Live at Pensacon 2017: Star Trek Deep Space Nine Panel with Terry Farrell and René Auberjonois
Sunday, February 19, Pensacola, FL
Originally published in the ORACLE newsletter
(Editor’s note: The following is transcribed from an audio recording of the event. The voices of the onstage host and audience members were not always clearly audible, and their comments and questions are mostly paraphrased rather than written out in full. Any errors or omissions in the answers given by René or Terry are the responsibility of the transcriber. If you’d like to listen to this 40-minute event for yourself, please check out the URL at the end of this article. —Marguerite)
(Applause and cheers as René and Terry come on stage)
Terry Farrell: There you guys are.
René: Hi. I didn’t expect to see so many of you here. That’s very nice.
Host: How have you been doing at Pensacon so far? Have you had a chance to get around and see some people, see some things?
Terry: Not so much.
Host: Not so much?
René: You know what happens is, you fly in, they take you to the hotel, then you go to sleep, and then they come and pick you up, and they bring you here, and then you get to see all the nice people. So, I guess in that way, we’ve seen Pensacola through the eyes of the people. How’s your neck? Terry…did her neck.
Terry: I did my neck. I pinched a nerve…! (sympathy “aww” from audience) Oh, thank you! I feel so much better now. (laughter)
Host: Was it some bizarre karate move or something?
Terry: I wish. Of course not. It was just, I was stretching before I was going to go downstairs and get on the treadmill, so I didn’t go down to the treadmill. I just got finished tweeting, “Move it!” and then I was like, “I guess not.” (laughter) Not this morning. Holding a little tension in. I’m moving back to Los Angeles. So I’m having a feeling that’s what this is because as soon as I leave you guys, tomorrow morning, I’m back to getting my house ready to sell. Yeah.
René: This is a beautiful theater. It looks like it has some history in it. (responses from audience) Does it? I love theaters that have ghosts. (laughter) I mean, seriously.
Host: In case you didn’t know, Pensacola is the oldest U.S. settlement….not permanent. But somebody first landed here, we have the five flags, starting from the Spanish…
Host: Yes. (applause) They give tours with ghost stories, Civil War bunkers and things like that. Good times.
Host: Let me ask you…Deep Space Nine tends to be a little bit controversial in the Star Trek genre, in fact there was a little bit of a conversation yesterday where you were the black sheep of Star Trek.
René: Uh huh.
Host: Has that changed over the years, as things evolve? Do people know what they want versus want what they know?
René: Well. (To Terry) What do you have to say? (laughter) I promised not to talk too much, because, you know.
Terry: Black sheep?
Host: You were a space station, and I think a lot of people were upset…
René: Listen, I think we wear that, if you want to put a badge on it, I think being the black sheep of the franchise is a great badge to wear….
Terry: Yep. It’s an honor.
René: Yeah. And I do think that it is the show that benefits the most now that a lot of the audience is seeing it on Netflix or…they’re able to watch the arc of the show. When it was one episode coming every week for seven years, that demanded a kind of focus that not all audiences were ready to give it. They wanted to have a story each week that had a kind of completeness to it. And I think that now, my sense from the audiences that are experiencing it as the arc…I think it was the first one, maybe the only one, to have an arc….
Terry: Yeah, I think it was.
René: …that you needed to
follow it. Now I believe it is
benefitting from that and the complexity of the stories and the complexities of the characters….
Terry: And our relationships.
René: Yeah, and the relationships.
Terry: They’re subtle things.
René: But that’s up to
you. Obviously the fact that you
bothered to come out here on a Sunday almost still morning to hear us try to articulate anything…. (laughter)
Host: (partially inaudible, something about fans being heartbroken that there wasn’t that intro, there was just music versus that “going boldly to explore” speech)
René: I never thought of that!
Terry: I never did either, because I thought our music was beautiful, that whole thing was amazing.
René: That’s right, there was no “Captain’s Log”.
Host: In itself, the show explored new grounds as far as the whole franchise went. To me, as a very big fan of the show, I always thought the scenarios were much deeper than in the other ones. Your characters…there was an awareness of how other people perceived them. Quark says to Jake Sisko, “Nobody thinks of themselves as being nefarious.” They all have our own cause. (To René) Your character had almost a god-like status, and (to Terry) your character had the perspectives of several lives. Was there much conversation on that subject? It might be more obvious on Netflix, people may have a greater appreciation of that. Were there any particular themes that have come up, that people have appreciated?
