This weekend, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Casey Biggs (Damar) will join actor Jeffrey Combs (DS9: Weyoun and Brunt, ENT: Shran, in addition to other Trek roles) in Creation Entertainment’s Virtual Fan Experience, doing a live panel and Q&A. These two actors and longtime friends shared many scenes together on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; when TrekMovie had a chance to talk to them, their fun chemistry was on display right from the start.
Hello Casey welcome to the TrekMovie conference call. I believe that is Jeffrey now joining us.
Jeffrey Combs: Yes.
Casey Biggs: Hey, you rat bastard.
Jeffrey Combs: First of all, I would like to say right off the top, I don’t usually share my time with interviews with anybody.
Casey Biggs: That’s because nobody can afford me.
Jeffrey Combs: Did we work together? What episode were you in?
Casey Biggs: You were my understudy!
Jeffrey Combs: Oh the one time I was an understudy. That was you? You should have quit.
Casey Biggs: I never miss a performance. [laughs]
Jeffrey Combs: Yeah, I noticed! [laughs]
Casey Biggs: So, what are we doing here?
Well, you guys have been paired up for a virtual event this weekend. I think we can see now why Creation did that. Looking back at your histories on Deep Space Nine, you guys had this fun rivalry.
Casey Biggs: The “Bickerson Brothers.”
The writers were putting you two together all the time. Were they picking up on something you guys were developing on your own?
Casey Biggs: We just have great chemistry, don’t we Jeff?
Jeffrey Combs: We did have. Case and I are both peers, same age, went through theater training together. So, we kind of had a harmony there and understanding of how to work a scene and support each other. It was pretty damn seamless and easy, wasn’t it Case?
Casey Biggs: They saw we had good chemistry together to begin with, and they were both really great characters in their respective universes. What happened when we came together, we just worked really well off each other.
Jeffrey Combs: Case and I understand that to make a scene interesting or a character interesting, there always has to be some kind of conflict. A problem to deal with or solve to put up with. They knew that. They were constantly having me say things that annoyed the shit out of Casey, and vice versa. So, we knew not only how to play our own, but react to what the other is doing.
Casey Biggs: Yeah. And they gave Damar a sense of humor. One of my favorite lines is, “You better be careful, or I will be talking to Weyoun number nine.” [both laugh]
Jeffrey Combs: Yeah, they were wonderful writers. And that is because they really took a lot of cues from dailies. Not just how things were played. And they were constantly on the lookout for “What can we use? Oh, that’s good. That’s good music, let’s play more of that.”
Casey Biggs: That’s like with me. They liked the way I looked in Quark’s bar, so they made me an alcoholic for two years… What you have to know is, all you have to do is give me and Jeffrey the ball, and we will run with it.
Jeffrey Combs: I remember one scene we had and the director said, “Okay you guys, I really don’t know how I want to block this.” And Casey and I just said, “We know! We know how to block it.” [both laugh]
Casey Biggs: What was interesting is in the sixth season I was doing a play in New York and I took the part, but they didn’t tell me I was written in for like thirteen episodes. I told them they should have told me as I took another job. So, they would fly me on my day off on Monday from New York to L.A., and Jeff and I would shoot all our scenes in one day and fly back to New York to do the show. That was lucky because you knew they loved you to fly you. They could have easily killed me off.
Jeffrey Combs: That’s really unusual. That is budget stuff right there. They were lovely to us. They were very supportive if something came up. They were very flexible.
Casey Biggs: Well, they were lovely to Jeff. If any role came up, they gave it to him. How many characters did you play?
Jeffrey Combs: Bribery works! I keep trying to tell you.
Both of you started mid-series on Deep Space Nine. Did either of you have a clue you would be back so often? Jeffrey you even began as Tiron, a one-off alien.
Casey Biggs: No, I thought I was literally just one episode.
Jeffrey Combs: With the Tiron character I thought, good I now auditioned two or three times and finally got it, so good I got a one-er here. Let’s do this one thing. I didn’t realize that fate and synchronicity played a part here. It just so happens that my friend René Auberjonois—I love him to death, to the ends of the Earth and beyon—he was getting ready to direct his very first episode, it was a Ferengi episode. I had done theater with him and he suggested that I play Brunt. The producers sort of resisted that, but they said, “Yeah, sure.” That started a recurrence with Brunt and then they came to me with Weyoun. Without these little happy accidents, we wouldn’t be talking at all.
Casey Biggs: With me, Ira Behr, the executive producer, he was obsessed with the Alamo. And I had starred in the very first dramatic IMAX film and it was about the Alamo [1988’s Alamo: The Price of Freedom]. The moment I walked in the room I had the job, but I didn’t know that. Ira told me he went home and told his wife, “You are not going to believe who came in today! Casey Biggs!” I had no idea.
