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Armin Shimerman

Armin Shimerman - About His Career - Ign.com Interview

Friday 8 August 2003, by Webmaster

Deep Space Nine’s Quark discusses his career.

August 04, 2003 - To Star Trek fans, Armin Shimerman is the actor behind one of the most memorable characters to ever inhabit that universe - Deep Space Nine’s Ferengi extraordinaire, Quark. (Seasons 1-4 of Deep Space Nine are currently available on DVD from Paramount Home Video.)

To Buffy fans, he will always be the ill-tempered Principal Snyder.

A distinguished stage actor and author (check out his Merchant Prince series), Shimerman is also the subject of our latest in-depth interview de resistance...

IGN FILMFORCE: Am I correct in understanding that you’re originally from Lakewood, New Jersey?

ARMIN SHIMERMAN: Yes ... a small town in the mid-section of New Jersey, Ocean County. It was a great, great childhood and it was a terrific town - probably still is. I haven’t been there for decades. I keep waiting for them to invite me back to be sort of a VIP at one of their parades, but it hasn’t happened yet.

IGNFF: So now you’re dropping hints...


IGNFF: How would you describe small town life in the ’50s?

SHIMERMAN: In the ’50s, yeah. Well, we went to a very small school. The town was dominated by the lake - it froze over in the winter and you skated on it in winter and you swam in it in summer. We kept the doors wide open, everybody knew everybody else... it was a small town. It had a lot of history, so we were always discovering new things about the town. That was kind of wonderful. We were right next door to Lakehurst. Most of my youth I watched the blimps fly over, because it was one of the last dirigible naval bases in the country. So we just grew up with blimps flying over all the time. When I look back on it now, I was very blessed to have been born there and to have grown up there.

IGNFF: It almost seems like a stereotypical, ’50s childhood in a small town.

SHIMERMAN: It was. We had some problems, surely. My family was not very well-to-do, and I came from a divorced family and we were always struggling to make ends meet. But my brother and I never knew about that - my mother and my grandmother took care of that, sort of kept that from us. We had good friends, and great neighborhoods, and it didn’t seem to matter. It didn’t make any difference.

IGNFF: And you were the first generation American citizen in your family, right?

SHIMERMAN: My mom was first generation on her side, but on my father’s side, I was indeed the first generation.

IGNFF: Was there a certain view that you attained via that, as far as a certain way of viewing the country or the way you fit in?

SHIMERMAN: It wasn’t so much viewing the country, but because my father had struggled all of his life and actually had done well in his struggles, although he was always poor, he and my mother - my mother primarily - taught me to be self-reliant, to look towards goals, to try to achieve the best I could. One of the great things about the small town I was in was it had a terrific school system and my teachers were wonderful. They taught me a great deal, and with the tools that they gave me, when I finally moved to Los Angeles in my junior year of high school, I was way ahead of the class.

IGNFF: At that time, if someone would have asked you when you were 14 or 15, what would you have said that your goals were?

SHIMERMAN: I probably would have told you that I was going to grow up to be an attorney. Or possibly a writer. When I was 11 or 12, I was doing some writing and actually got published in a magazine at that time. It was never a serious thing, because the family ethic was to grow up and make money. They were very disappointed when I became an actor. But an attorney seemed like the right thing. I’m not sure why, when I look back on it. But I’m sure that at that age that is exactly what I was telling people I was going to grow up to be.

IGNFF: Just because it seemed like the right thing to do?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, because it was the right thing to do.

IGNFF: It’s kind of ironic, because didn’t your mother set you on the path to acting?

SHIMERMAN: In a sense. What she did was she had a distant cousin who was a drama teacher in Los Angeles, and when my family moved to Los Angeles when I was 16, she felt that a great way for me to make friends would be through this drama club that her distant cousin was running. That was the beginning of the end.

IGNFF: Moving to L.A. must have been quite a culture shock.

SHIMERMAN: It was. It was a great culture shock.

IGNFF: That was height of the ’60s, right?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, we moved in, I would say ’65, ’66... I’m not really sure. One of those two years. I know when we moved to Los Angeles, as we were coming down the freeway for the first time, we saw smoke - it was exactly the week that the Watts riots happened. We moved to L.A. during the riots. But it was a cultural shock. It was a big city, and my brother and I weren’t really used to that.

IGNFF: Was your natural tendency to withdraw within?

SHIMERMAN: Exactly. The tendency was to withdraw, to stay to ourselves, to sort of bitch and moan about the fact that we’d lost all our friends. But my mom made a tremendous sacrifice. She moved all of us for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons was so that I would have residency requirements for UCLA, which I eventually attended.

IGNFF: Was it her understanding that you were going to be going for law?

SHIMERMAN: I don’t think she was specific about what I was supposed to go for, but she knew that I had to go to college, and she knew that the UC system was a terrifically good system and that you needed to be a resident of California for two years to get the special tuition rates. So she moved us out, as I said, in my junior year so that I would make the residency requirements. I don’t think she cared whether I was an attorney or not... I think she did care when I first told her I was going to be an actor, but that wasn’t really until after I graduated. The moment after I graduated, I immediately went to work for the Globe Theater in San Diego, and that was the path that I took for the rest of my life.

IGNFF: When you were first applying ...

SHIMERMAN: When I first applied, I had a poli-sci major, so I assumed I was going to be a lawyer.

IGNFF: How quickly did the acting bug hit you - and what exactly was the drama club?

SHIMERMAN: The drama club was a local club that was attached to a local community center in Los Angeles. I joined that when we first moved here, and then in the senior year of my high school days, I no longer belonged to that club, because in the high school years, I continually did plays in high school and was the lead in two of the three productions we did that year.

IGNFF: Which productions were they?

SHIMERMAN: The first one was The Crucible, John Proctor was the character. The second one, I was not the lead, but I played Claudius in Hamlet. The third was Mr. Antrobus in The Skin of Our Teeth.

IGNFF: Rather intense characters...

SHIMERMAN: They were. I had a wonderful drama teacher, and he taught us to love great literature - especially Shakespeare. For many years after high school and college, that is primarily what I did, was classical theater.

IGNFF: Did that instantly appeal to you?

SHIMERMAN: Yes... It was the language, it was the scope of the characters, it was the puzzle. When you work with Shakespeare, it’s a puzzle, and you have to solve the puzzle. It’s the solving of the puzzle that was always enormously important to me. Even to this day when I research Shakespeare, if I come upon a puzzle that I haven’t solved before, I spend most of the day trying to work it out.

IGNFF: So it’s as much an intellectual exercise as it is an emotional one...


IGNFF: Right off the bat that struck you in that way?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, yeah. Because the language was really hard for a high school student to understand. It was in English - you figure you should be able to understand it. My high school teacher, he helped me with the challenge and he also nurtured my talent and kept asking me to do more and more, and it was, I guess, part of being a small town kid - being in the large city, it was a way of disappearing out of the city and going into a more familiar world... even if it wasn’t familiar, it could be familiar after several weeks of rehearsal.

IGNFF: Especially after you had invested the time to, as you say, unlock the puzzle.


IGNFF: So it was almost a mastering of the domain within which you’d placed yourself...

SHIMERMAN: Exactly. Ironically enough, the local business that I own is called Mastering Shakespeare, so mastering is exactly the right word.

IGNFF: Moving on to UCLA, at that period of time, was there again a culture shock?

SHIMERMAN: No, because for the first year I lived at home. UCLA was not that far away from home and it was a big school, obviously much bigger than Santa Monica, where I went to high school. But it wasn’t so much a culture shock. Remember, I had just left my small town junior year and then I went to Santa Monica, so the idea of changing classmates, I had already practiced once, and it wasn’t that hard. I enrolled as a Political Science major, and I graduated as an English major, but I always matriculated over to the drama department and immediately started doing plays in the theater department.

IGNFF: Was drama offered as a major at that time?

SHIMERMAN: Oh, absolutely. In fact, after I graduated - I’m not sure whether I had anything to do with it, and I played a lot of lead parts in the theater department over the course of the four years that I was there - but after I graduated, they changed the rules so that you had to be a theater major to play the big parts.

