Deep Space Nine Panel


September 3–6, 2010 • Atlanta, Georgia

Q&A transcription by Marguerite Krause
(originally printed in the January 2011 issue of the ORACLE newsletter)

Despite our best efforts, our little digital recorder couldn’t catch all of the comments made during the Q&A sessions. Audience laughter and cheering, as well as small random noises, drowned out parts of some sentences. Among the actors, Avery is particularly difficult to record, because of his deep voice and tendency to speak softly. The actors sometimes made side comments to one another that weren’t picked up by the mics, and the fans often spoke too softly when they asked their questions.

What follows are the portions of the Q&A sessions that were audible, as best I was able to make them out. Audience reactions and other descriptions are included in parentheses, as appropriate. Any missing or misunderstood words are entirely the responsibility of the transcriber.

As at most of the panels at Dragon*Con, the guests were seated on stage behind a long table, each with a microphone. René sat at stage right, and seated to his left were Armin, Avery Brooks, J. G. Hertzler, and Robert O’Reilly.

(Huge applause as each actor is introduced. The master of ceremonies invited fans to come up to a microphone and ask questions, but it took a little while to get the lines organized.

René: What’s happening? What’s happening?

Someone: (to Avery) Did you say you were bored?

Avery: No, I never said that. (pause) It’s so quiet. What did this young man just say?

Someone: That it’s your time…

Avery: (gesturing to audience) Well, it’s their time, not ours. There are few of us, there are more of them.

Fan: (not completely audible, question for Avery about his fine performance and soliloquies in “In the Pale Moonlight”, asking if he would talk about his experience doing that episode.)

Avery: It’s easy, because in many instances, the writers (inaudible) It’s more like us, so I didn’t have to imagine. The difficulty is looking directly into the camera, but, having said that, it’s like looking into your eye, and that makes it easy…er.

(Another pause, because no one is ready with a question.)

René: You’ve got to line up, guys. (laughter) (Someone finally gets up to the microphone.)

Fan: As a baseball fan, I always appreciated the fact that Captain Sisko enjoyed baseball. I was always curious, “The London Crenshaws,” do you have any idea where that name “Crenshaw” came from?

(reply not audible)

J.G. Hertzler: You know, let me say something about baseball, because I had a little scene with Avery…I don’t know, I was complaining about something, but in the scene, right in the background was that baseball of his. And through the whole scene, I knew that Avery, or Captain Sisko, really loved that baseball, and to a Klingon, it was, “What the hell is that?” (laughter) But I knew I could torment him by just sort of, in the middle of talking about something else, just reaching for that baseball. (laughter) To do things with it. And if I was doing that with Bob, he wouldn’t notice, but with Avery, he notices everything, so we had a lot of fun playing with that: “I’m gonna take your ball.” “Don’t go near that ball!” (laughter)

Fan: First of all, thank you all for coming.

J.G. Thank you for having us.

Fan: My question is, how much of Star Trek had you watched before you were actually in the show. And how much of the culture has seeped into your life, and how much Klingon do you know? (laughter)

Robert: (speaks several words in Klingon) (laughter and applause) English to me was always a foreign language. (laughter) I was a fan of the Original Series. (applause) I never had a date Friday night in college. (laughter) I was watching Jimmy Doohan go (speaks a few incomprehensible words in thick Scottish accent). That was a lot of fun for me, in those days. I loved that show. When the new show started, I really didn’t watch it until Whoopi Goldberg was on. That captured me, because I was a big fan of hers. Once I was IN it, then I did start watching it, and Klingons became my life. (laughter)

(A young boy comes to the mic to ask a question, and Avery brings him up on stage and sits him on his lap, asking where he’s from and having a short conversation not audible on the recording. Eventually the boy addresses Armin:)

Boy: Can you do the Quark voice? (laughter and applause)

Armin: No, I don’t have the teeth… (laughter) But I can do the yell. Ready? You’ll want to sit back. (Armin leans away from the microphone and lets loose with Quark’s high-pitched panic scream) (much applause) The teeth shaped my voice… (he speaks directly to the boy, who’s sitting right next to him, and not all of his explanation is audible, but then he offers a sample of Quark dialogue) “It’s true! You work with your females! And force them to wear clothing!” (laughter)

Boy: And also, how is it that Odo can change his mass? (laughter)

René: How Odo can change his what?

Someone: Mass.

René: Mask?

Boy: No, his mass.