Jeffrey Combs: For Tiron, that was directed by Jonathan Frakes. So, he cast me. There you go.
Casey Biggs: Did you know him before that?
Jeffrey Combs: We had mutual friends in town. Get this, I had auditioned, and we had been paired up. At one point in the past, long before TNG when we were young puppies, had been paired up to do an improv for a movie. Usually, you go in and read your stuff and go, but this was a different thing: “You guys are robbing a car and action!” That was our touchstone.
Casey, you mentioned playing a drunk. Firstly, what was it like drinking all that syrup? And more importantly, how did you approach playing a drunk on Star Trek, which is a bit unusual for the show.
Jeffrey Combs: Let me answer that. First of all, it is called “typecasting.” And second of all, he loved that shit.
Casey Biggs: Oh yeah, you aren’t even a good enough actor to drink that and pretend you like it. [both laugh] That’s why I am a better actor, I looked like I liked it, but it was terrible! I hated it. Like I said, I had one scene in Quark’s bar and say, “Give me the kanar…no no, the good stuff.” And then I got into a fight with Quark, and they liked that chemistry with me and Quark and all that. And literally, almost every flipping scene I was in after that, I was drinking that shit. Until—and René directed that episode as well—when I stopped. Remember Jeff, you were in that scene.
Jeffrey Combs: I do. I was there to tell you that your wife and your son had been killed.
Casey Biggs: And the funny part was before that episode I didn’t even know I had a wife or son.
Jeffrey Combs: [laughs] Exactly! They do sort of pull those things on you. As an actor you go, “Wait, I have a daughter!” You would have played it.
Casey Biggs: I could have played scenes differently.
Jeffrey Combs: The point is, they didn’t know that.
Casey Biggs: They take a lot. Hans Beimler is the one that supposedly created my character and he said it just getting bigger and bigger because they were taking stuff. They would take stuff from Jeff and from me and see how far they could take it in the characterization of it. Both his arc and my arc were fabulous. Didn’t the first Weyoun get killed off and they suddenly said, “Why did we kill him off?”
Jeffrey Combs: That was a mistake. They thought it was an episode about the Jem’Hadar and after the episode, they went, “Why did they kill that character?” So, in desperation, they came up with cloning. That allowed them to bring me back. Bless whoever said, “We can clone him.”
You are both playing antagonists on the show. Were you trying to play it as the guy we love to hate, or more of the proverbial villain who thinks he is the hero of the story? Or something else?
Jeffrey Combs: For me, I looked at it this way. The Vorta are genetically altered to be the most sublime and friendly liaisons, diplomats, and easy-going. You have nothing to worry about. I am your friend. They can’t help it. They have been genetically altered to be that. I just love the idea that I was playing a character that a lot of people would say is doing bad things, but I love the idea I am playing it the other way. I’m pleasant! It’s all going to be fine. You have nothing to worry about! That to me is far more frightening than someone who is scowling and intimidating and in your face because it is much more insidious. The façade of goodwill, even though you know he will stab you in the back, is interesting. I had an acting teacher and he would say, “There is nothing more interesting than playing the opposite.”
Casey Biggs: Yeah, you always want to play the opposite. Training-wise, you always look at the opposite. With my situation, Damar was Dukat’s right hand. So, I was always trying to be the patriot. The best thing to play is the reluctant hero. Goddammit, I got to, I don’t wanna, but I have do it. That’s just wonderful fodder. For a while there, we thought it was our show, because we had taken over the station. That was great. They were all off on some shuttle. That was fun.
Both of you played on multiple Star Trek shows. Jeff, you also played on Voyager. And both of you were on Enterprise…
Casey Biggs: They sort of lied to me about that. They did. They said, “We’ve got this great character, would you do it?” And I really didn’t want to get into makeup and stuff, and they said, “No, it is going to be a whole new character and a new race.” I had one episode and they were done with it…I was thinking it was great, they were bringing in a new race and I was going to be a foil for [Captain Archer].
So, how would you guys contrast the atmosphere on the set between DS9 and the other Trek shows?
Jeffrey Combs: I think Casey would agree with me when I say it is kind of like you are on the Ford assembly line putting cars together. Star Trek is such a well-run franchise. It had such a system in place. In many aspects, it was very familiar. Morale is always different, but it seemed to be familiar too. A lot of familiar faces on the different sets. It was always kind of different, but at the same time familiar. The weird part is you walk onto a soundstage and you worked on that soundstage for many episodes and it is now all gone, but it is all new. You have to adjust to that surrealness.