IGNFF: Was it something that you didn’t even consider, as far as changing your major?

SHIMERMAN: No. I wanted to be an English major and my specialization was Shakespeare. Even in the last two years of college when it became clear to me that I was very much interested in acting - poly-sci major had disappeared after my first year - for my junior, senior and sophomore years I was an English major. As it became clear to me that I wanted to be an actor, it also became clear to me that I wanted to be a classical actor, and so I thought the best way to investigate the classical studies would be through the English department rather than the theater department, because I was continuing to act in the theater department - so I was getting a seat-of-your-pants education by doing it in the theater department, but I was getting a formal education in the English department, studying the language and the works.

IGNFF: Learning the mechanics behind it.


IGNFF: At that time, starting out as an actor, what were the biggest obstacles that you had to overcome?

SHIMERMAN: Well, one of the biggest obstacles was living in Los Angeles and seeing the film industry was primarily interested in very good looking people. I was always a character actor, so that was always a detriment. I always thought, "Okay, well, this is going to be a very tough uphill climb." And it turned out to be hard and easy at the same time. The other part was simply I was mostly interested in classical theater, and there wasn’t a lot of that in Los Angeles to follow. Most of my mentors were suggesting I should move to New York, where there was more theater to be found. At that time, when I was in college, I really wasn’t interested at all in doing television or film. I really was only interested in doing theater. That is what I had been trained for, that is what I was excited about, and that was the path I eventually followed.

IGNFF: Because you simply weren’t interested in TV or film?

SHIMERMAN: That’s right. It didn’t have the language that theater did. It didn’t have the four to five weeks of rehearsal time which made a character grow, and you really felt that you owned it. Again, it seemed like a closed door to me, because I only saw good-looking people appearing on films and TV. The people who weren’t so good looking were the older people, but I was a long way from that age. So I thought it’d be best for me to stay in the theater where I thought your acting ability was more important. I’ve learned over a lifetime that that’s not true, but at that time, I thought that real actors only went into the theater.

IGNFF: In which direction did your professors point you?

SHIMERMAN: A wonderful, wonderful professor named Ed Kaye-Martin, who was my mentor for many years - even after school - he always recommended working in the theater and always recommended that I go to New York. So, eventually, I took his advice and went.

IGNFF: This was after the stint at the Globe Theater in San Diego?

SHIMERMAN: I left for New York after The Globe. I had spent a summer there in San Diego, working with actors who either lived in San Francisco or lived in New York City. I got an earful over the summer of the benefits of both places, and eventually - although I had a better recommendation and the ability to go to ACT in San Francisco to work - I decided to go to New York instead, for a number of reasons, including just a work opportunity. At that time I was working in a restaurant chain called Victoria Station, which was a prime rib house. A job opportunity with the chain came up outside of New York in a town called Darien, Connecticut. The combination of my desire to want to go to New York, plus this job opportunity, convinced me pretty quickly that that’s what I was going to do.

IGNFF: What did you actually do when you got to New York?

SHIMERMAN: I waited tables in Darien, Connecticut. What I also did was send out a ton of letters to various regional theaters in that area, the northeast. Luckily enough, one of Ed Kaye-Martin’s teachers, one of my mentor’s mentors, got a letter and was kind enough to hire me for a very small part in my very first professional - after The Globe - professional theater experience. I went back to the restaurant, and a couple of months later I got accepted to go to a Shakespeare festival in Vermont, where I played the lead role - and that was great. Right after that, I was very fortunate. I got a general audition for Joe Papp’s theater in New York, in the New York Shakespeare Festival.

IGNFF: Which at that time, I guess, was at the height of its power.

SHIMERMAN: Yes, it was. Just about that time, Chorus Line was about to open. Chorus Line, of course, made the New York Shakespeare Festival a Broadway entity after that. But I got a general audition and did a lot of Shakespeare for the casting people, and then I was very fortunate in that very soon after my audition they were casting for a production, a very avant-garde production of Three Penny Opera. The director primarily wanted to work with people who didn’t have New York credits and had certain types of faces. So the thing that had always been to my detriment, which was my ethnic looking quality, was actually a benefit here for Richard Foreman, who was the director. That, plus my inexperience - which was also what he wanted - plus my having been in the right place at the right time, I ended up being in Three Penny Opera, and that was a very famous production with Raul Julia that ran for a year and a half at Lincoln Center. At that time, Lincoln Center was a Broadway house.

IGNFF: When directors are looking for actors with no experience, what are the reasons why?

SHIMERMAN: That’s such an anomaly. It almost never happens, because there’s an old cliché in New York theater that you can’t get a Broadway show until you’ve done a Broadway show. It’s a catch-22 situation. Richard, he’s a well-known avant-garde director with ideas of his own. After Joe had put his stamp on certain casting, like Raul and Elizabeth Wilson, and C. K. Alexander, the smaller parts were up for Richard Foreman to cast. It rarely happens. Directors want to work with the best actors they can - Richard wanted to mold people. He wanted people who didn’t necessarily have their own techniques already cemented in their psyches. So he picked a company of rather inexperienced people who had great potential and great looks, and molded us into a phenomenal cast and company.

IGNFF: How would you describe your transition? How were you molded?

SHIMERMAN: As a young actor, I had always thought that I was the be all and the end all, as far as choices. As an actor, I thought, "Well, the actor makes the choices and the director sort of shapes them." But Richard Foreman is a very powerful director and brilliant at what he does, and he gave us all the choices. We weren’t allowed to make choices. In a sense, and I don’t mean this to sound bad or critical, we were puppets and he manipulated the strings - which he’s famous for, actually. He’s famous for his strings. We were better for it. It was a brilliant production to watch and to experience. I was very honored, when I look back, to have been part of it. And it was, of course, the beginning of my career.

IGNFF: What is it like to fully experience that grind once it actually kicks in?

SHIMERMAN: "We’re trapped in a hit." That was the expression the actors used to say. Because we’d do it day after day, week after week, month after month. We could get out, of course - we could quit. But then we’d go back to unemployment - or in my case, back to waiting on tables.

IGNFF: Which is not really a valid alternative.

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, but when Sunday would come, you’d say to yourself, "What did we do Wednesday? What did I do Tuesday? I can’t remember. All I remember is being onstage." It was a grind, and it was a great education. By grind, yes, it was difficult work. But it gave me - one of the things anybody who’s worked with me will probably say about me - a tremendous work ethic about doing the work as good as you can, and never complaining about the hours. Because that’s what you signed on for. It’s not so terrible to be caught in a hit, to be trapped in a hit.

IGNFF: How do you keep it fresh for yourself every night?

SHIMERMAN: Because it’s a puzzle. You keep trying to unlock the puzzle, and even when you think you’ve finished the puzzle, invariably, you’ll find that you missed something. So even during the year a half - and I’ve had no theater run as long as that - but in the ones that have followed, it’s always a matter of trying to figure out how to make it better. It’s always a matter of repainting the canvas so it’s just a little bit better on Sunday than it was on Tuesday.

IGNFF: Has there ever been a time when you couldn’t unlock the puzzle?

SHIMERMAN: Yes - sometimes TV, because of the shortness of the preparation time. I look back on the performances and say, "What was I doing? My God, why didn’t they fire me on the spot? That was totally the wrong choice." Including the first time I did the Ferengi. They were all wrong choices. And, unfortunately, me and the dozens of actors who followed me playing Ferengi all had to live with them.

IGNFF: Was there very little direction from the outside, as far as interpretation?

SHIMERMAN: There was very little direction, very little good direction. The direction I got was antithetical to anything that should have been given. The sort of gerbil-like quality of the Ferengi in that very first episode was the idea of the director. The Ferengi, almost instantaneously, went from being galactic threats to being galactic comic figures. I mean, if you watch TNG in the earlier episodes, the Ferengi were spoken of as some sort of vicious, horrible, competitive creatures. Then the moment you saw them, with me in the forefront, they became these sort of laughable idiots. That was the direction of the director, and the bad choices - admittedly - the bad choices by me.

