December 9, 2002 - Yes, he'll probably be forever immortalized as the android Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Brent Spiner is also an accomplished stage (Sunday in the Park with George, 1776) and screen (Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Independence Day) actor.
But yes, he will probably always be Data not that there's anything wrong with that.
In fact, you can catch Spiner reprising his role in the latest (and possibly final) Star Trek film starring the Next Generation cast, Star Trek: Nemesis opening this Friday, 12/13.
You can also relive the original final small-screen adventures with Paramount Home Video's release of Seasons Six and Seven of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD.
IGN FILMFORCE: Am I correct in understanding you're a Texas native?
BRENT SPINER: Correct.
SPINER: That's even right.
IGNFF: This would be Texas in the '50s, early '60s?
SPINER: My time in Texas?
IGNFF: Your frame of reference...
SPINER: Pretty much, yeah.
IGNFF: What was that atmosphere like at that time? You hear about that being a turbulent time in certain other areas of the country, but you never really get to hear about what was going on in Texas...
SPINER: Houston was a really great place to grow up. I don't recall it being turbulent, but I recall it being really pleasant. It wasn't that big a town then I mean, it was big, but it wasn't like it is now. It wasn't like a huge metropolis. I remember the Shamrock Hilton Hotel it was sort of the focal point, the center point of Houston. That hotel was actually the hotel that I believe was in the movie Giant the opening of that hotel is what Jett Rink's hotel was. That's because it was opened originally before the Hiltons got it by a guy named Glen McCarthy, who basically James Dean was playing in Giant. He was the wildcatter.
IGNFF: Would you say that it was the cosmopolitan center of Houston at that time?
SPINER: Definitely ... The big ballroom there was where all the touring greats performed at the Shamrock Hilton. IF you were ever going to see somebody, it would be there.
IGNFF: Was it a place that you frequented for those type of performances?
SPINER: Well, I really frequented it for the swimming pool, which was gigantic. The biggest swimming pool I've still ever seen. It was just where all the kids hung out in the summer. And I mean kids, because we were young when we were there. I remember nights in Houston, and our idea of a good time... there was a place called the Blue Bonnet Gardens that served watermelon. To date myself, these were the days when you could only get watermelon in the summer.
IGNFF: When it was truly a seasonal product.
SPINER: Exactly. Houston had air conditioning, but not much, so to cool off you'd go out for a drive at night and then go to the Blue Bonnet Gardens for watermelon.
IGNFF: It was generally confined to businesses, it wasn't really a residential thing at the time, the air conditioning and such?
SPINER: Oh yeah, hardly anyone had I remember the first air conditioner we got was a window unit. I would sit in front of it about 12 hours a day, just looking at it and praying to it the god of cool air.
IGNFF: At what age was that?
SPINER: Probably around 7.
IGNFF: So at that point it was a very revelatory moment.
SPINER: It truly was. Really, when I think about Houston and what we did, it's an odd thing because my mother did the same thing when she was a child, and I'm sure the kids today well, I don't know if they're doing it today but for years the tradition in Houston for kids, like 11-13, in that area, was to get on a bus, take the bus downtown, go to a place called James' Coney Island for a hotdog, and then go to a movie at one of the three downtown movie theaters that were palaces... you know, those big movie theaters that don't exist anymore.
IGNFF: So it was all first run...
SPINER: Yeah... big, beautiful I remember when The Ten Commandments opened, they turned the whole place into an Egyptian motif... which it remained. The Metropolitan Theater remained Egyptian for years.
IGNFF: That was one of the first Scope films, wasn't it?
SPINER: I think it was.
IGNFF: So it must have been an impressive sight.
SPINER: Oh it was. Anytime you went to the movies in those days it was impressive, because it was a big deal. Do you remember road show engagements? I remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia on a road show engagement. I'm not sure exactly what that meant, but I think you had your tickets in advance and there was always an intermission.
IGNFF: Wasn't it the movie equivalent of going to a play? This is the destination, this is what we're doing for the evening?
SPINER: Yeah, absolutely.
IGNFF: How big an influence was television at that time in your life?
SPINER: Huge, huge. My mother owned a furniture store when I was a kid. I say my mother, because my father passed away when I was 10 months old. That's why I don't reference him as much. But my mother had a furniture store that had been my father's, and she ran it through the first 7, 8 years of my life. So we had a television pretty early on. I know from the age of about... certainly 2 or 3... we had gotten a television by then. I used to sit in front of it in the morning and watch the test pattern for at least a good two hours before television came on. And that really dates me, because there were test patterns then. It was an Indian head.
IGNFF: How mesmerizing was even the test pattern?
SPINER: Oh, it was fantastic.
IGNFF: I just can't imagine something like that... it must have been like having the equivalent of a movie in your home.
SPINER: It was, and it was the '50s so we were watching do you know the film Avalon? It's a brilliant movie, and it really captured that whole feeling of what it was like to get a TV back then, what it meant; and how it probably destroyed America as a family.
IGNFF: Provided too good a distraction...
SPINER: Exactly. But I remember watching television in the early days, and the things that really just grabbed me, like Sid Caesar, and Berle, and Steve Allen, and that kind of stuff.
IGNFF: It's interesting to hear where your tastes gravitated towards at that time.
SPINER: Oh, I know... One of the great nights of my life, and this is really embarrassing to say, is that I watched Lucy, first run.
IGNFF: Embarrassing from which perspective?
SPINER: How old I am, actually. But it was, I think it was Tuesday or Wednesday nights, Lucy, and it was incredible because most people now that watch Lucy have seen them at least 50 or 60 times. But we had a new Lucy, every week.
IGNFF: And the concept of reruns was completely alien...
SPINER: Oh, totally. They were doing like 36 shows a year then, maybe 48.
IGNFF: And summers was what, summer replacement shows at that time as opposed to summer reruns...
SPINER: Exactly. Summer replacement shows that I remember really getting on to well, I really fondly remember the era of Warner Brother Westerns... with Lawman, and Cheyenne, and Bronco Lane, and all that kind of stuff.
