Robinson: The Complicated Garak

Andrew Robinson shared his memories of his time on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where he portrayed the multi-layered Cardassian Garak.

The first thing that Robinson had to get used to in his role as Garak was adjusting to the makeup necessary to play a Cardassian. “It was deceptively complicated playing Garak,” said Robinson. “Obviously, one of the complications was all the makeup and the costume, which was very uncomfortable, very confining, and the makeup, which I had a bit of a claustrophobic reaction to it at the beginning. But I got over that.”

There were benefits though when it came to playing an alien character. “That was fine, and as a matter of fact, the look of the character is what was enormously helpful because he looked so unique,” said Robinson. ” It was kind of wonderful for an actor to have a character that looks like that. It’s a gift!”

In addition, to the makeup, playing a complicated character was also a challenge. “I think more challenging was that the character… whatever the character said is not what he meant,” said Robinson. “We have an expression: subtext. That much of the truth of Garak was like a glacier: you saw only the tip of the glacier, but then, underneath the tip, was the very complicated truth of his life. So, playing that subtext, living with that subtext, presenting that subtext behind a mask of affability, of friendliness, of congeniality, I think that was both the challenge and the pleasure of the character.”

Robinson found Deep Space Nine to be “more nuanced” than the other Star Trek shows. “Deep Space Nine…had more ambiguity,” he said. “Rather than being black and white, there are more grays. I was surprised; even the new Star Trek movie, I guess they had to…it adheres to the old format of the evil villain who’s angry at everyone and wants to destroy a world, even though they don’t understand quite why he wants to destroy it. And I think that people who really liked Deep Space Nine are people who like ambiguity, and like when the characters are not either good or evil, where they are like most of us: they are complicated people with a little bit of each in each of those characters.”


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