ENTERPRISE CALLS AUBERJONOIS
by Michelle Erica Green
Deep Space Nine's Odo, Rene Auberjonois, brought a rich and varied theatrical background to the franchise as well as fame from many years of playing Clayton Endicott III on Benson. Since DS9's conclusion he has appeared in a number of television films and played big-screen roles in such movies as The Patriot and Inspector Gadget. Recently he guest-starred on the acclaimed shows Judging Amy and The Practice. He also provides the voices for many cartoon characters, including Justice League's Kanjar-Ro, The Legend of Tarzan's Renard and The Little Mermaid's singing Chef Louie.
In this Wednesday's Enterprise episode, 'Oasis,' Auberjonois plays a concerned father who may have a sinister secret. Last month he talked to Trek Nation about what he left behind on Deep Space Nine, whom he's looking forward to working with in the future and which Enterprise plot threads sound suspiciously familiar. You can read Michelle Erica Green's previous interviews with Auberjonois here and here. For more information about Auberjonois' charity work for Doctors Without Borders, please visit RAIL, the Rene Auberjonois Internet Link.
Trek Nation: It must be nice to be popular with this franchise. Did they call and say, 'We have the perfect role for you?'
Rene Auberjonois: I don't know if they said it was the perfect role, but they said they had a script that they would like it if I would consider doing. I looked at it, and I thought it would be great. So I did it, and it was a lot of fun -- it was déjà vu all over again. We were over on the Voyager soundstages, with the same crew, a lot of the same faces, and pretty much the same script!
Trek Nation: The buzz is that you play a character who starts out a good guy and turns into a bad guy.
Auberjonois: And ends up a good guy. He's just misdirected. He's kind of a Prospero character -- Prospero from The Tempest, with his daughter, living on this planet or asteroid. And along comes the Enterprise.
Trek Nation: I've heard conflicting reports on the name of your character -- the official Star Trek site is in disagreement with a number of people claiming to have a copy of the shooting script. What is it?
Auberjonois: You know what? I don't remember! Elcazar, I think? I'm not much help to you there!
Trek Nation: I think the official site said Ezral.
Auberjonois: It was something like that. But then, it's perfectly possible that they changed his name. I never say the name, I don't think anybody says my name, so it might be that they decided to change the name and didn't have to worry about it in the script anyway.
Trek Nation: Had you kept up with the show?
Auberjonois: No. I was embarrassed actually -- I went up to see Rick Berman the day I went over for my costume fitting. I dropped in the office to see Rick, then he and I went over to the set where they're shooting the feature. And as we were in his little golf cart driving across the lot, he said, 'So what do you think of the show? Have you watched the show?' And I said, 'Rick, I'd love to lie to you, but no, I haven't seen it.' And he said, 'You son of a gun, you!'
That night, I noticed it was on, and I said, 'Well, I'd better watch it because I'm going to be doing it.' And I watched it, and it looked good. But it looked...familiar. You know. Talk about déjà vu all over again! It's Star Trek, what can I say?
Trek Nation: Which episode was it? The Klingon one?
Auberjonois: No, it was the doctor. It was an episode with the doctor, he was dating someone, starting a relationship.
Trek Nation: Which hasn't been back since that episode.
Auberjonois: You never know with those things. They can keep bringing them back when you think they're gone, like the Odo/Kira thing.
Trek Nation: I thought the Odo/Kira thing was pretty consistent once they decided to go for it.
Auberjonois: But it took them awhile! They sort of teased with it, and then tried to get away from it but they couldn't. They'd touched the tar baby by then, so they were stuck with it. They had to eventually resolve it.
Trek Nation: From the last time I interviewed you, it sounded like the fans liked the resolution better than you and Nana [Visitor] did.
Auberjonois: Oh, we had a great time -- we loved working with each other, we're very comfortable working with each other. But it just wasn't as interesting to us... You know, I saw a trailer last night when I was at the movies, a trailer for the new Star Wars...
Trek Nation: The Anakin/Amidala love story?
Auberjonois: Oh my god! Dawson's Creek meets Star Wars! Anyway, I don't know why my mind leaped to that.
