By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
Few fans of modern sci-fi will not recognise the face of Mr Brent Spiner. One of the few who can truly be called a living legend in the world of sci-fi. From the iconic Mr Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, to Independence Day, from Frazier to Warehouse 13, from The Big Bang Theory to his new webseries Fresh Hell, Brent is a big part of what we here at the Time Warriors love so much. Owen had the honour of chatting to Brent recently…
TW: Was acting something you always wanted to do?
BS: As far back as I can remember I wanted to be an actor. I used to do pratfalls when I was a small boy. An homage to Jerry Lewis, I think.
TW: You have a wonderful singing voice. Was music part of your childhood?
BS: Yes. I had a stepfather between the ages of 6 and 13. He had owned a record store at one time and kept many of his favorite recordings. We listened to them at dinner every night. Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Louis Prima, you name it.
TW: You moved to New York and acted in several musicals including Sunday in the Park with George. Was that daunting the first time you did it or did you think, man , I’m living the dream here?
BS: It wasn’t really daunting because that’s what I’d been trained to do. It was exciting. But, I had a great teacher in high school who directed a musical every year. He was really a sort of genius. I’ve been in Broadway musicals that weren’t as good as the shows we did in high school. So, I was really prepared when I got my first breaks. Of course, working with the likes of Stephen Sondheim was beyond a dream.
“Humans don’t really need to shoot each other. It’s not one of the essentials”
TW: Who were your musical influences?
BS: Truly, everyone I ever listened to. As I said before, Sinatra, who was, of course, the greatest. But I liked Bing Crosby and Perry Como and Roy Orbison and Elvis and, well, I could go on and on.
TW: What gives you the better challenge as an actor, breaking a character down in a script or giving him an additional voice through song?
BS: It’s all challenging and fun at the same time. Acting is very ephemeral. You never really know whether you’re going to solve all of the problems and come up with something believable and interesting. You just give it your best shot. Acting, singing, it’s all the same. A series of problems to be solved.
TW: You are also have great comedy timing as shown in the recent Big bang Theory and Fresh Hell, your new web series. Is comedy a quality you try to being to any role?
BS: Yes. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that wasn’t seasoned with a little comedy. It’s what I do best. Of course, it corresponds to my world view. I see everything as a bit of a comedy.
TW: I have to ask were the cast of Big bang Theory star struck when you came to the show?
BS: You’d have to ask them. They didn’t bow or anything. But they were very nice. Remember, Wil Wheaton and Levar had already been there (both starred with Brent in Star Trek: The Next generation as Geordie and Wesley). So, I don’t think it was that big a deal to them.
TW: Threshold was an amazing show, Such a high concept and intelligent story line, way ahead of its time. Were you disappointed it never got the chance to go further?
BS: I think we’re going to do another season. It’s not written yet, but we have a lot of ideas for it. In fact, we have enough ideas for at least two or three more seasons.
TW: How did Fresh Hell come about? It’s very Curb Your Enthusiasm in nature and you play it so well. It’s a great examination of the culture of celebrity and fame where you really take yourself to new heights. it’s almost docu-drama of a sort with the comedy element like the porn star agent.
BS: It’s an idea I’d toyed with for a long time. I met the director, Chris Ellis, and told him about it. He liked it and brought on the brilliant writer, Harry Hannigan. We like to think of it as a sit-trag. It’s funny, but it’s also painful. And as much as it is about the double edged sword of celebrity, it’s really about all of us who’ve gotten older and feel used up. The character has been kicked out of a fraternity he’s always wanted to be in and is desperate to get back to where he once belonged. That’s happened to a lot of people. Particularly during these uncertain economic times.
“I see everything as a bit of a comedy.”
TW: Is there a chance it could do to a full television series?
BS: I wish. I’d like to have a budget so we could pay the people who work for us. If you know anyone who wants to finance it for tv, send them my way.
TW: In the heckling scene in the theatre you get told to talk like a Borg and engage, all Star Trek references. Was that based on a real life experience?
BS: Not at all.
“I think we’re going to do another season [Of Threshold]. It’s not written yet, but we have a lot of ideas for it”
TW: How do you relax?
BS: I don’t.
TW: Are there any musical roles that you still want to play?
BS: I did a production of “Man of La Mancha” in Los Angeles. It was an extraordinary production. Brilliant director with a brilliant concept. I’d like to do it in New York or London, but the lyricist, who holds the rights, won’t give them to me. He doesn’t seem to think I’m a big enough star to do it. Shame.
TW: If Brent Spiner became president, what would the first thing you would change about the world?
BS: No more guns. For anyone. If you get caught with one, you go to jail. Humans don’t really need to shoot each other. It’s not one of the essentials, like food or freedom. And no more genetically modified food.
TW: Would you take part in any reality television like Dancing With the Stars?
BS: Not in the least. Is being on one of those shows a good thing? I don’t know maybe if I did, the lyricist of “Man of La Mancha” would give me the rights.
TW: Looking back over your career, what has been the highlight so far?
BS: I’ve had many. But they all involve the people I’ve gotten to meet and work with. I’ve always been a fan, myself. And working with people I’ve admired has been the biggest thrill.