Hey Levar, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news, you get to do an episode using your eyes without the visor. The bad news……”