Star Trek fans will recognize Canadian actor Duncan Regehr as Ronin, Dr. Crusher’s ghost—or rather, “anaphasic energy being” lover on TNG’s infamous Gothic outing “Sub Rosa,” and later as Shakaar, resistance fighter turned politician and Kira’s lover on DS9. He was a prolific leading man at the time; even when “Sub Rosa” aired, my 11-year-old self knew him from as the lead in the TV series Zorro (1990-3) and as Dracula in the 1987 movie The Monster Squad. Also a celebrated artist, he generously took some time away from his workshop to answer a few questions.
Murray Leeder: Your acting career has included a lot of period pieces and a lot of fantasy/science fiction parts. And you played Errol Flynn in a 1985 TV movie: Was there a sense that you projected a sort of old-fashioned, classical Hollywood presence? Did that play into your casting as Ronin on the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Sub Rosa”?
Duncan Regehr: I think that may have been true for awhile during the 1980s. I did play a lot of swashbuckler characters, but also roles that could be regarded as iconic in nature: Dracula in Monster Squad, Charles in V, Lydon in The Last Days of Pompeii, and when “Sub Rosa” came along, I had just completed 3 years in Spain as Zorro for the new series.
ML: Were you up for any Star Trek roles prior to Ronin?
Regehr: I seem to recall that I was, but I may have been engaged elsewhere at the time.
ML: The Gothic romance episode “Sub Rosa” is one of the most polarizing of TNG episodes, as it is so off-format. It’s often described with affection—or derision—as the “sex candle ghost” episode. How do you feel about it today?
Regehr: “Sex candle ghost”? I didn’t know it was called that, but I like the title, and love the notion that the episode is both affectionately lauded and critically derided… gives it an air of notoriety, very Hollywood headline-sounding. Sex Scandal Ghost… haunts bedrooms, ignites darkest passions!”
Ronin was the quintessential romantic figure… Byronesque and a bit like Dracula, in a parasitical way. I really enjoyed the role and the idea of two lovers enjoined as one being… also working with Jonathan Frakes. We were neighbors at the time. He has a wonderful sense of humor and a highly optimistic approach. As a director he’s an actor’s dream.
And beautiful Gates, what a pleasure! Full of ideas, she is one intelligent thespian, as is Patrick. I recall our first meeting: He stood in front of me and looked straight into my eyes, challenging me in a friendly way to hold his gaze, which I did. I said, “Give us a kiss then!” and he replied, “Oh you’ll do!”
ML: Moving on to your Deep Space Nine role, Shakaar: The character was inspired by Emiliano Zapata, and in hindsight it’s tempting to see him as a sort of Bajoran Nelson Mandela. How did you approach the character? Was it understood that Shakaar would be a recurring part when you were cast?
Regehr: The potential to return for other episodes was informally discussed at the beginning, as these types of guest roles often are. I was surprised to learn that subsequent episodes were part of the agenda.
I was never sure of what the intentions were for the character. As a rebel leader, Shakaar’s mandate was focused and he was full of vitality—a strong, selfless man of action. I understood him, and the character was fulfilling to portray. In hindsight, I believe I would’ve been content to leave him like that after one episode. He was transformed into another less colorful character as the Prime Minister, and with that his destiny became vague. In a way he was almost benign; his activities were reported on rather than shown. His purpose gradually devolved along with the importance of the character to the series.
The DS9 schedule was a difficult one to match with mine. I was juggling art exhibitions across the country and abroad. My first book, “The Dragon’s Eye – An Artist’s View” had been published and I was developing the next one along with a major series of art works as well as acting in a couple of films. Availability has always been very challenging and continues to be so.
I truly enjoyed working with the Deep Space Nine production and the cast, particularly Nana. She’s an enigmatic woman, very smart and so easy to fall in love with. René was a marvelous raconteur. We’d worked together previously in Gore Vidal’s Billy the Kid. Between scenes it was great to sit with him, listening to his stories and points of view.
ML: Most Star Trek fans are probably unfamiliar with your art practice. Your father was a noted artist as well. Can you give us a brief summary of your career in the art world and what you’re working on now? Did you always regard yourself as “an artist who acts,” or something similar?
Regehr: I don’t have a title for myself, but I’ve been described by others as a multi-media artist. I work in the visual, literary, and performing arts: painter/sculptor, poet/author, actor/director. Those three areas support and engender a way of life.
I’ve been painting since I was a child and from the beginning I knew myself to be an artist, but always had a sense that I would be active in more than one medium.
For me art making is exploration and it demands the lion’s share of my time. Most of my imagery is figurative (involving people). Paintings usually evolve as part of a series of works that relate to a specific theme or philosophy. A lot of series have been created over the years – I’ve lost track of how many. The works often manifest in very different styles. However, some compilations have been established through my art books, of which there are now seven, an eighth is in development.
Currently I’m working on three series of paintings: “Pilgrim,” “The Lost Man,” and “At Blinders Wall.”
DR’s latest book of paintings and poetry, “Presence,” offers a retrospective of his most moving images alongside penetrating poems of human relations and inner exploration. It is available along with his other publications and artworks through DRAW Studios. Exhibition information and artworks are available through Petley Jones Gallery in Vancouver. In-depth summaries and archival information can be viewed at www.duncanregehr.com.