IGNFF: It's amazing to hear from a perspective that I have no clue about of actually discovering those things firsthand, as opposed to this pop culture mentality of being introduced to things or sold things.
SPINER: Yep. It was all new. Summer variety shows, that were replacement shows people they'd never give a series to. The Keith Brasselle Show was a big favorite of mine.
IGNFF: The summer shows were the equivalent of, "Can you stand in front of a camera and not freak out"...
SPINER: Yeah, really. Exactly.
IGNFF: When you're talking about being 6, 7 years old were you starting to gravitate towards an idea that you even liked performing, or was it merely as a spectator and performing wasn't even ...
SPINER: You know, I'm not sure that all kids aren't performers. Everybody plays cowboys and Indians it just depends on how seriously you play it.
IGNFF: And how quickly if ever you transition out of that playacting mentality.
SPINER: Right, exactly. In my case, never it just continued.
IGNFF: Was it something that your mother encouraged?
SPINER: She didn't encourage or discourage it. It was, like, inevitable. My biggest influence as a child, there was no question of this in terms of entertainment, was Jerry Lewis. And I think that's true of every kid my age and when I say kid, I mean looking back. But most of the guys I know now, who are my age, the first real god of entertainment for them was Jerry.
IGNFF: Was it because, at that time, he looked so incredibly young that he was identifiable?
SPINER: That could be it. And because what he did was really funny to kids. I'm not so sure how funny it was to adults... I mean, when he was with Dean, certainly in clubs and stuff it was funny to adults. Where the films were concerned, he was a big kid, and I guess that was the deal that we related to.
IGNFF: So it wasn't the same as watching Milton Berle perform...
SPINER: No although I loved Milton Berle, and The Texaco Show was a big deal. Jerry was what I went to the movies to see ... I did a movie earlier this year called Master of Disguise...
IGNFF: The Dana Carvey pic, right?
SPINER: Yeah, and it was pretty much critically lambasted, you know. But I had a feeling while I was doing it that we were doing something not that far off from what Jerry did back then. It had the same kind of appeal. I know that anyone I know who has kids and went to see it, told me that the kids just loved it. I felt Dana was kind of doing what Jerry had been doing back then, for me.
IGNFF: That sort of slapstick...
SPINER: Right, just like that sort of crazy, nutty humor that only kids could really, really get.
IGNFF: It didn't depend on an English Lit class...
SPINER: Or even ersatz sophistication of any sort, which we all have gravitated towards.
IGNFF: So it was more instinctual.
SPINER: Absolutely. It was just like he was just kind of reaching out and trying to grab a kid's funny bone and that's all that he was after. And I think he achieved it.
IGNFF: I think it's one of those movies that will probably hold up as one the kids will play over and over again, ad infinitum.
SPINER: I think so, too. I felt really good about being in it, for that reason. He was really clear about who he was making a movie for. He has kids, and he said, "I just want to make a movie for my kids, that I think they'll think is funny," and I think that's what I did.
IGNFF: I think too few people make that choice today, and too few studios allow that choice.
SPINER: They do, yeah. I read a couple of reviews that actually compared it to Jerry or Peter Sellers, and said, "They never made this bad a movie." But I beg to differ.
IGNFF: Did they see Fu Manchu?
SPINER: Yeah, correct. Or The Bobo, you know? Both Sellers and Jerry are geniuses, certainly, but they did make really bad movies as far as adults were concerned.
IGNFF: And it's also that rose-colored glasses homogenizing effect, when you look back.
SPINER: Exactly. I really think the critics have forgotten what appealed to them as a child. They think they remember, but they don't.
IGNFF: You tend to think too much, as an adult...
SPINER: Yeah, I think so, too.
IGNFF: It's like, "Well, here's the rationalization filter, and what the hell is he doing?"
SPINER: Yeah, exactly. Right. A couple of them would say, "Even kids six years old wouldn't enjoy this movie." Well, how do they know?
IGNFF: Well, I know a good friend of mine took his kid to see it at one of the press screenings. He said, "There were parts of it that I laughed at, and parts where I said, 'What the hell's going on' ... but my son seemed to love it."
SPINER: Yeah, because kids don't ask that it's just an image that cracks them up.
IGNFF: A gut reaction.
SPINER: Totally! And that's what Jerry did for me as a kid. I used to throw myself down the stairs at my house, just hoping for the same response that Jerry got from me.
IGNFF: Something tells me that your mom wouldn't react quite the same to throwing yourself...
SPINER: You know what, believe it or not, she did which was really encouraging.
IGNFF: Is it something that was a personal desire performing or was it something where you just tended to gravitate towards things like school plays? I know that you got into it in high school...
SPINER: Yeah, it wasn't until high school that I got into at a serious level.
IGNFF: Because, outside the home, it really wasn't something that was available?
SPINER: Well it was, but I didn't...
IGNFF: Avail yourself of it?
SPINER: No. I was a real kid. I was doing Little League baseball and, you know, definitely class clown and that was enough for me. Community Theater wasn't of any interest to me. But when I got into high school, I had an incredible teacher who sort of inspired everybody who came into contact with him.
IGNFF: This would be Cecil Pickett?
IGNFF: Who inspired quite a few people, it seems.
SPINER: Yeah, exactly.
IGNFF: What was it about his style that drew you in and facilitated that?
SPINER: There were a couple of things. I think what drew us in, initially all of us was that the drama room was the only air conditioned room in the school. So everyone wanted to take drama, and everyone did everyone took drama. But if you could get into 6th period drama, which was like the real deal, that's when it got serious. I fortunately got it early enough that I had a nice, long tenure there cool tenure, I should add.
IGNFF: Good way to finish out the day.
SPINER: Exactly. But then once we got there, we realized how serious he was about it, and he took it very seriously. He really gave us a sense, I think a taste that was just amazing.
IGNFF: Was it playfully serious? Was there a sense of play still involved?
