René Auberjonois Passes Away

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.

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-1L.A. Law, FrasierThe 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 SeriesBen 10: OmniverseYoung JusticeXyber 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.

 

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.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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