IGNFF: How much of the work that you did on DS9 was either hindered or aided by those choices?

SHIMERMAN: Well, the thing you learn in life is the mistakes you make make you stronger, if you learn from them. There were many things that were set in stone because the Ferengi had been established on TNG, and many times I would have liked to have changed that. But, at the same time, I had to work twice as hard to improve, make them real, and still try to achieve some sort of three-dimensionality. Even though my work would have been a little easier if those earlier choices hadn’t been made, I think my character, in the performance I gave eventually over the course of seven years, was stronger because of the handicaps that were given to me at the beginning of the series.

IGNFF: In retrospect, what is the most glaring thing you would have done differently?

SHIMERMAN: Well, I would have made them a little less obvious in that first episode. That first episode, I was pretty much playing over-the-top villain - that turned out to be very comical. I thought I was being serious, but obviously, it was not serious. It’s because there was no subtlety to the performance, there was no attempt to try to give them some real cajones.

IGNFF: How much of that lack of subtlety was aided and abetted by the makeup and costume?

SHIMERMAN: Well, you know what, some of that can be attributed to that, but that’s an easy way out. The real villain, as far as the bad performance is concerned, is me. And I take responsibility for it. It was bad acting. It was just bad acting. They liked it, god bless them, Star Trek liked it. But if you ask me personally, I will tell you that I could have done that a lot better if I’d had a little bit more time to think about it, and if I’d had a better, perhaps, director to say, "You know what? That’s a little over the top. Can you bring it down a little?"

IGNFF: How does it make you feel as an actor to look at any role where you feel personally that you made bad acting choices, but everyone around you thinks they were perfectly fine?

SHIMERMAN: That happens often, actually, in my career. I don’t understand it - I just smile and say thank you, and just keep my own thoughts to myself. It’s not imperative, really, what I think. It’s really imperative what the audience thinks. If the audience likes what I’m doing, that’s really what’s most important.

IGNFF: Was there a certain point where you would beat yourself more so than you might do now?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, I mean, I’ve come to learn what my potential is and what I can’t achieve, what I can. Before I learned the limitations on my own abilities, I would upbraid myself for not having done more. Now, I’m content to say, "Well, you’ve lived up to your potential. Perhaps Olivier could have done better, perhaps Rene Auberjonois could have done better, but that’s the best I could do."

IGNFF: What form would your upbraiding take? Would it be something that was sort of a depression, or would it be a quick shrug?

SHIMERMAN: No, it’s never a quick shrug. It’s really a sort of little lecture to myself, inside myself, where I go, "God, what were you thinking when you did that? My lord, didn’t you see what the other actor was doing? Didn’t you look two or three times at that line to see what it really meant? How it fits in with the scene that was four scenes before?" When I haven’t solved the puzzle completely, then I upbraid myself for not having done more homework.

IGNFF: But you’re not the type that would lash out in any way? Would it be very internal?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, it would be internal. I’m sure my wife says it’s sullen. Probably sullenness is as bad as it gets, but I would never lash out, because in my mind, the person who’s responsible for that is me. Nobody else. Can’t lash out at other people.

IGNFF: Was there any point where that kind of recrimination would sort of spiral out of control and affect the performance, or was it always constructive?

SHIMERMAN: Well, sometimes it did. Sometimes it spiraled out. During the course of seven years on Deep Space Nine, there was one or two times when it spiraled out, and I got a little angry. But I think, for the most part, I kept it under control - under my hat, so to speak.

IGNFF: What were the factors that contributed to it?

SHIMERMAN: It’s when I felt that that director was seeing me as a generic Ferengi, as opposed to Quark. By that I mean that the Ferengi before me were, as I said, very sort of obvious, very sort of comical, very sort of - in my mind - one-dimensional. I was trying my hardest to turn Quark into a three-dimensional character. When the director would sort of ask me to do really sort of shallow things, for shallow reasons, I would lash out. But that really didn’t happen - if it happened it happened very rarely.

IGNFF: Was it just because of the duration of the run - that incredibly long span - that those kind of things would compound themselves?

SHIMERMAN: Yes, and I would say, "My god, I’ve been doing this show for three years, or four years - I’m not the Ferengi I played on TNG. Nor am I like any of the other Ferengi." It wasn’t just me. Just like Aron’s character and Max’s [Eisenberg & Grodenchik] character, Rom and Nog, they were both equally three-dimensional characters, and it would have been wrong for a director to make them act as though they were an old-style Ferengi. Most of the crew and most of the writers, for the most part, agreed with me. So when I got upset, it was briefly. If it was anything, it was that... plus probably it was a warm day and I was getting a little hot under the makeup.

IGNFF: So just a whole slew of factors conspiring towards a certain end...

SHIMERMAN: Yeah. I mean, until an actor has worn makeup 16 hours a day for months on end, you have no idea of the subconscious claustrophobia, the subconscious lack of sensation that you have, and it begins to eat away at you. I have great admiration for all the actors who played Klingons and who played Cardassians and played Ferengi, because I know how difficult their days were. They had to daily perform and keep up with the actors who were playing more human roles, who had none of the handicaps that the makeup actors had. So I have great admiration for all those guys and women who did that.

IGNFF: Is there any way, as an actor, that you can prepare yourself for a day like that?

SHIMERMAN: No. No. I don’t know... it would be like diving. When you go diving, you realize you’ve encountered a totally different experience that only people who have dove understand. I’m sure there are other things like that, parachute jumping or something like that. But, until you’ve done it, you have no idea what you’re going to get into.

IGNFF: Was there ever a point where you regretted your decision to accept so many make-up roles - even prior to DS9?

SHIMERMAN: I did make-up in Alien Nation, and I did it in a picture called Arena. So, those roles prior to Deep Space Nine, and of course all the Star Trek: TNG roles. There was never a regret. Never, ever regret. My wife gave me a valuable piece of information, which was simply, "If you want to be a knight, you have to wear the armor." If I wanted to work in Star Trek - and I certainly did and I was grateful and honored to be part of Star Trek - this was the role that was assigned to me, and if it meant that I had to get up early in the morning and do two hours of makeup before I got ready - yeah, it was worth it. Was it difficult? Yes, absolutely. Was it energy sapping? Yes, definitely. Would I have changed it? No.

IGNFF: How would you compare - when you talk about a seven year run on a series and how a character evolves - how would you compare that to doing theater work, even on a long run?

SHIMERMAN: They were very similar in that sense. Because, in the theater, each day you have a performance and you try to make it better, you try to improve upon it, you try to get deeper into the character. Over the course of seven years, I think I explored every part of Quark’s psyche. In that sense, trying to solve the puzzle became a sort of seven-year puzzle-solving process. Most TV, you don’t get that opportunity. I was very fortunate to do that. Again, in the long-running theater shows, it’s pretty much the same thing. You go to work every day, you try to improve.

IGNFF: Is it more or less difficult when you consider the fact that on a theater run, the text is static and immutable?

SHIMERMAN: Well, it’s a different sort of puzzle. Because the text is the same, then you begin to make minute observations about each word, each pause, each relationship, each moment in the chain of events that happen between 8:00 and 11:00. Each one gets explored on a nightly basis, and each one is investigated and hopefully deepened. On TV, you have different words every week, but then you’re dealing more with solving the emotional makeup of the character. Because Deep Space Nine, unlike most TV shows, had a historical background, you also had to deal with that. The history of not only the show, but each of the races. It’s a different puzzle to solve, but it was equally exciting.

IGNFF: I would also assume that there was a different proprietary nature to your DS9 character - where that character, for all intents and purposes, was owned completely by you.

SHIMERMAN: Yes, and when you play Claudius in Hamlet, you know that hundreds of actors have played that role. But when you’re playing it, you feel very proprietary toward it. You feel that that’s my character, and among the other actors you’re working with in that particular production, you’re Claudius - nobody else is - and you’re very proprietary towards it. There’s really no difference between that and the proprietary feeling I had towards Quark. And eventually, you know, perhaps somebody will play Quark in the future. Star Trek is quite capable of lasting another hundred years. Eventually, they might have to bring him back, and I may not be available to do it.

