Catching Up With DS9’s Rene Auberjonois, Part 2
Yesterday, in part one of our interview with Rene Auberjonois, the former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine star recounted his days playing Odo. Today, in the second half of our exclusive conversation, Auberjonois talks about directing DS9, discusses his appearances in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Enterprise, and catches us up on what he’s doing these days, which includes some guest star work, voiceover, convention appearances and plenty of time spent with Judith, his wife of 48 years, their two grown children and three grandchildren.
You directed eight episodes of Deep Space Nine during its run. How important a part of your experience was directing, and which one or two episodes worked best?
Auberjonois: I blame Rick Berman for putting me through that. It was a real education. When it was all over, people would say, “Well, are you going to go to other shows and direct them?” I’d look at these people like they were crazy. I had no interest in going to a show where I didn’t know the actors and the crew and the producers and everyone involved, where I wasn’t part of the whole world, so I wouldn’t really know the story. I mean, I could watch other episodes, but I wouldn’t be as immersed in anything else as I was in Deep Space Nine. Rick sort of nudged me into it and he was very supportive. I did eight of them and I’m going to say this off the top of my head, so it’s not anything that should be carved in stone, but I would say that of the ones I did maybe two of them were shows I was really proud of, where I thought I truly brought something to them. I thought maybe four of them were fine. They were exactly what was written on the page and I delivered that. Everyone was very professional and did outstanding work, so the shows were good shows. And then the other two I’d look at and think, “I didn’t do very well by that,” and I was not pleased ultimately. But that’s sort of the way it is for every director, I think. When you direct something for television, the train is on the tracks and it is going, and you’d better be ready for that. And one of your responsibilities is to not derail the train. You have to make sure the train gets to the station on time and delivers its cargo, and some rides are ultimately better than others. So, for the most part, I’d say I delivered that. If one stands out, it’s probably “Hippocratic Oath,” which was a Dr. Bashir episode with people on this planet dying of a strange disease, and he ultimately figures out what’s going on.
Prior to doing Deep Space Nine you appeared as Colonel West in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. And after Deep Space Nine, you played Ezral in the Enterprise episode “Oasis.” What do you recall of those experiences?
Auberjonois: Before the pilot of Deep Space Nine was aired, Colm Meaney asked me to step in for him at a convention in Chicago. I said, “Oh no, they won’t even know who I am because the show hasn’t aired yet.” He said, “They’ll know more about it than you do.” I went to do it, my first convention, and I was standing in front of this crowd. They were being nice to me, but most of them only knew me as Clayton Endicott III, so I could tell that most of them weren’t particularly delighted at the idea that Clayton Endicott III was going to be a member of a Star Trek crew. But they were OK with it because I was telling that that it would be different, that I wasn’t going to be Clayton. And then somebody asked me about Colonel West, and I looked blankly at them. I said, “Colonel West?” I couldn’t remember what they were talking about. I thought they were talking about a couple of Wild Wild West TV reunion movies and I thought it was maybe something to do with that. That’s when the audience started to doubt me, that I didn’t know the name of a character I had played in a Star Trek feature. But I survived it. They didn’t lynch me.
And how about your episode of Enterprise?
Auberjonois: I was sitting with Scott Bakula at lunch about two or three days into shooting the episode. He said, “I like this script. I think this is a good one.” I said, “Yeah, we did this one in season three.” And he looked at me and said, “What?” I said, “It was the same sort of story.” That was not really a putdown, but when you’ve done that many years of writing stories, there will be recurring themes. I think that’s one of the reasons why I thought the new feature film really sort of broke the mold. It was time for new minds to come in and new conceptions to happen, and I think it’s absolutely revitalized the whole franchise. I have that sense now when I got to conventions, that even though ours is an old show that was done years ago, the new energy brought to the franchise by the last feature film has rekindled people’s passions for the whole Star Trek world.
What are you working on these days?
Auberjonois: I’m doing an episode of Bored to Death, with Ted Danson and Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifianakis. I’ve known Ted since he was a little boy. No, not quite, but when I first met Ted he was still at Carnegie, where I went to university. I graduated about eight years before him. I remember that I did a television show for public television, playing a young George Washington, and he was still a student at Carnegie, and he was hired and was in a scene with me. The next time we encountered each other, I was doing Benson and he was a guest star on the show. He married Caroline McWilliams’s character. That was the way that they wrote Caroline, who was leaving the show, out of the show. And my children, my real children – Tessa and Remy – played the flower girl and the ring bearer in the episode. They were eight and six years old. Now they’re both grown and married, with their own children. So that’s about 30 years ago. And, of course, over the years, Ted and I have seen each other, met each other, bumped into each other, and been at dinner parties together. So it’s a lot of fun getting to work with him. Zach is very funny and Jason is just the sweetest guy. So I’m having a very good time. I’m playing someone named Henry, who is the father of an old girlfriend of Jason Schwartzman’s. I hire him to protect a very valuable necklace that my daughter is going to be wearing. It’s a guest spot and my real reason for doing it is it’s a paid vacation and a trip to visit our son Remy, who lives in Brooklyn, and his wife, Kate, and our adorable two-and-half-year-old granddaughter, Sunde. In the two weeks that I’m here I’m only really working three days, so I’ve been babysitting and taking my granddaughter to the park and having dinner with Remy and Kate. I have two grandsons, my daughter’s sons, and they live in Los Angeles. I see them all the time. So I’m thrilled to see Remy and Kate and have some time to bond with my granddaughter.
Auberjonois: I just shot another episode of Warehouse 13, playing the same character that I did last season. It’s a character that will probably make appearances every now and then. That’s a lot of fun. I just recorded my eighth or ninth Aloysius Pendergast audionovel. That’s called Cold Vengeance and it’ll be out in August. I just started a new cartoon series called Winx Club, in which I play a little magician/guru kind of character. I’m ongoing doing the cartoon series Pound Puppies. I’m doing Pepe Le Pew for the new Looney Tunes show. It’s hard to remember everything because I’m at the point in my life where I’m really not out looking for work. I just sort of do things that are going to be fun or that seem like they’ll be fun. It’s just a very nice place to be in my life right now.
And you’re also on the convention circuit…
Auberjonois: I’m doing a bunch of Creation events. I started in San Francisco in May and I’ll be in Vancouver this month and also in Parsippany and Chicago. And I’ll be in Las Vegas, at the big show, in August. Nana (Visitor) and I are doing our show, Cross Our Hearts. It was kind of my idea to do the show because, frankly, because there are only so many questions you can answer. They used to ask me, “How long did it take to do your makeup?” Now, at my age, you think they should be asking, “How long does it take you to get out of bed in the morning.” So, Nana and I are having a great time doing our show. It’s a collection of poetry and short stories that do not directly relate to Odo and Kira, but have to do with love, all different kinds of love, like romantic love and love for your dog and love for children and love for life. And then there’s a direct Odo-Kira reference at the end of it. We did the show for the first time in San Francisco and we’re going to keep honing and perfecting it, and we’re really enjoying it. It makes me excited to go to the events. I always love going to the conventions because, honestly, the loyalty and love and continuing interest of the fans is so gratifying, but this just gives it an extra challenge and it’s a lot of fun.
And our last question: How long does it take you to get out of bed in the morning?
Auberjonois: (Laughs) I get up SO early and I go out and I hike in the hills. Really, though, I am blessed to be healthy and happy and still creative.
To read part one of our interview with Rene Auberjonois, click HERE.