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Armin Shimerman

Armin Shimerman Channels His Inner Elf for "Meet the Santas"

Kate O’Hare

Thursday 15 December 2005, by Webmaster

On Saturday, Dec. 17, at 9 p.m. ET, Hallmark Channel premieres "Meet the Santas," the sequel to its highest-rated original movie, last year’s "Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus."

Steve Guttenberg returns as Nicholas "Nick" Claus, who’s ready to take over the "family business." Crystal Bernard again stars as Beth Marshall, the woman who captured his heart, and Dominic Scott Kay reprises his role as Jake, her 9-year-old son.

Also back for a second-go round is Armin Shimerman, known as the avaricious alien Quark on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," and as the stiff-necked Principal Snyder on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." He plays Ernest, Santa’s right-hand elf and manager of his vast North Pole operation.

"Because I’m a short person," says Shimerman (whom the Internet Movie Database lists as being five-foot-six), "I have for years wanted to play an elf. I auditioned for commercials, auditioned for elves in other projects, never got it. I was always a little disturbed. I’m not saying it was a life goal to play an elf, but it was actually something on my wish list of things to play one day.

"And what a great time it was to work with Harvey Frost, the director, and the two leads, Crystal and Steve."

While the first movie was about the courtship of Santa and his intended, this movie focuses on the wedding — or lack thereof. As fate tosses monkey wrenches into Beth’s vision of an ideal nuptial, time is fast running out. Apparently, if Santa doesn’t have a Mrs. Claus by Christmas Eve, the whole endeavor might just go sideways.

Reluctantly, Beth calls in the aid of her prim society mother (Mariette Hartley), a plan that dissolves into chaos as Nick’s parents, the retired Clauses, are thrown into the mix.

The whole mess just gives Ernest a bad case of the jitters.

"He is an elf," Shimerman says, "but that isn’t the core of the character. The core of the character is that he is the chair of operations and makes sure that all the gifts get out on time, and the sleigh is off at the right time. It was really about being rather anal-retentive and being sure that Santa did everything he was supposed to do.

"One of the nice moments in the film, towards the end, was his sudden realization of, ’My God, it’s all worked out just the way I hoped it would.’ There’s a lovely scene at the end of the picture where I jump up and down in glee that we’ve actually done it."

As in the first film, when Guttenberg’s Nick laughs, it’s not a normal laugh exactly, but a Santa-esque "Ho, ho, ho."

"When he first started doing it on the set," Shimerman says, "I went, ’Uh-huh, that’s an interesting choice.’ Then I began to love it."

Shimerman says the movie is "as much about relationships as it is about Christmas," which becomes evident when the practical aspects of putting on a wedding start to interfere with the actual prospect of a marriage. Shimerman is grateful that he wasn’t involved very much in the planning of his own wedding, to actress Kitty Swink.

"I just showed up," he says, "said, ’I do,’ and pretty much shook a lot of hands. I had little things to do, but basically it was my wife’s party, and I was an invited guest, and I was very happy to be there. This May will be our 25th wedding anniversary."

Asked the secret of a happy marriage, Shimerman says, "Compromise. Compromise on both parts. The truth is to know what you want and to ask for it, to pick your battles and listen. If you can listen to what the other person is saying, you’ll get through the rough spots better. My wife and I are very good at listening to each other, my wife perhaps a little better than I. And we’re very good at compromise."

If "Meet the Santas" turns out to be as successful as its predecessor, it’s not a stretch to think there might be a third film.

"The actor in me says, ’I hope so,’" Shimerman says. "It’s always nice to work, and it’s always nice to work with these three people. I cannot tell you what a lovefest it is. I know that sounds really cheesy and syrupy, but I really adore Harvey Frost, and I adore working with Steve and Crystal."

While Shimerman is often recognized as Quark (which he did under heavy makeup) or Principal Snyder, he really hasn’t broken through as Ernest.

"Only my family that have seen the billboards [recognize me as Ernest]," he says. "But people recognize me. It’s very flattering, and they often do, but it’s from my work in the two more popular shows, ’Star Trek’ and ’Buffy.’

"And there is a lot of crossover between ’Buffy’ fans and ’Star Trek’ fans, so a lot of people have told me in the past, ’I didn’t know what you looked like until I saw you on ’Buffy.’"