For Michael Dorn, one of the appeals of taking on the role of the Klingon Worf was taking on a character with no backstory so that Dorn could make the character his own.
When Dorn went to audition for the role of Worf, all had was the name of the character, not even being given a description of what Worf should be. “No, it was seriously just a name,” said Dorn. “They didn’t tell you what to do. They didn’t tell you how they wanted the character to be – nothing. You went in to audition for this character name and that was it. When I started, before I came onto the set, I went to Gene Roddenberry and said: hey, what do you want from this guy? Who is he? And being as smart as he is, he said: don’t listen to what you’ve heard or read or seen in the past, nothing. Just make the character your own. And that’s what I did.”
The lack of a backstory for Worf was a smart move by Roddenberry according to Dorn. “A great opportunity,” he said. “And this is what I’m saying – how smart he is – because that is how you get an actor to really invest in a role. If you say: do what you want with it. Come on, show me. Actors will go: cool! You start thinking about stuff and you get so much from it. I think it was the smartest thing he could have done.”
Dorn’s Worf was an outsider, so viewers saw more than just the fighting Klingons that had been presented before. “The Klingons were always, even in the old days, war-like but very intelligent,” he said. “They weren’t wild or out-of-control. They just believed in life to the fullest. Life, death, everything to the fullest. The only thing that I really brought to this is the Klingon martial arts and as for the Klingons themselves, a little more of who they are outside of these war-like creatures. Also the idea that there’s different Klingons. [Worf was] a Klingon child that was raised by human parents and he’s able to fit basically into their society very well, although with difficulty at times. I didn’t go to the producers and the writers and made a big deal about it. Once I had created the Worf character and gave him who he is, they took off from that. The stuff they wrote for me was amazing.”
Although Worf was somewhat of a Klingon outsider, having been raised by humans, that did not mean he was human and one of his actions was controversial amongst fans, his refusal to give blood to a Romulan who would die without it. “At that point Rick Berman was the producer, and as I read I was a little concerned,” explained Dorn. “I was not afraid or anything, I was just concerned that this would cast Worf in a strange light. I like being the outcast, I like being the guy that goes against the grain. But this was way out there and … in the one where I don’t give the Romulan the blood, he said: We just want to show that Worf isn’t a human being. He doesn’t have to give the Romulan blood. So he’s not going to. And he said: if you order me to, I will. But if you don’t, I’m not going to. You just have to take that. And I went: okay. It made sense. I didn’t know what was going to happen but I think it was a great episode.”