Man behind Quark
Armin Shimerman found a way to explore what it means to be human.
He became an alien.
A famous one, in fact: The Ferengi bar owner Quark on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” in the 1990s.
“I found Quark to be the most human of all the characters,” Mr. Shimerman, 69, told the News-Press by phone last week from Cedar City, Utah, where he’s acting in several plays at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
“A lot of these ‘Star Trek’ characters are larger than life. They have very few flaws, and they volunteer for suicide missions all the time,” Mr. Shimerman said. “Quark doesn’t do that.”
He said the alien embodied more of humanity’s traits. “I liked exploring that.
“I had great, great fun with the character,” he said.
“There was wonderful writing and wonderful actors that I paired up with, whether they were series regulars, day players or guest stars,” he said.
Mr. Shimerman will talk more about his days as Quark on stage at the Official Star Trek Convention Wednesday through Aug. 4 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
He has appeared at that and other conventions for a long time and once appeared at San Diego Comic Con in connection with a video game in which he voiced a character.
“I love the interaction with people,” he said.
“When they get over complimenting me and the show, I ask them questions about themselves,” said Mr. Shimerman, whose roles included Principal Snyder on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” “The stories I hear about their lives are usually very moving, very funny, very interesting.
“And Vegas is an exciting city to visit,” he said, adding that he enjoys the reunion with “Star Trek” actors he used to work with and other actors that he has met at conventions.
The Lakewood, N.J., native said he originally got into acting in eighth grade to be around the girls in the drama class, but found the art of becoming someone else compelling as he played John Proctor in “The Crucible” at Santa Monica High School.
After graduating from high school in 1967, he earned his bachelor’s in English in 1972 at UCLA. After that, he had an apprenticeship at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.
“Shakespeare has always been a part of my life,” he said, adding that the Bard’s works helped to prepare him for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
“Well, ‘Star Trek’ is always a little bit over the top,” Mr. Shimerman said. “You’re dealing with cosmic, major issues of life and death. The appreciation I learned for larger-than-life issues in Shakespeare I could apply to ‘Star Trek’ or any other science fiction.”
He said his favorite Quark episodes included those in which he got to interact with other Ferengi characters and where his character had more to do. Those included episodes such as “The Magnificent Ferengi,” in which the aliens rescued Quark’s mother, and “The House of Quark,” in which Quark becomes involved with a Klingon woman.
“There the palate was often broader,” he said. “I got to be both greedy and heroic, both wise and idiotic.”
He said makeup designed by Oscar-winning UCSB graduate Michael Westmore helped his portrayal.
“The mask made me an alien, so I could concentrate on my own humanity as opposed to any alienness about it,” he said. “And if I made large choices, you could attribute that to alien behavior. Those who were not in a mask could not do that.”
Mr. Shimerman also praised the writers for seeing the potential in Quark. “I expected to just play a greedy Ferengi when I started the job. They were much wiser than I was, and they wrote a more fully fleshed out character than I had originally anticipated.”
He said he’s excited for Sir Patrick Stewart, who spoke at San Diego Comic Con about the upcoming “Star Trek: Picard” on CBS All Access, and would welcome the chance to reprise Quark on the show.
“I’ve come to understand my days as Quark are perhaps behind me. But if someone like Patrick asked me to come back, I would jump at the opportunity.”