Host: And there’s silence.
René: And the silence echoes….
Host: (apologetically, something about the danger of having a fan act as interviewer)
Terry: No, you’re absolutely…you’re asking, it’s a big concept, it’s difficult, to pull together an answer takes some thought.
René: The thing is, when you go to work, you start a show, and there’s a character written on the page, whether it’s Jadzia or Odo or whoever, and as an actor, you look at the words, and you try to figure out what it is that the writers, who have envisioned the character, what they want you to give them. And you do your best to interpret the words. And then, over time, you’re like an instrument playing their music, but pretty soon they have to start writing to your instrument. I think actually that was something that I noticed most clearly (to Terry) with the development of your character. When you came in… I think the sort of crass, Ferengi-Paramount people were thinking, “We’ve got a hot chick in here, she’ll be the sex symbol, that’ll be great! (laughter) That’ll be good, that’s what she’ll do.” (Terry laughs) I really think what you developed was a much more complex character, and I’m not sure they saw that coming.
Terry: Yeah, when I first got the part, they didn’t know what they wanted. Every time I came in they would describe me in another way, and give me limitations, which made it very difficult. And I had difficult dialogue. To the point where I really…I felt helpless. I felt like I couldn’t make a decision without it being a wrong decision. And they were worried about me, so they hired an acting coach, which also made me feel demoralized, like, “Oh my god, I can’t make a decision, they don’t know what they want, and now it’s my fault,” like I said, “Now I don’t know how to do my job?” It felt like I was falling backwards.
René: When did you finally feel like, “Okay…fuck ‘em all.” (laughter) “I’m just gonna do what I do.”
Terry: Like fuck them? I got Ivana Chubbock to work with me, and when I worked with her, the first time we worked on a scene together, she said, “Well, you’re a good actress, there’s nothing wrong with your acting, you need a dialogue coach. That’s what you need.”
René: Just to learn the damn lines.
Terry: Yeah. You’re not getting enough sleep, there’s no time for you to do it. You know, that’s really difficult, not only to have the discipline to do it, but if they only give you a night, overnight, of turnaround, it’s nearly physically impossible to get your make-up off, well, first of all, drive back and forth to the studio, get your make-up off, learn your lines, have dinner, wake up, have breakfast…my god! You don’t have enough hours to yourself to actually get your job done. But she really helped me, too, because they would get up her nose and she would tell me exactly what they’d say, and she’d say, “You know what, they’re telling me they want this to be more serious,” she said, “but I like how you bring your sense of humor to it, so I want you to keep doing that.” So basically, she would give me this note about this particular person, and she would say, “Any time you’re feeling frustrated, think ‘fuck him’.” (laughter and applause) And then I got that in my body as Dax. And it’s interesting, I was doing yoga at the time, like my Warrior 1, 2, and 3s became like my armor that I wore as I wore my character. It took a while for me to balance that out, I was carrying around some anger and some hard-core protection, to protect myself emotionally. But it was Ivana believing in me that made a difference for me, and then they started to write better for me and I started to get my confidence up. But it was hard, it was really hard.
René: That’s the process, especially in…because even though, in terms of the character roster, in terms of Star Trek, certain iconic…you know, I was clearly the alien character, I was a direct descendant, I could not have existed—I mean Odo could not have existed—if Spock had not existed, or Data had not existed. So I was always very aware of my responsibility to that aspect of it. But also that I’m not them, I have different rhythms…. So the process of the writers and producers, that they had in their mind, that Michael Pillar wrote, was a young Clint Eastwood. Now, I was already in my 50s (laughter) and certainly wasn’t a Clint Eastwood kind of character….
Terry: Oh, come on! (laughter) You sexy devil, you! (laughter)
René: So I don’t know why they decided, “Well, let’s let him play it!” I don’t know where I’m going with this, but that’s what happens, when you come into a role, when you start to meet a role, that you are going to be living for six or seven years of your life, and you sort of knew that was going to be the case because that’s what happens with the Star Trek franchise. Usually.