René: Mass. That’s what I thought you were asking. A much more complicated question. (laughter) You understand that Odo, that he was a character that I was playing. (laughter) So, I don’t even know how they did it, in the television, you know, when I melted, going to become something else. Like, there was one show where I turned into a dog, with Armin in—what was that called?—(audience offers “Little Green Men”) “Little Green Men”! And I turned into a dog. I don’t know how they did it, but I know that I got the day off. (laughter)

(Boy leaves the stage, and Armin asks audience to give him a round of applause, which they do).

René: That’s a little bit how Cirroc was treated.

(Garret Wang arrives—he was officially in charge of the Star Trek track of programming for the convention, and was supposed to serve as MC for the panel, but wasn’t there at the beginning. Someone brings out a chair for him to use.)

Garrett: I’m very sorry for being late. I was on the Walk of Fame, and someone goes, “You know the Deep Space Nine panel is now, right?” “What?!?” (laughter) I’m supposed to be an actor and the director of Trek Track, so I’m getting pulled in two different directions. But, anyway, thank you for being here. (applause) All right, next question.

Fan: (young man in his 20s or early 30s; refers back to previous fan) I’ve been a fan of the show since I was about his age, so I’ve gotta admit, I’m a little jealous.

J.G.: Come up here and sit down. (J.G. escorts the young man onto the stage and gets him to sit on his lap, to much applause and laughter from the audience)

fan with J.G. at DragonCon
J. G. Hertzler and fan

Fan: (inaudible over the lingering hilarity in the audience)

J.G.: Well, no we don’t talk about those things.

Fan: (tries again to ask his question, as J.G. adjusts the microphone for him.) (More laughter)

Fan: (starts asking how they all developed the relationships between their characters. At the other end of the table, René urges Armin to sit on his lap, evoking even more applause and shrieks of laughter.)

J.G.: (to fan) Thanks for being such a good sport. What was your question?

Fan: Just about how, off camera, you developed the relationships between your characters. Like, what sorts of conversations did you have? (J.G. allows young man to leave the stage, and he gets a round of applause.)

J.G.: You know, I have a little bit of response to that, but it’s a story I hesitate to tell. (audience: “Tell, tell!”) But we’re all friends here.

Armin: Especially the people in the hotel who are watching on their TV sets. (laughter)

J.G. It’s not sexy, there’s nothing untoward about it. But it was just one of the most hilarious moments I’ve heard in theatre or television or any place. René and Avery—I think in one of the best episodes, I think you could build a whole series on that one episode of DS9, called “Far Beyond the Stars”—(applause) but I was sitting offstage, and René was to my right, about a chair down. Avery is one of the two quietest actors I’ve ever met in my life. Well, I’ve got a third one last night, Russell Crowe, in Robin Hood, I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. (laughter) Besides that, there was Pacino, he used to whisper everything. (Demonstrates, speaking in a low, intense voice, and audience falls completely silent.) Avery’s very quiet, doesn’t have to lift his voice, so you say, “Oh, I better pay attention.” (resumes normal voice) But as a director, he’s one of the loudest. (laughter) And he and René were having a little back and forth about the degree of anger that René was trying to get out. And Avery just couldn’t quite get just the amount or the quirk in the anger that he wanted to get, and he kept pressing him, he kept (adopts Avery’s tone and delivery): “No! René, what I want from you is much more of a white hot, a blazing anger, not a slow, burning anger…” And René says, “Well, I’m giving you…”  “No! No! No! It must be white hot! Hotter!” And René says (voice loud and furious), “Well, I’m doing the best I can!” And Avery says, “That’s it!” (laughter and applause). To which René says (even angrier, shouting), “Well, that’s mine! You can’t have it!” (laughter and applause)

René: I remember that, vividly, except for all of the (gestures broadly, referring to J.G.’s performance of the incidence) but basically he’s pretty accurate, and it’s a wonderful insight into, well, that particular thing, an actor talking to another actor who is also directing. So there’s a kind of shorthand. You sort of, you know that the other actor is like standing behind you while you’re trying to do a magic trick. They’re inside your game in a way that an audience isn’t. They’re sort of…it’s a magic trick, so they’re out front, and you’re not seeing a lot of the other mechanisms that are being moved, and the craft part of it, and the scared part of it, and the magic part of it. Anyway, I’m talking too much, but that’s a wonderful insight, that particular scene (to J.G.) thank you for that, because it’s a nice…I’m proud to be part of a story like that, that gets behind the theatrical wall. That’s great, thanks. (applause)

Fan: I’m really bad with names (mostly inaudible, something about sees actors but only knows their character’s name. Still thinks it would be a good idea to have a TNG/DS9 movie.)

Avery: Are you a writer? (laughter)

Fan: (admits he has ideas, finally asks question about Odo and Quark’s dynamic on the set, and how they worked on that dynamic off the set, how they created it and then kept it fresh throughout the series.)

