One of the more unique aspects of sci-fi television series is that it often presents us with non-human characters, which are used in a variety of fashions to help bring the world of the show to life. The only problem is that the majority of these non-human characters are played by human actors (the rest being CGI or puppetry), and that means heavy makeup and prosthetics. Some, like Christopher Judge’s makeup for Teal’c, is quite simple and unobtrusive. Others, like Michael Dorn, not so much; his forehead now has permanent discoloration from wearing the Worf prosthetic for nearly fifteen years. And yet, there are still people in shorter roles that suffered far greater for their art. Here are 4 of the longest, most difficult, or most painful costumes seen on television.
4. Seven of Nine–Star Trek: Voyager
Seven of Nine often catches a lot of shit for the catsuit, with accusations that her character only existed for fanservice, but few people know just how agonizing it was to wear (enough so that a list solely about her appeared on Reddit a few months ago). It’s more than just an extremely rigid and tight corset, having caused a great degree of breathing difficulty and even cut off Jeri Ryan’s blood flow on occasion. That’s why the silver suit disappeared and the variety of other suits eventually came around, which were still quite form-fitting even as they became more reasonable for her… you know, continued existence. By contrast, the facial prosthetics seem to have been easy, which is pretty rare (as you’ll soon find out).
Special mention goes to the full-on borgified outfit she had to wear initially and on a number of other occasions, which was quite heavy and hot itself.
3. Delenn–Babylon 5
Babylon 5 is a show with a lot of aliens with all ranges of makeup. Londo and the other Centauri, for example, really only had to deal with crazy hairdos. The Narn like G’Kar, however, had lots of facial prosthetics and contacts and makeup all over. Somewhere in between fell the Minbari like Delenn, who had some prosthetics (bony ridge along the back of the head, tiny ears) but otherwise had normal skin tones, if bald heads and widened nose bridges. The most prominent Minbari on the show was Delenn, a female who eventually went through a strange metamorphosis that changed the make up altogether. Wearing a bald cap is pretty uncomfortable, and that bone ridge had to throw off your balance and get old after a while, but you’d think that the metamorphosis to a more human look fairly early on would’ve made things easier, right? Nope! The modified makeup actually took even longer to apply, as the hair and ridges didn’t play nice together. I’m not sure if Mira Furlan expected it to be easier, but it certainly didn’t turn out that way.
According to IMDB, flash photography will cause her eyes to tear up as a result of the makeup. How’s that for weird and unexpected side effects?
2. Rev Bem–Andromeda
Rev Bem was an interesting character from the first season of Andromeda, that other show bearing Gene Roddenberry’s name about an interstellar utopia. As a reformed member of the Magog, the civilization devouring evil aliens that can’t even muster the Borg-like reasoning of “it’s for the best,” he helped to show that this otherwise always-evil Orc-like race didn’t have to be this way. He was portrayed by actor Brent Stait until the second season, when he was forced to leave the show. While it was initially believed (and commonly repeated) that he developed a latex allergy and was no longer able to wear the costume, Stait eventually stated, in 2011, the answer was simpler.
See, the Magog outfit was kind of like a gorilla suit, with its full body fur (apparently Yak hair), and that’s on top of the heavy prosthetics and makeup that even puts Worf to shame. Imagine wearing a giant latex bodysuit that keeps in all the sweat plus a thick fur coat that traps body heat on top, then standing under hot studio lights for 8-12 hours a day. It’s no wonder the man eventually left the role, and his later return appearances involved a toned, more humanoid version of the same makeup. With the direction the show ended up heading in, maybe it’s for the best that Rev wasn’t around to see it.
While Andromeda‘s Brent Stait was merely suspected of developing makeup allergies, Farscape‘s Virginia Hey was not so lucky. Hey’s character Zhaan, as a Delvian monk, was bald and all-blue, which meant makeup from head to toe was necessary in a few cases. Yes, Hey actually did shave her hair and eyebrows for the three years she was on the show, so a lot more of her skin was in direct contact with the makeup than for many other such characters. Between the actual dangers posed by the makeup, the early casting calls to get it applied, and the long hours television required, Hey’s kidneys were actually at risk of failure for a while.
And yet, in spite of all that, she didn’t want to leave the show permanently; instead, she requested a much smaller role that would allow time to rest and a more normal life, but some kind of misunderstanding led to the character being written out of the show. And she still managed to appear a few times after that in new footage! You can really tell that her loss hit the cast as hard as it did the Moya crew, and it became a pivotal moment in the show, which is well known for its ability to go with the flow.
Are there any actors you know of that went through just as much for their careers?