In advance of the May 13th wide release of “What We Left Behind,” the new documentary focused on the television series ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,’ I was given the chance to speak with several of the cast and crew of the seminal 1990s Star Trek series. Today, ScienceFiction.com proudly brings you exclusively my conversation with Armin Shimerman, who played the role of Ferengi bar owner Quark throughout the entire series’ seven-season run (and on a few episodes of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ as well!).
Shimerman and I had an amazing conversation about Star Trek and the world of acting in general. If/when you watch the documentary, you’ll see his love and passion for his art shine forth in his interviews as well. Check out our conversation below!
Armin Shimerman: At the time, I didn’t know it was going to be a documentary. I thought it was just going to be… well, I didn’t know what I thought, but I didn’t think it was going to be what it turned out to be! I thought, if I remember correctly, that it was just going to be the sort of stuff that you put on the end of a disc or something – director’s notes or something like that. It turned into, of course, something much bigger as the years went by, and I was very happy to participate in it.
You’re one of the few Star Trek actors to have appeared as the same character in three different series. Has there been discussion yet for you to potentially pop up in one of the forthcoming Star Trek series?
No… there’s been no discussion.
Well… that is too bad!
I agree! Whatever strength you possess, whatever pull you have, please let them know that I’d love to do it. <laughs>
[Showrunner] Ira [Steven Behr] and the writers touched on their ideas for characters in their Season 8 treatment; if you could write the ongoing story of Quark post-‘Deep Space 9,’ what would you personally want for the character?
I’ve been asked this question several times, actually, and I usually say “nothing,” but I’ve suddenly – just this very moment – have come up with something! It’s kind of an “Oh, I would have liked that!” Usually I would say no, there’s nothing else I would have liked, because the writers did such a good job about giving my stuff to say and do, and considering what they had to work with… <laughs> not entirely about just me as an actor, but considering that Star Trek has always been about Starfleet, and Quark was not Starfleet. He’s anything but Starfleet. So, the fact that they gave me as much to do – I’m enormously thankful for it.
But! As I said, this – just this moment – I just thought, “Oh, that would be nice!” After about the first season, [the creative team] sent out word to all the future writers who were submitting scripts for our show, that they had gotten a back-load of romantic stories for Quark, which after the second season they decided not to delve into any further. He’d become a “ladies man,” much to my surprise – and I’m sure to the fans’ as well. <laughs> But after a long period of time – five, six years – with no romantic interest, I think it would have been interesting to find a romantic interest for Quark. After all, most of the other characters did enjoy that. So that would have been interesting to see – the reaction between me and some on-screen love.
Perhaps, though… now that I’m saying it out loud… perhaps they had that with Rom and Leeta… so maybe it would have been a bit redundant for me to have that kind of a story.
One of my personal favorite non-Star Trek performances of yours was when you portrayed The Terror in ‘The Tick’ live-action series (2001). Aside from Quark, what is your favorite “other” role you’ve played?
Oh my God, ‘The Tick!’ <laughs> Well, I’m pretty famous for Quark – but I’m almost equally as famous for doing [Principal] Snyder in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ Although there, I was a recurring character, not a series regular. I love working on ‘Buffy,’ it was a wonderful experience – not only for the fact that the scripts were wonderful, the actors and directors that I were working with were wonderful people – because I was shooting ‘Buffy’ at the same time that I was shooting ‘Deep Space Nine,’ it was a “relief valve” of sorts for me. I wasn’t thinking about Quark 24/7 – I could actually think about Snyder and all the other characters I could play during that time. So, I wasn’t over-used in my own head for Quark; I could think about other characters, so then when I did go back to Quark, I could think about the character with a fresh new eye and desire to go even further than I had gone before. So that was a great asset to me.
But there have been a lot of roles that I have played that I am very grateful for. Nothing has made me a household name, but I’m extremely happy with my career, and I’m very grateful for the dozen or so roles that have been given to me that I’ve had a chance to play with and put my mark on.
Now, the question has to be asked, then: if Principal Snyder and Quark sit down to face off in a game of three-dimensional chess… who wins?
Well, I imagine Quark would win, hands-down! He’s much smarter than Snyder. But, for as much as Quark was social and loved people, Snyder was self-centered and hated people, so maybe that’s an advantage for him there… I could see the yin-and-yang of it here, for sure.
‘DS9’ is prominent for having truly fleshed out the details of the Ferengi as a species – did you and your fellow Ferengi actors have any input into that process?
Not a whit. Not an iota. Not a crumb. The writers did it all. The only thing that I can say that we influenced is: whatever our relationships were in dailies [raw footage sometimes used as rehearsal or re-shoot points] – the writers were smart enough and sensitive enough to see those rapports that we were creating on camera, and they could establish facts and situations to further enhance those relationships that we were exhibiting.
You co-wrote a ‘DS9’ novel along with a separate sci-fi book series – any more writing projects in the works?
There is indeed! I have a new novel – I’ve been told it’s not a novel, it’s actually three novels. In my ‘Merchant Prince’ series, I deal with a historical character named Dr. John Dee, who is an Elizabethan. This is my – I teach Shakespeare, so the Elizabethan period and people are the things I’ve been studying since college. So, I have basically finished a three-book trilogy about John Dee, but it’s not science-fiction, it’s a period mystery. I have completed it, but it hasn’t been published yet; once I find a publisher, I’m sure they will insist on rewrites, so there is still some work to be done.
I’m actually leaving on Saturday for southern Utah to do some Shakespeare performance for the next five months, and one of the things I’d like to do during that period of time is to write a manual – not a novel – on Shakespearean acting. For the last 30 years, people have asked me if I’ve ever written anything down about my experience as a Shakespearean actor, and over the course of this Summer, if I’m diligent enough, I believe that I will write that book.
Do you have any particularly memorable or crazy stories from your time doing fan conventions that you’d like to share?
Oh, there are tons of wonderful moments at conventions. People are incredibly considerate, loving, and appreciative of my work – but even more so, I try to get people off of talking about me pretty quickly and I ask them about their own stories, about their own life experiences. I have heard some glorious stories, some harrowing stories, all about what people have endured – and many times, they will tell me that watching ‘Star Trek’ has helped inspire them or has helped them push through a bad time.
But one of my all-time favorite moments happened in Phoenix many years ago. A young man, probably about seven or eight years old – he’s probably thirty-seven or thirty-eight by now <laughs> – it was the last question of a panel for me, and I saw this young boy, waving his hand wildly. I picked him, and he stood up and asked me: “what’s it like to be an action figure, and do you ever play with yourself?” You can imagine the roar of laughter that followed that question! I just loved it – it was great.
There have been many – perhaps less funny, but certainly more meaningful – interactions that I’ve had. I’m grateful to the fans, not only for how appreciative they have always been, but while the show was still being made, they were a sounding board to see if what I was doing on-screen was getting across or not. I would actually ask this of people at conventions, and the feedback I would great would often affect what I would do in future episodes. Things that seemed to be working, I would say, “Okay, let’s do more of that,” and things that didn’t seem to be working, I could say, “Well, that’s a choice with Quark that I don’t need to make anymore.”
‘What We Left Behind’ lands in movie theaters nationwide for one night only on May 13. Tickets are available at FathomEvents and participating theater box offices.