IGNFF: In your theatrical roles, which character or part would you say most benefited from your analysis of the puzzle during the run?

SHIMERMAN: I wouldn’t say one in particular. I would say most of the Shakespearean roles that I’ve done were better because of the investigations I did. In fact, so that your readers know this, I teach this process to other actors. I’m a very well-known Shakespearean teacher here in Los Angeles, and I approach the roles through what’s called Elizabethan rhetoric. Elizabethan training at that time was primarily interested in how you put words together, the science and art of language. They studied classical rhetoric in order to write and to speak well. I teach that process that the Elizabethans learned, to modern day actors. Once you have learned that, you have an enormous Rosetta stone into understanding Shakespeare. So what I’m saying, basically, is over the course of my lifetime I’ve been solving these puzzles. I’ve worked out a technique about doing it, and it just so happens that it turned out to be the same technique that the Elizabethans did when they were teaching their young about the language.

IGNFF: So it’s not so much a cheat sheet, per se, as it is a process...

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, it’s a process and it’s a rediscovery of a process that has been lost for many, many, many years. People are aware of it, but only academic scholastics - people who are studying in the ivory tower are aware of Elizabethan rhetoric. Most actors, most directors, for the most part are not as familiar with it as I am.

IGNFF: Would you say, to some extent, that there’s a lack of appreciation for language today?

SHIMERMAN: Yes. Especially in our visual arts. Language came late to the party, as far as films are concerned. Remember that we didn’t have talkies until, what, the ’20s? So movies originally were made with just pictures. To this day, movies and film are primarily the bailiwick of visual makers, where we all discuss the shot, how it looks, how it moves, what size lens you use, how is it framed... All these are references to what a shot looks like, and in fact you can tell a very good story just by giving people images. And our generation today is a much more visual generation than the one in Elizabethan times, which was an oral one. They went to hear a play. In the chorus of Henry V, he says, "Gently to hear, kindly to judge our play" - not to see it, because there really wasn’t that much to see on the stage, but rather to hear it. When you go to Ireland, for instance, or England, the heroes there are writers. Writers are not so much heroes in the United States. We have sports people who are heroes, and we have actors who are heroes. The writers sort of get short-shrift, and the actors are only interpretive vessels. The true genius, the primary artistic force is always the writer. He’s the one who sits down at the screen and fills up his page with words. The rest of us just interpret those words - whether it’s the actor, or director, or the scene designer.

IGNFF: It’s interesting when you talk about the cultural difference - even television in the U.K. is very writer-centric...

SHIMERMAN: That’s right.

IGNFF: With the actors that you see today - what are the hurdles that most of them have to overcome?

SHIMERMAN: I don’t know, because the truth is that most of the younger people who are successful, I don’t come in contact with - except perhaps some of the people on Buffy. I sort of got some lessons from them. But most of the young people I come in contact with, the biggest hardship is just finding an agent, getting a job. That’s a very simplistic thing to say, but that is the primary problem for most young actors trying to find work in Los Angeles today. For young actors who are successful, I would assume what’s hardest for them would be continuing their careers. Oftentimes, people at a young age get to play parts that are really quite wonderful, and their career lasts for another five, six years and then they disappear. I’m sure they still want to continue to act, it’s simply that the business has chewed them up and spit them out and no longer wants to see them anymore.

IGNFF: In young actors you’ve encountered in TV or in film, who have made their success within TV or film, do you often see a reticence or fear of doing stage work? You don’t often see that line being crossed when they start out in film or TV...

SHIMERMAN: I’m not going to make a broad statement about that, because I haven’t met most of the people in that situation. It’s hard to do theater once you’ve done film and TV. One is the hours. It’s a tremendous amount of commitment. You spend four to five weeks in rehearsal without ever seeing an audience, you have to memorize tons of lines, and there’s a time commitment. You say good-bye to your family and to your routines for that period of time, four to five weeks. Also, it takes a very mature and wise young person to say, "I’m being offered a role in a film where I might get a quarter of a million dollars - but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do a play instead where I might make a couple of thousand dollars over the course of seven or eight weeks." So I don’t think that they’re fearful of theater - they may be. I think simply that they’re succeeding quite well and they don’t want to risk that by going off to do a play. I’m sure there are many people who are more than happy to do that, but I think the majority of people would probably fit the description I just said.

IGNFF: Do you think that plays a bit into the lack of understanding that people have about theater work, either positive or negative, about it being somehow more rewarding than film or TV?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah. I love the theater, and I always think of myself as a theater person first, primarily. I’m trying now to actually change my career so that I go back to the theater. But I think people think of doing a play, once you’ve gotten through all the work, is a wonderful, wonderful experience, and it’s so much better than doing TV or film - and that’s not true. There are wonderful TV shows, and there are bad plays. You’re not necessarily going to have a great, rich, spiritual journey in a play - you might even get that in a film or TV. I think that’s a misconception. I think another misconception is that if you’ve done TV or film, it should be relatively easy to crossover to theater. There are other tools, other abilities you have to mature in the theater - just simply voice projection, for one thing. Concentration. For instance, on a sound stage, everybody must be very quiet while the actors are working, and many times, actors will yell and scream that somebody’s in their eye line, and you have to move them away. "That person’s in my eye line and I can’t concentrate." Of course, when you’re doing a play, you’ve got anywhere from 100 to 3000 people in your eye line, and you have to continue. You can’t yell, "Cut! I want to do that over again." You’ve got to continue. Sometimes, mistakes are made on the stage and you have to think very quickly how to deal with that mistake. An actor hasn’t shown up for an entrance, a cue isn’t given, a wrong cue is given, a piece of scenery drops from above and it’s not supposed to do that - you not only have to do the performance, you also have to deal with the contingencies that happen.

IGNFF: So there’s a great deal of flexibility that’s required...

SHIMERMAN: Yup. And you can have that flexibility on TV and film, except you have the luxury in TV and film to say, "Cut. Stop. Let’s do it over again." So you have to be brilliant the first time every night on stage, and you don’t get a master to sort of start the process working and eventually get to your close-ups.

IGNFF: Would you also say, to some extent, doing theater work is like running a marathon?

SHIMERMAN: Yes, absolutely. That’s one sort of race, and running a sprint is another sort of race. They’re both races. They both have their athletes, and they’re both comparable and equal - they’re just different races.

IGNFF: What was the biggest challenge in learning how to run that marathon?

SHIMERMAN: Theater was my original one - the challenge was actually in dealing with the sprint. Learning to work in the theater was a natural process, because I’m an analytical person. So it’s just about analyzing, analyzing, analyzing and making the emotional choices to match your analysis. Sometimes that’s done in a moment. I mean, something happens between two actors and immediately you go to something that isn’t necessarily conscious analysis, it could be subconscious, but you immediately go to that and you learn from that. Sometimes, it’s an analytical process and you think, "Well, I need to be less angry here for this reason." But the hard part for me was the sprint, was learning how to work in TV, by not having the rehearsal and learning those new lines as fast as I could, and dealing with the fact that I had to bring my performance down for the TV. Being a theater actor, it tended to be a large performance. Working on TV, you have to bring the size of the performance down.

IGNFF: In some respects would you say running that sprint is about compromise?

SHIMERMAN: No, I don’t think it’s about compromise. I think it’s simply about learning the limitations and boundaries of the medium you’re working in. It’s not a compromise at all. It’s qualifications, that’s all.

IGNFF: So realizing it’s a slightly different skill set.

SHIMERMAN: Yes. It’s a realization that it’s a different medium that requires the use of many unique, different tools for that different medium.

IGNFF: Do you think that some actors don’t fully understand the differences in skill set that are needed? The learning curves involved?

SHIMERMAN: The people who, like myself - who came from the theater - have to learn to be smaller, to make their performances fit inside the camera. People who’ve done film and TV have to learn to make their performance larger when they work onstage.

IGNFF: To some extent, would you say that your early Ferengi appearance on TNG was a stage performance?

SHIMERMAN: Oh absolutely. Yeah, that’s exactly right. And that’s exactly what’s wrong with it. It’s way too theatrical and not subtle enough for the TV camera. It suffers from that theatricality.