Casey Biggs: I would say the big difference between the two of them I was on, for DS9 they were all renegades. If you know Ira Behr, he is a freaking renegade. And Avery is a renegade. We were the dark horse of the series, so they can do whatever they wanted. I don’t know about you Jeff, but on Enterprise I felt those guys were scared. Because they hadn’t figured out their formula yet. They called Ira in to say, “How can we fix it?” And Ira being Ira said they had to change everything.
Jeffrey Combs: When I think of Enterprise, I think of the camaraderie I had with the cast. They were a good group of people and Scott [Bakula] was tremendous. Scott was a very much of a quarterback on the field. He was definitely in the best possible way, looking out for everything and making sure it was all as good as it could possibly be.
Jeffrey, Manny Coto has said when he planned for what could have been the fifth season of Enterprise he was planning on bringing you in more, possibly even as a regular. Did you ever talk to him about that?
Jeffrey Combs: I never talked to him about that. I know that when Manny came on as show and became showrunner in the fourth and last season the tone of the show and the number of episodes I was in upticked for sure. So I know he was appreciating what I was doing. I think he said that in an interview after the show was canceled. I don’t know what to do about it. It’s kind of a compliment but it also hurts. It’s the one that got away.
Casey, you mentioned how you were introduced as Dukat’s right hand. Unlike Jeff with Weyoun, you were walking into a known race. Did you study Marc Alaimo’s performance, did you try to differentiate yourself as a different kind of Cardassian?
Casey Biggs: Well the funny thing was, in my first appearance I had five words. “They’re in range sir, fire.” Then the director came up to me as I was sitting there pretending to push buttons and he says to me, “They have big plans for this character.” I thought, don’t tell me that, I have four pounds of rubber on my face. But Marc was very good at it. Marc defined it.
Jeffrey Combs: It was a role of a lifetime for Marc Alaimo. A pinnacle performance. Nobody is better than Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat…I guess it was a similar thing for me when I was playing a Ferengi. That had been a path that had been trodden down and all you have to do follow along Armin [Shimerman] and Max [Grodénchik’s] footsteps. They kind of cleared the brush away.
Casey Biggs: And the wonderful thing was, with one of the first shows I did, Armin said, “Come on, you want to rehearse?” Not a lot of people do that on television.
Jeffrey Combs: In my very first episode he was the only one who came to me and said, “Listen, welcome, any time you want to run lines, I don’t care how many times, come find me. Glad you are here.” It’s like your first day of school and you don’t know anybody, and for someone to come up like that really does release a lot of the anxiety. You felt like you had an ally, and you did with Armin.
Casey Biggs: Tell the story about when you went up to Alaimo when you were Brunt.
Jeffrey Combs: I had been with Alaimo as Weyoun, but Alaimo didn’t know I was playing Brunt. So I come to the studio one day and get into my Brunt makeup and Marc is shooting a scene. I decide to mess with him and on a break, I come up to him at the craft table in my Ferengi makeup and say, [funny voice] “Mr Alaimo, I am such a big fan of yours!” He is trying to talk to Ira, who knew I was going to do this. And here is what he thinks is an extra just messing with him and I won’t go away. I was the most annoying fan who wouldn’t go away. About the moment he was going to kill me, I said, “Marc, it’s me.” Marc may have a sense of humor some times, but you never know when it is going to be there.
You guys are often paired together at in-person cons, but this will be your first joint virtual appearance. How are you going to spark this chemistry without being together?
Jeffrey Combs: Oh, we don’t have a problem with that. We’re good.
Casey Biggs: You know we have been doing this Rat Pack thing for about ten years. We all trust each other so well, we never know what is going to come out of our mouths on the stage. That makes it fantastic. I don’t think we will have any issues doing it virtually… I’ll get in a foxhole with Jeff anytime.
Jeffrey Combs: Yeah, we are old pals. Golden memories and it keeps going. We’re good.
Briggs and Combs together again this Sunday
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Casey Biggs (Damar) will join actor Jeffrey Combs (DS9: Weyoun and Brunt, ENT: Shran, and more Trek roles) are featured in this weekend’s Creation Entertainment Virtual Fan Experience, doing a live panel and Q&A. The panel is on Sunday, June 7 at 1 pm ET. The live event uses StageIt, with tickets priced as “pay what you can.” They will both also be doing a limited virtual meet and greet on June 10 with 10 slots being auctioned off. You can bid at auctions.creation.com.
Keep up with all the Star Trek interviews at TrekMovie.com.