Exclusive: Star Trek: Picard's Brent Spiner on Playing Data in All His Forms

***The following contains spoilers for 3.07***

Brent SpinerOn the most recent episode of Star Trek: Picard, which aired yesterday on Paramount Plus, some time has passed since the capture of William Riker (Jonathan Frakes). We see yet another familiar face, this time from Voyager, in the form of Tuvok (Tim Russ) as the crew of the Titan finds just how deep the Changeling takeover of the Federation goes.

Geordi (LeVar Burton) suggests that Data (Brent Spiner) may be able to help them make a plan to defeat the Changelings. However, things do not go as planned as Data is not the only consciousness inside his mind. His brother Lore (also Spiner) is also present and has no plans of helping the crew of the Titan. By the end of the episode, Data finally manages to break through and take control of his body back.

SciFi Vision recently had the pleasure of speaking with Spiner, who has been a part of the Star Trek Universe for over 30 years.

Read the full transcript below and watch the series Thursdays on Paramount Plus.

SCIFI VISION:   You've played many characters throughout the Star Trek world, Data Lore, countless Soongs. Who is your favorite to play and why?

Brent SpinerBRENT SPINER:   Well, I always say that Lore is my favorite, because he's more like me, basically evil, and it allows me just to walk in play myself and it's so simple.

I don’t know if that’s reassuring. [laughs]

Don’t be afraid.

I’m just kidding.

Me too. They're all different characters and you kind of embrace each one and then do the best you can with them. Obviously, I've played Data longer than I've ever played anything or will ever play anything. So, there's more Data than anything else, but they've all been enjoyable in their own way. It’s all been sort of a blessing that if you've got to be stuck in one role, what an incredible blessing it is that there're so many iterations of that role, so many relatives of that character and characters [who] that character emulates or tries on to see what that feels like, that aspect of humanity feels like. So, it's been a real gift.

Speaking of Lore, watching Episode 307, I really enjoyed your back and forth between playing Lore and playing Data in that scene with Geordi. Your facial expressions really show which one you are, and I just I love you going back and forth. It really speaks highly of your talent as an actor.
Well, thank you. Thank you. I haven't seen it yet. Exactly what scene is that?

Geordi is begging Data to help, and Lore's like, “Too bad.”

That's a really powerful scene, primarily in my mind, because of LeVar's Burton performance. He's so good in that scene. I was knocked out while we were doing it, and it was like, “Wow he is really, really at the top of his game.”

So, you've been in each season of Picard in one form or another. What did it mean to you for this season to get the band back together? Almost every week we've got somebody coming back from the original series.
I'll tell you, it was terrific. It was just great. When I was trying to decide whether it was even possible to do this, to play this character again, and particularly in this sort of adjusted way, what really dominated my thoughts was that I just didn't want to be at home while all my friends were having a good time. So, I'm just delighted that Terry [Matalas] was able to figure out a way for me to come back, and it was just great being in a room. We know each other really well, all of us, and we're all really close, are really good friends to a person. We see each other all the time; we speak all the time. We're like a family, truly. Our characters are kind of an extended part of that family, so it was fun to be on a set with all of my friends and the characters that we've played with all these years.

What were the differences between being on set this time around, when you know it's a one season deal? You're seeing everybody again for the first time versus when you were on The Next Generation where it was seven years, day in and day out?

It was certainly more relaxed. When we were doing the original series of TNG, we were working so hard. We were working sixteen hours a day, ten months a year and doing twenty-six episodes. This is a walk in the park doing ten episodes, and most of us are not even in all ten of them. Patrick [Stewart] is. It's a piece of cake to do ten episodes after having done twenty-six. I remember, first day of shooting the original series of each season, we'd be finishing the day and getting out of makeup and Patrick would turn to all of us and say, “All right, only twenty-five more.” By the time we got to ten, we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel already. So, this was a much more relaxed situation, less stressful on the mind and body, and lots of fun.

If you could pick one person, a recurring character or a guest star from TNG, to have come back, who would it have been for you?
That's tough. There were so many. If I had to just name one right off the bat, I would say, Saul Rubinek, who played Kivas Fajo, in the episode “The Most Toys.” Saul Rubinek is just such a really talented human being, and he's a friend of mine. I always enjoy working with him. I did six episodes of Warehouse 13 when he was starring in it. We did a play together in New York in the 70's. That was me and Saul and Mandy Patinkin and Diane Weiss. We got to know each other at that point, and then on and on and on and on. So, I'd like to see Kivas come back and torture everybody a little more.

You just mentioned Warehouse 13. You've said before, you've been playing Data for so long, that he just becomes a part of you. Aside from the Star Trek universe, you've played many different types of characters in different movies and TV shows. Most actors don't want to get typecast. Did you find people wanted you to play a character like Data again? Were you trying to get out of sci-fi and broaden your horizons?

I have done things that are not sci-fi. Data dominates no matter what I do, because I did so much of it but in Star Trek. I think there are times where I've lost roles probably, because of Star Trek, and conversely there were times I've lost roles just because the powers that be who were casting didn't think I was good or right for the part. At the end of the day, if you look at my IMDb, you'll see a lot of other stuff on there. I've had a lot of great experiences doing theater and other series I've done. I was a regular on two other series. I don't know if you ever saw Outcast. I think that's one of the best characters I've ever had to play, because I was basically the devil in the Southern body. Threshold was also another interesting series. As I said, I did six episodes of Warehouse 13. I did six episodes or seven episodes of Night Court, plus all the movies that I've gotten to do like Dorothy Dandridge and Out to Sea. I've had a lot of opportunities, both Independence Day films. Primarily, at the end of the day, certainly my obituary is going to be Data.

Is there anything you can tease without giving too much away for the last couple episodes of Picard?
Nothing really, other than to say, if you've enjoyed the show up to this point, I don't think you're going to be disappointed with the back end. I think you're going to enjoy it all the way to the finale.

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