SPINER: Oh yeah. But we were scared of him. I mean, we were as scared of him as we were of the gym coaches. You know, but we idolized him also, because he was a giant.
IGNFF: Was it fear of his criticism?
SPINER: Or his disapproval. He wanted us to take it really seriously, because he felt like if we were going to go into a professional situation, he wanted us to be disciplined and knowledgeable. He really took his job as an educator very seriously.
IGNFF: What would be his standard reaction, if someone wasn't taking it seriously?
SPINER: He could really just bore holes through you, just saying nothing, but he had these piercing, black eyes. He was part Indian, from Oklahoma, and he just had this stare that could just destroy you.
IGNFF: You said you were the class clown...
SPINER: Not in his class. I didn't need to be, in his class, because I was performing in his class.
IGNFF: Not even towards the beginning? What was the shakedown period for you?
SPINER: Really, not even in the beginning. We had assignments, and I think I scored on my assignments enough that he invited me into the advanced class.
IGNFF: And from then on, I'm assuming it was just such an intense atmosphere that it swept you along...
SPINER: Well, it did, and you know what, I still this is crazy but when we opened a play... we did three plays a year or something like that, two straight plays and a musical, and when we opened the musicals on a Friday night to the school, we did two weekends, I think... but the first night, still I've been in Broadway shows, and I've never been in an opening as exciting as those nights.
IGNFF: Just because it was new?
SPINER: Well, partially because it was new, and secondly it's because we always knew we had something good, and that people were going to be knocked out by it. The ensemble I was working with, you know the Quaid brothers (Randy and Dennis), and Tommy Schlamme, and Cindy Pickett, and Trey Wilson just amazing actors.
IGNFF: What type of productions would you put on? Were they varied, or was it mostly drama, or mostly comedy?
SPINER: It was really varied. Generally we didn't do heavy dramas, in high school. We did Shakespeare, but we wouldn't do Hamlet. We did Twelfth Night and Midsummer, and things like that.
IGNFF: Something geared towards the fact that you still had to get people to show up for them?
SPINER: Yeah, and geared towards what kids were actually capable of performing. He was fairly sharp about casting what he had. He chose based on who he had to perform, and what they were capable of understanding.
IGNFF: Were there roles at that time that you gravitated towards, or he pushed you towards?
SPINER: Well, yeah, he really kind of pushed me into the college vein. We went to college with him as well, because he went on to college and so did we. We graduated high school the same time he did. It got a little more serious then, and I was doing things like Shylock and more serious drama but nothing like Hamlet or Othello or anything like that.
IGNFF: What was your preference? What were the roles that felt most comfortable to you?
SPINER: Always the comic roles, certainly, and I felt pretty comfortable doing musicals.
IGNFF: Is your musical talent something you had pursued even at that point?
SPINER: No, that was where it started. I mean, I had no idea until I was cast and had to do it.
IGNFF: Well I guess he definitely did know you all. How much more intense was the college experience, when you talk about the intensity increasing? Was it because it was a college atmosphere?
SPINER: Yeah, and we were doing bigger productions and slightly more serious work. We were sharpening it more towards gearing up for going professional.
IGNFF: What were the main points he stressed, as far as going professional?
SPINER: It's funny, because the thing he stressed the most, I think, was versatility, and he really tried to give everybody a sense of how to play everything. It's been both the blessing and the curse of my career, and others as well.
IGNFF: Because versatility leads to character parts?
SPINER: Not that there's anything wrong everybody wants to be a character actor.
IGNFF: It means you're working steady...
SPINER: It's just that no one knows how to pigeonhole you which in Hollywood is "the thing," you know. You've got to fit into a slot. The way I was trained, it's made it very difficult to kind of figure out what that slot is.
IGNFF: I sense a bit of regret in that statement.
SPINER: It's not regret. It's always... you never know or the grass is always greener. I so rarely play a character who is close to myself. I just wonder where that would have taken me, had I just done nothing but that. Maybe nowhere.
Continue on to the second part of Ken's conversation with Brent Spiner in which Spiner discusses his acting philosophy, acting on- and off-Broadway, getting the role of Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and more.
[This is the second part of Ken's conversation with Brent Spiner. To access the first installment, use the above navigation links.]
IGNFF: What's the closest character to yourself that you've played?
SPINER: I guess it would have to be and it wasn't even that close, but it was the closest I can think of was in Dorothy Dandridge.
IGNFF: Which was an excellent role, by the way.
SPINER: Yes, thank you. It was a nice film to be in. But it's the only time I can think of, recently, that I've played just a regular guy.
IGNFF: As opposed to an over-the-top sort of caricature ...
SPINER: Or a bizarre character, yeah.
IGNFF: Besides the labeling problem is it circumstance as well that leads to one role leading to another, leading to another?
SPINER: Yeah, exactly. And what I look like, too and what I don't want to look like... Which is me, you know. So I choose things where I can change my appearance.
IGNFF: Is that some latent insecurity?
SPINER: I don't know...
IGNFF: Or is it just the joy of playing a "role"?
SPINER: Yeah, exactly. My heroes were people like Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness, and people who did that.
IGNFF: The sort of chameleon actors.
SPINER: Yeah, exactly.
IGNFF: But if you look at their work as a whole, their personality did shine through...
SPINER: Yeah, it did.
IGNFF: You can see a certain sensibility...
SPINER: Yeah, absolutely.
IGNFF: I think, looking back on your work, one sees a certain sensibility that keeps coming to the fore...
SPINER: I'm sure that's true. Not that I compare to those guys, but I'm sure that you're right about that.
IGNFF: In transitioning out of the college atmosphere, what was the biggest step? Because essentially, I'm assuming, you've had this tight-knit group for, what, eight years at that point?
SPINER: Yeah, or so.
IGNFF: A repertoire group, I guess it had become by that point...
IGNFF: What was it like taking that leap out of that.
