G & T Show STLV 2015 Coverage – Doug Drexler Interview
Terry and Nick were very excited to meet with Academy Award winner Doug Drexler and his beautiful wife, Dorothy. The interview is fun and freewheeling and you need to listen to it all to truly appreciate it.
He is an artist, and remembers watching the first season of Star Trek: The Original Series in its first run, in black and white! He has been a long-term original fan, before it was hip, as he says. He recalls being ridiculed for geeking out and it was the kind of thing you hid from others. He knew, even as a teenaged viewer, that the people behind Star Trek were highly intelligent science fiction fans and they took it seriously.
He recalls being a part of trying to save TOS, and being a part of the letter-writing campaign. He was a part of running the Federation Trading Post in New York City. At the time, they were putting together the Star Trek poster books, too. He ended up falling in love with prosthetic character makeup and making friends with Dick Smith. Doug feels that Mr. Smith was the greatest character makeup artist who ever lived.
It turned out that they lived near each other, and they began to call each other. Doug finally got the chance to work on the David Bowie film, The Hunger (with Catherine Deneuvre). He worked on the Jeff Bridges film, Starman, which was a six-month job to work on the rapid maturation scene, as it was a lot of stop-action animation.
He initially worked in Manhattan and worked on The Cotton Club. He worked on Manhunter, directed by Michael Mann. He was noticed by Warren Beatty who was looking for makeup for Dick Tracy. Doug was invited over and was hired to do the makeup, and he won the Academy Award for it. At the time, it was the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Doug wanted to work on TNG and he contacted Bob Justman about working there. It ended up being a long friendship. He met Michael Westmore, who had practically invented Hollywood makeup. The Westmores are a big part of Hollywood makeup history. Doug went to visit Bob Justman, a person he (Doug) had idolized as a child. Bob kept him for meetings, including with Industrial Light & Magic. He was introduced to Eddie Milkis, and then Gene Roddenberry. Gene came in and announced, “We’ll have Picard turn the ship around and surrender.” This was such a shock to Doug!
He returned to watch the filming of Encounter at Farpoint and ended up practically begging for a job with TNG. Doug was on the show for three years and having great fun. But he was practically living on the Enterprise. He met Michael Okuda and gushed over his work, as he loved the interfaces so much. The LCARS interface was believable and logical, and it looked like it was real and it really did something.
When he spoke to Okuda about working in the Art Department, they ended up talking in a shuttle model for privacy! It was a lot like 2001, where the astronauts avoided Hal. He ended up not getting the job, as the opening fell through.
When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came around, Mike Okuda recommended Doug and he was hired. Doug had to have a crash course in Photoshop and the like and did it all in only a few weeks’ time. He feels Mike and Denise Okuda are a lot like family, and that he has something special in common with anyone associated with Star Trek. His time on DS9 was very cooperative and collaborative. He has worked on different shows, where Art and Special Effects Departments don’t work together and are more competitive.
Doug owned up to being a designer of Terok Nor’s Ops panels. He and Michael Westmore put together Cardassian ideas of everything in threes, with curves. He loved working on the Defiant, and designed every panel on the bridge. The idea was for it to look real and not like a lot of spaghetti. The intention was for everything to look and feel functional.
Turning to a different topic, Dorothy revealed that she and Doug got married in Vegas and the Okudas stood up for them!
Getting back to Trek, Doug learned a 3D program called Lightwave and he ended up teaching it to himself. He wanted to get into special effects and felt it would be a good opportunity. This occurred as DS9 was wrapping up. Ronald D. Moore hired him, and Doug ended up doing special effects for Star Trek: Voyager. After two years, the Star Trek: Enterprise program was announced. There had been several proposed looks for the NX-01, but they had all been rejected. The sketches were beautiful, but the CG would not lie. Doug was able to show the model from all angles and fly the ship on flybys. Doug was offered the role of designing the NX-01. For his last two weeks at Foundation Imaging, he would work on the NX-01 on his nights and weekends.
He returned to Paramount and it was like a homecoming. The NX-01 was one of the earliest uses of CG on television. He created the Vulcan ring ship, too. The idea was to have a ship inspired by Matt Jeffries. Jeffries had a failed show called Star Ship with a ring ship, and that was his inspiration. He also designed the Enterprise-J.
He talked about the NX-01 and how cramped and submarine-like it was supposed to look. There is a logical difference to the Enterprise-D and its spaciousness. The challenge with the NX-01 was to make it work with the time period, and the same was true of the Enterprise-J. The idea with the Enterprise-J was to make it feel impossible, like something futuristic to aim for.
When Enterprise was cancelled, he was hired immediately onto Battlestar: Galactica and loved working with Ronald D. Moore. Nick revealed that Galactica means a lot to him, as he was in Iraq when he first saw it on DVD.
Terry was impressed with how hard Doug has worked to continue to keep himself relevant. He is always learning, always growing, and always trying new things. He makes it clear that he loves learning new things and won’t hold onto the old ways. He says it’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face, and he analogizes it to writing with a quill pen instead of with a ballpoint pen. Get with the times, folks!
Doug then was asked about the Academy Awards. He felt it was surrealistic when he was called up to the podium. He has no idea how he stayed calm at the time. But he feels that designing an Enterprise is right up there with winning an Academy Award. He says he kept it in a sock drawer for a long time as he felt it was egotistical to display it. Dorothy told him, the day he won an Emmy, she’d buy a display cabinet. They won Emmys for Galactica and now the awards are proudly displayed in a cabinet.
Doug is over 60! And he doesn’t look it. He attributes it all to a good diet and going to the gym. Doug recalls being at the first Star Trek convention in New York City in maybe 1971.
He is currently working on Defiance and he shows no signs whatsoever of stopping.
We thank you, Doug and Dorothy, from the bottom of our hearts. You made our years! We are humbly grateful for the opportunity to speak to you and get to know you a bit. I know I speak for all of our listeners (as I fangirl squee from Boston to Barstow), when I say that you are a big part of why we are fans.
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She's also a published author (Untrustworthy, published by Riverdale Avenue Books; QSF Discovery 2 Anthology, published by Mischief Corner Books; and The Longest Night Watch Anthology 1 & 2, published by Writers Colony Press), and a prolific fan fiction writer. You can find her adding her fanfiction to our forums, or live tweeting our show.
We understand that she can be bribed with pie.