Questioning Quark: Star Trek's Armin Shimerman
For seven years Shimerman spent 16 hours of each working day under the rubber prosthetics of Hollywood makeup master Michael Westmore. The artist used latex and dentures to transform the actor into the questionable Ferengi bar keeper of Deep Space Nine, an alien space station abandoned by its occupying Nazi like builders the Cardassians. Shimerman made Quark Star Trek's own version of Humphrey Bogart's character Rick Blaine from the 1942 film classic Casablanca when he appeared on television screens from 1993 until 1999.
"The people qualities that my character had taught me a great deal," Shimerman revealed.
"I was rather timid and rather shy before and I'm very grateful to Quark for teaching me the joys of social intercourse," Shimerman said.
It's not often, then, that Shimerman is speechless, but he recalled a convention in Phoenix, Arizona, when he was.
"A little boy, about eight years old, raised his hand and asked 'What's it like to be an action figure doll and do you ever play with yourself?' Which just bought the house down. I made no answer and just smiled."
Before he donned Quark's elephantine ears and pointed teeth Shimerman played Pascal in the television series Beauty and the Beast, a role which saw him invited to events like Armageddon long before his Star Trek co-stars entered the convention scene.
"When we started Deep Space Nine a number of the other actors were coming up to me asking what they could expect."
Shimerman, like many of his co-stars, has a background in Shakespeare. Which adds to the reputation the franchise has for telling Shakesperian style stories.
"I teach Shakespeare a lot," Shimerman revealed. " It's no coincidence that the actors on all of the Star Trek shows usually have a classical theatre background."
At first Shimerman wasn't recognised on the street, thanks to the extensive make-up, but that all changed when he also played Principal Snyder in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer series.
"My character was on the cover of TV Guide in the United States and I remember walking into a store to buy a copy to keep for a keepsake. No one was paying any attention to me picking it up, the cashier never thinking twice looking at the picture on the TV Guide and the person who was buying it never made the connection."
"I'm always sort of surprised when I have been talking to anybody for a while and they end the conversation with I loved your work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
"People have told me that he was one of their favourite characters in the Star Trek franchise and if that's so I'm very grateful and honoured that people think that. He wasn't quite a villain, he certainly wasn't a hero, he lived somewhere in no man's land and for me."
In fact Shimerman is credited as being one of the creative forces behind the series' finest moment. It's a multi-layered scene from the Season 4 opener The Way of the Warrior in which the space station's bar keeper and exiled Cardassian spy Elim Garak (Andrew Robinson) have a conversation that starts off about the human drink root beer and ends up to be about galaxy spanning politics.
"While rehearsing it we came to find out that there was more to it than what was written on the page," Shimerman said.
"We saw that there was more being said than what was on the page. We started to modify it from a comic scene to a very insidious sort of scene with some comic overtones as well and we rehearsed it that way at my house.
"When we took it in on Monday and the director (James L Conway) said let's read this we presented it the way we had rehearsed it. He said, 'We can't shoot that, that's not what the producers have asked me to shoot. This has to be a much more funny scene.
"I was rather adamant and happy with the choices I had made and the director, doing what his bosses had asked him to, said, 'I can't shoot it like that'.
"It's the only time ever in my carer, ever, where I simply said, 'Well I can't shoot it the way you want to do it' and put my foot down. "So the producers were bought down to the set and the director explained what the problem was.
"The producers took about 30 seconds, consulted amongst themselves, and then turned to the director and said, 'Shoot it the way Armin wants to do it'. And it's of great satisfaction to me that it's one of the most popular scene from Deep Space Nine because it would have been a totally different scene had we done it the way it was written."
Of the show's seven main characters Quark was the only one who's story arc landed him back where he started.
"My character had become very human over the course of seven years. He had journeyed far in what he considered was the wrong direction and came back to being his true self," Shimerman said.
"The producers once said to me, 'Quark is the station. The station and Quark are the same.' I came to realise the wisdom of that. The whole life of this station centred around the bar, the bar was centred around the personality of Quark. He would still be trying to steal as much money as he possibly could and loving every minute of it."
In reality the Deep Space Nine sets were ripped down in 1999 when filming on the seventh and final season wrapped.
Shimerman never took any parts of the set with him.
"That's an irony of ironies because the great thief of the show was Quark and yet I believe I am the only actor on the show who didn't take anything," he said. " When I knew that they were dismantling the set I didn't want to see it being torn apart and so I just refrained from going back to the set to pick up anything.
"I'm quite sure all the others showed up with tow trucks and hammers and chisels and jackhammers and took as much as they could. I didn't want my memories of the show to be spoilt by seeing the destruction of the set."
Shimerman believed he'd played Quark for the last time until the death of fellow Star Trek alumni Leonard Nimoy this month. In a 2003 interview Nimoy said he thought he'd played Spock for the last time before appearing in JJ Abrams' two Star Trek movies in 2009 and 2013.
If he could return to the role, what more would Shimerman like to explore about Quark's character?
"I wonder, having been married for 34 years, how marriage would have tamed Quark one way or another. It would also be fascinating to know what kind of woman my character would have fallen in love with. I tend to think, from his past relationships, he would like a sort of a woman who was her own person. A little bit domineering, intellectual, and quite beautiful and I guess I am describing all the elements of my true wife, Kitty, but I think I would like to see that for Quark as well."
Shimerman's wife Kitty Swink guest starred in a couple of episodes of Deep Space Nine and is appearing on the Star Trek panel at Armageddon with him on Sunday.
"At that time she was the only wife, or the only spouse, to break what we call the spouse barrier. No other actor on any of the Star Trek shows at that time had had their husband or wife appear on screen in any of the episodes."
If there one thing Shimerman could bring from the fictional world of Star Trek to real life it would be food replicators, an electronic gadget that convert inert matter into any dish you can dream up.
"Maybe we could do away with some of the poverty in the world if you could install these things so that people could punch in some numbers and be able to eat. There's so many starving people in the world and maybe machines like that could do away with hunger."
The actor was quite taken with his first visit to New Zealand.
"It's awfully green," he said. "People are very nice and just beautiful landscapes, which is what I expected, I've always wanted to come to New Zealand and it's living up to my expectations."