While waiting for his romantic lead, the star fills his time with smaller parts and ''Deep Space Nine''

By Anne Thompson
Updated May 19, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Colm Meaney has 14 films under his belt — including crowd-pleasing turns as the Elvis-loving Da in Alan Parker’s 1991 The Commitments and an unwed teen’s wryly supportive father in Stephen Frears’ The Snapper — along with nearly eight years of duty for the Star Trek franchise as engineer Miles O’Brien of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. But the 41-year-old journeyman with the open, ruddy face is still far from a household name. ”You can do 10 features and nobody knows who you are,” he laughs, ”and then do a toilet roll commercial and you’re the Charmin guy.”

But for now, Hugh Grant’s twinkly-eyed Englishman costar, who plays a ladies’-man barkeep, will settle for being compared to other big names. ”Colm is the Celtic Gerard Depardieu,” says director Christopher Monger of Meaney in the role the actor has dubbed ”the male equivalent of the hooker with the heart of gold.” ”He’s virile, he’s a man in spades. Women find him very sexy.”

That said, romantic leads are just about the only parts that have consistently eluded Meaney, who’s portrayed everything from a killer in Under Siege to a priest in the 1994 CBS miniseries Scarlett. A former Dubliner, Meaney nurtured his naturalistic feel for humanity at Ireland’s Abbey Theatre. He eventually made his way to Broadway, where he costarred with Derek Jacobi in 1987’s Breaking the Code. That same year, his ”Everyman” appeal grabbed the attention of Star Trek producer Rick Berman, who offered him a walk-on in the Next Generation pilot, kept him guesting on TNG, and gave him a contract in ’92 that will keep him on Deep Space Nine for three more seasons.

As for film, Meaney looks forward to his next one, Frears’ The Van, the third installment in The Commitments trilogy. And though he’d like to do a historical drama of the Rob Roy ilk, the future suits him fine: ”Deep Space keeps me at home,” says Meaney, whose ”amicably” separated wife and 10-year-old daughter live nearby in L.A. ”It’s a nice mixture. For Englishman we shot in London, I came back, did some episodes, and then six weeks in Wales. Hugh complained about sitting around waiting for me to get back from space.”