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.
What attracted you to the role?
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.
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.
Did you have any influence as to how Garak was portrayed,
and what happened to him?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Now that the show's behind you, how do you feel about Garak?
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.
What was your favourite episode of Deep Space Nine?
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.
It's well documented that spirits often ran high on the set
of The Next Generation. Was it the same on DS9?
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.
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?
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?
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!"
Finally, how do you feel about the fans? They're certainly
more vocal than most.
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.
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Frederique Slezak at Paramount's Press Office
Three of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is available to
buy from Paramount
23 June 2003 RRP
a list of other relevant sites click here.