When Dominic Burgess heard that CBS was making a new Star Trek series centered on Jean-Luc Picard, his action was swift and direct. 

“I called my manager and told her, ‘I don’t care… I’ll be a sliding door in the background on that show,’” says Burgess. “I’ll hide in a computer console… Anything!”

Trek wouldn’t be just another role for Burgess. His acting resume is impressive — he’s appeared in multiple films and dozens of series in an incredible variety of roles — but a Star Trek role would be special. He’s a Trekkie. 

“I wrote a hand written note to Liz Dean who was casting, telling her about my love for the show,” said Burgess. “I’m forever grateful that she let me come in and read, and eternally grateful that she let me have a couple of takes to get my mouth around some of the twisty technobabble.”

Dominic Burgess as Mr. Vup | Courtesy of CBS
Dominic Burgess as Mr. Vup. Courtesy of CBS

“If you were to tell twelve-year-old me that one day, I’d be on set of a STAR TREK series… It’s just honestly a dream come true,” says Burgess. “Dream. Dream. Dream.”

You may not recognize Burgess at first glance, as his recognizable face was covered in layers of makeup and rubber when he appeared as Mr. Vup, on the Picard episode “Stardust City Rag.” 

Mr. Vup was the tough-guy reptiloid whose sense of smell was so good, that he could tell if a person was lying. He worked for the gangster Bjayzl, and served as both her muscle and her first line of defense. Mr. Vup is the first of this new “reptiloid” species to be seen in Trek, and it was Burgess’ job to breathe life into this unusual new life form.

“If you were to tell twelve-year-old me that one day, I’d be on set of a STAR TREK series… It’s just honestly a dream come true,” says Burgess. “Dream. Dream. Dream.”

“It’s always a thrill to work in prosthetics and as a strange new creature,” says Burgess. “The whole creative team put so much care and effort into [the design]. 

“Neville Page (lead creature designer) showed me mock ups of the make-up and was so excited to hear my thoughts and ideas, we talked ponytails, and nose-rings and all kinds of things,” says Burgess. He also praised the special effects team at Vincent Van Dyke Studios, saying that they were “master artists.”  

“To be Mr. Vup and be the face of a new species? Divine!” Burgess says.

Mr. Vup greeting Captain Rios. Courtesy of CBS
Mr. Vup greeting Captain Rios. Courtesy of CBS

While he’s appeared on “The Flash,” “Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.,” “The Magicians” and other shows that earned him much nerd-cred, working with the crew on Picard was extra special for him. 

Growing up in Stoke-on-Trent, England, he’d catch rerun episodes of The Original Series on occasion; he’d watch an odd episode of The Next Generation on BBC 2 or Sky 1. He enjoyed the films, especially The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country. His on-and-off relationship with Trek ended when he caught an episode or two about a little ship and its crew, which were thrust into the Delta Quadrant.

“It wasn’t until Voyager came along that I was able to sit down and watch the show from pilot through to finale, in order, without missing a beat,” says Burgess. 

“So Voyager is, I guess, my Trek show, just because I spent seven years religiously following it. I bought the VHS tapes, model kit, and everything!”

He says that now Trek is his “comfort food,” and he’s watched all the series multiple times. So when he got to work with Seven of Nine herself… the word “thrilling” doesn’t quite cover his emotions.

“Jeri was so lovely [and] obviously, as I’d mentioned I was a big VOYAGER fan, so I really had to stop myself from geeking out too hard,” says Burgess. “But you’d be right in thinking that there were happy tears freeflowing, on my part, throughout the shoot.”

“So Voyager is, I guess, my Trek show, just because I spent seven years religiously following it. I bought the VHS tapes, model kit, and everything!”

Burgess also said working with Patrick Stewart will be a career highlight, as well as working with Jonathan Frakes, who directed the episode. 

“I went up to the studios where they were filming for a prosthetic make-up test, and following that was the first time that I met Jonathan,” says Burgess. “That man just exudes warmth and excitement; he threw open his arms and said, ‘Welcome to the family!’ Afterwards, I secretly wept happy tears.” 

“And on set? Jonathan [creates] the template for the kind of set that I’d love to run,” says Burgess. “Joyous. Engaged. It was a thrill to watch.” 

“You can feel the love and respect between Patrick and Jonathan oozing out of every pore. It was very special.”

Dominic Burgess (as Vup) with director Jonathan Frakes. Courtesy of CBS
Dominic Burgess (as Vup) with director Jonathan Frakes. Courtesy of CBS

Toward the end of the episode, Captain Rios shot Mr. Vup. The giant lizard went down… but there was no conclusive evidence that he was in fact dead. Vup was one of these characters that you’d almost expect to pop up in future Trek episodes. If that happens, Burgess is ready to reprise the role.

“I would jump at the chance to return, in any capacity,” says Burgess. “I don’t know if there’s any kind of return planned for him. He didn’t disintegrate, and that laser blast didn’t go all the way through, right? Right?”

“So maybe his reptilian skin kept him safe? Now he has a beef with Rios? Yes please!” says Burgess. “Maybe all Beta Annari look alike? Or maybe his cousin Mr. Vap is out for revenge?”

“But I don’t know. Even if Mr. Vup is in the great reptilian sand pit in the sky, I’ll still be watching as a fan.”

Burgess is currently sheltering at home, like many of us, and is ready to get back to work once the crisis has passed. There are a few places you’ll be able to see him over the next few months. Look for Burgess on an episode of “Better Things” in the next couple of weeks. He’ll make an appearance on Amazon’s new horror anthology show, “Them: Covenant,” and he’ll be in the feature film “Breaking News in Yuba County.” 

If you look at his IMDB page, you’ll see how busy Burgess is and his part in shows and films. To be a part of these productions, he is grateful.

“Each role I’m fortunate to work on is so different than the last. There’s always something new and interesting to explore,” says Burgess. 

“But my favorite shows and projects to work on are the ones where there’s a real spirit of play and collaboration. When you work on a show where everyone is engaged and wanting to tell the best story possible, that’s a dream.” 

Watch the complete first season of Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access.