Armin: We hated each other. (laughter and applause)

René: And we still do. (laughter) You know, Armin and I, immediately, we saw the writing on the wall about what kind of thing we were supposed to deliver to that show, and we had also worked together in the theatre, but more than that, we had had basically the same kind of training and we’re both kind of control freaks, as opposed to Colm Meany, who would walk in and learn the lines as you rehearsed it. (laughter). Listen, I envy that. Armin and I would beat the lines, flog them to death.

Armin: Also, we were like two small children, in first or second grade. They put us next to each other in the make-up trailer. And our relationship probably was enhanced, by what René said, because of the proximity and the time we spent so much of in the make-up trailer together. We’d be there for hours. Avery would walk in and walk out. (laughter)

Avery: It’s true. Otherwise, “we” would have never gotten here. (laughter)

Armin: We rarely had any scenes together.

Avery: I’m saying, you, and me, we would’ve never met. Short story. When I first heard about Deep Space Nine, the pilot. The first thing I said was, I started to laugh and said, “I don’t know about that,” because I said, “If I’m going to have some prosthetics on my face, I’m not gonna do it.” To that end, that’s my point: we would’ve never met, if they had put a single thing on my face. (laughter) Except for the moment that I became a Klingon. (laughter and applause)

Armin: In the make-up trailer, you should’ve seen us. These guys are yelling and screaming and crying over the make-up, and we’re, “It’s about time.” (laughter)

René: No, no, Avery was stoic, but Colm Meany was a maniac. We’d be there on that set, you know, waiting for them to change the lights—it’s like going to war, you spend more time in the trenches than you actually spend doing what you’re there to do—and Colm is just bitching, and bitching. (laughter)

J.G.: I think one of the first episodes I ever did was with you guys, and you all were dressed in Klingon gear. And he never stopped, he was still on the set, in that cell, you guys were behind bars, and Colm was back there, pacing, I think he had a cell phone call, and I had a loong speech, a lot of words, and eventually Avery stepped up and said (mimicking Avery’s quiet voice), “Hey. There’s a man working here. Pay attention.” (laughter) And that stopped everything. And I’ve never forgotten you for that, because that made my life a thousand times better.

Fan: (inaudible, about her whole family enjoying seeing all of them showing up as guests, and asking what they’re all doing now)

Avery: Mr. O’Reilly?

Robert: I’m bringing up three boys. That’s my real job. (applause)

Armin: Not just three boys. Three twins. Three triplets. (laughter)

Robert: I do work, vary rarely. I can’t travel, because of what I do, so I do voice overs, things like that, of that nature. That’s my job.

J.G. I have been teaching at Cornell for the past three years. I’m not there this year, and they’ve almost destroyed the department. They eliminated the production side of it, the whole program, because they lost a great deal of money in the economic downturn. I think Bernard Madoff was the financial advisor…. (audience groans) Right now, I am in legal hell, dealing with lawyers, trying to get a film project off the ground. I’ve got a wonderful bunch of people ready to go, but I’ve got lawyers…so that’s what I need to do.

Avery: There’s a CD. Music. Mine. (laughter) (Answering audience question) What was the name of the CD? Actually, my picture’s on the cover. (laughter)

René: He’ll sign it.

Avery: And I’ll sign it. (Much more back and forth between Avery and audience members, not audible, ending with Avery making a reference to Armin’s wife and suggesting that Armin doesn’t like to talk about himself)

Armin: All right. My wife is a cancer survivor. (applause) And I’m sure all of you have friends or relatives or know some people who have dealt with this disease and it’s a horrible disease and there are many types. My wife is a survivor of pancreatic cancer. However, we have a dear friend up in Portland, Oregon, and so when Avery asked me, “Where is Kitty?” I said, “We have a friend up in Portland, Oregon who is going through, I don’t know what the name of it is, but cancer of the eye, and she’s gone up there to give support to the guy, because a lot of people…because Kitty has been fortunate enough to survive such a horrible disease, lots of people want to know what her secret is. He’s a dear friend, an old friend, one of Kitty’s old lovers, in fact (laughter) and also a wonderful musician, and so she went up to spend time with him. So that’s where she is.

Avery: See what I mean? He didn’t talk about himself at all.

René: So, what are you doing?