SPINER: Scary. I mean, it was taking a leap out because I was still living in my hometown, and I went to New York. That was one of the scariest propositions ever. I didn't know anything about New York or what it was like to live in a big city like that.
IGNFF: What was the biggest culture shock?
SPINER: Snow. Really, cold and snow I didn't think I was going to make it through the first six months that I was there. I thought I was going to die.
IGNFF: You must have looked back at the irony of standing in front of that air conditioner...
SPINER: Yeah, it's true. I went to New York January 1st, I think, 1971 or '72.
IGNFF: It was one of the big blizzard years, wasn't it?
SPINER: It was unbelievable. I went to Times Square, and it was New Year's Eve. I went to Times Square and came down with the Hong Kong flu the next day.
IGNFF: Welcome to New York.
SPINER: Yeah and literally as sick as a dog for a month. Every time I went outside, it was like ice freezing, horrible. I thought, "I just cannot live here. How do people do this?" I remember one time I was walking down the street, and all the streetlights were out. The street lamps had been blown out or something because that was a tougher time in New York, the '70s. I was walking down this dark street in the snow and one of the lenses of my glasses popped out of the frame I guess from just expanding or something, it just like popped out. So I couldn't really see...
IGNFF: It's like Job, as an actor.
SPINER: It really was, and I'm like feeling on the snow with my bare hand to try feel for the lens, and just as my hand touched it, the other one popped out. I thought I wanted to just lay down in the snow and perish at that point let them find me with my little frames with no glass in them.
IGNFF: You've got to think that the universe is telling you something. I guess it's kind of a damper on getting work right away, when you get sick once you get there...
SPINER: Well, I mean really, I knew nothing about it. Nothing. That was the one area in which we didn't have any training like what to expect... even just the groundwork of beginning a career. I didn't have pictures and resumes... I didn't know anything about that stuff.
IGNFF: So once you actually regained your health, how do you even get started on something like that? Do you have anyone you can ask, or is it just, "I guess I should get this."
SPINER: I asked people, and I found out you buy the trade papers and go to cattle calls and that kind of stuff. I guess the first job I got in New York well, I drove a cab in New York, first. Both my friend Tommy Schlamme and I, who I roomed with, we both drove cabs. Fortunately I only had to do it for about six months, because I got a job. The first job I got was a production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which is an amazing building. At that time, there was a theater company there called the Chelsea Theater Company, which was a really great company at the time they did some really cool stuff. I went to a cattle call for a musical called Polly, which was the sequel to The Beggar's Opera, that was hardly ever done. I think I waited about six hours to audition, there were so many people there. I finally came on, I did a song I did "The Indian Love Call" and at the end of it, the director said to me, "Were you kidding, or were you serious?" And I had to really think about it for a minute. I said, "I think I was kidding." And he went, "Okay." When I got home, they had offered me the job, which was a character who had no name.
IGNFF: How do you put that on a resume?
SPINER: This no-named character? Well, as it turned out, the play was about Macheath and his group, the guys from The Beggar's Opera, who land in the West Indies, where they meet the Indians who are kind of the noble savages and I was one of Macheath's pirates. There was a big battle, and I remember I was the first pirate killed, and as I fell offstage they tore my clothes off and painted me red and I came in the other side as one of the Indians.
IGNFF: So you were versatile.
SPINER: I was even then. I do know that the first day, they had a bunch of weapons out and I pulled out this knife that was like one of those things you see on a cartoon those squiggly knives, you know? So I said, "Can I call my character Dagger, the Sailor?" and they said, "That'd be fine." So that was what went on my resume.
IGNFF: You can't beat that. I'm assuming that was off-Broadway.
IGNFF: There are some people, I guess, that spend their entire careers doing off-Broadway shows...
SPINER: Which, by the way, is the best theater in New York, you know.
IGNFF: Because it's the most experimental and risk-taking?
SPINER: Well, exactly. It's the stuff that you want to go see. Often you find yourself in a Broadway show, and you get to the theater and there's this line of buses and a sea of blue hair when you walk out.
IGNFF: Welcome to the Ladies' Guild of Tulsa.
SPINER: Exactly ... and that's not the kind of an audience that would come to an off-Broadway show. I felt, really, the more interesting work was generally off-Broadway.
IGNFF: Do you think it's also because, I guess on off-Broadway you get a lot more originals, as opposed to Broadway especially now that revivals are pretty much what Broadway is built on.
SPINER: Yeah, that's true.
IGNFF: I guess you're always standing in the shadow of who the other 15 people were that originated and played a given role.
SPINER: Yeah, exactly. Although that's true also of Shakespeare and Chekhov and that kind of stuff.
IGNFF: When you're an actor starting out in New York and off-Broadway, is the Grail Broadway? What was your Grail at that time Broadway, Hollywood, or movies?
SPINER: At that time, for me the Grail for me, in the beginning was the New York Shakespeare Festival. It was Joe Papp and the Shakespeare Festival, and that was where anyone who wanted to be a serious actor wanted to work.
IGNFF: How exclusive was that?
SPINER: It was hard... it was tough. I ultimately worked there a couple of times, but it was not easy getting a job there.
IGNFF: What was the process for trying to crack that?
SPINER: Well, it was always just a matter of luck that you would wind up in something. I did a reading of a play it was a play from Toronto called Leave It to Beaver Is Dead, that was written and directed by Des McAnuff. Des was a young, hot director at the time, and he'd had a success with this piece in Toronto. So he did a reading of it that I participated in at the public theater, and Joe Papp decided "Okay, let's do this." So I got to be in a show at the public theater. That was my introduction to them.
IGNFF: Was the process any different, as far as the actual putting on of the show, than what you'd experienced up to that point?
SPINER: No, no, that's the amazing thing and even today, every show I do, the process is no different than what it was with Cecil Pickett at Bellaire High School.
IGNFF: So, in that aspect, he prepared you quite well for the actual production process?
SPINER: I think the biggest difference is that when I do a Broadway show now, my mom doesn't make my clothes. She doesn't make the costume but sometimes I wish she had.
