|Stuffy uptight Brit, camp convention queen or EastEnd
hardnut – who’s the real Dominic Keating?
Ian Berriman questions the Enterprise star.
“I can see your thong!”
Dominic Keating couldn’t be less like his TV alter-ego, Enterprise's
Armoury Officer, Malcolm Reed. One can’t imagine stuffy Malcolm embarrassing
our photographer by pointing out that, as she bends over her laptop, her
pants are poking out. “It’s not deliberate!” protests Katharine, flustered.
Keating snots in mock disbelief: “Yeah, you and 10,000 other women in London
. . .”
Off screen, on stage or one-to-one, this self-confessed “convention queen”
is a livewire, switching personas to entertain his audience – even if it’s
only an audience of two or three. One minute he’s pursed-lipped and camp as
he recalls horsing around on set: “I was late for a cue one time, and it
was: ‘Where were you?’ ‘So sorry, Captain, I was just thinking about new
curtains of the ready room!”
Next minute, he’s venting his spleen about Californian surf dudes who
object to him stealing their waves. “Given that they’re meant to be all Zen,
they can be real bastards!” Keating flips into Vinnie Jones mode, showing
how he could scare ‘em off with British grit. “Fuck off, ya bastards!” he
snarls, like some EastEnd pitbull. Eyes popping, fists clenched, a vein
standing out in his neck, he spits, “ ‘Ave it!”
He has every reason to be ebullient. As we speak it’s only a few weeks
since the dark cloud of cancellation was lifted and he found out that he
still has a job.
“Thank God for that! There was a time about two thirds of the way through
the season, where …” Keating sights wearily. “ …I wasn’t enjoying going to
work. As well as being the cast’s convention queen I am the worrywart. In
some respects I managed to just let go. Towards the end of the run up to
whether we were gonna get picked up I really was resigned to the fact this
might be it.”
What fans forget while we fret about abstract matters like “the
continuation of the Trek universe”, is that for actors like Keating it’s all
about harsh economic realities. “When I got told that this was a seven year
gig I kind of believed that is was seven year gig. Suddenly it was looking
like it was gonna be a three year gig – and I’ve got a seven year gig house!”
Keating laughs bleakly. “I was hoping that I haven’t overstepped my
Keating was “fairly confident” of renewal, since a fourth season ensures
a decent package of episodes to sell into syndication. “Politics can really
get in the way of production and I think there were some politics. But I
couldn’t see a group of studio and network executives having invested all
that money in our sets and the cast, not going the extra mile to get the
You’d expect him to be elated about Enterprise's renewal. Instead he’s
treating it as a stay of execution.
“We’re gonna be doing 22 episodes, which will give them 98 episodes,
which I figure they figure is enough to syndicate. Which kinda leads you
onto going … ‘Well, y’know…’ “ Keating clicks his fingers. “ ‘That’ll be
that.’ And I’m banking, monetarily, that that’s what’s gonna happen.”
It makes sense for him to assume the worst and hope to be pleasantly
surprised. All the same, it’s faintly depressing. I half-jokingly ask
Keating whether he's been considering getting a smaller house. When he
answers earnestly, I can picture him laying out the bills and doing his sums.
“I’m clever with the cash, always have been. I’ve done the math in my
head and I reckon I can keep my life pretty much as it Is, as long as I
don’t go Champagne Charlie.”
Ah well. If season four is Enterprise’s last, at least it might go out in
a blaze of glory. Trek overlords Braga and Berman are stepping back to
develop other projects. Enterprise writer Manny Coto is taking over the
day-to-day running of the show. The qualities Keating admires in Coto are
intelligence and a determined self-assurance.
“I remember ringing him up about a couple of scenes I had in his first
episode. The other writers are much more open to my rather emphatic
suggestions about changing my words or the tone of the scene, but I remember
Manny not being so open and actually having a bloody good argument why it
should stay the same.”
What, did he bark, “Just read the fucking lines, Keating!” down the phone?
“It’s wasn’t quite that blunt! But I realized that this guy was no
walkover and he really thought about what he’d written. I remember putting
the phone down and going ‘hmph … okay.’ ” So that was your sex scene with
T’Pol … “…nixed!”, Keating cackles mischievously. “That’s what happened! If
it happens, I’m wearing the catsuit!”
