Interview: The News-Times

René Auberjonois of DS9 is a willing ambassador for the Federation

by Ellen Gray
June 11, 1996
Knight-Ridder Newspapers

PHILADELPHIA – René Auberjonois, you’ll be happy to learn, does not actually sleep in a bucket.

Or at least the vessel in which the actor’s shape-shifting character Odo slumbers on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was not in evidence in the Four Seasons suite he occupied during a recent visit to Philadelphia (though the fruit basket was so small it’s possible the hotel had heard Odo doesn’t eat).

Even for those not familiar with the actor from his six-year stint on Benson, Auberjonois, 56, would be immediately recognizable: He looks just like Odo, but with definition.

Which brings us to The Question.

The actor used to walk onto the stage at Star Trek conventions, turn to the audience and snap “Three hours!” before anyone could even pose it.

But now the makeup that transforms Auberjonois into Odo takes “only” two hours, he said.

That’s because it no longer consists of separate rubber pieces, said Auberjonois, who fought to make it a mask. “They make a new one for me every time I put it on … It sort of feels like I have a bad cold,” he said.

And the real issue, he said, is “not how long the makeup takes, it’s how long you have to wear it.” For the pilot, he wore Odo’s face for 21 hours straight. These days, he said, it’s not uncommon for him to be rubber-faced for a 16-hour day.

“I can’t really eat in it. I can’t really rest in it,” he said, adding, “All that said, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love to hide behind it.”

Auberjonois, whose character looms large in the DS9 cliffhanger season finale the week of June 17 (check local listings), often takes facelessness a step further.

During the series’ summer hiatus, he’s doing a cartoon series, Richie Rich, in which he’ll play the voices of several characters, including Richie’s father. He’s also just finished recording the novelization of Mission: Impossible as a book on tape.

As he finishes his fourth season as part of the now 30-year-old Star Trek franchise, Auberjonois still is a willing ambassador for the Federation.

“I tend to be flip about it, but … Star Trek is the only place you get to do things that aren’t real,” he said.

DS9, the only Star Trek series still in first-run syndication (Star Trek: Voyager is on UPN) has its critics, of course.

“I know that we’re the middle child … and there are some Trekkers who don’t approve of us,” said Auberjonois, noting that the show, conceived during the Los Angeles riots, has a darker tone than the others. “We are not the perfect world,” he said.

But if there’s jealousy between DS9 and Voyager, Auberjonois said he’s not aware of it.

“I personally feel not a shred,” he said. People, he said, sometimes try to interest him in rivalry with other science-fiction shows (including the non-Trek Babylon 5), but to no avail.

“They put all the Chinese restaurants on the same streets. There’s a reason for that … We should all live long and prosper.”

Original post (c) 1996, Distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
AP-NY-06-10-96 1743EDT