IGNFF: How long of a learning curve was it for you to realize, or understand, the boundaries of TV or film performance, versus theatrical?

SHIMERMAN: I’m a very slow learner. It took me, I would say, approximately three years. It took me the three years I worked on Beauty and the Beast.

IGNFF: Was that through outside guidance, or your own personal discovery by viewing it?

SHIMERMAN: I was blessed to work with two phenomenal actors, both of them stage actors, and both of them consummate TV actors - Roy Dotrice and Ron Perlman. Especially from Ron Perlman, who obviously was also in a ton of makeup, and what I watched over the course of three years was how subtle he was and how much he could convey with that subtlety and how much of that almost imperceptible stuff that he was doing that I saw, was very perceptible when you watched it at home on the television.

IGNFF: So it was learning to work within the frame.

SHIMERMAN: Yeah. It was learning to see how much you could do with less and how very important it is to immerse yourself in the character so that you’re actually thinking like the character while the camera is running. Because those thought processes are some of the most glorious moments on TV, when you can see the actor’s thinking - or when the character’s thinking, I should say. Ron Perlman - and Roy, to some lesser extent, but mostly Ron - was an enormous role model for me to watch and learn.

IGNFF: Do you think, as a film actor making that transition, you depend on others and have a lag time of actually seeing your performance before you get a handle on that?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah. That’s one of the great things about being a recurring character. You have the opportunity to see what you’ve done wrong and correct it the next time you play that character. That’s an enormous educational thing. I’m very grateful to all the recurring roles that I’ve had because I think I did watch past episodes and learn from them and then take what I’ve learned and bring that to the next time I perform that role.

IGNFF: In your early career, when you’re talking about the big success in Three Penny Opera, was there a thought that you would eventually make a transition back to L.A.?

SHIMERMAN: No. No, I was a theater actor and I was working on Broadway. After Three Penny, I did three more Broadway shows. After the Broadway shows I did several years of regional theater. I was a consummate theater actor, and that’s all I wanted to do. I was happy doing it and I was making a career of it. I was very successful as a young person. I was enormously blessed that way. It’s just that I was seduced by the dark side of the force. I was cast in a pilot out of New York, and sent back to Los Angeles to do this pilot, and they paid me a ton of money. Just a ton. I came back to New York after finishing the pilot, told my newly married wife that I think we should try to live on both coasts, and I think we should try to work TV as well as theater - because I had been seduced. I saw the money. I thought, "Wow, it would be nice to have that on a regular basis."

IGNFF: Was there a conscious feeling that you had been seduced?

SHIMERMAN: Not then, but I certainly see it now. Yeah. I’m very grateful... I’m glad I was seduced. I’m very grateful that I was seduced and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But for someone who truly only thought that he was only going to be a stage actor, was happy doing it - was successful doing it - it was a seduction, yeah.

IGNFF: Was it more or less difficult to find TV and film work in L.A. than it was to find stage work?

SHIMERMAN: The first year of our existence in Los Angeles were horrible years. We lived off the fruit trees that grew on the property where we had a guesthouse. We kept warm in the winter by burning logs in the fireplace, because we had no heat. I mean, these are funny stories now, but at that time, it was very difficult. Although I had an agent, it just took a long time for Hollywood to be introduced to Armin Shimerman. Again, I was still bucking the same things that were there when I went to college and high school, which was simply that I was a young character actor and there weren’t a lot of roles for young character actors. There still aren’t. When agents would look at me, they’d sort of say to themselves, "How am I going to make any money off this guy? There aren’t that many roles for him." But some people, god bless them, they took a chance and things worked out for both of us.

IGNFF: What kept you from moving back out to New York?

SHIMERMAN: Poverty. I couldn’t afford to move back. I’d given up my apartment; I had bought a number of things that it would have been a great loss to have sold them, at half the price or a quarter of the price. I was sort of caught between a rock and a hard place. I kept thinking that perhaps the tide would change, and I was right.

IGNFF: If the means were there, you would have made the move back?

SHIMERMAN: Yes. If someone had said to me, "Armin, we’re doing a Broadway show in Lincoln Center and we want you to do this. Will you come back and do it?" I certainly would have done that. In fact, in some smaller sense, I did do that. During the three years of poverty in Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to be cast in some regional theater productions, which I was very grateful to do, and left Los Angeles for seven week periods to go off to the Guthrie, to go off to other theaters, in order to just pay for the bills that I accrued while I was in Los Angeles.

IGNFF: When did the tide begin to turn?

SHIMERMAN: The tide turned, really, at Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast came at an opportune time, and the fact that I became a recurring character - which it was never supposed to be in the beginning - did the trick, because then I began to have more confidence in myself as a TV actor, as I began to learn from Ron and Roy. It was easier to go to auditions, knowing that, "Okay, if I don’t get this, it’s very likely that in a couple of weeks they’ll call me up for Beauty and the Beast and I’ll come back and do another episode." So every audition didn’t become a life or death situation, which it is for many actors. That was the turning of the tide. Not only did the finances change, but more importantly, I learned how to act on TV - which made my auditions better, which made my reputation better, which eventually lead to more work.

IGNFF: Is it a palpable feeling as the acceptance level and your visibility level increases?

SHIMERMAN: My visibility level, you know... many of your readers will know who I am. But, in the industry, science fiction is a stepchild, and my visibility - although it certainly has increased - it’s still not what you think it is, because most people never watched Star Trek. A lot of people watched Buffy, and I get a lot of my work now through Buffy more than Star Trek. But even so, in the film world, I have relatively no credits at all because I’m totally invisible in that world.

IGNFF: Would you say that Buffy was a boon more so in the fact that the role was without makeup?

SHIMERMAN: Yes. Yeah, I have gotten, in the three years since both of them ended for me - they both ended for me the same week - Buffy has been much more instrumental in me getting further work because one, yes, no makeup. Also, because more people watched it - well, at least more people in the industry watched it.

IGNFF: Would you say the majority of your roles now have come out of the audition process? How much of it comes out of somebody saying, "We want him"?

SHIMERMAN: I’m very happy to say it’s probably fifty-fifty. That’s an incredible pronouncement to say. Most actors spend their lives auditioning and only getting work through auditions. I continue to do that and I continue to enjoy that. But I must say, half my work does come from simply people saying, "I know him from Buffy," or "I know him from Star Trek," or "I know him from one of the other projects he’s done." I’m about to do a Crossing Jordan, and I’m sure there are various reasons for why I’m about to do this, why I was cast, but certainly one of the reasons has to be because the director is Michael Gershman, and Michael Gershman happened to be the DP on Buffy for the three years that I was there. I did audition for the thing, but I certainly got cast, I would think, partially because I worked with Michael before. And partially because the people on Crossing Jordan were aware of my work. In Buffy, I was just cast. I had auditioned, but not for Snyder. I had auditioned for Principal Flutie, I think about six months - or maybe even longer - prior to doing Snyder. So, in a sense, I did audition for Buffy, but in a sense also they just offered it to me, because I didn’t audition for Snyder. I’m sure people did.

IGNFF: Which definitely must be a confidence booster.

SHIMERMAN: It was and it is, and one of the great, great delights. I’ve lived a gifted life, although people could find dark things about it. But the idea that I was doing two TV shows for three years, in a sense, in repertory - for me, it was repertory - very few actors could say that. Playing what I considered to be very different characters. So that was an enormous blessing. Very few actors can say that.

IGNFF: And they’re shows that were not flash-in-the-pan, but that continue to live on even past their expiration dates - they didn’t disappear quickly.

SHIMERMAN: I did Girls Club last year, and we know how quickly that disappeared.

IGNFF: When you talk about something like Beauty and the Beast ending, is there a sense of loss when a project like that ends? And a sense of "What next?"

SHIMERMAN: There was a sense of loss when Beauty and the Beast ended, because it was the first of the many jobs I did. But, at that time, I didn’t know what my future held. I only knew what dire straights I had been in before the show started, and I didn’t know whether I was going to go back to that, or proceed onwards. So there was a great regret when that ended because they were taking away my meal ticket.