IGNFF: How do you parlay success in such a transitory business as the New York stage? How do you build upon success in one role, to the next, to the next? It seems like it's a hard ladder to climb.
SPINER: Well, you know, it's funny... I was talking to my agent today, and I said, "I have this feeling that nothing has ever led to anything." It's always like starting over, unless you hit a certain part that's a home run or an award winner to me it feels like starting over every time. It's like I've never done anything when I go tap dance in front of three guys sitting on a couch in their office.
IGNFF: Is it proving yourself to them, proving yourself to yourself, or proving yourself to an audience? If you get that far...
SPINER: It doesn't go that far. In the audition, it's just you walk in hoping they're going to see the light ... The resume is irrelevant. I kind of compare it to the gymnastics events at the Olympics, because it doesn't matter what kind of routine you do if you don't stick the landing. When you're in an audition situation, you better stick the landing or you ain't going to get the part. Those parts that I have gotten, it's because I happened to stick the landing that day.
IGNFF: And the East German judge abstained.
IGNFF: How daunting is that, from a personal perspective, to have that sense that you're always starting over, no matter what you do?
SPINER: It's not daunting so much anymore, because my livelihood doesn't depend on it. I can pay my rent, now, you know, thanks to Star Trek. But it's tedious. It really is. I have to say, the last few years, most of the jobs I've done if not all of them have been from either just an offer or a meeting. I'd find an audition if it's for something great, but it doesn't come my way that often.
IGNFF: So it's basically people that know your work and want to work with you?
SPINER: Yeah, exactly.
IGNFF: Which, for all the non-working actors out there, is not a bad situation to be in.
SPINER: No, it's wonderful. My tendency is to take what I'm offered. If I don't have to do the song-and-dance for it, and somebody just says, "Will you do this for us?" I tend to take it, just out of respect of "thanks for asking." That's why, basically, my oeuvre is so...
SPINER: Eclectic, and sometimes lamentable.
IGNFF: As you said, if your livelihood doesn't depend on it ...
SPINER: Well, that's something that all actors envy and I did, too, when I wasn't in that position.
IGNFF: Are there certain roles that you absolutely won't do, or certain projects that you turn down?
SPINER: You know, I'm really reluctant to work in films that star wrestlers.
IGNFF: Or professional sports people?
SPINER: Not all professional sports people, but generally wrestlers, and that's about it. I think I passed on a Hulk Hogan movie once.
IGNFF: Would you ever do series television again?
SPINER: Yeah, I would, if it was something that I thought I could do for seven years. Very little of what one gets offered or auditions for in television goes seven years, but you have to kind of consider that it might. And you'll have signed a contract that says you'll do it.
IGNFF: So, "Is this an atmosphere and/or material that I want to be doing?"
SPINER: Yes, exactly. I generally have my rule of thumb, sort of, in choosing a rule, is three criteria: the role itself is number one, who I'm going to work with is number two, and are they going to pay me is number three. If one of those things is there, I'm likely to do the job. If two of them are there, I'm certain to do it... and three is almost never there.
IGNFF: What is the one that seems to fall through the most? That isn't present most of the time?
SPINER: Oh, I would think the money. Definitely, it's the one call you always get. "We've got an offer for you for something, but they've already said there's no money in it." Often it's fine again, it's about who you get to work with.
IGNFF: Existing on the Broadway stage you did some pretty big plays when you were initially out there. I guess the first one that comes to mind is Sunday in the Park with George. Was there any point where you thought, "I could just exist entirely on this level for the rest of my career"?
SPINER: No. Because when I did Sunday in the Park with George, I had a supporting role, and I knew I wasn't going to be happy in the theater just doing supporting roles. I had done lead roles before that, but as far as Sunday in the Park was concerned, I did Sunday in the Park with George for three months. I had a three-month contract, because it wasn't a substantial enough role that I thought I could be good in the part for longer. I thought I would get really bored, and so I took a three-month contract with less pay. As it turns out, the reason I'm in the video version is I did my three months and then I moved to Los Angeles, and I went back to New York to do Big River I replaced Rene Auberjonois in that and again just in a three-month run, and while I was there they did the television version of Sunday in the Park with George for PBS. They wanted the original company, so they asked me to do it. I had, really, one of the greatest experiences in my life, because one of the days of shooting we decided to do the show from beginning to end, straight through. So we did a matinee of Sunday in the Park with George, and we finished in time for me to run across town and do an evening performance of Big River. I did two Broadway shows in one day.
IGNFF: That's got to be an interesting experience.
SPINER: Yeah, it was really great. One other Broadway show I did ... I was in a production called The Three Musketeers, which at the time was the biggest money losing show in the history of Broadway. I think we ran a week and lost, like, 12 million bucks. It was an unbelievably bad show. It was based on the Rudolf Friml operetta wonderful music but it just didn't come together. At the end of the day, when looking back on it, that show would have worked much better on ice.
IGNFF: A matinee on ice a nice touring company with lights and everyone in full, plush costumes?
SPINER: Exactly... in those exact costumes.
IGNFF: So when are you going to mount that? Prove your theory correct now's the perfect time in your career to mount The Three Musketeers on ice.
SPINER: I know, I know... exactly.
IGNFF: Is it discouraging to be in, as it was called at that time, the greatest money loser?
SPINER: It wasn't so bad, because it only lasted a week. I mean, we knew. We got to the night before previews, and we hadn't finished staging the swordfights yet, so we knew we were in big trouble. I don't think I've ever experienced, before or since then, the feeling of when the curtain went up, just egg dripping off my face before I even spoke.
IGNFF: Does it affect you as an actor, or do you know that there's nothing you can do personally to save this production?
SPINER: I was one of the Musketeers, and so I knew there was nothing and believe me, I was doing everything I could.
IGNFF: So I guess in the end it comes down to, "I'm getting paid for this, and I'll be looking for a job shortly."
