StarTrek.com is deeply saddened to report the passing of René Auberjonois, the veteran stage, television and film actor — not to mention artist, director, voiceover talent, audiobook narrator, painter, photographer and gourmet chef — who counted among his hundreds of credits the role of Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He also directed eight episodes of DS9, appeared uncredited as Colonel West in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, voiced Odo for the DS9 video games Harbinger and The Fallen, guest starred as Ezral in the Enterprise hour, "Oasis," and entertained fans at countless conventions all over the world. Auberjonois, who was 79, died on December 8, 2019, succumbing to metastatic lung cancer. His son, Remy, confirmed the news.
Auberjonois spent his childhood traveling between New York, where he was born; Paris, where he decided to become an actor; and London, where he completed high school. During his childhood, Auberjonois' neighbors in the Artist's Colony in upstate New York included Helen Hayes, Burgess Meredith, and John Houseman, with Houseman later becoming a key mentor. After graduating from Carnegie-Mellon University, he appeared in plays on both American coasts, acting with the American Conservatory Theater, the Mark Taper Forum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. His first role on Broadway was as the Fool in King Lear; and a year later he earned a Tony Award for his work alongside the legendary Katharine Hepburn in Coco. Auberjonois also earned Tony Award nominations for Big River, City of Angels, and Sly Fox, all on Broadway, and appeared in dozens of other productions in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
On the film front, perhaps Auberjonois's best-known early role was that of Father Mulcahy in the Robert Altman-directed feature film M*A*S*H. Other film credits included Brewster McCloud, The Hindenburg, the 1976 remake of King Kong, Eyes of Laura Mars, The Little Mermaid (for which he voiced Louis, the sadistic French chef), Batman Forever, Inspector Gadget, The Patriot, and more. As for television, the IMDB rundown of his appearances was seemingly unending, spanning from The Bionic Woman, Charlie's Angels, and Stargate SG-1 to Frasier, Boston Legal, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Madam Secretary, and Criminal Minds. Auberjonois garnered Emmy Award nominations for his work in Benson and The Practice.
Deep Space Nine came the actor's way in late 1992, with the show premiering in early 1993. Over the course of the series, Odo served as the space station's chief of security, with the cranky Changeling often butting heads with his Ferengi frenemy Quark and eventually romancing Kira Nerys. StarTrek.com talked extensively with Auberjonois about DS9 and his other Trek work in a 2011 interview. Discussing Odo's arc from when fans first met the shapeshifting character in "The Emissary" to his final moments in "What You Leave Behind," the actor said:
"The day that [DS9 executive producer] Rick Berman called to welcome me to the Star Trek world, he said something like, I don't remember the exact words..'This character is like Pinocchio.' And I thought, 'Well, that is interesting.' And, over time, I came to understand that that was a certain aspect of the character. He was a very unformed being. Just as Pinocchio was wooden, Odo was a mass of liquid, really, and he was trying to get some kind of shape to his life and to who he was and he wanted to answer the questions he had about what his role was meant to be in that particular universe. People used to say to me early on, 'Oh, I hope Odo finds out where he is from and who he is,' and I'd say, 'Gee, I hope not. I sort of love the mystery of it.' But then, of course, I wasn't one of the writers. So I had nothing to do with that. I was simply the instrument to play the music that the writers had come up with. And we did learn, over time, so much about him. His relationships with Kira [Nana Visitor] and with Quark [Armin Shimerman] and with everybody, really, all made him more and more identifiable in human terms."
Auberjonois is survived by Judith, his wife of 56 years, their children Remy and Tessa, both of whom are actors, and several grandchildren. Please join StarTrek.com in offering our condolences to Auberjonois' family, friends, colleagues and fans.