Trek Nation: What I liked about Odo and Kira was that they weren't seventeen years old, or even as young as Paris and Torres on Voyager. It wasn't a typical drippy romance. I take it there aren't any plans at present to get Odo out of the goo of the Founders?
Auberjonois: Oh, I would be very surprised if he rose again from the muck!
Trek Nation: The Pocket Books series that continues DS9 has plans for Odo. He sent a Jem'Hadar to try to make amends on the station. So they haven't forgotten him.
Auberjonois: I just recorded a Star Trek novel. The Eugenics Wars Part Two. This was all about cloning. It's a little intimidating because you have to do all these different voices -- I said to them when I went in, 'I'm not going to try and imitate Captain Kirk, I just can't do that. Or Spock even.'
Trek Nation: Yet William Shatner is probably the most mimicked actor ever to appear on Star Trek.
Auberjonois: Well, I didn't mimic. I just read it straight. It was fun, but it's a little intimidating even to do their dialogue.
Trek Nation: I assume you've met most of them by now at conventions? What about Enterprise -- which of the actors was most of your interaction with?
Auberjonois: With Scott, which was great. He's just a completely charming, focused, nice, light spirit on the set. It's the happiest Star Trek set I've ever been on. They're really having a great time. They're all happy to be there, and they all get along great.
I think Scott sets the tone. He's a real gentleman and shows real concern for everybody from top to bottom. He's great.
Trek Nation: Did you know him before, or any of the other actors?
Auberjonois: No. I'd never even met Scott, although we have mutual friends. But I hadn't worked with any of them. Of course the crew, as I said, were the same guys and gals.
Trek Nation: Did they tell you why they thought of you for this role?
Auberjonois: Rick said when they were sitting in the casting, and they were hashing out how they wanted the character to be, somebody said, 'It should be sort of like Rene -- not Odo, but the way Rene is.' And Rick said, 'Well, why don't we try to get Rene?' So they did. So that was nice.
Trek Nation: Was it like a nostalgic reunion or strange to go back to the lot?
Auberjonois: There was a certain amount of nostalgia, but it was strange only in the sense that it's so familiar. The craft service table is the same, a lot of wardrobe, the makeup trailer is the same, the makeup people are the same. It felt very familiar.
Trek Nation: How much makeup do you wear for Enterprise?
Auberjonois: Very little. I have sort of Dax-like spots on my forehead. It was nothing, no big deal.
Trek Nation: What's your favorite thing about this character?
Auberjonois: He's a character with a daughter, just as Prospero has Miranda. He's trying to protect her from the outside world -- from the men! He's mistaken about something -- I don't want to give away the gimmick of the plot, because it has a gimmick to it.
Trek Nation: It's called 'Oasis,' right? Do they mistake your planet for an oasis?
Auberjonois: No, they come down to the planet because there's a wrecked ship down there that's been there, so they come down to see if there are any parts that they can use from it. It's mostly a love story between my character's daughter and what was his name? Tucker. The engineer. I'm not good at catchy blurbs -- you'll have to get your catchy blurb from somewhere else. Or make one up!
Trek Nation: The web site says the crew discovers an alien race and when Tucker helps repair their vessel, he meets an attractive alien who falls in love with him.
Auberjonois: That actor [Connor Trinneer] is good; he has a good stage background too.
Trek Nation: Of all the characters, I think they're writing his the most consistently.
Auberjonois: It always takes awhile to find out who the characters are. The writers and producers always have an idea, then they cast the role and the instrument starts to tell them how to play the music. The Vulcan [Jolene Blalock] is a real Hilary Swink look-alike, but I had very little to do with her.
Trek Nation: You think? The features of hers that they are emphasizing on the show are not the ones that remind me of Hilary Swink.
Auberjonois: Just as they did to Terry Farrell.
Trek Nation: And to Nana Visitor in later seasons.
Auberjonois: There's a real need to present a certain look. Paramount wanted a sex thing on Enterprise. And a nostalgic feel, like a return to the real old show. It was enough to have one neurotic Star Trek!
Trek Nation: Ha! Now, is that Deep Space Nine or Voyager?
Auberjonois: Voyager was the boring Star Trek! And I say that with the greatest of affection. I think it got to be very tough -- the last seasons, they always run out of steam. How many times can you put together 26 different stories without running out?
