(written from a Production point of view)
Brent Jay Spiner (born 2 February 1949; age 66) is an actor best known for playing the android Starfleet officer, Lieutenant Commander Data, on Star Trek: The Next Generation, in four Star Trek films, and off-screen in "These Are the Voyages...", the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. He also played Data's "brother", Lore, and "father", Doctor Noonian Soong, in various episodes of Next Generation. In 2002, he played B-4 in Star Trek Nemesis. He most recently appeared as Arik Soong in a three-episode arc on Enterprise. He also co-wrote the story for Star Trek Nemesis with Rick Berman and John Logan.
His portrayal of Data, the android in search of Humanity, made him an invaluable member of the TNG cast. These skills were highlighted in the episode "Brothers", where Spiner played all three main characters of the story, effectively turning the episode into a "one-man show".
Spiner was born in Houston, Texas in 1949. His father, Jack Spiner, died of kidney failure at the age of 29, when Brent was only ten months old. His mother, Sylvia, married again when Brent was about six years old. Brent and his elder brother, Ronald, were adopted and raised by their stepfather, Sol Mintz, but Brent changed his surname back to 'Spiner' in 1975. He first obtained an interest in acting while attending Bellaire High School. He went on to graduate from Trinity College, but he never finished his studies at the University of Houston.
He worked as a cab driver in New York before he could get a job as an actor. In his early years on stage, he played a number of roles in off-Broadway productions including The Seagull by Anton Chekhov. He soon received roles in several Broadway productions, most notably Sunday in the Park with George, and also became active in film and television. In addition to his acting career, Spiner is also a professional singer and has released two albums.
Brent Spiner is married to publicist Loree McBride, with whom he has a son, Jackson Spiner, born 29 June 2002.
Film and television career
Early career and the TNG years
Spiner's first television work was a brief, uncredited role in the 1970 TV movie My Sweet Charlie. His next TV appearance would not come until 1978, when he became a cast member in the mini-series The Dain Curse. His future TNG co-star, Jean Simmons (Admiral Norah Satie in "The Drumhead") also starred in this series.
His first feature film appearance was a brief one in Woody Allen's 1980 comedy Stardust Memories. Also making his film debut in this film was future Star Trek: Deep Space Nine star Armin Shimerman. Spiner next appeared in an uncredited role in the 1981 comedy Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, starring David Clennon. His first major film role – and his first and only starring role to date – was in 1984's Rent Control, a comedy in which Spiner played Leonard Junger, an aspiring TV writer who searches for a cheap apartment for his family only to become involved in a murder. One of his co-stars in this film was Roy Brocksmith, who would go on to co-star with Spiner in the TNG episode "Peak Performance".
It was also in 1984 that Spiner began appearing in episode television, beginning with an episode of Tales from the Darkside with Christian Slater. This was followed with guest appearances on Hill Street Blues (starring fellow Trek alumni Barbara Babcock, Barbara Bosson, and James B. Sikking), Mama's Family (featuring Anne Haney), Hunter (with Bruce Davison and TNG guest actress Katherine Moffat), and Cheers. In the latter, he played a man who was accused of attempting to murder his wife. John Fleck played the bailiff at Spiner's character's court case; Kelsey Grammer also appeared in his role as Dr. Frasier Crane.
Between 1985 and 1987, Spiner had a recurring role on the hit sitcom Night Court, playing the head of a Yugoslavian family who pretended they were hicks from West Virginia and who often found themselves as defendants in the court room. Besides series regular John Larroquette, other Trek performers Spiner co-starred with on this series were K Callan, Carlos LaCamara, and Kenneth Tobey. In 1985, Spiner appeared in the mini-series Robert Kennedy & His Times, which also featured the likes of Cliff DeYoung (as John F. Kennedy), Bruce French, Albert Hall, and Harris Yulin. In 1986, Spiner appeared in a segment of the 1980s version of The Twilight Zone, appearing with his future TNG co-star John de Lancie. Additionally, Spiner appeared in a number of TV movies during the 1980s, including 1986's Sunday in the Park with George, 1987's Family Sins and 1989's What's Alan Watching?.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Spiner focused primarily on his role as Data on TNG, although he did make occasional appearances in other projects. He had a role in the 1989 comedy Miss Firecracker, his first feature film appearance in five years. Spiner's future Star Trek: First Contact co-star, Alfre Woodard, was among the stars of this film, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine guest actor Bert Remsen also appeared. That same year, Spiner made a cameo appearance in Wes Craven's horror movie Shocker. And in 1991, Spiner made an uncredited appearance in the TV movie Crazy from the Heart, which also featured Fran Bennett and the late Bibi Besch.