Armin: Sitting here between the two of you. (laughter) Mr. Brooks in right in saying, you have no idea what a phenomenal musician he is. And as a singer. I got a chance to see him perform in his one-man show, which if you ever get a chance to do, you should see it. So he answered in one word, I think that’s appropriate: “Theatre.” Theatre, and writing, and that’s it. (applause)

René: I’ve been married for 47 years (applause) and a little more than four years ago I fell in love (dramatic pause, murmurs from audience) with my first grandchild, (relieved laughter) with our first grandchild, our daughter’s first child. And then subsequently, two other little human beings have arrived, and the heart just keeps expanding. And that’s a big part of my life. For me, if I were going to do it in one word, it would be “Art.” I’m really deeply involved with graphic stuff, and sculptural stuff, and photographic stuff that I’ve been doing, and have done some shows and things, stuff. You know, and then there are odd jobs that come along, when you’re a character actor, and I’m at a point in my life where I can choose…when I was bringing up, or supporting my family, I sort of had to do pretty much what I had to do. Now I’m in a position where I can just do something that seems like it’s fun and challenging, or lucrative. (laughter) You can’t always get all three, but you hope to get at least two of them. That’s my life. (applause)

Fan: (inaudible, rambling, about how the show played with gender more than other series, and how the characters related to Dax—at first, the guys don’t get what she’s asking)

René: Dax? Oh, I didn’t play the Dax character, but that’s not what you were asking about…oh, I did play Dax, didn’t I? (laughter) But that’s not what you were asking about.

Avery: Say it again.

Fan: (wondering how gender was handled)

Avery: You can talk about the complexity of the writing. The complex way of looking at things, was a testament to the brilliance of the writers. The whole notion of Dax…first of all, a being living for hundreds of years, in several different vessels, that in itself was fascinating. What was particularly meaningful in relation to Sisko and Dax, that he knew her as a man. So where’s the meaning, therefore, into the dimensionality of us all? Or to the dimensions that exist. Perhaps it is not just the XY chromosome, perhaps it’s not really the point, is it, that what we know, at least right now, is that we are a combination of all aspects of either gender. You know what I mean? What makes a man? Will you become a man, for example. And that’s a question on this side of the world, certainly. When do you become a man? Who dictates that? So that’s fascinating, I find it really fascinating, just a proposition, let alone how they wrote it, and how we played it. Because I called her “Old Man” all the time. “Old Man,” but it’s Terry Farrell. (laughter)

Garrett: We have another question? We have quite a few questions, so let’s try to get to everybody.

Fan: I just drove up from Tampa and listened to the audiobook of The 34th Rule and it’s very awesome. How’d you think of the idea of making Bajor and the Ferengi fight, because that all sorts of awesome.

Armin: One of the things I put into writing that novel, originally this was an idea between Brian George and myself and Eric Stillwell, and we were going to try to pitch this as an episode of the show. The producers didn’t want it…. (inaudible) And Brian said, “Why don’t we make it into a novel?” And so there were many sessions between the three of us, where we sat down and discussed the expanding of the plot that we would do. And my background is a family that came from prejudice, a lot of my family was lost in WWII, so that was a thing I wanted to write about. And so the argument, the war between Bajor and the Ferengi would lead eventually to the concentration camps that we have in the book. But it was a combination of the three of us. (applause)

Fan: (to Avery) Is your CD being offered here?

Avery: Yes.

Fan: (about the clock that Sisko built in one episode, is such a thing available for fans to build and, in the episode, was the prop actually functional)

Avery: Well, the reality of the construction of the clocks was beautiful. What comes to mind is Benjamin Banneker, who was a clock maker.

Fan: Was that the inspiration?

Avery: I don’t know. (laughter) L’Enfant, who designed Washington, DC. Washington, DC was based on a clock by this man, this brown man, who was a surveyor. A clock is not just about the measure of time, it’s about the relationship of something to another thing. (more inaudible, then referring to the original prop) You’ve got to find somebody, who probably, maybe, if it wasn’t sold at auction, at Christie’s, maybe even found it. In other words, I can’t help you. (laughter)

Garett: Next question.

Fan: I just want to take the time to thank you gentlemen for the many years of entertainment you’ve provided to all of us. (applause and cheers) Speaking about props, things on set, were there any that you took from the set.

Avery: Mr. O’Reilly?

Robert: (inaudible) (laughter)

J.G.: I got the actual baseball. (laughter)

Avery: That’s where it is!

J.G. (to fan who’s wearing a steam punk costume) By the way, is that a steam-operated arm?

Fan: Yes, it is.

J.G.: I gotta get me one of them. (laughter)

Robert: A lot of tribbles disappeared.

René: And I didn’t take any.