Terry: Well I’d like to say I think that also, in hiring you, I’m pretty certain that your reputation for being a talented actor must have preceded you…. (audience cheers and whoops and applauds)
René: (to Terry) I’ll pay you later for that. (laughter)
Terry: I’ll take cash. (laughter)
Host: I’ll take a moment here to get some questions from the audience.
Audience: (Thank you, and what was the funniest scene or out-take for them?)
René: Gosh. The question I can never answer. You know what? I don’t know about you, but whenever anyone says, “What was the best…?” when it has an E-S-T at the end of it, like “the funniest”… But the thing is, we weren’t a “funny” set. TNG, they were always laughin’ and kickin’ around and having a great ol’ time, and we were (in somber voice) serious. (laughter)
Terry: We were.
René: All our characters
were neurotic and screwed up.
Terry: Except for me. I was. But Dax wasn’t. (laughter)
René: And I think a lot of the tenor of a show is dictated by the captain. And Avery, with this incredible dignity and power and almost dangerous kind of vibe that he gave off. And he demanded—personally, as an actor, and as his character—he demanded real commitment and seriousness. There was not a lot of screwing around on the set. (To Terry) Can you think of anything hysterically funny to tell them? Ha Ha Ha, let’s laugh. (laughter)
Terry: No. I mean, there are things that are funny now but at the time when I was bawling my eyes out it wasn’t very funny. (laughter). Working with Colm. But then that would be frustrating in and of itself because he wouldn’t know his lines, he’d come in and learn them as we were lighting, and “I can’t get my lines down if you don’t know your lines”, and “Whaaat is he talking about?” Then we’d film and he’d have it all down and I’d be flustered, I wasn’t ready for him to be…. Anyway. It’s crazy, I don’t even know how to describe what that is. And then, when he was off camera, he’d just have this way of making like a face, like he’d do it on purpose. (laughter) A test of your concentration, and it would be like at 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning, and you’re gonna break.
Terry: So, not funny to tell a story funny but funny like you’re not supposed to be laughing so you start laughing, that kind of thing. Like something silly happens when you’re in elementary school and you know you’re gonna get in trouble but you can’t help but laugh? Like that. (laughter)
Audience: First of all, Deep Space Nine IS my favorite Star Trek and I don’t care what anybody says (applause and cheers). Second, René, you played another one of my favorite characters in Little Mermaid (more cheers), I was wondering if you would say my favorite phrase, please? “Les poissons, les poissons, hee hee hee haw haw haw…” (cheers and laughter)
René: Terry must be so bored with hearing me: (sings) “Les poissons, les poissons, how I LOVE les poissons…” (cheers and applause) The first time, I think we were in the make-up room together, and we didn’t really know each other, she turned and she said, “Oh! Sing ‘Les Poissons’!” (laughter)
Terry: And he did! He sang the whole song for me! And then he used to yell at me for not knowing my lines….
René: I never yelled at you!
Terry: Yes, you did.
René: She once turned to me and said—they were fixing her make-up, and the director was giving us notes and things, and she came in a little late because they were doing that—and she sat down, and she didn’t really know what it was like in the control room, or something, and I turned to her, I’m such a control freak, and I’m like, “Well, what he wants you to…” and she said, “Oh, shut up.” (laughter) That’ll tell you. And I did! For six months! (laughter)
Terry: There was one scene where I had terrible lines, we were looking at something…I don’t remember what it was…and I couldn’t get my lines right, and René was like, “Oh, can somebody write it down for her, please!?” (laughter) And we would, we would, but there’s no place to put it that the camera doesn’t see it.
René: God. Now, that’s all I do. When I do Madame Secretary, which I do a couple of times a year, and I have these complicated lines, like she had (he laughs) and I walk on the set and I say, “Let’s write those lines down!” (laughter) “Get those lines written down!”
Terry: I did that for Running Mates. It’s the freedom of being old enough to not give a shit. (laughter) (inaudible, about real tears, fuck that) I don’t want to have to remember anything that sad, so let’s just move forward.
