The third and final day of Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in San Francisco was laidback compared to Saturday, probably in large part due to Daylight Savings Time. Still, once everyone woke up, they had a blast. The day got started with Barry Jenner (Admiral Ross on DS9) on stage, talking to a swelling crowd as folks trickled in. Next up are Enterprise stars Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating. The duo are very dynamic together on stage, joking around and showing a casual interplay and comic timing that made the anecdotes come fast and furious. They handle this as if conducting a conversation with the audience, fielding questions from event goers in the crowd. One of the early audience questions for Trinneer is about getting into his character for his role as Michael in Stargate Atlantis. Appropriately for this late Sunday morning audience, Trinneer replies, “You get there at 4:30 in the morning and you're not in that character yet. You're bleary eyed.” That role, he adds, “It was about the process” of getting the makeup on to get into character. Another person asks about the actors being recognized for their roles in their day-to-day life, and Trinneer deadpanned how he’s not recognized for Michael: “Nobody knows I played Michael. Except you,” he says sagely, pointing out to the audience, who roared its approval.
To get folks warmed up, Keating tells everyone what he’s been up to (lots of skiing), while Trinneer revealed how he’s the voice of Nike Golf and of how he lost his iPhone in the cab on the way to the event the night before. Keating was asked if they stay in touch with other cast members. “Connor and I are very close,” he replied. “And every Christmas we go to Scott Bakula’s Christmas party. I'm still on the list for that.” Keating says we’ll be seeing a lot of Scott Bakula at convention events this year, because he’s signed on for several. “He recently remodeled his house,” he adds to laughter. The two run recount how they each got their roles on Enterprise. Trinneer talks about how he went through multiple passes, which Keating partially re-enacts his experience, recounting how he first tried out a working-class voice for his character before switching to his own—which produced Rick Berman appeared to like.
But that was followed by a nerve-wracking time while waiting to find out if he’d gotten the role. Keating went in for a final read, and it turned out John Billingsley was there for his final read that day, too. And after overhearing Billingsley in his audition, squawking like a bird, when the two actors were back out in the waiting area, Keating recalls how his curiosity got the better of him: “I've got to ask you, man, were you squawking? John said, ‘I just figured the planet he came from he's a bird.’” Both were told they’d scored their respective roles, and Keating recalls the poetic moment when they were walking through the Paramount lot, after leaving the soundstages. “You could feel the sun on your back and we both were thinking we'd hit the jackpot. We were both on our cell phone; John called his wife and just began humming,” Keating says, breaking out into classic Trek’s theme.
One person asked about “the undersize and oversize episode,” which the actors puzzled over while trying to figure out which episode that was. “People, I’ve got to tell you: It all eventually did become one big episode,” says Trinneer. Once the audience crowd-sources the answer— the episode the question-asker referred to was “The Diggers” -- Keating adds, “Ah, the mud people. That was LeVar Burton’s first episode [directing Enterprise]. What a treat to meet LeVar Burton. I grew up watching Kunta Kinte. I love LeVar; he’s a sweetheart.” The next question turns things political when someone tells Trinneer he sounds just like George Bush. Trinneer then launches into a spot-on George Bush impersonation, which went over well in liberal San Francisco. Then someone yells out, bravely, “but I like George Bush.” And Trinneer’s response: “Well, God bless you. Someone has to.” One person asks about 9/11’s influence on the show. Perhaps disaster was on all our minds this weekend given the earthquake and tsunami catastrophe in Japan. Both actors pause at this one. Keating says, “I forgot that Xindi arc was originally based on that. That was a terrible day. It felt somehow trivial and trite to be playing on these sets.” Trinneer adds, “We all did a check on ourselves to ask, ‘What are we doing?’ It felt insignificant. My father said we bear a greater responsibility than before. And he was right, given the Xindi storylines.”
One audience member asks if they’d be up for doing an Enterprise movie. Keating replies enthusiastically, “Hell yeah, but it's never going to happen.” Trinneer simply deadpans: “I'm too interested in small, guest star spots.” The crowd roars at that one. Another questions Trinneer whether he knew ahead of time his character was going to be killed off. “Enterprise? Because I’ve been killed off in several shows,” Trinneer cracks.
Actor Bobby Clark is next, and the man behind The Gorn’s suit offers some tidbits from that classic Trek episode. “My only claim to fame is The Gorn; if not for you, he'd be forgotten,” he thanks the audience appreciatively. The base of the suit, he recalls, was a diver’s costume. He’d worked with the director before, and had taken the job sight unseen, not knowing what he was getting into. At least, Clark says, in the other three episodes he’d been in he had clothes. “Never did I have a red shirt,” he says, getting laughs. “I got killed in ‘Mirror, Mirror,’ but in a jumpsuit.” The costume was tough to get into, he recounts. “I saw why they said no coffee. It was hard to do what you had to living in that costume.” A young fan asks how it felt to have two Gorns. Clark nods, and says, “I am the Gorn king. This young man is right: There were two Gorns: Me and a standby Gorn. Back then he was just a stuntman like myself. But he wasn't out and about going [makes growling sound effects here] like I was.”
