Intergalactic Wheeler Dealer: A Chat with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Armin Shimerman

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Paramount Pictures

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Quark (Armin Shimerman)

One thing that patrons of Quark’s Bar on Deep Space Nine could always count on was a warm welcome from the establishment’s owner. After all, the more people who enjoyed themselves drinking, eating, gambling, and living out their wildest fantasies in one of his Holosuites, the more gold-pressed latinum the Ferengi would make. Of course, the bar was not Quark’s only source of income; like all his people, he was always keen to turn a profit and looked for any and all business ventures, legal or otherwise.

Despite his dubious professional dealings, Quark was a harmless as well as likeable character and one that Armin Shimerman thoroughly enjoyed playing for seven seasons on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His first Trek role was that of a very special Betazoid gift box in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Haven.” He then played not one but two Ferengis - Letek in “The Last Outpost” and Bractor in “Peak Performance.” It was, in fact, the actor’s work in the latter which led Deep Space Nine co-creator and executive producer Rick Berman to cast him as Quark.

“Rick told me at the end of the audition process for Quark that the part had been written for me but I still had to try out for it,” explains Shimerman. “I was thrilled when I heard that they were doing a third Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine, but when I discovered they were also going to have a regular Ferengi character in it I was determined to get the part. I’ve always been a big fan of the show and the idea of my possibly making a bigger contribution to the Trek myth other than my work on The Next Generation really appealed to me.

“I sort of campaigned to get an audition for Quark and as it turned out I was, I believe, the first actor to try out for the role. There was this long hiatus until my next audition and during that time I was despondent that they had forgotten about me. The easiest thing to forget in Hollywood is the first actor who auditions for a part.

“A month-and-a-half later they called me back for a second audition and there were only two of us going up for the role, me and Max Grodenchik [eventually cast as Quark’s brother Rom],” continues the actor. “I went in and read and then waited outside for Max. I had never met him before but I’d seen his work as a Ferengi on The Next Generation [in “Captain’s Holiday” and “The Perfect Mate”]. Max and I had a wonderful chat for about two hours. He told me he approached Quark much more comically than I had, whereas I tried playing him more like I did Bractor in my second Next Generation episode.

“After this audition I had to wait another two weeks for the final audition. I came into the waiting area where Rene Auberjonois [Security Chief Odo] was sitting along with Avery Brooks [Commander Benjamin Sisko] and Nana Visitor [Major Kira Nerys]. I didn’t know at the time that Rick Berman had pretty much made his first choices - we were them - and that he just had to convince the people at Paramount Studios as to the wisdom of his choices. After that, I walked out of the room and the rest is history,” he says happily.

Quark was ready to leave Deep Space Nine after the Federation took over the base from Cardassian occupation, but Commander Sisko persuaded the Ferengi to stay, hoping his bar would help draw tourism to the facility and bolster its economy. Although his instincts told him to put profit before people - which typically got him in trouble, especially where Odo was concerned - Quark gained a moral or two during his time spent with humans as well as the local Bajorans. Shimerman was always pleased whenever his character’s more serious side was allowed to emerge.

“I’m particularly proud of the fifth season story 'Business As Usual' because it shows Quark as much more of a thinking, deeper person in the sense that he has a real problem to solve,” notes the actor. “There are a number of episodes in which he must face moral dilemmas, such as 'Bar Association' and 'Looking for Par’mach in All the Wrong Places.' I always saw Quark as much more of a dramatic character than the show’s writers, who always saw him as sort of comic relief. They did give me some dramatic episodes, but there was always a lot of comedy mixed in.”

Unlike the original Star Trek series and three of its four spin-offs - The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise - our heroes on Deep Space Nine did not travel the universe seeking out new life and new civilizations. Most of the action had to come to them, which made the series a difficult one for Trek fans to initially embrace.

“Because we stayed in one place we really went from being an episodic program to something more like a serial,” says Shimerman. “With an episodic show you can tune in any week having never watched before and know what’s going on as well as understand what’s going on with the characters because it’s all new every week. With Deep Space Nine we had more than 40 recurring characters and ongoing story lines, so our show was closer to being a serial. If you tuned in for the first time and, let’s say, saw the relationship between Worf [Michael Dorn] and Dax [Terry Farrell] you were going to be a little bit 'lost at sea' because you weren’t aware of what had come before.

“Another change that took place with our show had to do with its characters. When we first started out, the flaws everyone had were minor, but as the series continued these imperfections expanded and all of our characters became much more three-dimensional because of it. Quark’s flaw was that he’d become a little too human and moral. Kira was much more of a jingoist; anything that wasn’t good for Bajor wasn’t good for her, either. Sisko struggled between being a captain for the Federation and also respecting his position as the Bajoran emissary. So every now and then he was caught up in a moral dilemma as far as which path he had to follow. All of this, hopefully, is what made the show interesting to watch and the audience tune in week after week.”

Please note, all Star Trek: Deep Space Nine photos above copyright of Paramount Pictures.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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