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Melbourne, Australia
Saturday, 1 April 2000

Star Trek Convention at Carlton Crest Hotel, Melbourne
by Sally Ellis

General Info

My husband and I arrived an hour early and went for a short walk, but it was too cold and windy. The people with the most expensive tickets (VIP, pink) were supposed to go in at 10.30 and were lined up in long queues. Even though we had the second most expensive tickets (Preferential, green) we lined up too, as they didn't give us any information about doing otherwise. The pinks went in late, and they eventually told the greens not to line up yet. We ended up going in at around 11 a.m. We went up some stairs into a large foyer, and once we got past a long queue of people, we found all the dealers selling signed and unsigned photos, T-shirts, games and other odds and ends. It was like a market and there were only a few chairs. At about 12 midday we all went into the auditorium and two men and one woman talked about future conventions and what's happening in the Star Trek universe. The main male Master of Ceremonies later said that Paramount are the true Ferengis of the galaxy! An auction of various pictures and other items started at 12.30, and shortly after we went to lunch. The food at the venue was very expensive and not what we wanted, so we got on a tram and went into the city for lunch.

RenÚ Auberjonois 

RenÚ in autograph line

We were back before 2 p.m. when RenÚ was due to come out. He was introduced by the man who'd talked earlier and who had apparently travelled with the Star Trek group around Australia doing the current tour. RenÚ was on time, and the first thing he did when he came out and got onto the stage was take a few photos of the audience! I was immediately surprised by his accent - it sounded more American than he had on DS9.

He started by telling us what he'd been doing since filming on DS9 finished in April 1999:

1. Geppetto musical about Pinocchio. Also starring Drew Carey, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, and Brent Spiner. He said he "croaks" a song in it. It comes out in May in the US.

2. Chicago Hope guest role. He plays a surgeon with Tourette's Syndrome. He said he thinks it's his best-ever role.

3. The Patriot movie starring Mel Gibson, and Heath Ledger as his son. RenÚ has a small role and rides a horse.

4. Stargate guest role.

Next he walked down each aisle, saying he wanted people to see how old he looks! I guess I didn't really know how he looks exactly, because I haven't seen that many pictures of him without Odo makeup. He said he likes to hide behind his characters because he's a shy, private type of person. He said that's why he loved wearing a mask as Odo.

Then he did the voice he played in The Little Mermaid animated film (Chef Louis). He had a French accent and sung about loving little fishies and eating them (the song is called "Les Poissons").

Question Time

1. As Odo, in the first season, his makeup was made up of little bits stuck on, but in later seasons it became a whole mask.

2. When asked how he liked doing the Odo special effects (shapeshifting) he humorously replied he wasn't there on those days - it was the dog or rat (or whatever animal) doing the work. 

chatting with fans

3. His favorite transformations (seeing them later on, I guess) were the hawk when he gets his shapeshifting powers back (in "The Begotten, season 5), and the spinning top (in "Shadowplay" in season 2).

4. In the Benson TV series he played Clayton Endicott III. Ethan Phillips (called "Johnny" then for some reason), who played Pete on that show can apparently remember all the episode titles and numbers. RenÚ apparently can't remember episode titles. Ethan was RenÚ's best friend from that series.

5. Armin Shimerman is RenÚ's best friend from DS9.

6. People have commented to RenÚ that he looked short when he was on Benson. Apparently the other actors were all tall, and that is why he didn't look tall.

7.People also have commented that RenÚ looked tall while he was on DS9, and it is because the other actors weren't as tall as him. He got sidetracked just when he was about to tell us how tall he is. [6 feet! -- MK]

8. When asked of pranks played on the set of DS9 he had trouble remembering any. He then described Avery Brooks (Sisko) as having an intimidating dignity, perhaps meaning that the set on DS9 does not have a mood for performing pranks. During the pilot of DS9, "Emissary," one morning at 2.30 am after shooting all day, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and Brent Spiner (TNG's Picard, Riker, and Data) burst in and sang "Good morning, good morning..."

9. For DS9 sometimes the days of shooting would last up to 15 or 16 hours. Most of the time the actors are there, they're not acting - the crew are setting up lighting, etc.

10. The three favorite characters he's played - Odo; his recent Chicago Hope character; and some theatre roles such as in Charley's Aunt, King Lear, and Tartuffe. 

another autograph finished!

11. He described what luck he's had in roles over the years, being in the right place at the right time. He had a lot of fun on The Hindenburg (1975), being the sidekick of Burgess Meredith.

12. When he was 14 years old, he lived about 30 miles out of New York City, on South Mountain Road, near the Hudson River. The "who's who" of theatre lived on that road - actors such as Helen Hayes, Burgess Meredith, Bertolt Brecht, John Hausman and many more. RenÚ would look after some of their children occasionally. One time he was looking after the children of Allan J. Lerner (who wrote Gigi and My Fair Lady) around a swimming pool, and Burgess Meredith's children came round, too. RenÚ ended up saving Meredith's son from the pool! The boy was very blond and apparently looked like a jelly-fish in the water!