IGNFF: But you had money at that point ...

SHIMERMAN: I had enough to live on - it wasn’t enough to sustain me for more than a couple of months.

IGNFF: Was there a thought of moving back to New York with it?

SHIMERMAN: No, because at that point, after three years, it became obvious to us that this is where we needed to stay. But I will say - and I have told younger actors this many times - when a TV show ends, it ends. You have to expect that. The advice I give them is the advice an old character actor gave me - the actor’s name was Truman Gaige. Truman said to me - and at that time he was in his 70s and I was in my 30s - Truman said to me... because I had just said to him, "It’s really sad that this play is closing." He said, "Armin, I’ve been in hits and I’ve been in flops. They all close." You can have some regret that you’re not going to see the same people again for a while, but you have to expect that it’s going to close. Everything closes.

IGNFF: So you can’t delude yourself into thinking otherwise...

SHIMERMAN: Yeah. Nothing lasts forever - especially in our business. Nothing. Unfortunately, a lot of people who thought they had their jobs in other industries and they thought they’d have them for a lifetime, they’re losing their jobs, too. That’s an unfortunate situation. But, in our work, you can assume that your job is going to end relatively quickly. Certainly compared to those other people.

IGNFF: And sometimes without warning.

SHIMERMAN: And sometimes without warning. I mean, Girls Club, it was a David Kelly show. I expected that to run for at least a couple years. I expected Brooklyn Bridge, which was winning all sorts of awards, to continue on for a long period of time. But it disappeared relatively quickly. There’s no rhyme nor reason. A friend of mine used to be on Lou Grant, which was the number one rated show at the time, when it was pulled of the air.

IGNFF: So you can’t bank on anything.

SHIMERMAN: You can’t bank on anything.

IGNFF: How much of a shock is it when something like DS9 runs for seven years?

SHIMERMAN: Well, that wasn’t a shock because TNG had run for seven years, and it was syndication, after all. We were on syndication. Anybody who’s done some homework and has studied how the TV business works - and certainly my experience and my responsibilities for the Screen Actor’s Guild have taught me a lot - but, because it was syndication, there was nobody to say, "The ratings aren’t good enough, therefore we’re going to take you off." It was only up to Paramount. I just assumed, and I was right - I said it for the entire seven years we were there - "We’re going to run for seven years."

IGNFF: What was the casting process for Deep Space Nine?

SHIMERMAN: I was the first person who read for Quark, and I waited about a month and a half, two months to get feedback. I had always been a big Star Trek fan. I was very honored to have been on Next Generation - even though I wasn’t happy with my performance, I was very honored. When I heard that they were casting a Ferengi for Deep Space Nine, I did everything I could to try and get an audition - and as I said, I was the first person seen. Two months went by and I began to get depressed about the fact that it wasn’t going to go any further ... because nobody was giving me any feedback. Nobody was saying, "Yes, we’re interested/No we’re not interested." The agent said they would call, but there was no feedback.

IGNFF: Are those the difficult times?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, especially with a part that I wanted. I really did want it, for all sorts of reasons. I thought I had had a good audition, but the situation would have been better if the agent had called and said, "Armin, they loved your audition, but they’re going a different way." Which is what you hear often.

IGNFF: Were you doing anything else at the time?

SHIMERMAN: At that time I was doing a production of Richard II at the Mark Taper Forum, with Kelsey Grammar. So I was doing a play, and I was thinking about it, but my mind was focused on the play. But I was thinking about it. Also during that time, I think I finished Richard II and started doing a production of Hamlet as well ... Then after two months they called me in for callback, and I read. While I was sitting in the room waiting for the audition, I saw another actor who I recognized from TNG, Max Grodenchik. I never met him before. I waited for him after he had finished reading, he was reading for Quark as well. We went out and had a long, 45-minute chat about the audition, about the script and about the roles. When I left, I sort of said to myself, "I guess it must be between me and Max." Then there was a third audition about a week or ten days after that one. I walked in and there was no Max Grodenchik - however, there was Rene Auberjonois, there was Avery Brooks, and there was Nana Visitor... I think Sid was there, too ...

IGNFF: So, essentially, the cast was there.

SHIMERMAN: Yes, essentially the cast was there. I didn’t know that, of course, at the time. I looked around, and there weren’t any other short actors there. That gave me pause. I thought, "Well, maybe they’re coming in later." Of those people, I was the first one to read, and I read all of Quark for the "Emissary" episode for the suits in Paramount. When I was finished, Rick Berman came out and chatted with me for a little while. I told him I was very nervous about it, and he said, "There’s no reason to be nervous, Armin, we wrote this role for you." Now, I wish they’d told me that at the beginning of the audition process, but as it turned out, everybody that Rick had handpicked for that day’s audition, he got.

IGNFF: And it’s quite a confidence in you as an actor - even in your performance, which you don’t look back to fondly on in Next Gen, for them to say that they did that.

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, I’m always amazed when I tell that story, because obviously Rick and Michael Piller must have liked that performance in Next Gen and hired me for that reason. Max, who eventually ended up playing Rom, we had come at the role of Quark two totally different ways. Obviously they decided to go with what I had given them, but they could have chose Max. Quark could have been a totally different character. Totally different - much closer to the Next Generation Ferengi than I think my Quark ended up being.

IGNFF: How much of your reading of Quark in those auditions was a reaction to your original performance?

SHIMERMAN: A lot of it. We talked before about seeing subsequent episodes and learning from that... I had watched not only my own performances as a Ferengi, but I had watched Max’s and the other people who had played Ferengi. Watching their performances, because I was and still am a verybigStar Trek fan, and that taught me a lot. So, when I went to play Quark, I wanted him to be closer to a deeper character than what had been exhibited so far by Ferengi on Next Generation. I also, when I did that first Ferengi episode, I had a chat with Brent Spiner, who I knew before having done the show. Brent said something to me that day that never left my mind - that was the first season of TNG and, at that point, nobody knew where Data was going to go. But Brent said to me, "Armin, my intention here is to take Data and move it from the character with the least amount of potential to the character with the most amount of potential." That was always my motto while playing Quark - was to take what is basically a rather shallow character and try to make him as deep as possible.

IGNFF: To some extent, was that inherent in the writing in those initial scripts, or was there a lot of interpretation that went into it?

SHIMERMAN: There was a lot of interpretation, although in some of the scripts there was the leeway to do that. Primarily, I’m thinking of an episode called "Move Along Home" in the first season. It was about a whole race of people who played games. That script allowed Quark to, for the first time, realize his connection with the Star Fleet people who had taken over Deep Space Nine. It gave him the ability or the opportunity to show how deep his feelings for them were. Instead of playing it comedically, I chose to play it dramatically. Which might be a plus, might be a minus - depending on how you look on it. But that’s when I started to fulfill my agenda, trying to deepen the character.

IGNFF: Was there a sense that the writers were very much in flux with where the character would go?

SHIMERMAN: That’s a question you’d have to ask the writers. The writers, sometimes, would give me very deep stuff to do - for which I was always grateful. Sometimes, they would give me not-so-deep stuff. During the course of many years I often said to them, "If you’ll just tell me where his I.Q. is, it’ll be easier for me." Because sometimes it would be 60, and sometimes it would be 160.

IGNFF: Rom was pretty consistent.

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, Rom was pretty consistent, and had a great a arc to it. His I.Q. pretty much stayed the same, but his heart grew bigger and made Rom a phenomenally good character. I’m not at all upset with what they did with Quark. Quark turned out to be a great character as well, but had different criteria during the course of different episodes.

IGNFF: Did that allow you to interpret it in a much broader way?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah. What I learned was, "Okay, like any human being, some days are better than others. So, in this episode, he’s a little bit smarter than he usually is. In this other episode, he’s a little big more greedy than he usually is. In this episode, he’s a little big dumber than he usually is." That’s a normal thing. That is how humanity lives from day to day. Once I learned to accept that, it made the work that much easier.

IGNFF: How tentative was the interpretation of the character during "Emissary"?