SPINER: What it came down to really is I said I would do it, I have a contract, and with any luck at all we'll be out of this in a week. And we were.
IGNFF: What was the next production after that? Was it a quick bounce back into another?
SPINER: You know, I had done Park, and then I did that, and then I came out to L.A. I had already been out with Little Shop [of Horrors] and gone back to do Three Musketeers after Little Shop closed out here. I came back to L.A. and started doing guest shots and things like that.
IGNFF: Now, am I correct in understanding that Little Shop of Horrors took you out to L.A.?
SPINER: Yeah, that's what initially brought me out, was doing Little Shop out here.
IGNFF: Was L.A. a preferable environment to New York for you?
SPINER: Well, I'd been in New York for ten years. L.A.'s not that different from Houston. It's similar in many ways certainly the lifestyle is similar. It's a mobile community as opposed to you being on your feet all the time.
IGNFF: And the climate.
SPINER: And the climate... and there's a lot of swimming pools.
IGNFF: Was it difficult finding TV work when you first got out to L.A., or was it back to the same cattle call process that you already knew?
SPINER: It was a little different, because when I came out, I didn't even have an agent out here. I did Little Shop, and on the last night of Little Shop a really great casting director named Lynn Stalmaster came to the show and asked to see me, and I had two jobs the next day...
IGNFF: That was a pretty quick turn around.
SPINER: Yeah, it was, it was. It wasn't like I thought, "Boy, this is unbelievable, let me just drop my line and reel in the fish," but...
IGNFF: "Two jobs the next day, well, I'm making it...."
SPINER: Yeah, exactly. It was a while before I had another one. I went back to New York, did Big River for three months, and then came back out here again. I remember thinking I was sort of in pursuit of fame and fortune. I thought it was actually closer at hand in L.A. I thought it was more likely, if I could get a television show, that that would happen.
IGNFF: This would be around what 1984, '85?
SPINER: Yeah, somewhere in there.
IGNFF: How long would you say it took you to actually hit your groove in L.A.? If that's even an applicable phrase...
SPINER: I don't think I have yet, but I did luck into Star Trek pretty quickly. I did a few guest shots. I did Hill Street Blues, and Cheers, and some really great shows. I did a recurring role on Night Court there were some great guys to work with. I did a pilot of a show called Sylvan in Paradise. It was Jim Nabors, and Courteney Cox, and me, and Ann Wedgeworth, and a couple of other people. It was sort of based on Fawlty Towers, but it was set in Hawaii. I think the thinking was that if it went to series, Jim Nabors who lived in Hawaii wanted to shoot there. I played the sort of the Cleese role and he was sort of the Manuel role, but in this case Manuel was the lead.
IGNFF: That would have been interesting.
SPINER: Yeah, well, speak for yourself.
IGNFF: You in the Cleese role I can actually envision you quite well in that role.
SPINER: It was a lot of fun, but I remember thinking it was both easy and that I really hoped it did not go to series. And it didn't. The next pilot season, I got Star Trek.
IGNFF: Was that a difficult casting process?
SPINER: I don't know how difficult. It was difficult in the sense that I had to do several auditions. It was like many, many people wanted to do that series. It was a matter of just whittling down the numbers, and finally it was down to me and a couple other people, and then I wound up getting it.
IGNFF: How was the role initially described to you?
SPINER: I remember them not being certain what they wanted, initially whether they wanted a human sort of character who was an android... who was a machine, but behaved in a sort of human way... or a robot who was very mechanical. Then they said, "We'd rather him be really sort of humanoid type," and I said, "Okay." I worked on it, worked on it, and I went in to do the audition, and Junie Lowry who was the casting director on the movie came out and said, "They've changed their minds, they want the robot." I said, "Well, I think I'm going to pass." She said, "Oh. Let me go back in a minute." She went back in and she came out and said, "They said you can do it anyway you want to for the audition." So I did, and then I did it that way a few times, and they gave it to me.
IGNFF: What was your initial impression of the fact that you were going to be involved with Star Trek?
SPINER: I wasn't a huge fan. I mean, I definitely was a fan in the sense that I watched all the shows when I was in college, of the original series. But it wasn't a big deal, because also it was syndicated... you know, I was going to be on a syndicated TV show. The only thing it had going for it, from my point of view, was that it was pre-sold for a year. I thought, "Well, what is syndication? It's on at a different time, and a different channel, all over America." So I thought, "Well, I'm going to do this and I'm going to pay off my bills, then I'm going to be out of it; because it surely is not going to last more than a year."
IGNFF: So the main attraction was steady work.
SPINER: Yeah, and the ability to pay my debts. And that it was going to be over in a year, because nobody could do another Star Trek.
IGNFF: Was there any point during that first season where your fears that it wouldn't work were confirmed?
SPINER: No, I really didn't think about it much. I was enjoying doing it so much, because the cast was so pleasurable to be around. I really didn't think much about it. We knew pretty early on that we were going to do at least another year, because it was doing okay, numbers-wise.
IGNFF: So there was no point where you went, "Nah, I'm just getting a little tired with the role."
SPINER: Well, definitely... I did that every year. Seriously. Every year at the end of the year, I thought, "Yeah, I don't know if I'm going to come back and do another year. I'm going to get out of this contract."
Continue on to the conclusion of Ken's conversation with Brent Spiner in which Spiner discusses working on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the disappointment of ST: Insurrection, the making of ST: Nemesis and more.
[This is the third part of Ken's conversation with Brent Spiner. To access previous installments, use the above navigation links.]
IGNFF: With your particular character, does it seem like it was harder to try and introduce colors into it, as opposed to what the other cast members got to do?
SPINER: Well, I thought that was going to be the deal, but it turned out to be just the opposite, because it was about a character who was evolving and growing all the time, and experimenting with different facets of humanity, and playing other characters in order to understand that humanity. It felt limitless, finally.
IGNFF: I know a lot of people tend to talk about the problems that, say, Leonard Nimoy had with the first series, but those actors only had to play those roles for three years...
