(written from a Production point of view)
Zerbe was born in Long Beach, California. In 1958, Zerbe joined the California Air National Guard, transferring to the Air Force Reserve in 1960 without serving on active duty. He was discharged in 1968.
In 1960, following his stint with the Air Force, Zerbe studied acting under Stella Adler. He began appearing on television in 1962 and had a number of TV roles throughout the 1960s before breaking into film in 1967.
Zerbe made his feature film debut playing Dog Boy in the acclaimed 1967 drama Cool Hand Luke. This film also featured Star Trek: The Original Series guest stars Lou Antonio and Morgan Woodward. Zerbe made his next film appearance in the 1968 western Will Penny, along with Roy Jenson and William Schallert. In 1970, Zerbe was seen in three films: The Molly Maguires (with Samantha Eggar), The Liberation of L.B. Jones, and They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (alongside Jeff Corey). He then played what is perhaps his best known film role, that of post-apocalyptic cult leader Matthias in the 1971 science fiction thriller The Omega Man, which also featured Brian Tochi.
In 1973, Zerbe was one of many Star Trek alumni to appear in the film Papillon. His co-stars included DS9 guest stars Bill Mumy and Gregory Sierra and TOS guest stars William Smithers, Ron Soble, and Vic Tayback. That same year, Zerbe had a supporting role in the crime drama The Laughing Policeman, along with Joanna Cassidy and the aforementioned Gregory Sierra. Zerbe then made an uncredited appearance in the 1974 thriller The Parallax View, which also had Kenneth Mars in the cast.
Zerbe's subsequent film credits include Rooster Cogburn (1975, with Jon Lormer and Andrew Prine), Who'll Stop the Rain (1978, with David Opatoshu and Gail Strickland), The Dead Zone (1983, with Helene Udy), P.I. Private Investigations (1987, with Clayton Rohner, Robert Ito, and Phil Morris), and Steel Dawn (1987, alongside Christopher Neame), the collegiate drama Listen to Me (1988) with Lilyan Chauvin, Timothy Dang and Tom Schanley, and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989, with Louis Giambalvo, Zach Grenier, and Joel Swetow). In addition, Zerbe played the henchman Milton Krest in the James Bond film Licence to Kill (which also featured Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).
Outside of Star Trek: Insurrection, Zerbe appeared in only two other feature films during the 1990s, including 1999's True Crime (with Michael McKean, William Windom, and Jack Kehler). He more recently played Councillor Hamann in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
Zerbe has several television credits to his name. Besides several appearances on Mission: Impossible and Gunsmoke (including an episode titled "Talbot" opposite his sister-in-law, Salome Jens) and a recurring role on The Equalizer (starring Robert Lansing and Keith Szarabajka), Zerbe starred as Lieutenant K.C. Trench on the crime series Harry O during the 1975-1976 television season. He was brought aboard the show for the second season, replacing Henry Darrow as the main character's contact and foil. Zerbe won an Emmy Award for his performance on Harry O in 1976.
Zerbe co-starred with William Shatner in a 1972 made-for-TV adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. In 1977, he had a role in the acclaimed mini-series How the West Was Won, along with Parley Baer, Paul Fix, David Huddleston, Roy Jenson, and Richard Kiley. He also appeared in the 1978 mini-series Centennial. His co-stars on that series included Sally Kellerman, Michael Ansara, Brian Keith, Morgan Woodward, and James Sloyan. The same year, he played the villainous inventor Abner Devereaux in the made-for-TV movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, starring the rock band KISS as well as Star Trek: Voyager guest actor Terry Lester.
In 1986, Zerbe was a guest star on another mini-series, North and South, Book II. Joining him for this series were Jonathan Frakes, David Ogden Stiers, Jean Simmons, William Schallert, Kurtwood Smith, and Leon Rippy. This was followed by several movie and television appearances, including a starring role on the series The Young Riders (1989-1992) as Pony Express supervisor "Teaspoon" Hunter. He has since guest-starred on such series as Tales from the Crypt (with Bibi Besch and John Savage), Murder, She Wrote (with Gwynyth Walsh), and Frasier (starring Kelsey Grammer).