Trek Nation: Do you miss Deep Space Nine at all?
Auberjonois: I miss it certainly in respect to the fact that I love being part of an ensemble and being part of a steady gig. I have that kind of work ethic. I came out of repertory theater, where I worked 50 weeks a year, and I loved working with the people. And it was fun. But I must say, when it was done, it was done. It was time to go. So I don't wish I were back doing it.
Trek Nation: Do sense any resentment among Deep Space Nine actors that there's talk about pulling the Voyager actors into the movie franchise, and in fact Kate Mulgrew will be in the next film, but not so much talk about doing the same with DS9?
Auberjonois: I can't speak for anybody else, but there's certainly not resentment on my part. It's not surprising to me. They could pull the Voyager cast in because they were more Starfleet. I never imagined that my character would ever be part of an ongoing film franchise because it really is all about Starfleet. So I could see why it would happen with Voyager.
Trek Nation: I'm dying to see Kira in command. Just one scene.
Auberjonois: So would Nana. I'm sure she'd love to.
Trek Nation: Do you get recognized by fans a lot? You don't look as much like Odo as the actors who played humans look like their characters. And your voice is higher.
Auberjonois: Oh yeah, but I would have to say that it's evenly split between Benson and Star Trek. It's my face without wrinkles. I did a voice for Odo, but people don't recognize you by your voice.
Trek Nation: And you're still doing conventions.
Auberjonois: Actually, Armin [Shimerman] just called me yesterday because we're supposed to appear in Orlando on March 22nd and 23rd. At this point we've answered about every question you could possibly imagine about Deep Space Nine, so we do this thing called Theatrical Jazz, where we do a show of bits and pieces of things from plays and literature, poetry...stuff that we like. It's fun.
Trek Nation: I know the Dominion actors do the Cardassian Shakespeare Hour or something.
Auberjonois: We were the ones who sort of originated that concept, with Dave Scott. Nana and I started it with Love Letters.
I really do the conventions now for two reasons. Primarily to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, because I give everything I get from that to Doctors Without Borders. But also to get the free air travel. This particular trip I'm cashing in my round-trip ticket to go to Ireland first to see my dad, who's 91 years old.
Trek Nation: Do you have any plans to work with your children?
Auberjonois: I have no plans, but I would love to do that. I look forward to doing that, but there's nothing in the works. Although people keep trying to think of things. It just hasn't presented itself yet. I worked with my son when he was much younger; we did L.A. Law together, where I played his father and he played a kid who was suing his father for alienation of affection or something. It was great. And we also did Every Good Boy Deserves Favour together.
Trek Nation: A play I saw with the Next Generation cast. Stewart, Spiner, Frakes, McFadden and Colm Meaney.
Auberjonois: But they were just a pale imitation of us! You know we originated it -- Tom Stoppard directed it and Andre Previn conducted it. We did it at the Metropolitan Opera and at Kennedy Center, and here in Los Angeles at the Philharmonic. We were the original.
My daughter is here in town doing a play, and her dog is staying with us. We live up in the hills, so he has access to thousands of acres of wilderness. And he's adorable, but he's sort of a ten-month-old.
Trek Nation: Speaking of L.A. Law, I hear you became a judge twice. Will you be back on Judging Amy or The Practice?
Auberjonois: I played a judge, but I think they did away with him pretty efficiently at the end of the fourth episode of Judging Amy. He got his comeuppance, and I don't think he'll be coming back. On The Practice, the same character that I played last season -- nice character, Judge Mantz -- they'll probably bring him back. Not as a regular recurring role, but they'll probably bring him back once a season. He's an interesting character.
I continue to do other stuff. Thursday I'm going in to do something on The Mummy, I think -- is there are cartoon series called The Mummy? Something like that. I'm recording a novel tomorrow, and something else today -- I keep doing voice work. But mostly right now I'm doing wire sculptures, working when something interesting comes along, and otherwise taking it easy.
Trek Nation: Do you have any must-do-before-you-retire projects?
Auberjonois: I'm never going to retire. I don't work that way really. I just wait for something to present itself, and then I consider it. I find whenever I think, 'I must do that,' it's something that I really didn't need to do to begin with.