13. In Paris after the war, his father worked for Time Life magazine as a writer. His father now lives in Ireland. His grandfather was a painter.

14. When he was 6 years old, RenÚ got to conduct his fellow classmates singing "Do You Know the Muffin Man" for a school performance. He knew he didn't really know how to conduct, and realized he was acting. He enjoyed it, and decided at that age that he wanted to be an actor.

15. For DS9, originally they were going to do six seasons. All the actors had to renegotiate their contracts for the seventh year to try to get more money. Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax) wanted to do something new, which was Becker. RenÚ was heartbroken when she left. She was the youngest cast member at the beginning, apart from Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko). She found the first season difficult with all the technobabble, but she had progressed the most by the end. He thought she had a very strong and interesting character. Terry is a very dear friend to him. 

RenÚ in Melbourne

16. The writers didn't know what to write for the seventh season. RenÚ thought that the introduction of the Ezri Dax character (Nicole De Boer) saved it. She brought a breath of fresh air to the storyline. Apart from when his character got sick, he didn't have to work too hard in season seven, because most of the stories were about Ezri. He said he didn't mind that. When his character got sick, he said to Ira Behr, "You don't have the balls to kill me!" and they didn't kill him, either.

17. The writers had to wrap all the story lines in DS9 quickly toward the end of season seven. RenÚ believes that Odo had to return to his people (the Founders) to make peace, and that's why he couldn't marry Kira (Nana Visitor). He didn't think the wrap up of Garak's (Andrew Robinson) story was very satisfactory.

18. RenÚ was disappointed that the last seven episodes in the last season were all about the war (with the Dominion).

19. He can't imagine there being a DS9 movie, but said maybe the next The Next Generation movie would have some DS9 characters. He didn't think he'd be one of them.

20. He wasn't sure about what roles the future held for him, but said he would be doing some cartoon work, and recording some novels (on audio).

Kate Mulgrew

Kate came out soon after RenÚ left. She also sounded more American in person than she had on Voyager. She said she thinks Aussies are confident and honest, and that Sydney is beautiful. She has a "AAA personality", a worker, and loves playing Captain Janeway. "It's arduous, rigorous, challenging, marvellous work". She had never watched Star Trek before getting the role. Genevieve Bujold apparently lasted 14 hours in the role before she walked out. Kate was nervous about the role. The producers strangely thought the hairstyle would "make" her a captain, and tries lots of different ones. She loves the cast and crew. She is a neighbour to "Robbie" McNeill (Tom Paris), who makes her laugh. They are all good friends. She's dedicated to Janeway - very focused.

She gave an example of what a typical Monday for her would be like: 

smiling Kate Mulgrew

4-4.30am gets up. Drives herself to studio.
5.30 a.m. Studio call. 15 minutes in trailers of "hell" (i.e., hair and makeup).
Looks at script revisions (which get delivered at 11 p.m. when she's already in bed).
Rehearsal.
Shoots on and off all day. She likes to tell the director where she wants to walk, turn around, etc.
7-8 p.m. Finishes shooting. Eats dinner (small amount as Janeway has to look slim), relaxes for 1 hour.
Two hours of preparing script for next day.
11 p.m. or before goes to bed.

She misses her family - two teenage boys and new husband - because she doesn't get to see them very much.

She said the Captain wouldn't sleep with her first officer - nothing on the ship would ever get done. After loving a "lizard" (episode "Threshold", season 2) and a hologram ("Fair Haven", season 6), she thinks it's about time they let Janeway fall in love with a real person.

Kate tries to give her character instincts, some danger and some unpredictability. She'll be intensely sad to say good bye to her character when Voyager finishes in just over a year.

Once over 40 in Hollywood, it's hard for women to get good roles. She hates the cosmetic aspect of it. She said Hollywood don't think that women over the age of 12 are interesting. She doesn't foresee movies for Voyager. Kate said she can't help making her own sound effects when stunning an alien with a phaser. Her role as Janeway has taught her compassion - she raises money for charities. She thinks the role of a woman as Captain of Voyager has influenced women's career decisions and empowered them. She has found it rewarding to be a role model to women.

Including questions and answers, Kate spoke for around one hour and ten minutes. She seemed to not want to stop.

Autographs

Kate and RenÚ both gave autographs. Because my husband and I didn't have the most expensive tickets, we were only able to get one from RenÚ. Kate was very charming during the session and looked up frequently with a big smile just for the people standing around taking photos of her at the table. We had to wait around 2 hours, as we were at the end of the queue (due to the type of ticket). Unfortunately, by the time we realized that the photograph RenÚ would sign was not included in the price of the ticket, the dealers had all sold out. Luckily I brought a Star Trek monthly magazine with me just in case and I got that signed. He must have been so tired by then that he didn't even look at me. I think we got some good snapshots of them both.

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