After TNG ended in 1994, Spiner was seen in the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina, which starred Spiner's fellow TNG castmate Whoopi Goldberg in the title role. The following year, Spiner starred with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock actor Christopher Lloyd in the short-lived science fiction series Deadly Games. He was also seen in the 1995 TV movie Kingfish: A Story of Huey P. Long, along with Bill Cobbs and Bob Gunton, and made guest appearances on the shows Mad About You (starring Anne Elizabeth Ramsay), Dream On (starring Michael McKean), and The Outer Limits (with Erich Anderson). Spiner also made a cameo in the 1996 romantic comedy Pie in the Sky, starring his former TNG castmate Wil Wheaton as well as TNG/DS9/ENT guest actress Dey Young.
Spiner was one of the many Star Trek performers who lent his voice to the animated Disney series Gargoyles. Others who have done the same include his TNG co-stars Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, and Colm Meaney, Deep Space Nine star Avery Brooks, Voyager star Kate Mulgrew, Original Series actress Nichelle Nichols, Voyager guest actor John Rhys-Davies, and TNG guest actors David Warner and Paul Winfield.
Spiner had roles in three blockbuster films in 1996. Not only did he play Data in Star Trek: First Contact, but he also had a memorable role as eccentric scientist Brackish Okun in the sci-fi mega-hit Independence Day, which also featured Bill Smitrovich, Frank Novak, Leland Orser, Raphael Sbarge, Carlos Lacamara, Tim Kelleher, Robert Pine, Randy Nolen, Randy Oglesby, and Erick Avari). Spiner additionally appeared as a psychologist in the drama Phenomenon, co-starring Ellen Geer, Richard Kiley, and Daniel Zacapa.
The following year, Spiner had a major supporting role as despotic cruise director Gil Godwyn in the comedy Out to Sea. In 1999, Spiner gave an acclaimed performance as Dorothy Dandridge's manager, Earl Mills, in the critically-lauded, Emmy Award-winning HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge again working with Raphael Sbarge. He also lent his voice to a parody of Conan O'Brien for the animated film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut that same year.
Spiner played the sinister Stromboli in the 2000 TV movie Geppetto, co-starring Deep Space Nine star Rene Auberjonois. The following year, Spiner co-starred with Scott Bakula and Bruce Greenwood in the mini-series A Girl Thing. Spiner would go on to work with Bakula during the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise.
Spiner's film credits following the turn of the century include a cameo appearance in the 2001 comedy Dude, Where's My Car? (in which Andy Dick also had a cameo), a brief role in the 2001 drama I Am Sam (co-starring former TNG castmate Rosalind Chao), and his role as the villainous Devlin Bowman in the 2002 comedy The Master of Disguise (co-starring Michael Bailey Smith, Erick Avari, and Larry Cedar). He also made an appearance in the Oscar-winning 2004 film The Aviator, a role he acquired due to his association with the film's writer, John Logan, with whom Spiner collaborated while writing Star Trek Nemesis.
His recent television credits include guest appearances on Frasier (starring one-time TNG guest actor Kelsey Grammer, in an episode also guest-starring another one-time TNG performer, Bebe Neuwirth), Friends, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Most recently, Spiner starred as Dr. Nigel Fenway on the short-lived sci-fi series Threshold, on which TNG producer Brannon Braga served as executive producer; Mike Sussman wrote several episodes for this series.
Spiner next starred in the comedy Material Girls, released in August 2006. He was most recently seen in the comic book movie spoof Superhero Movie with his "Yesterday's Enterprise" co-star Christopher McDonald. He recently lent his voice to the 3-D computer animated film called Quantum Quest, which also features the voices of Jason Alexander, Robert Picardo, Chris Pine, and William Shatner.   He also did an episode of the TNT show Leverage alongside Armin Shimerman and Kitty Swink, with Jonathan Frakes directing.
In 2011, Spiner cameoed on The Big Bang Theory as himself, alongside recurring guest Wil Wheaton. He also provided the voice of the Joker on Young Justice, an animated series produced by Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman. Bruce Greenwood voices Batman.
In a 2012 5-minute behind-the-scenes interview, Spiner and Saul Rubinek discuss Spiner's multi-episode guest-starring role as "Brother Adrian" in Syfy channel's Warehouse 13 Season 4. They revealed their long history of friendship since their stage acting days, with fond references to Rubinek's antagonistic portrayals opposite Spiner in TNG: "The Most Toys".
