Talking to Don Stark, DS9's Ashrock & First Contact's Nicky the Nose
So, which of Don Stark’s Star Trek roles did you prefer, his turn as the Yridian Ashrock in the “Melora” episode of Deep Space Nine or as Nicky the Nose in First Contact? It’s a tough call; he was terrific in both. Of course, Stark is a veteran character actor whose credits span 40 years and include not just his Trek performances, but also CHiPs, Peggy Sue Got Married, Freaked, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Timecop (the series), Curb Your Enthusiasm, Castle, American Horror Story, Hit the Floor and, his most famous credit, That 70s Show, on which he co-starred as Bob Pinciotti. Stark will be among the guests at Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, which will run from today until Sunday, with Stark on hand all weekend, appearing on stage Friday and serving as a judge during the costume contest. StarTrek.com caught up with the easygoing Stark for an informative conversation, and here’s what he had to say.
How well did you know Star Trek when you got your gig on DS9?
STARK: I’d been watching Star Trek from the very beginning and it was a show that I really wanted to do. DS9 was my first opportunity to be a part of it, after having been in to read several times. I ended up landing Ashrock and I went through all the makeup. Wow, it’s quite a commitment. I’d already always appreciated the actors who did the makeup roles, and I was really excited to see how they did the show, how it was all put together. For me, the experience was a full day with not so much time spent on the set. I had to get the mask made, and then, when I did the show, I was there at three in the morning to get the makeup applied. It was quite claustrophobic. My body is always running hot anyway, so I became a human microwave oven. The thing that surprised me most was that the hair wasn’t already attached. They actually, strand by strand, applied the hair once the mask was on and in place. And they did it as if I was going to an alien Hair Club for Men.
How did you enjoy working with Armin Shimerman?
STARK: He was terrific. I wasn’t there for very long, but he couldn’t have been nicer or more inviting. I was somebody who was a guest in their playground, but he was just easy and warm and friendly. It was just a great experience, the whole episode, from the beginning to the end. I will say it was strange to drink my lunch. I know a lot of actors who drink their lunch anyway, but that’s not what I’m talking about. That’s not been a problem for me. My addictions are more with food than anything else. But the drinking my lunch thing was one of the parts of the Trek experience that was interesting and challenging.
A few years later, you played Nicky the Nose in First Contact. How did that come about and what kind of experience was that for you?
STARK: It was an audition. I went in and read for it, and I got it. Junie Lowry, who did Deep Space Nine, cast the movie. I’d auditioned for her for several DS9 roles and she’d cast me in other shows. I think I worked for just one day on First Contact. We shot the scene down at the train station on Alameda Street. They’d redressed it for this gigantic party scene. When the guns come out, it was a pretty spectacular shot, with all the colors and everything. And it wasn’t bad being surrounded by two beautiful girls. I took one for the team. It was hard, but somebody had to do it.
Tell us about the nose…
STARK: The prosthetic for Nicky wasn’t a full-face piece, it was just the nose. The nose was made to look as if it were metal, but it wasn’t. I spoke to Jonathan Frakes because, here it is, I’m playing this gangster with the metallic nose, and I wanted to be smoking a cigar. I thought, “Wouldn’t this be great, if I can light it with an old-time wood match that I lit on the tip of my nose?” So they worked it out and reinforced the bottom of the nose appliance, that way it wouldn’t move when I struck the match, and they put some piece of flint at the bottom of it. And it worked. I lit the match on my metal nose and then lit my cigar.
You’ll be in Vegas this weekend for Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention. Have you ever done a Trek convention before?
STARK: I’ve never done a Star Trek convention, no. I was supposed to do one last year and had a terrible situation come up right before I was getting on the plane, and I couldn’t make it. So, I’m looking forward to it. I have done a few autograph shows, but I think this experience will be a little bit different. I was hoping to see Jonathan Frakes in Vegas, but I just heard he won’t be there because he’s directing something. He directed me in First Contact and also did a couple of episodes of Hit the Floor. He was actually in an episode, too, as an actor, and it was an episode he didn’t direct. Great guy, great director.
You worked a day or two on DS9 and a day on First Contact. How surreal is that people still want to hear about those two experiences, have you sign autographs of photos of you as Ashrock and Nicky the Nose, etc.?
STARK: It’s a great private club and it’s nice to have membership even though both appearances were just for the blink of an eye. But the experiences… I can still remember every bit of them, as if I was doing them the other day. And because of the fans and because of the quality of the show and the movie, it gets to live on all over the world.
What are you working on at the moment?
STARK: Actually, I’m heading off now to do a wardrobe fitting for an independent film I’m doing with Sally Field. It’s titled My Name Is Doris and it’s a really well-written little film, kind of a senior falling in love movie. My younger nephew and I both have eyes for Sally. I’m looking forward to that. I also have the second season of Hit the Floor, which is on now on VH-1. I finished that for the season, and we’re waiting to see if we get picked up for more. I also have a call for availability about a role I played on Castle. That’s not definite, but it’d be fun. I also have two indie films that I’ve done. One is called Safelight, and I play a truck driver from the south who falls in love with Christine Lahti’s character, who runs a convenience truck store. I’m hearing good things about that film, and it’s got a great cast. Roswell FM is the other indie that’s done. It was fun, but I don’t know yet what’s happening with that in terms of festivals or distribution.
Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention is Las Vegas is running now through Sunday. Visit www.CreationEnt.com for details and tickets.