SHIMERMAN: "Emissary" is a different character than Quark. "Emissary" is me trying to deepen the character I played on Next Generation. In fact, in "Emissary" and only in "Emissary," Armin Shimerman uses a voice for Quark. In it, I’m using the Ferengi voice that I auditioned in, that I did the TNG in ...

IGNFF: A broader interpretation...

SHIMERMAN: A broader, theatrical interpretation. Rick Berman brought me into his office after "Emissary" was done and said, "Lose the voice, for two reasons. One is we don’t need it, and two is it will wreck your throat." Starting from the very next episode after "Emissary," Quark spoke like me only sounding slightly different because of the teeth in my mouth.

IGNFF: Which opened the character up a bit more for you?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, absolutely, and it didn’t give me throat problems, which I’m sure it would have. Seven years of talking like that would have been horrible.

IGNFF: I would imagine Max had some throat problems, because he affected a voice, right?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, he did. He was able to deal with it better, and of course he had a lot of more rest periods than I.

IGNFF: Aron, I guess, affected a voice...

SHIMERMAN: No, not really. Again, their voices are slightly changed because of the prosthetics in their mouth. When you put a whole bunch of teeth into one’s mouth, you’re just going to talk different. You just are. It has nothing to do with your throat - it just has to do with the vocal quality coming out over the teeth and your tongue dealing with all those teeth.

IGNFF: How difficult was the first season, getting used to the prosthetic process?

SHIMERMAN: Very difficult. As the hours became obvious to me, as it became a 16 hour day - and although the heads are very light and the teeth are easily removable, there were many, many times during the first season that I was in extreme agony from muscle tension in my back. I guess from trying to carry the head, which was ridiculous. You don’t have to carry the head, it’s very light. But I think my shoulders wanted to compensate for that. I had a lot of muscle problems in the first season. I’m not quite sure why, but I did. The second season I think I learned to relax with the head and the muscle problems went away. Invariably, twice a year I would have some major mouth problems, mouth pains from the teeth. I guess my jaw would get a little upset about the way it was pivoting around the prosthetic teeth. That would happen about twice a year, and did continue to do that for the rest of the six years - but it would only last for about two weeks each time. The rest of the year I was fine.

IGNFF: In any way affecting the performance?

SHIMERMAN: No, just my jaw got very tight and my teeth got enormously sensitive, so that anything that wasn’t exactly room temperature - if it was just a little bit hotter or a little big colder than room temperature - sent ice picks into my mouth through my teeth when I ate or drank.

IGNFF: Yeah, that’s not pleasant.

SHIMERMAN: No, not pleasant. So, during that two-week period when that would happen - and I never quite understood why it happened or why it disappeared - I would just lose weight. I just wouldn’t want to eat, because every time my teeth would touch anything, it was like the dentist hit you in the wrong way.

IGNFF: I can’t even imagine maintaining a work schedule with that.

SHIMERMAN: It was difficult, but again, I quote to you what my wife said, which is, "If you want to be a knight, you have to wear the armor."

IGNFF: It’s often heard on productions like these how much of a bonding experience is it for the actors that have to go through the make-up process...

SHIMERMAN: It was very much a bonding experience. The people I was close to then and am still close to are the people who went through the prosthetics. My closest friend from Deep Space Nine is Rene Auberjonois. We were both in the make-up chair many, many months together. After that comes Max, after that comes Aron. Andy Robinson. Those are my closest friends. These are all actors who did prosthetics. Deep Space Nine, I’d have to talk to Johnny Phillips about this, but Deep Space Nine had a sort of partisan shooting arrangement. How do I explain this? It’s amazing to me that for seven years I really never worked with Avery, really that much, or with Siddig, or with Colm, because our stories rarely interconnected. Now, they would come to the bar of course, and they’d get served, I would serve them, but most of their scenes were with the other Star Fleet people or with the guest stars that were appearing. Because most of my morning was spent getting into makeup with Max and Rene and Andy, that’s who I was bonding to. Although they’re good friends of mine, ironically, the people who didn’t wear makeup, I didn’t have that much bonding with. Pun intended.

IGNFF: Would you say it’s almost a caste system that developed?

SHIMERMAN: Yes, I would. I would say that a caste system developed and it was sort of like two shows. There was Deep Space Nine and then there was The Quark Show. When Quark had large episodes, you wouldn’t see those people anywhere, really, except in a very small B story. Then I wasn’t shooting those days or at that time, and I wouldn’t see them then, either. It was sort of a caste system, and that’s what I have to talk to Johnny Phillips about, to see if the same thing happened with Neelix. I actually haven’t had that conversation with him, and I should some day.

IGNFF: It’s interesting when a lot of people compare the "family atmosphere" that exists with the Next Gen cast as opposed to the DS9 cast, where there were subgroups that got along really well, but not an overall bonding experience...

SHIMERMAN: TNG were enormously gregarious. They were all pretty much the same age, and when they started the show they were all pretty much young people who didn’t have families. So when work was over they went and had a beer together. They bonded. They were all pretty much jokesters. They loved to have a good time, and that’s what’s so wonderful about watching that show, is you can feel the camaraderie between them. Deep Space Nine was made up of people slightly older, and when we were finished working, we went to our families and we had other lives to get to. So from my reference point, it wasn’t... and we were more serious people. Any time spent with Jonathan Frakes or Brent Spiner or even Michael Dorn or Marina [Sirtis], you’re just going to be laughing. You’re just going to be doubled over with laughter because they’re just fun loving people. That wasn’t really the makeup of the actors on Deep Space Nine. And that’s not bad - we’re good in other ways. We just weren’t predisposed for having a fun time. It was fun - it just wasn’t always that way. Also, all the people on TNG were Star Fleet. They all were on the bridge for the most part, and they all solved problems together. That’s what Star Trek is about. It’s about having a problem and a group of people getting together and solving it. That’s what’s great about the whole format. I wasn’t part of the problem solving process. Yes, on rare occasions I was, but for the most part the Star Fleet people would solve their problems on their own without me. Since I was left out of the process, in that sense, it was a caste system. In the sense that they bonded together because they were constantly solving problems together, even script problems. But I was never really part of that. No regrets - I loved having my own little Quark show. I wouldn’t change it for the world. But that’s just simply the way it was.

IGNFF: Were there ever personality conflicts within the show, or did everyone basically keep to themselves?

SHIMERMAN: I think people pretty much kept to themselves. There were friendships made ... but at least from my point of view - and again, you have to remember, most of the time I didn’t see them, so what I’m getting is sort of secondhand information. I really didn’t spend that much time working with them, because they spent so much time together, and I was not part of it most of the time. So I would assume from what I saw that people tended to go part their ways the moment the work was done.

IGNFF: As you said, there was no real sense of regret that it wasn’t a gregarious set?

SHIMERMAN: It may have been for the others. It wasn’t for me, and I have no regrets whatsoever. None whatsoever. Because I had my own little family. The others probably can’t speak glowingly as much as I can about Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg, or about Chase Masterson, or David Levinson, or about the people that frequented Quark’s bar. That was my family, and I was very happy with them. But, as I said, it was a bipartisan sort of show, in the sense that there were two separate families living in the same space station. There was the Star Fleet family, and the leaders, and then those of us who frequented the bar.

IGNFF: At what point did Buffy enter the picture?

SHIMERMAN: Buffy entered about my third season... no, it had to be the fourth season... of Deep Space Nine. I was under the impression that I was only going to do three or four Buffys, because I thought, "How can I do more than that? I’ve already got a series that takes up a lot of my time." No other production company is going to allow that. In the sense that, okay, let’s say you write an episode where Snyder has a couple of scenes. Then you have to wait to find out if the actor playing Snyder is free from Star Trek to do those scenes. That’s a major inconvenience that no production company wants to put up with. But what I didn’t know was that I had two major guardian angels. One was the second line producer on the show, a man named Steve Oster, who made the schedules out for Deep Space Nine. And Gareth Davies, who had the same job over at Buffy. These guys bent their production schedules into a pretzel to make sure that for the most part - not always - but 95% of the time, I could shoot both shows. Now there were, I think, two episodes that Snyder was a part of that were being shot during major Ferengi episodes. It was impossible, I couldn’t possibly do both of those. There wasn’t enough time. But, for the most part, Steve and Gareth were able to work it out. Amazingly to me, I ended up doing three years. Also understand, I had a contract with Paramount which specifically states that I could only do three other TV shows during the course of a year while I was doing Deep Space Nine.