Spiner's off-Broadway credits have included Leave It to Beaver Is Dead and the aforementioned The Seagull by Anton Chekhov. He has also starred in a number of Broadway stage productions, beginning with A History of the American Film in 1978.
From 2 May 1984 through 13 October 1985, Spiner appeared in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George, in which he played two roles – Dennis the technician and Franz the servant. Harry Groener joined the cast in April 1985, replacing Mandy Patinkin in the lead role of George.
While still appearing in Sunday in the Park with George, Spiner also played Aramis to Ron Taylor's Porthos in a short-lived production of The Three Musketeers. In October 1985, Spiner took over the role of The Duke from DS9 star and Geppetto co-star Rene Auberjonois for the play Big River; Spiner himself was ultimately replaced in the role by Ken Jenkins. Bob Gunton played The King during both Auberjonois' and Spiner's tenures.
Spiner returned to Broadway in 1997, starring as John Adams in the musical 1776, which also starred Michael Cumpsty. For his performance in this play, Spiner was nominated for a Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Actor in a Musical. More recently, Spiner starred with Helen Hunt and John Turturro in Life (x) 3.
His many other stage credits have included Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (1976), Little Shop of Horrors (1985), and Tom Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1991).
In a rather unexpected turn of events, in 1991, Spiner released an album of 1930s and 1940s pop standards called Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back (the "Yellow Eyes" referring to the eye color that Data and most Soong-type Androids possess). Notably, the back-up vocals in the song "It's a Sin (to Tell a Lie)" were performed by "The Sunspots," aka his fellow TNG cast-members LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, and Patrick Stewart. Wendy Neuss and Dennis McCarthy co-produced this album. This album may have influenced Paramount Pictures enough to let him sing the Irving Berlin song "Blue Skies" in the movie Star Trek Nemesis.
Spiner also lent his singing talents to the film Out to Sea. More recently Spiner performed in Dreamland, a musical/radio play released as a CD album in 2008.
Appearances as Data
Star Trek video game credits
- Star Trek: Bridge Commander as Lt. Commander Data
- Star Trek: Away Team as Lt. Commander Data
- Star Trek: Hidden Evil as Lt. Commander Data
- Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity as Lt. Commander Data
Star Trek interviews
- TNG Season 1 DVD special feature "The Beginning"
- TNG Season 1 DVD special feature "Selected Crew Analysis" ("Character Notes")
- TNG Season 1 DVD special feature "The Making of a Legend" ("Make-Up")
- TNG Season 2 DVD special feature "Departmental Briefing Year Two: Memorable Missions" ("The Measure Of A Man"), interviewed on 4 April 1994
- TNG Season 3 DVD special feature "Mission Overview Year Three" ("The Offspring"), interviewed on 4 April 1994
- TNG Season 4 DVD special feature "Departmental Briefing Year Four" ("Make Up"), interviewed on 4 April 1994
- TNG Season 5 DVD special feature "Mission Overview Year Five" ("A Visit from Spock"), interviewed on 11 April 2002
- TNG Season 5 DVD special feature "Intergalactic Guest Stars" (Main segment, "Presidential Visit: Ronald Reagan"), interviewed on 11 April 2002
- TNG Season 6 DVD special feature "Mission Overview Year Six" (Main segment, "Resolving the Cliffhanger", "Descent - Part 1 Featuring Stephen Hawking"), interviewed on 11 April 2002
- TNG Season 6 DVD special feature "Bold New Directions Year Six", interviewed on 11 April 2002
- TNG Season 6 DVD special feature "Departmental Briefing Year Six" ("Special Crew Profile: Lt. Cmdr. Data", "Doubling Data", "An Android Sings", Acting with Spiner"), interviewed on 17 June 1991 and 11 April 2002
- TNG Season 7 DVD special feature "Mission Overview Year Seven" ("The Final Episode"), interviewed on 11 April 2002
- TNG Season 7 DVD special feature "Starfleet Moments & Memories Year Seven" ("A Unique Family"), interviewed on 11 April 2002
- Journey's End: The Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Star Trek: First Contact (2009 DVD) special "Brent Spiner: Data and Beyond Part 2" (2009)
- "Brent Spiner - Lt. Commander Data", The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 1, p. 45, interviewed by Marc Shapiro
|Star Trek: The Next Generation regular cast|
|LeVar Burton • Denise Crosby • Michael Dorn • Jonathan Frakes • Gates McFadden • Marina Sirtis • Brent Spiner • Patrick Stewart • Wil Wheaton|