Keating is pleased with the third season, which he considers an
improvement. “I think 95% of it was damn good. In the first two seasons we
might have been accused of turning in two clunkers and three okay-eys.”
Considering how many episode the production team churns out – 26 a year
initially, 24 last year – maintaining a high standard is tough.
“For me 26 is a good number because it’s 26 episode fees and 26 repeat
fees!” he grins. “But for the writers, the production and the crew… it’s
grueling, man! That crew works 80-85 hours a week most weeks – that’s a lot
Keating’s grin fades as he remembers the death of one of Enterprise’s
first assistant directors. “Dear Jerry Fleck – God bless him – passed away,
just coming up to retirement. My heart goes out to his wife and his family,
it was a terrible time. I have to say I think the workload contributed.”
Keating shakes his head. “Y’know, the poor man suffered from hypertension
and, er . . .” He trails off.
Suddently I feel lousy for every snippy review we’ve ever printed. The
Enterprise production is flogging its guts out, and we moan if every episode
isn’t 24-carat gold.
Changing tack , I ask what it’s like being the only Brit in the cast. He
responds with a wry self-deprecation.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I only to token! I was the token
honky in Desmond’s [the 90’s black sitcom], show. I wanna be the straight
guy in a gay play next!”
Nowadays Malcolm seems to have loosened up, but to begin with, he was
more of a repressed bug-up-his-ass Brit.
“That’s what they wrote! The three-line bio that they gave him was
‘buttoned-down Brit, shy around woman, very much a jobsworthy man’. Let’s
talk plainly: it’s an hour-long science fiction show and you’ve got American
writing for a British part. I think they did a pretty good job. There’s a
dialogue that goes on. I make my notes and by and large the writers are
receptive. I ring them up and go, ‘You know what? This is hokey.’ I mean… I
don’t know if they ever wrote the word ‘bloke’, but they’ll write something
like ‘bleemy, blimey, blonky’ – the 1930s stuff!”
What, like, “Cor blimey, the hull plating is down 25%”?
“Yeah, exactly! So I push them gently into a more realistic approach. The
other process that goes on is: actors want to ‘act’, and by and large they
don’t have to. This is something I’ve learned on this job. Malcolm Reed is
not Dominic Keating, but where I feel comfortable that it’s not gonna leap
out you, I nudge Dominic in there, rather than just playing it within the
box of those three lines that they first wrote. Y’know, let’s step out of
the box; let’s make him a little idiosyncratic, a bit more enigmatic, not as
predictable. I used to think if it didn’t fit the proviso of the three-line
box I wasn’t acting the character correctly, and that was a mistake on my
behalf. I feel a lot more comfortable sprinkling Dominic over Malcolm and
the two come together and there’s a … goulash of a performance!”
As the solitary Brit on-set, does he get picked on?
“Not as much as I did on Desmond’s – they used to play ‘fuck of the white
boy’ on Desmond’s.” Keating roars with laughter. “They don’t play ‘fuck the
Brit’ on Star Trek! Robbie Gee and Geff Francis, they’d look at me queer on
the set and go, ‘It’s time to fuck the white boy’ “ He fakes a distraught
sob. “They were mean to me, man!”
Keating’s been in LA for ten years now, and says he’s become pretty
“You capitulate. I say ‘sidewalk’ and ‘hood’ and ‘trunk’ and I say
‘water’ the American way at a restaurant because if you say ‘water’ in a
British way it’s gonna take you another 20 seconds. I’m all about speed,
“It’s funny coming home. You have dinner with English friends and they’ll
ask these stereotypical questions about their preconceived ideas of
Americans and Los Angeles, and you know what? It’s just another big city.
Once you get past the veneer of cultural difference people are people mate,
the world over. So I haven’t got that axe to grind. I love Americans in LA.
I love Londoners in London and I feel blessed that I’ve got this bi-city
Let’s hope that Keating’s intuition about the end being nigh for
Enterprise is wrong; that he’ll be able to carry on living that blessed
lifestyle for the full seven years.
”I like working and I really love going through the gates of Paramount,
and I’ld like to do the full stint. I ain’t done with the experience!”