René: When I was young, there would be stories about the fact that Marlon Brando never learned his lines. And that he would always have them written down somewhere, in fact to the degree that sometimes he would make the actor that he was talking to put the script on his chest, if the camera was behind the actor and Marlon Brando was talking to him. Or on his forehead, even. (laughter) And I would think, “Oh, that’s disgraceful! How terrible!” And now I realize that he really knew what he was doing. (laughter) But as an actor, he knew, learning your lines—and when you guys, people say “how do you ever learn your lines?”—that’s the least important part of your work as an actor. It’s a pain, especially if they’re very complicated lines. But that’s just craft, that’s work. But acting, and making those lines sound organic and natural and mean something, that has nothing to do with—
Terry: That’s the craft.
René: Yeah. Worrying about whether you know your lines gets in the way of your being able to actually fill it with life and believeability. And so I have no shame now. “Write it down, write it down!”
Audience: My question is for Terry. (About what inspiration you draw on for a character like Dax, you had seven other lives, so was it a lot more complex, would you have to draw from seven different inspirations?)
Terry: What was really
great, in the beginning, I did let that torture me a bit, and then I just came
to the realization I can only play what was right in front of me. Because just
like you can’t play all different emotions and different parts of yourself at
all times, you have to be present in the moment, so I had to play what was on
the paper. And what I was really talking about under the lines, but to worry
about whether it was Leila or Tobin, that’s as complicated as trying to play
every part of you that you’ve ever been in your lifetime. I kind of likened the
lifetimes to, I was one kind of person growing up in Iowa, that was a version
of me, and then when I moved to New York City and became a fashion model, that
was another version of me, and then I moved to LA and I became an actress and
that was one version of me and then I left my career and followed a movie star
and that was another version of me. So these are all evolutions of who I am
that eventually make me who I am today, but to me, that’s how I made all of the
lifetimes of Dax make sense to me, that they are just different periods in
Dax’s life that came to this culmination that became Jadzia Dax.
Does that make sense?
René: Very much so.
Terry: Okay, cool. Thanks. (applause)
Audience: I just want to give a shout out to Adam Nimoy’s upcoming DS9 documentary and remind everybody to go check out the fundraiser (applause)
Audience: A few months ago I got to listen to Aron Eisenberg’s description of how he came up with the Ferengi dance for Jadzia’s bachelorette party. I wondered if you had any funny stories from your perspective on that party and the wedding.
Terry: What I have to offer from that is I had a girlfriend, or I have a girlfriend, actually, she’s still a very good friend of mine, we traveled to Providence, Rhode Island, and Bernice was very little—she was probably two-and-a-half, three?— and she used to love to do this thing, and she called it “Shirley cat” (demonstrates: “Shirley cat: haaah!”) (laughter), so that was my contribution to the dance. (laughter and applause) I don’t know why that popped in my head, but believe me, when the director says, “make it up!” well, we’re just gonna pull it from anywhere we can get it. (laughter) You know, you’re just gonna have to invest in that Deep Space Nine documentary! Basically, in a nutshell, it was the end of our contracts for the sixth season. (crinkle of paper, René is unwrapping a lozenge or something) I like that you’re, just get the freaking mint out…. (laughter) He’s freaking sick of hearing this.
René: I was being very subtle and quiet.
Terry: Thank you.
René: (finished unwrapping) Go ahead.
Terry: So, now that I have permission. Nutshell, given a take it or leave it offer, I wasn’t okay with that after six years of working my ass off on this show, and I think that I’d grown a lot as an actress and I thought I did a really good job and I think the way I feel appreciated when I do work is when I get paid more. (applause) It was one of those…it wasn’t a raise where you go (brightly) “Oh, thank you!” It was like a (flat) “All right, well…thank you.” (laughter) And there were a couple of actors that were allowed to go out and do other things, I was not. I asked if I could, the answer was “No.” That was before the situation came up so I already knew by example that I wasn’t going to be given any kind of…. There was a half-hour show, I think you’ve heard of it, called Seinfeld (ahhhs from audience) and Jerry wanted me to come in for it, and I couldn’t, because they wouldn’t let me out for the five days. And as you know, there were just a couple of people on the show, me and maybe two others, so obviously a heavy burden on me on the Deep Space Nine set… (uncertain laughter) No, seriously, that was confusing. There were so many of us on the show, if I was gone for five days, there were plenty of episodes where I’d come on and you’d hear my comm voice or you’d see me in one scene, it’s not like they couldn’t have been worked out, but this person did not want to make that happen for me. Nope. Take it or leave it. I said, “It doesn’t have to look like money. Can I do less episodes, can I be a recurring…?” No. It’s take it or leave it. So, it was a terrible year, that sixth season, because this producer was really rough on me, would call me and have other people approach me, trying to make me feel badly, it just gave me more resolve that I was doing the right thing. And I played Dax for six years, so if somebody tried to bully me and take advantage of me was not going to happen. What it really did was just make me feel more right in the decision I was making. Because I was trying to do what was right for me, and I was feeling really burnt out, and I was just really exhausted and I just wanted to either be given enough money that I felt like, “Okay, that gives me a reason to keep plowing through” or let me do less work so I can get some rest and have a life, because I don’t have a life. You know, I didn’t have a family or anything, it’s just really hard to go it alone. And so that’s what happened.
