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Festivale online magazine, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Spring, 1996
Robert O'Reilly -

The Man Behind Gowron

What is the enduring appeal of the guest aliens in Star Trek?

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Robert O'Reilly has a list of credits as long as your arm. An actor and director, with several award nominations to his credit, it seems as if he's done everything from Cop Rock to Shakespeare. And somewhere in between the two extremes - Star Trek.

In 1994 he reprised the role of Klingon leader Gowron in a Deep Space Nine (DS9) episode The House of Quark. The Klingons, according to radio commentator Robert Jan are the most filmed alien race. Count it - seven years of Worf, plus the Klingons in the original series, plus the films, plus Deep Space Nine - that's a lot of footage.

Why are the Klingons so popular? The literature put out by A.U.R.O.R.A, Robert O'Reilly's fan club emphasises the notions of duty and honour which frequently come forward in Trek. The Klingons seek a balance between nobility of purpose and a love of barbarism. It was said that the fans who loved Spock loved the qualities Leonard Nimoy brought to the character. Perhaps it is equally true that it is the nature of Robert O'Reilly lying beneath all that makeup who claims so much attention.

Robert O'Reilly started out studying Creative Writing and Photography, graduating from Ohio University. He says, "I loved creative writing, but my speciality was poetry - very hard to make a living."

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Poetry? Remember in The Dauphin when Worf said Klingon women hurl things and the men write love poetry and duck a lot? Was this type casting?

Robert O'Reilly, Gowron of Star Trek O'Reilly's career has included The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, two science fiction classics, and his favourite job of all has a Science Fiction link. Sam Shepherd (The Right Stuff) is a major playwright, and his bizarre play True West is Robert's favourite. The story of two brothers - a successful writer and an itinerant (O'Reilly) - who in the course of the play reverse their fortunes.

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"The homeless guy is absolutely off the wall and crazy," O'Reilly says, "One of the scenes at the end, they are both (drunk) … and they have absolutely destroyed their mother's home, which is fun to do as an actor - to destroy the set." The mother shows up and the audience knows she is there, watching, before the brothers do."

O'Reilly's favourite performance was St Paddy's (Patrick's) Day. "The play opens with me at the bar in the home, sitting on a stool with my brother typing … I put on these little springs that extend from your head about a foot and a half and at the end were shamrocks … My fellow actor looked over at me and he couldn't laugh … and that evening just got worse and worse. Everywhere you looked there was a reference to St Patrick's Day … all green bread in the toaster. Everyone had decided to joke and not tell anybody.

The popularity of Klingons, and Gowron, continues off the small screen. O'Reilly is featured in the recently-released computer software. And he also appears in the interactive video game.

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Interviewed by Ali Kayn, 1995.
Reprinted from The Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Fan Resource Book (1995) by permission

Robert O'Reilly answers The Usual Questions
Vital statistics and filmography

See also: interviews with Majel Barrett Roddenberry, David Gerrold, Star Trek Movies

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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: 15-Oct-1996 : Last updated: :Last tested: : Last Compiled: 08-Aug-2014
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