Brent Spiner, the nineties' favourite android was born and raised in Houston, Texas.
His father died of kidney failure when Spiner was only ten months old, and he and his
older brother, Ron, were raised by their mother and her next husband. Spiner attended high
school with brothers and future actors Dennis and Randy Quaid. While there, Spiner was
voted Nerd King to Randy's Nerd Prince one year. "Yeah, that was a dubious
distinction, but a distinction, nonetheless," Spiner responds when probed on this
dark secret from his youth. "And I think I've lived up to it throughout the rest of
"they say talent is sexy, but they're wrong"
The title, he said, was bestowed on him because he was indeed a nerd. "When I was
at high school, I had that unfortunate look that success has changed altogether. It's a
funny thing about success - they say talent is sexy, but they're wrong." As for pal
Randy Quaid being voted Nerd Prince, quips the altogether human Spiner, "he's still
jealous that he wasn't made King, and he's harboured a grudge against me ever since."
They were educated at Houston's Bellaire High School, where the three future Thespians
came under the sway of drama coach and mentor Cecil Pickett. "He was one of those
teachers whom one dreams of having, that is a life-changing experience. He took the drama
teaching very seriously, and it was closer to doing professional theatre than professional
theatre. I've opened in five Broadway shows, and never was an opening night as exciting as
it was when I was in high school, because we knew we had something good, and that it was
going to be a big surprise for everyone. On Broadway, you never know what you're going to
"I had a multitude of bills to pay"
In 1987, Spiner went up for a role as a Pinocchio-like android with a boundless
fascination for human emotions in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gene Roddenberry's
follow-up series to the ever-popular cult TV classic Star Trek. Ironically, Spiner was
never much of a sci-fi fan, and his sole motivation for doing Next Generation "was
that I had a multitude of bills to pay. I owed some money at the time, and I honestly
thought it couldn't possibly be a success, so it seemed a perfect situation."
Next Generation got off to a choppy start, despite a capable crew commanded by Patrick
Stewart's Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and infinitely better special effects than the original
Star Trek. But the critics were unanimous in their praise of Spiner's inspired
androidisms; the impish actor inhabited the role of Data so ingeniously that he was soon
receiving the lion's share of fan mail. The one-year gig that Spiner envisaged dissipated
by the end of the first season, and it was clear that Star Trek: The Next Generation had
surpassed the popularity of the original series, and showed no signs of losing steam.
Spiner's busy schedule on the set - twelve to seventeen hours a day, six days a week -
allowed precious little time for other projects, but he managed appearances in the feature
Miss Firecracker and in the TV movie Crazy From the Heart. In 1991, backed by an
eighty-piece orchestra, he cut a tongue-in-cheek album of pop standards called Ol' Yellow
Eyes Is Back.
"Data has explored just about every facet of the human
In 1994, at the height of its popularity, Paramount cancelled the series due to cost
considerations, and in order to shift the focus of the franchise to filmmaking efforts.
Spiner reprised the ever-lovable Data for the feature Star Trek: Generations, the
following year. In that film, an "emotions chip" is implanted in Data's
positronic neural net, affording the android a full range of human senses and feelings.
Spiner's Data continued his foray into his newfound bells-and-whistles virtual humanity
(including some kissy-face action with the Borg Queen) in the $45-million 1996 sequel Star
Trek: First Contact, and is now back, and buffoonish, in this year's Star Trek:
Data has changed considerably since his debut in the series. "To begin with, he's
got much older. Gene Rodenberry suggested early on that the character would, as time went
on, grow closer and closer to being human, and finally at the end of the day he would be
as human as he possibly could, and still not. We've stayed on that, and he's explored just
about every facet of the human condition possible, which has also created a wonderful
character for me to play."
"Stop and smell the roses"
This latest Star Trek deals with a small planetary society able to remain ageless;
Spiner agrees that "in a sense this is the most philosophical of the films. I think
this movie is a little simpler than First Contact, which I saw as being a very political
film. This latest one is more of a morality tale. There's a nice irony in this picture
which I think has to do with appreciating the simpler things in life, and that irony has
to do with it taking place within the most technical and technological of all series: Star
Trek. In the midst of this technical sci-fi and technical gadgets, we're saying: Stop and
smell the roses, and appreciate the real things in life."