Audience: Thank you. (applause)
Audience: (Question for René, about directing episodes, especially this fan’s favorite, “Waltz”. The performances were magnificent, watching Dukat slowly going into madness)
René: You know, as I referred to my “control freak” aspect of my personality, I’ve always loved to collaborate and throw in ideas or whatever. But I don’t have a director’s personality. I’m not a chess player, which you need to be. You need to see the long game, and I’m not that, I live in the moment, I go from moment to moment. But at one point, Jonathan Frakes was directing an episode and I was talking to him about being an actor moving into directing and he said, “You have to do it. You have to do it!” He said, “Where else are they gonna give you a chance to get an education that would cost thousands of dollars if you went to the UCLA Film School, and you’ll get to do it. You’ve GOT to do it!” And Rick Berman was encouraging me to do it. So I finally said, “Okay, I’ll…I’ll….” And you have to go through a kind of a process, they teach you aspects of script supervising and going to the editing room and casting sessions and things. And I was doing it, but I was like, “Ehhhh….” And then one day I was going to my car in the parking lot and Rick said, “You’re ready!” and I said, “I…I…I…” (laughter) He said, “You’re ready!” and I was assigned a show to do. And I was terrified. Because I didn’t have a clue. I knew that I could work with actors, and help in that way, but in terms of where you put the camera and whether it’s the right one, crossing the line, over the shoulder, how much do you…. So I would say, in a nutshell, I think I directed eight episodes, and now I’m gonna make this up off the top of my head, but I would think that three of them were okay, I got away with it, with the help of the actors and the crew, sort of covering, getting my back, and then I would say three of them were really mediocre, and two of them I was proud of. One of them was “Waltz”, and that was a difficult episode, it was difficult because Marc Alaimo— a wonderful, strange actor (laughter) and I would say this if he were sitting next to me, just a very, very complicated animal—he was very upset by that episode. Because the reason he was so interesting as the character was he thought he was the hero of the whole series! He thought he was the romantic character, he thought he was…and that made his villainy that much more compelling and interesting. And he hated that episode because he said, “Well, it’s like I’m a Nazi or something!” He just didn’t want to go down that evil path. And I called Ira from the soundstage, Ira Behr, who was running the show, and I said, “You know, it’s going to be really a problem, he’s feeling that the character is so dark, he’s uncomfortable with that.” And Ira said, “You know he is a Nazi and we want him to be as bad and evil as….” And I said to him, “Ira, Marc Alaimo is not an evil man. The human being. And that is gonna come through whether you like it or not.” Because anybody who plays a totally evil character is very charismatic and attractive. I mean, think of Silence of the Lambs. You can’t play pure evil if you are yourself as a human being not purely evil. You bleed through, no matter how much make-up, no matter how much crap they have you say, no matter how evil you are…. Face it, the more evil a character, the more somehow attractive they are. So I hung up on Ira, I said, “Well, it’s not gonna work.” And I went back to Marc and I said, “Just do it. Just play it with truth and with heart and it’ll be okay.” And it was. I think it was okay.
Audience: (fantastic episode, thank you) (applause)
Audience: Mr. Auberjonois, what is more surprising, that the Dominion has penetrated our government centuries ahead of schedule, or that they’ve done such a poor job of impersonating humans? (laughter and applause)
René: That’s a great question, which I’m not going to answer. (laughter)
Audience: How did you feel what you discovered your character was a Founder, one of the bad guys.
