René Auberjonois, a prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows “Benson” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and his part in the 1970 film “M.A.S.H.” playing Father Mulcahy, died Dec. 8 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79.

The cause was metastatic lung cancer, said his son, Rèmy-Luc Auberjonois.

Mr. Auberjonois worked constantly as a character actor through several periods and forms, from the dynamic theater of the 1960s to the cinema renaissance of the 1970s to the prime period of network television in the 1980s and ’90s — and each generation knew him for something different.

For film fans of the 1970s, he was Father John Mulcahy, the military chaplain who played straight man to the doctors’ antics in “M.A.S.H.” It was his first significant film role and the first of several for director Robert Altman.

For sitcom watchers of the 1980s, he was Clayton Runnymede Endicott III, the hopelessly highbrow chief of staff at a governor’s mansion on “Benson,” the ABC series whose title character was a butler played by Robert Guillaume.

And for sci-fi fans of the 1990s and convention-goers ever since, he was Odo, the shape-shifting Changeling and head of space-station security on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

“I am all of those characters, and I love that,” Auberjonois said in a 2011 interview with the “Star Trek” website. “I also run into people, and they think I’m their cousin or their dry cleaner. I love that, too.”

René Marie Murat Auberjonois was born in New York City on June 1, 1940, the son of Fernand Auberjonois, a Swiss-born foreign correspondent for U.S. newspapers, and the grandson of a Swiss postimpressionist painter, also named René Auberjonois.

Mr. Auberjonois was raised in New York, Paris and London and for a time lived with his family in an artists’ colony in Rockland County, N.Y., whose residents included the actors John Houseman, Helen Hayes and Burgess Meredith.

After graduating in 1962 from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon), Mr. Auberjonois hopped around the country joining theater companies, eventually landing three roles on Broadway in 1968, including as the Fool in a long-running version of King Lear.

The following year, he played Sebastian Baye opposite Katharine Hepburn in “Coco,” a play on the life of designer Coco Chanel that earned him a Tony for best actor in a leading role in a musical.

He later received Tony nominations for 1973’s “The Good Doctor,” 1984’s “Big River” and 1989’s “City of Angels.”

In 1970, Mr. Auberjonois began his run with Altman, playing Mulcahy in “M.A.S.H.”

In his most famous exchange from the movie, Sally Kellerman’s Margaret Houlihan wonders how such a degenerate doctor as Donald Sutherland’s Hawkeye Pierce could reach a position of responsibility in the U.S. Army. A Bible-reading Mr. Auberjonois deadpans, “He was drafted.”

“I actually made that line up when we were rehearsing the scene,” Mr. Auberjonois said on the podcast “The Gist” in 2016. “And it became a kind of an iconic line for the whole film.”

He also appeared in the Altman movies “Brewster McCloud” (1970), as an off-the-wall ornithologist; “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971), as a saloonkeeper; and “Images” (1972), as the husband of an unstable children’s book author.

He spent much of the rest of the 1970s doing guest spots on TV shows before joining the cast of “Benson” in its second season in 1980, where he would remain for the rest of the show’s seven seasons, playing the patrician political adviser and chronic hypochondriac Endicott.

Much of his later career was spent doing voice-overs for animation, most memorably as the French chef who sings the love song to fish-killing, “Les Poissons,” in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1989).

He played Odo on “Deep Space Nine” from 1993 until 1998 and became a regular at “Star Trek” conventions, where he raised money for Doctors Without Borders and signed autographs with a drawing of Odo’s bucket, where the character would store himself when he returned to his natural gelatinous state.

Mr. Auberjonois was also a regular on the ABC law firm dramedy “Boston Legal” from 2004 to 2008.

Late in his career, he worked with independent filmmakers including Kelly Reichardt, for whom he appeared in “Certain Women” (2016) and “First Cow” (2019), his final role.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 56 years, the former Judith Mihalyi; a daughter, Tessa Auberjonois; two sisters; and three grandchildren.

— Associated Press