René Murat Auberjonois, known to many genre fans as Constable Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, passed away December 8th at his home in Los Angeles after a battle with metastatic lung cancer. The news was confirmed by his son Rèmy-Luc Auberjonois, then later on the actor’s Twitter account.
(Minions say: We're sad to confirm that René passed away today, Sunday, December 8) https://t.co/lmYlIqS6Ld
— Rene Auberjonois (1940-2019) (@reneauberjonois) December 8, 2019
Born in New York City in 1940, Auberjonois was the son of Swiss-born Fernand Auberjonois, a respected foreign correspondent for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade. The prolific actor was also the son and namesake of Swiss artist René Victor Auberjonois.
Auberjonois was a character actor throughout the 1960s and into the 1980s and 90s, first in theatre and then in film and television. He played Father Mulcahy in Robert Altman’s MAS*H, the first of several projects working with Altman. In 1969, he won a Tony Award for his lead role in the musical Coco opposite Katharine Hepburn. He would go on to garner three more Tony nominations in 1973, 1984, and 1989.
“He managed to put what he felt were his limited musical talents to work by mastering a kind of patter style,” his son wrote in an e-mail to the New York Times, “‘talk-singing’ (his term) his way into the hearts of so many theatergoers.”
That singing — limited talent or not — is featured in one of the more popular songs from Disney’s The Little Mermaid in 1989, gleefully belting out “Les Poissons” as he chases Sebastian the crab around Prince Eric’s kitchen.
In 1980, he landed the role of Clayton Endicott III in the sitcom Benson, staying with the show until 1986 and winning his first Emmy nomination. He also appeared in several guest roles on shows such as Stargate SG-1, L.A. Law, Frasier, The Outer Limits, Warehouse 13, and Murder, She Wrote. But it was his role as the shape-shifting Constable Odo that landed him square in the sights of genre fans.
In 2004, he began appearing on Boston Legal, first in guest appearances, then as a regular. He told TV Guide in 2006, ““Some friends of mine will say, ‘Oh, they don’t use you enough! And I look at them like, ‘What, are you wishing me to work hard? I’m 65 years old! I thought I was going to retire when this thing came out of nowhere.’”
Besides his many appearances on camera, he was also a very active voice actor, lending his talents to many genre animated projects such as Batman: The Animated Series, Ben 10: Omniverse, Young Justice, Xyber 9: New Dawn, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. He also reprised his role as Odo for Star Trek Online.
“I am all of those characters, and I love that,” Auberjonois said in a 2011 interview with StarTrek.com. “I also run into people, and they think I’m their cousin or their dry cleaner. I love that, too.”
Auberjonois became a regular at conventions, taking the opportunity to raise money for Doctors Without Borders.
The outpouring of condolences came from several of his co-stars, including a piece in Variety by Nana Visitor, who played Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine.
It is with great heartache and loss I share with you the passing of dear,dear Rene Auberjonois.His last message to me was entitled "Don't forget…" I know that I,Kitty,and all that knew him will never forget.The world seems noticeably emptier now. I loved him.
— Armin Shimerman (@ShimermanArmin) December 8, 2019
I have just heard about the death of my friend and fellow actor @reneauberjonois. To sum up his life in a tweet is nearly impossible. To Judith, Tessa & Remy I send you my love & strength. I will keep you in my thoughts and remember a wonderful friendship with René.
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) December 8, 2019
This is a terrible loss. Star Trek fans knew him as Odo from Deep Space Nine. We knew him as René. He was a wonderful, caring, and intelligent man. He shall be missed. When I look out to the stars, I shall think of you, friend. https://t.co/IE2gtivRcg
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) December 8, 2019
Rene Auberjonois 1940~2019.
A beloved member of our Star Trek family, among so many other decorated achievements on stage and screen. But above all, one of the sweetest humans I have ever met.
May he rest in God’s peace.#ReneAuberjonois #RIP pic.twitter.com/mK0aua9beV
— Doug Jones (@actordougjones) December 8, 2019
I am so sorry to hear that the wonderful René Auberjonois has passed away. I had the great honor to play his daughter on Boston Legal. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and his many fans. May he rest in peace. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/eRxwfmmkcy
— Jayne Brook (@thejaynebrook) December 8, 2019
Rene Auberjonois a true gentleman & passionate artist passed onto the next understanding & we will miss him so much. I was honored to have worked with him on Windows On The World, his second to last film. He delivered an amazing rendition of NY NY – a brilliant artist #sswa #RIP pic.twitter.com/KR5PKylNZe
— Edward James Olmos (@edwardjolmos) December 8, 2019
I am very sad to hear of the passing of René Auberjonois. His work on Deep Space Nine was especially inspiring to me as I approached being in a Star Trek show. And I was delighted to get to spend time with him at STLV, where I learned he was a totally delightful human being. RIP
— Anthony Rapp @🏡 (@albinokid) December 9, 2019
Auberjonois is survived by his wife Judith, son Rèmy-Luc, sisters Marie-Laure Degener and Anne Auberjonois; daughter Tessa Auberjonois; son-in-law Adrian Latourelle, daughter-in-law Kate Nowlin and three grandchildren.