SPINER: Yeah, that's true. They didn't really... I mean, they did certain things that we did, like there was a good Spock, bad Spock whatever... that kind of stuff... emotional Spock, unemotional Spock. I really had the opportunity to play, because of the Holodeck and things like that, Sherlock Holmes, and Western characters, and my evil twin brother and the guy who created us and on and on and on.
IGNFF: It was interesting, compared with the original cast, how well you and that cast worked together both on and off-screen.
SPINER: Yeah, true.
IGNFF: When you talk about the environment being comfortable....
SPINER: Oh, it was. We were and are still all very good friends, which is the only way to do seven years... and in this case, 15 years.
IGNFF: I think some of the other series found that out.
SPINER: Yeah, totally.
IGNFF: Do all of you consider yourselves very lucky that the dynamic worked that way?
SPINER: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It's tiring work, you know... tiring relative to show business. It's not ditch digging or real labor or even serious work, for that matter, but...
IGNFF: But it still borders on, what, 16-hour days sometimes?
SPINER: Yeah, exactly inside on sets, with no windows. So, to have to do 16-hour days I remember Patrick saying at one point that he never dreamed he would ever have a job that he could be sure he was going to laugh several times, every day. That was really the atmosphere we had a good time.
IGNFF: I'm trying to skirt around this, because I know you've been interviewed to death about the series is there anything that no one has ever asked you about Star Trek, or anything you can remember never having talked about?
SPINER: You know what? Truly, no. I've been asked and I've answered differently a number of times, just to keep it interesting. But no, I've probably been asked every question you can possibly be asked.
IGNFF: Was there any moment where you bordered on Nimoy's famous, "I am not Spock," period during the '70s?
SPINER: You know what, I thought about writing a book at one point and calling it, "I Am Not Spock, Either." But, no. I haven't really felt typed by the role, particularly. I mean, it's the role, certainly, people know me for, because I did 178 episodes and I've done 4 motion pictures now. But I've done more work since I started the series than before it more different kinds of things.
IGNFF: Do you think that it was a nice gateway show allowing more opportunities to come along?
SPINER: Totally! And I wasn't sure it was going to be, but it proved to be. For example, when I finally went back to Broadway which was in '97, I think, or '98 to do 1776, I was playing the lead, which I hadn't on Broadway prior to that.
IGNFF: Was it everything that you thought it was going to be?
SPINER: Yeah, it really was. It happened to be, in that case, because it was a really good show, and a really good production of a really good show that was really well received. It couldn't have been any better.
IGNFF: Something you'd love to do again?
SPINER: Oh, absolutely.
IGNFF: Was there any nebulous time after the series ended and after the first film came out that you figured, "This part of my life is now over now it's back to the grind of looking for roles."
SPINER: Oh, yeah and it is, except when we do another Star Trek movie, or somebody out of the blue calls and says, "Will you come do this?" It still is like starting again.
IGNFF: Is it easier, to know and you mentioned this earlier that you have that nest egg set aside, and the potential that there's convention money, and there's money from the potential of another film?
SPINER: Yeah. Really, it's much easier. It's not near the same as not knowing, really, how you're going to pay your rent which is a huge problem when you're a young actor starting out. Particularly now. I don't know how kids today pay their rent. When I was paying it, it was $144 a month.
IGNFF: I can't even imagine that. That wouldn't even buy you a closet.
SPINER: Oh, I know.
IGNFF: In fact, that probably wouldn't even get you a hotel room for a night.
SPINER: I'm telling you, I don't know how kids do it today. I remember when I moved into my first apartment in New York by myself, it was $250 a month, and I thought, "I don't know how I'm going to pay this." That apartment probably is a grand today, if not more.
IGNFF: In speaking about the films there's four now and looking at the difference between doing those and the weekly grind of the series, what is it like going back and doing the films now?
SPINER: Well, it's like summer camp. It's like just getting together with your friends and having fun.
IGNFF: Is it harder or easier now to get back into character?
SPINER: It's the same. It really is. It's not that different. I know the character really well, I know how to do it.
IGNFF: Why do you think the reception to Insurrection was as cool as it was?
SPINER: Well, probably because it wasn't a very good movie.
IGNFF: I wasn't going to be that blunt. I've heard a lot of the behind-the-scenes wrangling that went on with it, as far as internal power struggles and whose vision was winning out over whom I guess I'm not too surprised that Jonathan [Frakes] didn't direct Nemesis.
SPINER: Right. Jonathan did a perfectly fine job directing that movie... I don't think it was the directing -
IGNFF: My understanding is it was a little higher-level interference.
SPINER: Yeah, probably. You know what, I mean, I hate to get very political about it because it'll bite me in the end but let's just say it wasn't my favorite movie, and it wasn't the fans, either.
IGNFF: But you did get to sing in it.
SPINER: That's true.
IGNFF: So when is the follow-up to Ol' Yellow Eyes?
SPINER: Oh, gee, I don't know. We have talked about maybe doing one, but as I always say, "I'll be ready to do it as soon as I'm ready to lose a whole lot more money."
IGNFF: Yes, but the price for duplication now is so much less than it was then.
SPINER: That's true, and we do know how to do it now.
IGNFF: Even just selling it through an official website...
SPINER: That's true. Well, that was our idea, initially, and then this record company came along and said, "We love it, can we make it part of our catalogue?" And we said, "Yeah, that sounds good," but then they I don't want to get too negative about these guys, but I learned a lot about the music business.
IGNFF: Is it something that you might consider doing as a personal project, in the future?
SPINER: Mmmhmm. I mean, I would do it, with the people who I produced the last one with, which is Wendy Neuss I should say Wendy Neuss-Stewart, because she subsequently married Patrick and Dennis McCarthy and I put that together, completely on our own. Then it was licensed by this company.
IGNFF: Now are the rights still with this company?
SPINER: No, I think they've been bootlegged to someone in Europe. Actually, they were at some point, but we managed to get them back.
