09 December 2019 20:31

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René Auberjonois Remembered by ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Castmate Nana Visitor

René Auberjonois being interviewed for What We Left Behind, the 25th anniversary Deep Space Nine documentary released earlier this year. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's moral murkiness meant that a lot of its heroes, unlike many of the noble Trek stars that came before them, started out as kind-of jerks who softened and grew with the time we spent with them across seven seasons. But it wasn't really a Starfleet officer on the show that best symbolized this; it was DS9's irascible chief of security, René Auberjonois's Constable Odo. Auberjonois, who passed away last night at the age of 79, was a heartwarming constant throughout Deep Space Nine's entire run. As the show itself grew and evolved—moving on from the lingering tensions between the Federations and the Bajoran government attempting to join its ranks (and the factions looking to avoid that outcome) to plunging into the dark depths of the all-out war with the alien Dominion in its back half—Odo felt like a character you could rely on for a sense of familiarity among the ever-changing crowds of the titular space station's promenade. Whatever episode you pulled up, whatever season, Auberjonois—almost hidden underneath the layers of prosthesis required to give Odo his smooth-faced, almost melting changeling appearance—would be there, Deep Space Nine's ever-watchful grump.

With a brusque huff or complaint about being overworked, he'd get on with his job as constable regardless, managing the bustling crowds of DS9, keeping order, or trying—trying so hard—to finally nail Quark doing something openly illegal enough at his bar to warrant the scheming Ferengi a bit of time in Odo's little brig. But Auberjonois made it his bit, bringing a charming physicality and a whipsmart sense of comedic timing to bear when his makeup work limited what he get across with his face. But for all the familiarity of Odo's charming bit as the station's haplessly diligent warden provided, he is also the character that perhaps changed the most of all on Deep Space Nine. Where Auberjonois truly shined wasn't really as Deep Space Nine's familiar curmudgeon, it was in relishing Odo's role in another Star Trek trope, an alien being who was, deep down inside, so compellingly and heartbreakingly human. While for people like Kira or Sisko, those traumas were the scars of long and bitter wars, crises of conscience and a desire to understand the strength of their moralities in dark times.

But that was Odo at his core, this constant struggle between the mask of the dutifully put-upon Constable and the turmoil of exploring his sense of self, of trying so hard to keep people out while desperately wanting to let them in so he could help find an anchor in the swirling storm of sadness in his heart. Auberjonois' best performances on Deep Space Nine might highlight the more solitary, internalized moments of Odo's quest to find himself—episodes like "The Begotten," where the scientist who found Odo and raised him re-enters his life; the heartbreaking "Things Past," which examined his time as DS9's constable during the Cardassian occupation; or "Chimera," where he's confronted with another isolated changeling who's come to despite the "solids" Odo has learned to build connections to. But what work he did best with the character, what makes Odo so compellingly human in the first place, was always in the moments when he could break down that comical curmudgeonly exterior and let other people in. "His Way" saw Odo and Kira finally act upon their feelings for each other in the closest Star Trek could ever get to a rom-com. Inversely, there's episodes like "The Forsaken"—which sees his exasperated team-up with the always-hilarious Lwaxana Troi become a sweet, shared sadness—and "The Ascent," where crash-landing on a frigid alien world and needing each other to survive brings a new layer of understanding to Odo and Quark's combative relationship.

For all his loneliness and his frustrations, cooped away in his little square of an office on the promenade, Odo always shone brightest when he had someone else to share it with, a lesson he slowly learned himself over Deep Space Nine's run. René Auberjonois, best known for his roles in "Boston Legal" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," died at his home in Los Angeles due to metastatic lung cancer. Auberjonois was a prolific television actor, appearing as Paul Lewiston in 71 episodes of "Boston Legal" and as Clayton Runnymede Endicott III in ABC's long-running sitcom "Benson" — a role that earned him an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor in a comedy in 1984. He played shape-shifter Changeling Odo in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," and carried that role into video games, voicing Odo in "Harbinger" and "The Fallen." His appearance as Judge Mantz in ABC's "The Practice" earned him another Emmy nod for guest actor in a drama in 2001. Before his entry into Hollywood, Auberjonois worked in theater, earning a Tony for best lead actor in a musical for his role opposite Katharine Hepburn in "Coco." He received further Tony nominations for 1973's "The Good Doctor," 1984's "Big River," and 1989's "City of Angels." Auberjonois was also known for his voice roles, particularly in 1989's Disney Renaissance hit "The Little Mermaid," in which he voices Chef Louis and sang the memorable "Les Poissons." Fans of "The Princess Diaries" would recognize him as the voice of Mia Thermopolis' father, Prince Philippe Renaldi, in an uncredited role.

He was remembered on social media by his "Deep Space Nine" co-star Armin Shimerman, who played Quark. It is with great heartache and loss I share with you the passing of dear,dear Rene Auberjonois.His last message to me was entitled "Don't forget…" I know that I,Kitty,and all that knew him will never forget.The world seems noticeably emptier now. Rene Auberjonois a true gentleman & passionate artist passed onto the next understanding & we will miss him so much. He delivered an amazing rendition of NY NY – a brilliant artist #sswa #RIP pic.twitter.com/KR5PKylNZe — Edward James Olmos (@edwardjolmos) December 8, 2019 George Takei called his passing "a terrible loss." "He was a wonderful, caring, and intelligent man. Star Trek fans knew him as Odo from Deep Space Nine.

Jayne Brook, who played his daughter on "Boston Legal" and starred in "Chicago Hope," on which Auberjonois guested, expressed her sorrow as his death. I am so sorry to hear that the wonderful René Auberjonois has passed away. RIP Rene Auberjonois, a man who loomed large in the TV & film landscape of my youth. May he rest in God's peace.#ReneAuberjonois #RIP pic.twitter.com/mK0aua9beV — Doug Jones (@actordougjones) December 8, 2019 Actor and singer René Auberjonois passed away on Sunday, December 8, at the age of 79. While he is perhaps best known for his on-screen roles in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Benson, and Boston Legal, Disney fans would recognize his voice more than his face. Auberjonois voiced Prince Eric's French chef, Louis, in The Little Mermaid. According to The Washington Post, Auberjonois passed away at his home in Los Angeles from metastatic lung cancer. René came into my life the way he did for so many others; I loved his performance on "Benson" and looked for him in movies and TV ever after. After working with him on "Deep Space Nine" for seven years of long days and nights, and then 20 years of doing "Star Trek" conventions around the world with him, I was lucky enough to spend many dinners with him. René had many, many friends, and I know we will all miss so much now. (Pictured, from left: Nana Visitor, Armin Shimerman, René Auberjonois, and Nicole de Boer of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine") You always have the choice to experience our sites without personalized advertising based on your web browsing activity by visiting the DAA's Consumer Choice page, the NAI's website, and/or the EU online choices page, from each of your browsers or devices. Even if you choose not to have your activity tracked by third parties for advertising services, you will still see non-personalized ads on our site.