René: Listen, when I started the show, the character did not know what he was or where he was from or if there was anything else like him out there. And I loved that about the character. As a character actor, I just found that fascinating, and people, fans would say, “Oh, I can’t wait to find out where you’re from!” And I would say, “Oh, I don’t ever wanna know about that!” And then, I don’t know what season it was, but Rick and Ira called me into the office and they said, at the beginning of the season, “We’re gonna find out,” because they knew that I loved the fact that we didn’t know where he was from. And they said, “We’re gonna find out this season.” And I thought, “Oh, darn it!” But that’s the way it is, you know, as an actor…. Then I got it, and then I started having to deal with that, and that was fascinating to me. And that became…. And I’m gonna digress quickly. When we did what is by many accounts the best episode we ever did, which was “Far Beyond the Stars”, where we all got to play without make-up, different people, different human beings, I remember Ira coming to me and saying, he was nervous, he said, because, “You’re gonna sort of be the bad guy,” and I said, “Ira, that’s how I’ve made my living!” (laughter) Most of my life, I have played sort of, either nitwits (laughter), or bad guys, like Clayton on Benson or whatever (cheers). I was driving my son to school one day, he was eight years old, and I was doing Benson, and I guess he was getting teased at school because my character was such a nitwit and a pain in the ass and everything, and he said, “Dad? Why do you play the bad guy?” And I thought about it for a moment and I said, “Because it’s the best part.” (laughter and applause)
Audience: Complimenting Terry, about how when they killed off Jadzia, Becker gained a great actress (applause)
Terry: Thank you! That’s very kind of you.
Host: (Asking about the documentary.)
Terry: There’s an Indigogo campaign for the DS9 Doc, I don’t know how to tell you how to look it up and I don’t have my phone out here, but I assume you can go to Indigogo and look up “Deep Space Nine Doc” and that should be right there. We’re doing really great with our fundraising, we’re over $300,000, and the guys are, I almost said Leonard Nimoy, Adam Nimoy and Dave Zappone are producing and Adam’s directing, they’re the same guys who did… Well, Dave did several documentaries with William Shatner, Get a Life and The Captains, among others, and obviously Adam did For the Love of Spock. Obviously, I’m a big fan of his… (laughter) They’ve had meetings with CBS, and because the Indigogo campaign is going so well, they’re having more meetings, so they’re really hoping that the more money that they raise, the better the documentary, and hopefully we’re all going to be super-thrilled with what comes about from all of this excitement. And it’s just been a thrill because it’s the following, obviously, with Netflix and everybody being really super-excited, this resurgence of excitement around Deep Space Nine has been a little overwhelming and exciting this last year, over the 2016 50th anniversary, but when we went to do the Indigogo campaign and raised $150,000 in 26 hours, I think it was, and now we’re over 300,000, and we still have 20 days left for the campaign….
René: It’s amazing.
Terry: It really is amazing and very exciting. You know, I don’t know, but when they came out with the DVDs, whatever this latest release is, and CBS asked me to Tweet about it, and I’m like, “Is it in BluRay?” And they’re like, “No.” And I’m like, “uuuhhhh….”And I kinda don’t want to Tweet it cause I know people are going to be a little bit ticked off, and sure enough, I Tweeted, and “It’s not BluRay.” “It’s not BluRay.” “It’s not BluRay.” “It’s not BluRay.” “Why isn’t it BluRay?” So maybe… I don’t know, it’s supposed to be super-expensive, and I heard that part of the problem is about how we did our CGI and everything on Deep Space…?
René: It’s some technical thing that creates a real problem….
Terry: That they’d have to recreate each shot…? And that’s the problem they’re having with creating a BluRay. So knowing that, I wish they’d make a release about it so everybody could know and understand exactly what it is. I don’t think they’re not doing it because they don’t want to, I think it’s a real stumbling block. It’s impossible to bring everybody back and do greenscreen, first of all. Other than maybe Odo, most of us who don’t have make-up on aren’t going to look the same. (laughter) Thank you for being nice to me and telling me I look great in person but trust me, if I’m right next to my shot of when I’m 28, I’m definitely going to look 53. (laughter)
Host: Well you guys are going back to the convention floor? So all of you head back that way to say “hi” to them there. (cheers and applause)
Source: The Mopcast Network