Playing an android might seem like the least rewarding role in the Star Trek universe. But Brent Spiner loves it. Of course, his Lieutenant Commander Data gets all the best lines. Not a bad trade-off for working under layers of makeup all day. When he's not covered in pancake, Spiner can be found in plays, TV shows and films. For another side of Spiner, try his album Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back, featuring backing vocals by the Sunspots (Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton and Michael Dorn).
In Insurrection, Data boldly goes where no android has gone before--underwater.
I always tend to go where no android's gone before, because there aren't that many of us. What you don't know when you're watching the film is that the water was 40 degrees. It was all melted snow up at Mammoth in the beginning of June, and it was freezing. It would've been fun if I'd come out of the water looking like Leonardo DiCaprio at the end of Titanic, with icicles hanging from my eyes--because that's what I felt like.
What brings you back for these big-screen Treks?
We come back for a multitude of reasons, one of which happens to be that they pay us handsomely. I don't mean to sound cynical, but as an actor it's an incredible luxury to be able to pay your mortgage every month. I also think we enjoy being together as cast. It's like summer camp to be able to spend three months out of a year having fun with my friends.
I understand you handle Trek technobabble better than anybody. What's the secret?
It's like learning a phone book. I mean, it's absolute gibberish. I have this wonderful thing I developed in the very first season of being able to erase it as soon as I've said it and they've said print. So, I really haven't hung on to a single word of it.
Can you remember your first time in the costume and makeup?
Yes, because I never wanted to put it on. From the very beginning, I said to Gene Roddenberry, "Is it really necessary? I think I could play this character without any makeup." And he said, "No, I want to see makeup. And I want to see you be a different color." I said, "If the guy who invented Data was smart enough to invent a creature who could walk and talk and move and think and learn, why couldn't he get the skin right?" Gene's response was, "What makes you think what Data has isn't better than skin?"
What's your experience with Trekkers?
One thing I can say is they're never really that weird. That's the major misconception about our fans, mainly because of the one episode of Saturday Night Live that portrayed them as off the wall. I think the public has sort of embraced that as reality, when the truth of the matter is that a small percentage of Trekkers are peculiar. I would say it's probably the same percentage for X-Files or Tom Cruise fans.