Armin: He took everything else. (laughter)

Avery: I’m waiting for the economy to recover. (laughter)

Armin: You would have thought that I would have taken a lot of stuff. (laughter) But I didn’t. In fact, it got around that I had taken nothing from the set, and when one of the set designers heard about it, several weeks after the show was over, he was kind enough to give me a piece of the structure from Quark’s bar and I treasure it. (“awww” from audience)

René: I didn’t steal anything, I didn’t, I didn’t steal anything! (laughter) No, but I did get, in my office there was a “Wanted”, a panel that was all plexiglass and illustrated with “Wanted” people, lit from behind, I don’t think it was every focused on as a prop. And at the end of the show we were told that we could take a piece from the set, and I chose that and I—

Armin: You took the entire Defiant. (laughter)

René: I took off a lot of these little labels that they had on everything, and you could just pull them off. I got those. Nobody cared about those, they were just little gummy, “post-it” notes. (laughter) And I got that panel. And then it sat in a storage shed forever and ever until finally somebody has it, not me. (“awww”)

Avery: I’m still waiting for the economy to recover. (laughter) The sculpture in Sisko’s quarters, it was all actual sculpture, from various places in Africa. That is to say that the lineage of Sisko was very important. (inaudible, about brown people in the 24th century) And so this link, this ancient link, was very important, so they talked to me, the designers talked to me about what sculptures should be there. And so, for example, in “Far Beyond the Stars,” there was a (inaudible) in Benny’s room. So, the sculpture was important. But having said that, the most treasured possession is the relationship that I developed with this child growing to be a man. Cirroc Lofton. (applause)

Garrett: Another question.

Fan: It’s a coincidence, coming after that, a question for Mr. Brooks, your depiction of fatherhood was the most inspirational I’ve ever seen, what did you draw upon for that?

Avery: Not trying to be clever, I’ll say it this way: when your parents leave the planet, then you must behave better than you ever have before. Or, even while they’re here. So, this idea of being with this child, now I have to be better than I ever have before, with him. And that’s what I did. My parents gave me that, my community gave me that. I couldn’t walk down the street, when I was growing up, and somebody, some voice would say, “Wait a minute, what’re you doing? I’m gonna tell on you!” (laughter) You know what I’m talking about? “I’m gonna call her! I’m gonna call him! What you doin’?” That why you think nobody’s looking, but everybody’s looking. That’s really true. So I looked. That’s what’s real about it. I didn’t make it up. Nobody wrote that. “Hey! Come here!”

Armin: Let me sort of put Avery in the spot he put me in. (laughter) Cirroc is a wonderful young man. He came to us at a relatively early age. He has an incredible mother. Unfortunately, he had no dad, living, at the time. Avery was father to Cirroc on stage, and off stage. He probably still counts him as one of his children. This was a relationship that we all admired, we watched it for seven years, and he was an incredible dad to Cirroc. (applause)

Fan: I’m such a huge fan, when another Trekkie asks the question, “Kirk or Picard?” I always answer “Sisko.” (cheers) What were your favorite episodes be a part of and to see and experience?

Avery: Well…let’s see….one, two, three, four…times seven years…. In this case, in order, the pilot, that’s what attracted me to it. (applause) This idea of being a man, a single man dealing with loss, having to raise a child, finding himself, having to defend humankind to some other intelligence in the universe,
I said, “Oh! This is very, very interesting to me.” It’s like us, isn’t it? The other one is “Far Beyond the Stars.” Because it’s like us. I have to say just think, for example, if we were to start to do DS9 now, and to talk about terrorism, and terrorists, what would that be? What would be honest about that? It’s not writing as much as it is mirroring who we are! Which, to some purists, of course, disagree with DS9, its direction, because it was not “pure” science fiction as such. It was a mirror of us, even a projection of us, some 400 years or 500 years of history. It made a lot of sense. “Far Beyond the Stars” looked back in history, just looked at us as we are. (applause)

Fan: My question is for René. I wonder if you remember going to Wesleyan University in Connecticut and signing the wall of a frat house? (laughter)

René: Ahhh…. Let me just… our son, Rémy-Luc, went to Wesleyan. Were you there when he was there?

Fan: Yes!

René: Oh, great. (pause, laughter) Did you know my son?

Fan: That was my frat house.

René: That was your frat house. Oh. (laughter) And I signed the wall. Am I in trouble? (laughter)

Fan: I wanted to let you know that it’s one of the most cherished signatures on our wall, and I invite the rest of you to come… (laughter, applause)

Fan: This’ll be quick, it’s just a comment for Armin. One of my friends, who is a Ph.D., is teaching a course in health policy ethics, and she’s using the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. (laughter, applause)

Garett: Thank you, everyone, please give a big round of applause….

(Audience cheers as the cast leaves the stage)

Photo by Kelly Rowles, The Convention Fans Blog