Surma: Casting Star Trek

Before we see the characters we grow to love on the Star Trek series and movies, they have to be cast. From Star Trek: The Next Generation on, that job belonged in part to Ron Surma.

Working with Junie Lowry-Johnson, Surma cast “everybody who spoke. We’d meet with them,” he said, “and we’d have the people we picked then meet with the producers and the director of that particular episode. And we had to move fast because we basically had about five days per episode.”

Sometimes, an actor came in that didn’t fit the role for which he or she interviewed, but stood out and was called back later for an interview for another role. “It happened quite a bit,” said Surma. “It happened with Max Grodenchik. It happened with Armin Shimerman. The interesting thing is, if I remember this right, they were both the final contenders for Quark. But they were both on TNG well before DS9. I remember telling Max, after he didn’t get Quark, ‘We’re going to have something down the road for you.’ And that worked out. I can tell you that kind of thing happened several times on DS9, where people who were the second contenders for series regular roles ended up having very good recurring roles. Andy Robinson [Garak] was another one. He was up for Odo.”

Many fans know that Michelle Forbes turned down the role of Kira Nerys, but Terry Farrell was not the first choice to play Jadzia Dax according to Surma. “We were very interested in having Famke Janssen play Dax, but she also didn’t want to be tied down with a TV show,” he said. “And you couldn’t blame her with her movie career. Famke had done a wonderful episode of TNG [The First Duty] with Patrick [Stewart]. I know we’re talking about DS9 now, but I remember getting the description of that TNG character and it said, ‘The most beautiful woman in the universe.’ I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be easy.” And I think that was Famke’s first American TV job, though I could be wrong.”

Farrell’s departure at the end of Season Six of Deep Space Nine meant casting for a new Dax. “Finding that role was a long process,” said Surma. “We went through, I’m sure, a couple of hundred actresses in the audition process, and [Nicole de Boer] won out. She was very good. And, think about it, how hard is it to step into a show in its last year? Everybody’s been together for a long time. So I thought she did a great job.”


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