IGNFF: Meaning three episodes?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, three episodes of any TV show during the course of a year. Not only did I do Buffy - 17 episodes of Buffy - but I also did several episodes of The Practice, of Ally McBeal, of other shows... Lazarus Man. Whenever I got work somewhere else, Steve Oster pretty much always made sure that I could do it. To that, I owe him an enormous thanks.

IGNFF: I can’t comprehend the juggling that must have been involved.

SHIMERMAN: It was phenomenal. And, one could sort of understand Star Trek doing it because, after all, I was one of the leads on the show, and they were trying to be nice to one of their leads. But I was not by any means a major character on Buffy, and Gareth Davies would often... I mean, I remember doing this on two occasions - I shot my scenes for two episodes on the same day. How do I put this? Different episodes, of course, have different directors. What they would do is, "Okay, Armin can only shoot this one day, so we’re going to bring in one director from one episode to shoot his scene on Tuesday morning. Then, when he’s finished with that, the production company will bring in the director for the next episode and shoot his scene for that." See what I’m saying? They’re paying the director’s extra, they’re changing their shooting schedule, all to accommodate a recurring character who really only appeared, for the most part, in one scene per episode. It was amazing. I am enormously grateful to the people who allowed that to happen. All they were doing it for was to accommodate my schedule and my feelings.

IGNFF: That shows you how much they wanted you.

SHIMERMAN: They did. And I’m honored by that, and I’m truly, truly - it touches me deeply that they did that. Recently, the last of that was a couple of months ago I got a phone call from the Buffy production company, asking me to do a photograph with the cast. I said, "Sure, I loved working that show, I’d be glad to come back." I hadn’t seen them for two years. I expected when I got there to see a whole bunch of recurring characters to be taking this picture with them. When I got there, there were only five people being asked to be in the picture with the cast. That was myself, Kristine [Sutherland], who played Buffy’s mom, and Juliet Landau, and Danny Strong, and Mike Gershman, who was the DP [Director of Photography]. When I sort of got to Joss, I said, "Why aren’t more people here, and why did you chose the four or five of us?" He said, "Because you’re the only ones we all liked." So I’m very honored by that. Especially when you understand I was playing a character that was so despicable on the show. People were smart enough and wise enough not to confuse the actor with the part.

IGNFF: What was the dynamic like on the Buffy set, compared with the DS9 set?

SHIMERMAN: It was totally different. Deep Space Nine - very long days, and at this point, most of the crew and some of the actors had been working in Star Trek for a very long time. So it had a sort of machine quality to it, and it’s one of the ways that you could get through those long days, and get through the amount of work that has to be done in so short a period of time, eight days, is because of that machine-like quality. People know their jobs so well, that it works like clockwork. That is a brilliant asset - but at the same time, it can be slightly deadening. On Buffy, when I started, it was a brand-new show for the most part. People were learning their skills, nobody really knew where the story was going. The audience really hadn’t caught on at that point. Basically, working with very young actors who were enormously talented, enormously gifted and had great aspirations. And I wasn’t wearing makeup. So I wasn’t under the handicap of having to talk through rubber, or think through rubber. It was night and day. I didn’t really have very much responsibility on Buffy, so that made it easier also. I’d have one scene and basically have to scowl at her and say, "Summers, what are you doing this time?" It was just wonderful. It was summer camp. I had a great, great time and a got to love all the people on the show.

IGNFF: As a learning experience, what kind of energy do you take from working with young actors?

SHIMERMAN: Well, I just learned about different cultural things. It took me a year to figure out why Joss wrote the way he wrote, and now I’m a major fan of his. He’s an incredible writer. But he was just tuned on to young people’s patois. He wrote it brilliantly. But I didn’t - being older and not having any children, this was sort of slightly different language to me. But, when I saw it on the screen, I went, "Oh god. Yeah, it works perfectly. Look at that." So that was part of it. Working with young people, just their energy made me feel better. They were always up, they were always excited about being at work. They were always exploring and laughing and that was just different than most of the sets I’d ever been on. I loved that. Sarah was just brilliant. In the three years that I worked with her, I don’t think I ever saw her flub a line. She’s just phenomenal that way. And she was capable of just joking, joking, joking - the sound man would say, "Speed," she’s still joking, the director would say, "Action," and she’d be back to being a very serious Buffy, doing what she had to do. I’m just blown away by her talent. And Alyson’s talent, and Nick’s, and Tony and everybody else. Seth Green. They were brilliant, brilliant actors, and I was in awe of them.

IGNFF: Would you say that there’s a risk of an actor, the longer they stay in the business, of becoming somewhat jaded?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah. Yeah, and that was what was wonderful about working Buffy. It reminded me how much fun it could be. Yeah, because you begin to think about other things. You don’t think about the work so much, you think about your career, you think about your paycheck. You think about how long the day is going to be. As you get older, you get crankier, and there are more things to be cranky about. So yeah, you can fall into that trap. Working on Buffy reminded me of how much fun it could be.

IGNFF: To some extent, do you think that’s why the constant discovery process of doing new theater productions appeals to you?

SHIMERMAN: Yes. In fact, I’m doing a play right now, The Hostage, which is half made up of young people, and I’ve been telling people it’s that same feeling as Buffy. I’m watching people learn to fly for the first time, really, in a professional situation. It’s just so exciting to watch them learn and grow. Every now and then they ask me for a little bit of advice, which I’m glad to give them, but I’m learning much more from them than they’re learning from me.

IGNFF: Do you think that, to be effective as an actor, it has to be a constant learning process?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, otherwise you get very sullen. Because there are very, very, very few actors who have a career that lasts a lifetime and who do good work, constantly. Therefore, because those criteria aren’t met most of the time, you have a lot of regrets, and a lot of anger towards the business and the people that do or don’t hire you and the situations you find yourself in, and you get very sullen. Unless you find the joy that you had when you first started in your career, you’re going to end up a very sort of morose human being.

IGNFF: How often have you fallen into that trap?

SHIMERMAN: Many times. More often than I’d like to think. It takes working on Buffy, or doing this play, or working on a project that gives your spirits a boost again to remind myself why I went into this profession. The profession’s been enormously good to me, there’s nothing for me to really be sullen about, but you know what? You just can’t help finding yourself there on a lot of occasions.

IGNFF: Do you find that those moods increase in frequency, or decrease, the older you get?

SHIMERMAN: It really depends - not so much on your age, but on how much work you’re doing. The more work you have, the less likely you are to be sullen. Although an overabundance of work can also make you sullen.

IGNFF: How so?

SHIMERMAN: Well, then you have too much on your plate. You should’ve said no to a couple things and you didn’t, and now you’ve got too many lines to memorize and too many early mornings and too many balls to juggle.

IGNFF: Is it a frustration because you feel that you wouldn’t be operating at your fullest potential?

SHIMERMAN: No, it’s just that you feel like you’re not getting enough sleep. You know what happens when you don’t get enough sleep? You just get sullen. You get cranky. That’s what it is, "I’m not getting enough sleep." It can be as simple as that. If you’re like me, yes, you’re thinking, "I’m not doing the best job I could be doing." But also, you’re also thinking about, "I just can’t take it." As you get older, I just don’t have the ability to burn the candle at both ends any more, and therefore it’s just too much.

IGNFF: How much of that desire to take as much work as possible if it comes in equates back to your upbringing?

SHIMERMAN: Yeah, very much so. Very much coming from a world of poverty, the idea that I might turn something down, which might put an extra dollar in my pocket, is from my early child years, absolutely. Also, from those three years I told you about, after my success on Broadway, and getting my foot into the television world. A lot of that is still there. But, I must stay, in the last nine months or so, I’ve been pretty good about saying no to things.