Interview with Max Grodénchik, Part 2: The Fate of the Ferengi
In this second part of our interview, Max Grodénchik — most notable for portraying Rom throughout DS9 — presents his views on Star Trek convention appearances, singing in the DS9 documentary “What We Left Behind”, and settling in as a husband and father. He also talks about future possibilities for the ultimate underdog character who everyone hopes to see on screen again.
What have been some highlights of your life after DS9? And what led you to transition from firstly public housing in NYC, then a working acting life in LA, and now living in Austria?
Some of my highlights after DS9 still have some relation to Star Trek. One example is our Star Trek Rat Pack show that includes Casey Biggs, Jeff Combs, Vaughn Armstrong, and now Ethan Phillips, who took over for Armin Shimerman. Even Nana Visitor has sung with us in a few performances, and we’ve had one most rare night where James Darren joined us on stage for the entire show — unforgettable memories for me.
Not too long ago, after DS9 wound down, I met and married my wife, and when “we” became pregnant, the best place to raise our now ten-year-old daughter seemed to be Austria, which is where my wife was born and raised. So, that’s how I got over to Europe and have been living here the last ten years. Plenty of highlights, and so many wonderful places and fan experiences along the way.
I have no new projects at the moment; I guess I’d describe it as ’taking a step back from show biz.’ Hollywood/Los Angeles is where I made myself known — at least to some degree — and film/theatre-wise it’s probably where I belong. But there’s a whole other world out there to explore; watching my daughter grow up, just being here with my wife and family, I can appreciate and experience my life as a real gift.
Do you rewatch DS9? Do you ever wish you made other acting choices?
I did rewatch DS9 with my wife, partly to get ideas for new Rat Pack songs, partly because the memories are so sweet, that I was part of such a well-made show. Yes, there are times when I surely do wish that I would have made a different acting choice in a scene; but then there are some once-in-a-while days when I hear Armin or René say that they, too, wish they’d’ve made a different acting choice — and that makes me feel a whole lot better!
What are your favorite Rules of Acquisition? Did you ever make up any that could pass as a new rule? (I hear you are an expert in this area.)
One stands out, number 48: The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife. I also enjoy number 22: A wise man can hear profit in the wind. And number 139: Wives serve, brothers inherit. And last, but not necessarily least, number 10: Greed is eternal.
I’ve tried making up new rules, but have never been as successful at it as Ira Behr and the writers have been.
The Star Trek community is still mourning the loss of Aron Eisenberg. What thoughts and memories do you have of your friend and former scene partner? Please reflect on the life of René Auberjonois as well.
The loss of Aron has been huge, and he and I were still doing small performances at conventions before he passed. We had these little skits that we’d perform as Nog and Rom, in full make-up, as part of our Q&A, and received a really positive reaction from DS9 fans — I could have done that little show forever.
It’s worth repeating what I said at his memorial service: “Aron was ‘fan-friendly’ before that term was even invented.” He was more upbeat and positive in his life than anyone I’d ever met. He was a father before I was, and I still go by his wisdom on parenting that he was happy to share with me. I really can’t say enough good things about him. (And kudos to the Star Trek: Discovery producing team for naming the ship USS Nog after Aron’s character — that was a class act!)
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to know René well enough. A major reason for that is because I was in awe of his talent, and I tended to keep a bit of distance from him, watching him when I could to learn from him — he was just a superb screen actor, a bit of a mystery to me, but an exceptionally talented mystery.
Who from the DS9 cast or staff are you in contact with the most these days? Who do you wish you could see or interact with more?
The two that my wife and I are most in contact with would be Armin and Chase. (Chase has occasionally traipsed through Vienna, close enough to us that we could meet over there.) Armin is — after my wife — my mentor… If I need guidance, he’s the guy I seek advice from.
And Aron is the guy I wish I could have spent more time with, the guy I wish I could’ve gotten to know better, and of course Aron’s the guy I wish I could see again…
This might be very sensitive, but I’d love to know your perspective based on your Jewish heritage. Some critique the portrayal of the Ferengi race in Star Trek as an embodiment of dangerous stereotypes of Jews (greedy merchants, for example). How do you respond to this?
I have never felt this way, nobody has ever mentioned this to me, and there are more facets to the Ferengi explored in DS9 than just greed… and Rom, a major Ferengi character, was not greedy. There are Ferengi scientists, Ferengi moms and dads and brothers and uncles… I think the one thing viewers should most regard is the sense of family between the Ferengi, the love between the brothers despite their harsh disagreements. I guess I just think it’s misguided thinking. If that’s all that somebody took away from it, I think they missed a lot.
Are you still involved with conventions and other fan events? What are some of your memories of interacting with Star Trek fans?
Yes, still involved. I don’t want to jinx it, but it seems like I get invited to at least a couple of conventions each year, and it’s a good feeling to know that fans — some of whom have become friends over the years — are still interested in seeing me.
Also, conventions have become something of a family affair: my wife and daughter often accompany me overseas and I really enjoy having them with me. We just came back from Star Trek: The Cruise, which usually launches in February, and are already looking forward to our annual trip to the Creation Entertainment Convention in Las Vegas.
My interactions with fans have almost 100% been positive. I get to hear interesting stories, meet kind and amazing people from all over the world, I’ve generously been invited to people’s homes, shared meals together — there are just too many positive memories to count.
What are your thoughts about the DS9 documentary What We Left Behind? Your opening and closing performances in it were strong. When did you learn about the documentary?
I don’t remember when I learned of it, but I think it’s extremely well done. Ira Behr is a master! It brings tears to my eyes whenever I see it and it’s an honor to have been part of it.
Are you watching any of the “new” Star Trek shows (Discovery, Picard, Strange New Worlds, Lower Decks and/or Prodigy)? If so, what are your impressions? Would you be willing to perform, if asked, in “new” Trek? Have you been asked?
My wife and I are doing pretty well about keeping up-to-date with the new series. I would say just about everything I see seems to have some really quality work to offer. I gotta admit that I’m rather partial to Star Trek: Picard — my very, very first Trek appearance was opposite Patrick Stewart in the TNG episode “Captain’s Holiday”, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since! If I were asked to perform in one of the new Treks, I’d say “Yes” in a heartbeat!
If a new show was to feature Rom about two decades after the end of DS9, what do you think Rom would be up to in his future?
I like to think of Rom as a family-man but constantly fighting for the future of Ferenginar, even twenty years from now, ’cause that would make for a more exciting series. And then all his DS9 buddies could help guide him to victory. It would be a long battle, hopefully lasting another seven seasons (’cause that seems to be the magic number with Trek).
Thank you very much for this interview.
Many thanks for inviting me.
Frank Kennedy writes and performs original material for thoughtful audiences including a once, sold out off-Broadway stage in the pre-pandemic days. He blends his skills as a storyteller and sleight-of-hand magician, telling poignant stories of fatherhood with sons living on the Autism Spectrum. Watching Star Trek almost daily with his Mom as a teen – during the post-cancelation syndicated-rerun days of The Original Series – he is proud that he was part of the fan enthusiasm that turned Trek into a continuum of shows and films, rather than a forgotten canceled show with poor ratings. Along with devouring new Trek content, he has filled his life with adventures to over sixty countries, boldly going and learning about cultures on the planet Earth.