In the episode, Clark recalls, “Captain Kirk and The Gorn were beamed down to the planet. We were supposed to find our weapons and kill each other. I was the rough nasty one with all of the scars on him. We conversed several times on the fight. Another funny part people don't know when were embracing in this fight Kirk looks like he's smiling he wasn't supposed to be, but what happened was, behind my mask, is that I'm telling him, “Kiss me. Kiss me.” The audience roars in approval.
During lunch time, we had another round of Star Trek trivia.
And then the audience’s ranks swelled once more, this time for a unique dramatic presentation by none other than Rene Auberjonois and Nana Visitor from DS9. The hour-long performance, titled “Cross Our Hearts: Poems and Prose” is in its debut here; Auberjonois and Visitor plan to take it on the road at other conventions in this, the 45th anniversary year of Star Trek. The actors sit side-by-side, music stands before them. Their performance is filled with various readings, some just quotes, some poetry, some from plays-- and all wonderful. Where appropriate, each piece gets an introduction or at the least, an attribution, by the actors. Visitor is great in a scene from a Neil Simon play, but Auberjonois steals the show with one expressive recitation after another, shifting in and out of characters with ease. The pieces sometimes wander in an entertaining fashion, and other times reflect clear planning as they mesh together, each actor alternating a turn as they move through their options. The dramatic performances elicit one round of applause after another. They close with a reading from the episode “A Necessary Evil,” the scene in which Odo and Kira meet for the first time. “Although, I have a lot of trouble doing Odo without the makeup on,” Auberjonois warns us in advance. No matter: He nails it, and Visitor is spot on as Kira Nerys.
Another round of bids is next at the final No Minimum Bid auction of the weekend.
And then before we know it, Auberjonois and Visitor are back on stage for their dialogue with fans. “What's going on, you guys? What do you want to talk about?” Visitor greets the cheering crowd. While audience members line up at the mics for the Q&A portion, Visitor and Auberjonois get things going by briefly catching folks up on what they’ve each been up to— by interviewing one another. Visitor says she’s been living in New Mexico for the past five years, but now that her son Buster has graduated and is a marine, “It’s time to come back to L.A.” Buster was just a babe when DS9 started. Auberjonois and his wife have just celebrated their 48th anniversary. He has three grandkids, and splits his time between Los Angeles and his house in northern California. He’s doing voiceovers now for the cartoon series The Pound Puppies; “Betty White plays my mother,” he says.
“This was our first shot out of the cannon doing our night of poetry and words, and we’ll be refining it,” says Auberjonois. “I'm loving it.” He’d done something like this before for a performance, with his friend, actor Howard Hesseman, The duo then field questions for about an hour. The first was for Auberjonois: What was his experience like working with director Robert Altman on M*A*S*H? “Working with Robert Altman was a dream. He was a special director because he loves actors. I was just 29 when I did it.” The next question is about Benson. “I was a character actor,” he says. “But that was the first series I decided to do. My kids had to get settled into a school. I made one of my lifelong friends in Johnny Phillips (professionally known as Ethan Phillips), who played Netflix.” The crowd laughs, and Auberjonois immediately catches his mistake. “Not Netflix. Neelix. I'll have to tell him I said that.”
Visitor jumps in and asks Auberjonois how he starts his day. His response is with coffee, and that he goes to his studio to “fiddle around and do wire sculptures.” One woman— dressed as Kira Nerys — asks Visitor about the prosthetics glue she had to endure to get into character. “It was just wood glue,” she answers. “The first year I was so crazed to get back to Buster. It would take 20 min to take off, so I just ripped it off and I still have marks.”
Both actors are asked if they’d do more science fiction. “I didn’t see it as science fiction,” replies Visitor. “I see it as all the same.” Auberjonois echoes that sentiment, saying “I have never thought of Star Trek as science fiction, no more than I would think of myself as Richard III. You try and find truth in the character.” Next question is for Auberjonois, asking how he developed the gruff voice for Odo. “When I went in to audition for the role… the casting director said nobody had been grouchy enough.” So even though he was nervous, he began the role just as soon as he walked through the door to meet the producers. His voice was dismissive in the introductions, and then he nails the gruff “Quaaaarrrrkkk” he’s asked to read from the script. “The thing you learn is that a huge percentage of your getting a role is determined when you walk through the door. There was a moment where I could tell I had their attention, so I was committed to that voice.”
Visitor recalled for audiences how in the episode “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” she had difficulty dealing with the baseball. Avery Brooks, she remembers, tossed her the ball and she didn't have any idea how to catch it; it practically hit her in the face. “I was never so nervous because we had to stay there until I hit the ball.” But when it came time to shoot, she got lucky: “I cracked the ball right away. The crew was so thrilled they carried me on their shoulders,” she laughs. One of the last questions is for Visitor, asking her what she liked about flying the Defiant. The two actors laugh, then Visitor looks at Auberjonois with mock accusation. “You used to make fun of me. I used to love the captain’s chair,” she enthuses.
“It was a power thing,” Auberjonois replies as an aside to the audience.
“I loved the feel of it,” Visitor says again.
And with that, the final session of the day -- and the weekend -- is done.
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