Friday , April 19 2024
Photo of Brent Spiner
Brent Spiner at GalaxyCon Richmond (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

GalaxyCon Richmond: Brent Spiner on Playing Data in ‘Star Trek: Picard’ and More

Brent Spiner never felt pigeonholed as an actor during the years he played Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation and subsequent projects. During his panel at GalaxyCon Richmond, a Virginia comic con, he shared jokes and stories about his career. Most recently, he played Data, Lore, and members of the Soong family in Star Trek: Picard.

Though initially wary of taking the role in 1987, Spiner liked portraying Data. He said, “There wasn’t a real precedent on how you play an android. So I could do anything I wanted and nobody would say, ‘Oh, come on. An android wouldn’t do that!'”

Filming the first television series was a grueling schedule of 16-hour days, not including the time in the makeup chair. Still, Spiner devoted a lot of energy and concentration to learning his lines every night so that he’d be ready for the next day. “The deal I made with myself was I couldn’t go to sleep unless I could do every speech that Data had flawlessly, without making a mistake. Then I could go to sleep.”

On His Favorite Movie

Before reuniting for Picard, members of The Next Generation cast starred in a few movies. Spiner enjoyed doing all of them but his favorite from the bunch is definitely First Contact. It had a great script and a wonderful director. “Patrick [Stewart] really insisted on Jonathan [Frakes] directing the movie because he’d been one of our favorite directors during the series. The first thing he did as a director was ‘The Offspring,’ that episode.”

Although the Nemesis movie didn’t do well at the box office, Spiner thinks public opinion could still change. “History is going to be much kinder to Nemesis, because people are going to watch it knowing that Data came back. It won’t be as painful an ending. Be patient, he’ll be back.”

Coming back for Picard was a surprise to Spiner both times. By at the end of the first season, he assumed loose ends were tied up with the android. However, he got a phone call to return for season three. He joked about his reaction to the call. “How can I come back? I’ve been dead twice now! [But] you can never be dead too many times.”

Photo of Brent Spiner
Brent Spiner (Credit: Andy Gotts)

On the Set

Spiner said that sometimes it can be a challenge to film scenes where he plays multiple characters, depending on what the crew does. “They [can] do it with motion control, which is a really difficult technique. You have to imagine where the other person is in the frame and where his eyes are.” 

Sometimes they filmed a less high-tech way, which happened a little in Picard. “Playing Data talking to Lore, I would literally leave the frame and come back around the other side into the frame as Lore. That was actually easy compared to trying to do the technical stuff.”

But Spiner’s greatest challenge was working with the cats who played Spot. “I love cats. Obviously cats are wonderful, but among the worst actors in the world.”

And Spiner had good reason to dread those collaborations with his furry scene partner. “My stomach would turn over when I would see Spot was going to be in the scene because I knew we would be there all night long. [There was] this guy with a horn that was supposed to cue the cat to do impossible things. Nothing! The cat would do nothing!”

Visit the GalaxyCon Richmond website for more information. Then check out my interview with Brent Spiner about his book, Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir.

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

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