INTERVIEW: Fionnula Flanagan Talks Trek & Tasting Menu
By StarTrek.com Staff - April 17, 2014
One of the world’s greatest restaurants, located in beautiful Catalan, is serving its final meal. Gathered together that last night are an estranged couple, the restaurant’s owner, a mystery man, two potential buyers, the maître d, a translator and an older woman who brings along an urn containing the ashes of her late husband. Such is the plot of Tasting Menu, a romance/drama for foodies that will open in NY and LA tomorrow in advance of a rollout into additional theaters in the coming weeks. Co-starring in the film as Countess D’Arcy, the aforementioned mourning woman, is Fionnula Flanagan, the esteemed Irish actress whose 50 years of stage, film and television credits include James Joyce’s Women, The Ewok Adventure, Some Mother’s Son, Transamerica, The Others, Lost, Defiance and also Star Trek.
Flanagan actually made three visits to the Star Trek universe. She played Enina Tandro in the DS9 episode “Dax,” Dr. Juliana Tainer in the TNG episode “Inheritance” and Vulcan Ambassador V’Lar in the Enterprise episode “Fallen Hero.” StarTrek.com recently caught up with Flanagan for an exclusive interview in which she discussed Tasting Menu and her other current projects, and recounted her trio of Treks.
You appeared in three episodes of Star Trek. How familiar were you with the franchise when your first opportunity came along?
FLANAGAN: Well, I think there’s hardly anybody on the planet who isn’t aware of Star Trek. It’s been around for so long. So I was certainly aware of it.
Your first appearance was on DS9. What stands out about that experience, about playing Enina Tandro?
FLANAGAN: That was the one where they gave me the strange ears and the wig. At the end of the show, the ears were sitting there on the makeup table. I said to the makeup man, “Do you think I could bring those home to show my husband?” He said, “Sure.” I brought them home and left them on the kitchen counter, and my husband almost put them in the frying pan because he thought they were a particular kind of pigs’ ears. He loves pigs’ ears and pigs’ feet, and so he was about to cook them. I said, “No, no, no. These are my ears!” That’s really my only memory of that show because it was such a long time ago.
What do you remember most vividly about “Inheritance”? Can we assume working with Brent Spiner?
FLANAGAN: Yes. It was a fun role to do and Brent is a very talented actor. We had great fun together. Of course, I got beamed up at the end. Once you’ve been beamed up, you can pretty much retire. The thing I remember most is the moment they open up my head and they see that I’m really not human, which my family claims to have known for a long time. (Laughs). But they all see that I’m an android. What was fun but also nerve-wracking about doing the episode was learning to play the violin for that, for our concert for the crew of the ship. Brent had to play the viola, I think. Neither of us could play a comb, never mind play a musical instrument. So I spent a lot of time learning those six or eight bars of music in order to be able to do that convincingly for the camera. And we thought it was hysterically funny.
You portrayed a Vulcan in your episode of Enterprise. What were the challenges of playing such an emotionless character?
FLANAGAN: It was a change, and that was the challenge, because it was so different. Usually I play roles that have a lot of emotion attached to them. Also, this character was tough, very tough. Then we saw, of course, that she had affection one of the characters. So that was a strange journey for her, which made it an interesting little role from that point of view.
You looked like… you in at least two of the three episodes and arguably the third one as well, which is very unusual for actors on Star Trek. How did you wind up doing three?
FLANAGAN: (Laughs). What’s so funny about that is I was offered the parts. I didn’t have to audition. I don’t know how many other actors did multiple roles. Rene Auberjonois is a friend, and he played his Star Trek character forever. I can’t remember the character’s name, but he looked like a loaf of brown bread.
FLANAGAN: Yes, and he was able to flow under doors and through keyholes and things. That’s what his whole thing was. He was around when I did my episode (of DS9), but we didn’t have any scenes together. At one point, Rene said, “Oh, you should go to a Star Trek convention.” I said, “Why on earth would I do that?” He said, “Well, they pay you very well to go.” I said, “What would I have to do?” He said to me, “You don’t have to do anything. You just stand there and they all come and pet you.” I thought that was so funny. I haven’t done a convention, but I’m honored to be in the annals of Star Trek.
Your latest project is Tasting Menu. How did you come to co-star in that?
FLANAGAN: I had seen (director) Roger Gual’s first film, which was called Smoking Room. I liked it so much and thought he’d directed that so beautifully. Plus, Tasting Menu was going to shoot in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, the Costa Brava, and in Barcelona, which is my favorite city in the world. So, what was to say no to?
Your countess character has lost her husband. She doesn’t want to leave her house. And her night out changes her perspective and her life. How did you enjoy playing that arc over the course of a handful of intimate scenes across an ensemble film?
FLANAGAN: It is an ensemble piece and there was a lot to do in a little time, but I think Roger wove it together very well. Obviously the point is made, and you got it, which is that the night going to the restaurant changes her life totally. She’s trying to let go of the past and what’s held her back. She’s a woman who’s had to put on a front and pretend that this was a wonderful marriage and that he was a faithful man when, really, he was a bounder. That was very interesting to me because she starts off quite caustic and the night changes her. And it was, as you say, done in several intimate scenes, but it’s all very well put together, for all the characters.
The film is a modest Irish-Spanish co-production. How satisfying is it to you that audiences will get a chance to, pardon the pun, taste it on the big screen here in the U.S.?
FLANAGAN: (Laughs). Well, one is always delighted when a film sees the light of day, because so many of them never do. Magnolia is actually releasing two films I did sort of back to back, this one and Life’s a Breeze. I don’t know when they’ll release Life’s a Breeze, but I certainly thought that Tasting Menu was something that would appeal to people in the United States, because there are foodies everywhere. Foodies abound and there’s such great interest in cooking and cooking shows. So I’m sure Tasting Menu will go down well here.
What else do you have completed or on the way?
FLANAGAN: I have several films that I’ve done… Tasting Menu, Life’s a Breeze, Come Simi, Angels Sing, and I’ve done Gordon Gibbons’ Life on Normal Street, which is a pilot for a children’s television show. I was just in Ireland for the Irish Film and Television Academy Awards, because I was nominated for Life’s a Breeze. It’s always the best fun night you can have, being at the Irish Academy Awards. I also have a film that I’ll be starting in May, so it’s very nice to be working.
Click HERE to check out the official site for Tasting Menu.
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