Ferengis are one of Star Trek’s most famous alien species. The species was introduced in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the episode “The Last Outpost.” Ferengis appeared in 15 episodes of TNG, making them the alien species with the third most appearances in the show, behind the Klingons and the Romulans.
The Ferengis were much more prominently featured in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. That show had one Ferengi as a central character and two other Ferengis as frequently recurring characters. DS9 also introduced several Ferengis as recurring characters and gave fans an in-depth view of Ferengi society and culture.
The Ferengis in the Star Trek universe were brought to life by some phenomenal actors, who mastered the art of performing under layers and layers of makeup and prosthetics. These are the faces behind three of Star Trek’s most famous Ferengis.
Armin Shimerman was one of the pioneers of the Ferengi species. He played one of the first Ferengis seen in the Star Trek universe, Letek, in the TNG episode “The Last Outpost.” According to The Art of Star Trek, Shimerman was the first actor to participate in makeup tests for the Ferengi prosthetics and makeup process.
Shimerman played one more Ferengi on TNG before being cast as Quark in DS9. According to The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, the Ferengi were not a very popular species after their portrayal on TNG. They were seen as too silly and one-dimensional. However, the showrunners’ decision to include a Ferengi as a core figure in DS9 was mainly because of Shimerman.
He was a phenomenal actor who brought a seriousness and depth to the Ferengi that had never been present before. The showrunners took a leap and wrote Quark with Shimerman in mind. He played the character in 172 episodes of the show and reprised the role on Star Trek: Voyager.
Max Grodenchik also played multiple Ferengi characters. However, he’s best-known to Star Trek fans as Rom, the brother of Shimerman’s Quark. According to The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, Grodenchik was actually in the running for the role of Quark. Like Shimerman, he’d played a Ferengi before on TNG, so the producers knew he could handle the role.
However, Shimerman beat him out for Quark. Soon after, the producers approached Grodenchik about playing a different Ferengi, Quark’s brother. He was thrilled to come back to the Trek-verse. He never imagined that the role would turn into a major, recurring character, as it did.
Grodenchik played the character in 37 episodes of DS9. He also voiced Rom for the video game Star Trek Online.
Aron Eisenberg will always be lovingly remembered by Star Trek fans as Nog, the son of Rom, nephew of Quark, and best friend of Jake Sisko. Nog appeared in the very first episode of DS9 along with his uncle. He was one of the few children permanently living on the station, which made him the perfect best friend for Sisko, the captain’s son. Notably, his character was also the first Ferengi to be accepted at Starfleet Academy.
In an interview with StarTrek.com in 2012, Eisenberg talked about being cast as Nog and developing the character over the seven seasons of the show. He told the interviewer that the behind-the-scenes folks didn’t really tell him anything about who Nog was or what he was like. Eisenberg said that he got to find out who Nog was by playing him and that the writers incorporated a lot of his own personality into the character.
Eisenberg also revealed that he didn’t know the role would be so large. He ended up playing Nog in 47 episodes of DS9.
Eisenberg passed away in 2019, a tragic loss for the Star Trek community.
These are just a few of the amazing actors who brought famous Ferengis to life. Their talent and versatility irrevocably changed the Ferengis, making them into a nuanced and interesting species.