Lompoc High School graduate Jeffrey Combs joins fellow ‘Star Trek’ actor Casey Biggs and others in Las Vegas
Jeffrey Combs and Casey Biggs had no idea their audition for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” would set the stage for decades of “Star Trek” convention appearances, plus their annual Las Vegas performances with their Rat Pack.
“I had no idea when I did my first ‘Star Trek’ that I would wind up doing as many episodes as I did,” said Mr. Combs, who grew up in Lompoc and played two very different “DS9” characters — Weyoun, a Vorta serving the villainous Dominion, and Brunt, the head of the feared Ferengi Commerce Authority.
He went on to play an Andorian commander in the Imperial Guard, Shran, on “Star Trek: Enterprise.”
Mr. Combs and Mr. Biggs, who played the Cardassian henchman-turned-resistance leader Damar on “DS9,” haven’t appeared on the new “Star Trek” shows, but they’ve continued to entertain fans at “Star Trek” conventions. They’ll be on stage again at the 55-Year Mission Tour, a convention featuring “Star Trek” actors, Wednesday through Sunday at the Rio All Suite-Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where they will perform jazz and rock parodies in a Rat Pack that includes other “Star Trek” actors.
They’ve typically performed the shows as free bonus concerts on the last night of Creation Entertainment’s annual Las Vegas convention.
“It’s camaraderie and hanging out friends, and I like the spontaneity of it,” Mr. Combs told the News-Press by phone from his Agoura Hills home. On the same conference call was Mr. Biggs, who lives in Paso Robles.
The Rat Pack show is a blend of well-performed music and comedy, and the actors have fun kidding each other on stage. The love among them is obvious, as is the love they have for their fans.
“We’ve been doing this so long that it feels like putting on a suit that fits perfectly,” Mr. Biggs said.
Max Grodénchik, who played Ferengi bar owner Quark’s brother Rom on “DS9,” writes songs for the Rat Pack and performs with them.
“I love the opening tune. Each verse introduces each of our character, and the audience just loves it,” Mr. Biggs said. “Jeff plays the guitar. I play guitar sometimes.
“What I enjoy about it so much is getting the chance to perform this wild and wacky material, a lot of which is based on really great songs,” Mr. Biggs said. “Jeff feels the same way. The response from the audience is so satisfying. They laugh at the right places. They enjoy all the jokes. They love watching us enjoy each other.”
Besides Mr. Combs, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Grodenchik, the Rat Pack includes Vaughn Armstrong, known for playing many “Star Trek” aliens as well as the human Vice Admiral Forrest on “Star Trek: Enterprise.”
“He’s played more characters in ‘Star Trek’ than anybody,” Mr. Biggs said.
Mr. Armstrong likes to perform songs previously sung by his Enterprise Blues Band, and in addition to his singing, he’s great on the harmonica.
In 2019, Nana Visitor, who starred as Major Kira Nerys on “Deep Space Nine,” joined the Rat Pack concert.
Mr. Combs said he feels it’s important to give fans a good concert this year because of the pandemic, which led to the cancellation of last year’s “Star Trek” convention in Las Vegas.
“The fans who are coming deserve a good show,” Mr. Comb said. “I hope it will be a healing therapy.”
Later in the interview, Mr. Combs talked about his life in Lompoc.
“I would say it was a slice of Americana,” he said. “I moved to Lompoc right before I was in the first grade. It wasn’t the most energetic or active center of culture or excitement, but it was pretty much small-town Americana. There were good schools in the 1960s, and we were still riding the crest of being the top dog after World War II.
“It was a good place to grow up,” he said. “I have a lot of good memories. I used to walk through the flower fields.”
Mr. Combs graduated from Lompoc High School in 1972, and his destiny awaited him a short distance away.
“I was lucky,” he said. “Right up the road in Santa Maria was Allan Hancock College with an incredible theater program.”
Mr. Combs acted in plays with PCPA, and his experience there convinced him to go into acting for his career.
PCPA is also where Mr. Combs met someone he would run into again on “Deep Space Nine.”
“One of the lovely ‘Star Trek’ connections was the costume designer Robert Blackman. You see his name on every single ‘Star Trek’ series you watch, from ‘The Next Generation’ to ‘Enterprise,’” Mr. Combs said. “He did the costumes at PCPA.”
The two reunited when Mr. Combs got his recurring role on “Deep Space Nine.”
“It was like coming home,” Mr. Combs said.
Mr. Combs was first cast on “Deep Space Nine” to play Weyoun, a Vorta with distinct ears and complete devotion to serving the shape-shifting Founders of the Dominion, an empire in the Gamma Quadrant. They had access to the Alpha Quadrant, where the Federation and Earth exist, because of a wormhole by Deep Space Nine and the nearby planet of Bajor.
Weyoun was killed in the character’s first episode, which seemed to mean Mr. Combs’ work for “Deep Space Nine” was over.
“They hired Jeff to do a part, and they killed him off at the end of the show,” Mr. Biggs said. “Then they said, ‘We like that guy!’ All of the sudden, Weyoun got replicated!”
Writers decided Weyoun was a clone, and “Deep Space Nine” later had a tradition of Weyoun being killed off from time to time and replaced by his clones, so Mr. Combs’ recurring role continued to the series’ final episode.
Mr. Combs also played Brunt, the no-nonsense, feared head of the Ferengi Commerce Authority.
There’s a seventh-season “Deep Space Nine” episode in which Mr. Combs played both Weyoun and Brunt.
“And he got paid twice,” Mr. Biggs said.
Mr. Combs and Mr. Biggs had many scenes together on “Deep Space Nine.” Weyoun was Damar’s boss.
Damar became the Dominion’s liaison with the Cardassian people, and his strings were pulled by the Dominion. The circumstances drove him to drink.
Finally, Damar looked in the mirror, didn’t like what he saw and joined the Federation in fighting the Dominion and saving Cardassians from oppression.
“What you have to know is Casey and I are good friends,” Mr. Combs said. “We didn’t know each other until we worked with each other. You run into like-minded people, and it enriches your lives. We enjoy each other’s company.”
Mr. Combs recalled being on the “Deep Space Nine” set for the series’ final scene, shot in the Las Vegas-inspired “Vic’s” casino in a holosuite.
“My wife was pregnant and was ready to deliver. I asked the AD (assistant director) if I could have my phone,” Mr. Combs said. “In the middle of Avery (Brooks’) final speech (as his character Capt. Benjamin Sisko), my phone went off. She was calling to say, ‘Hi, how are you?’”
“That daughter (born the year of the ‘Deep Space Nine’ finale) is now 22,” Mr. Combs said.
Mr. Biggs told Mr. Combs, “We’ve known each for 25 years.”
Both actors said they haven’t been asked to work on the new “Star Trek” series such as “Discovery” or “Picard.” They speculated that one reason is “Discovery” and its upcoming spinoff, “Strange New Worlds,” are being filmed in Toronto, where Paramount must hire a quota of Canadian actors to get Canadian tax credits.
“Picard” is filmed in Santa Clarita and at locations such as Sunstone Winery, the Santa Ynez site used for Chateau Picard.
Meanwhile, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Combs continue to act. Mr. Combs said he recently was filmed for an independent horror film, but can’t talk about it because of a nondisclosure agreement.
One thing’s for certain. They continue to be bright stars on stage in the “Star Trek” universe.