Shimerman Reflects on Ferengi ValuesBy Michelle
May 3, 2005 - 11:21 PM
Armin Shimerman (Quark) spoke at length to his Star Trek: Deep Space Nine co-star Chase Masterson (Leeta) about life, the universe and everything from the success of his marriage to the process by which he became a Ferengi.
In an interview at TheFandom.com, Masterson said that she was thrilled to be talking with one of her favourite actors and people from the series on which she ultimately played Shimerman's sister-in-law. The actor believes that he was cast as Quark instead of Max Grodencik, who ended up playing Quark's brother and Leeta's husband Rom, because he played the character with a more dramatic edge in auditions whereas Grodencik gave the part a more comic turn.
Though many Star Trek fans recall Shimerman's first turn as a Ferengi in The Next Generation's "The Last Outpost", the original series fan appeared once before that in an uncredited role as the Wedding Box in "Haven" - a five-hour makeup job for twenty minutes of filming, which Shimerman accepted on the condition that he be considered for other roles, since he would not be recognizable as the talking silver prop. "They were looking for short character actors to play Ferengi," he noted, adding that executive producer Rick Berman had told him that his performance as Letek, the first Ferengi in a Star Trek series, was the reason he was cast as Quark. Beauty and the Beast had offered him a recurring character role at the time, but he turned it down to do Star Trek, "which was obviously the right choice."
The early Ferengi were somewhat one-dimensional, Shimerman felt, but Quark was much more complicated. He viewed him like an immigrant in a new country, without the same background or values, needing to acclimatise to the lifestyles of others without losing his own. "When Deep Space Nine starts, the station has just undergone an immense changeover from the culture of the Cardassians to the culture of Starfleet," he explained. "As the show showed us, the difference between Cardassian and Starfleet Culture was night and day." Quark had own values, and had learned Cardassian values, but over the course of the series he had to "unlearn those" and learn Starfleet values. "This is a man who rolls with the punches," the actor observed.
Shimerman talked about his origins as an actor, taking drama classes as a way to make friends when he moved to Los Angeles from New Jersey at 16, then doing plays at his high school. "I found out...that I had something called presence. I found that I enjoyed it. I also found that it transformed me into a different world that I'd never been part of before - I could be another person," he recalled. He felt very empowered playing a hero in a high school play, but when he was next cast as a villain, it deepened his desire to explore more aspects of drama. "The idea that I could play these different characters, and that people would congratulate me on it...was like a drug."
Shimerman moved to New York and was cast quickly in Broadway shows, which he found "amazing", becoming known rapidly when he appeared in Joseph Papp's production of The Threepenny Opera with Raul Julia. He had been dating actress Kitty Swink (Minister Rozahn, Luaran) and was doing an Off-Broadway play when his agent called to tell him that he had an audition in California for a sitcom pilot. He got the job, and "when I saw how much money was being thrown around", after four Broadway shows, he and Swink were both lured to Los Angeles with the intention of returning to New York; they believed that they would be more competitive for Broadway roles with screen credits, since many of the actors against whom Shimerman was auditioning were known from film and television.
Though Shimerman and Swink never did move back to the east coast, they have been married for 24 years this month. "She's put up with me for a very long time," said the actor. He and Swink, who was with him during the interview, said that they believe compromise and committment are the keys to their successful partnership. "To keep a relationship going you have to work at it," said Swink, who said that their committment to trying to make the world better place through their politics enhanced their commitment to each other. Shimerman added that he believes the emphasis in modern culture on putting careers ahead of relationships has been damaging to many.
A guest star on close to 100 shows from L.A. Law to Stargate, Shimerman said he believed he was aided by his background in theatre and the fact that he always tries to give a valuable performance and get along with people on the set. "Work begets work," he noted, "and because I was working I was a valuable commodity to people."
For much more, including Shimerman's identification with Mr. Spock and his issues with Paramount's failure to pay actors for hours worked, the interview is at TheFandom.com.