Andrew Robinson

A gifted character actor, novelist and director, Andrew Robinson is best known to
Star Trek fans as the charmingly duplicitous Elim Garak, the sole Cardassian aboard Deep Space Nine. You might also know him as the crazed Scorpio killer in Dirty Harry and the ill-fated cuckold in Hellraiser. Sci-fi-online caught up with him as season three of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was due for release on DVD...

Sci-fi-online: Were you a Star Trek fan before Deep Space Nine?

Andrew Robinson: I really didn't know anything about Star Trek before being cast as Garak. I was aware of the overall phenomenon, but never actually watched any of the shows. If somebody told me years ago that one day I'd play a guy in a rubber mask in outer space, and that I'd consider him one of my best roles, I'd have thought he had a fever.

SFO: What attracted you to the role?

AR: I was originally approached to play the role of Odo, the shape-shifter, but then Rene Auberjonois got the part and I was asked to read for Garak instead. He was created to be a friend for Dr Bashir, to give him more to do, and the producers thought we made a great team. We worked so well together that they kept having me back.

The producers soon realised what an interesting character Garak was, and what a unique situation he was in, being the last Cardassian on the station, a tailor, and a spy. The mystery surrounding Garak was very attractive and they got more and more interested in unravelling it. Eventually, by the end of the show, I was right at the centre of the action.

SFO: Did you have any influence as to how Garak was portrayed, and what happened to him?

AR: It was a strictly scripted show and that's what I liked about it. The writers always came up with high quality material. They paid close attention to what the actors were doing though, observed our behaviour and factored that into their writing. They were very smart that way. It was a dream, it really was.

SFO: How much of a nightmare was the make-up process? Michael Dorn [Worf] was well known for moaning about it. Are you glad you don't have to do that any more?

AR: Michael whinged constantly about his make up! It was hard. Long hours in the chair and difficult on the skin. The more make-up you wore, the earlier you had to get to work, so my days were significantly longer than, say, anyone who just had to slip on a uniform and brush their hair. I'd remind myself, though, that without the make-up there would be no Garak and I must say, if I had a chance to be him again, I'd be willing to go back in that make-up chair.

SFO: Would you say that the character only really came together, for you as an actor, once you had the full make-up on for the first time?

AR: That's very true. When I first got the job I had no idea what a Cardassian was or how I was going to play Garak. But when I finally got into full make-up and costume, there he was, there was the character, and instinctively I knew what to do with him.

SFO: Would you say that working on a long-running television series offers a greater range of acting challenges than you'd get on a film?

AR: It's wonderful to be able to develop a character over seven years. That's an exquisite luxury and especially when you're not a regular. If you're a regular it becomes a grind, you do show after show after show, and it's exhausting. But to do it irregularly as a recurring character, the way that I did Garak, was perfect. When you do a film you have just one opportunity to get the character right. Of course, you have longer to make a movie than you do a single episode of a show, two months as opposed to a week and a half, but you can't beat seven years if you really want to explore a character inside and out.

SFO: Now that the show's behind you, how do you feel about Garak?

AR: Garak is one of those guys, we all know someone a bit like him, who you can't trust as far as you can spit. The moment you see him you put your hand on your wallet, and the moment he opens his mouth you know he's going to lie to you, but yet, somehow, you'd rather be in his company than with almost anybody else. He's a charming rogue, you can't deny it. Even I get sucked in by him. Although it's me playing him, when I see Garak on TV, I swear to god this is true, I'm fascinated.

SFO: What was your favourite episode of Deep Space Nine?

AR: The second season episode The Wire. Bashir helps Garak come off an addiction and that was some of the best acting I've ever done. And the script, by Robert Wolfe, was wonderful.

SFO: It's well documented that spirits often ran high on the set of The Next Generation. Was it the same on DS9?

AR: It was different. It wasn't as free and easy certainly as the Voyager and Next Generation sets. They were always joking around and playing tricks on one another. The DS9 set was a bit lower key. Not that we weren't friendly, we were just a bit more serious.

SFO: Originally billed as Siddig El Fadil, the actor known as Julian Bashir changed his name to Alexander Siddig during the show's run. Didn't he try to change it again?

AR: He really wanted to change his name every season. It drove the producers crazy. They let him do it once, and that was all. We always called him Sid, though, no matter what the credits said. I'm glad to say we're still very good friends.

SFO: You've also directed DS9 and Voyager episodes. What was that like?

AR: I was very grateful to the producers for giving me a chance to direct because that opened up a whole new career for me. It was funny directing the cast because suddenly it was me calling the shots, making the decisions and ordering everyone around. I liked it, though!"

SFO: Finally, how do you feel about the fans? They're certainly more vocal than most.

AR: Fans pay my bills, they're the people who support me. I expect them to be in my face because that's the deal. I don't understand actors who feel put out by the attention. On the whole I'd say Star Trek fans are very decent, generous, considerate people who have this love for the genre. I certainly find them to be a lot more civilised than, say, football fans.

SFO: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to Frederique Slezak at Paramount's Press Office

Season Three of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is available to buy from Paramount Home Entertainment from 23 June 2003 RRP £84.99 (DVD)

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