IGNFF: So it's something that you could technically re-release on your own label.
SPINER: Oh, sure, sure.
IGNFF: I know a lot of people still ask about it, and it's nearly impossible to find.
SPINER: It should be findable somewhere, like eBay.
IGNFF: Of course, but all that money that's going to eBay could go towards you, or producing the next effort.
SPINER: That's true. I do have the masters in my midst, so we could release it again, if we had a mind to. But I'd rather just do another one.
IGNFF: Of course, with the CD technology and if you're doing it on your own you could even make it twice the length, with both albums on one CD.
SPINER: Well, that's true. I could just release it I think I'm going to re-release it, and call it, The Best of Ol' Yellow Eyes.
IGNFF: Or The Ol' Yellow Eyes Anthology.
SPINER: Yeah, exactly.
IGNFF: Is it difficult, from a political standpoint, to do the Trek films?
SPINER: Yeah, it is, only in that gosh, I've got to be careful, because I tend to say what I'm thinking... and that's always a mistake.
IGNFF: Too few people do. Unfortunately it perpetuates a lot of the problems.
SPINER: Really, it's like, you do interviews, and the deal is you're supposed to take the company line which makes for a really boring interview. But that's the deal. We're getting ready to do a junket for this movie, and I know I already know what the answers are, and I don't even know the questions yet.
IGNFF: Well, I wish I had a lot of faith in the upcoming film. I'm hoping it's better than my initial impressions of the script.
SPINER: Oh, really? I think the script is great.
IGNFF: There were certain aspects to it... it just played soap operatic, melodramatic. A lot of stuff between Shinzon and Picard, it just played a little over the top like there should have been some revisions done down the line.
SPINER: Well, you know, first of all, the script you saw was a really early draft.
IGNFF: That was hope number one.
SPINER: Right, because people still ask me, "What is like to play B9?" Well, it's not B9, it's B4 B9 was many drafts ago.
[SPOILER WARNING: Use your mouse to highlight the blank area below for a section of Ken's interview with Brent Spiner that concerns key plot points in Star Trek: Nemesis.]
IGNFF: Which is another interesting aspect of the script, too. Do you feel it's somehow sort of cheat to kill the character off, but the character's not really killed off?
SPINER: Well, the character's really killed off. I mean, he's as dead as he can get at this point. We don't know... there's only hope at the end. There's not a transition into a new character. There's only hope that maybe one day he'll evolve. It is a glimmer of it where there was none before, you know? [END SPOILER]
IGNFF: I noticed the studio has done an interesting advertising campaign for the film (billing it as "A Generation's Final Journey").
SPINER: I think so, too. It's about as ambiguous as you can get, isn't it?
IGNFF: That's got to be encouraging.
SPINER: Yeah, it is. But let me just say this, just for your sake when you go to see this movie, you're going to see the best Star Trek movie you've ever seen. I've seen it.
IGNFF: I'm hoping. It's got to better than Insurrection.
SPINER: Oh, it is. It's better than any you've seen. It's the first Star Trek movie that I've seen that I turned to Rick Berman afterwards and said, "I want to see this again."
IGNFF: How much of that was an influence of having Stuart Baird on board?
IGNFF: Because I've heard a lot of stories about Stuart's...
SPINER: No, Stuart did a fine job, and he's a really conscientious guy who was really, really intent on making a good movie, and he drew his sword ... he wouldn't budge until he could get what he wanted.
IGNFF: Causing some conflict with some of the cast members?
SPINER: Not necessarily cast members... maybe with everyone. But conflict is always a good thing when you're trying to make a piece of art.
IGNFF: There was a wonderful quote from Patrick a few months back, asking if he was able to make a connection with Stuart Baird, and Patrick's reply was, "I try, but he keeps ducking."
SPINER: Patrick and Stuart got on very well, as did me and Stuart. We had no problems making this movie.
IGNFF: Well, what are the rumors that keep popping up all the time and I guess you're the perfect person to ask, to either put them down or explain why these keep popping up of you and Patrick coming in and taking over the Star Trek franchise?
SPINER: Yeah, that didn't happen at all in the least.
IGNFF: Where do the rumors like that keep coming from? Because they continuously resurface.
SPINER: Yeah, but they come from people making them up. Almost anything you read on the Internet about what's going on on the set or what we're doing or anything, is untrue. We didn't take over in any respect. Rick Berman produced this movie, as he always does.
IGNFF: I think the recent rumor was along the lines that, since the new TV series Enterprise is flagging at this point, Paramount was interested in a pitch from you and Patrick for revitalizing the franchise.
SPINER: Yeah, not true at all. Basically what happened and this was like a year before Enterprise went on the air, so that's how I know it's not true Paramount, through Rick, called us and said if we could come up with a good story, they might be interested in doing another feature. It had nothing to do with Enterprise. Enterprise was like a glimmer in Rick's eye, at that point.
IGNFF: Well, I know of all of the Next Generation actors it seems like you're one of the only ones who hasn't had the inclination towards directing.
IGNFF: Was it just a personal choice that you kept turning down the offer?
SPINER: No, it was never offered, but if it was you know, I'm not really... the one thing that's required for directing, and Stuart had this in spades, is boundless energy. It's everything I can do just to show up, much less direct. Really, just in addressing some of the rumors so little of it is fact. Really. So much of it is just nonsense. One thing that really continually bugs me that I hear about is the sort of negativity towards Rick. It's such an irony, because if it wasn't for Rick, Star Trek would have ended with our series. That would have been it no more movies, no more TV, no more nothing. Rick is single-handedly the guy who kept Star Trek going for the fans. He's probably the one person they're most negative about, without knowing that they owe him the fact that they have Star Trek to watch.
IGNFF: Do you think a lot of the perpetual nature of that comes from how low-key Rick is?
SPINER: I think that's part of it, and how much he likes to be in the background, and not be a personality. I think a lot of it has to do with the reverence for Gene a well-deserved reverence for Gene. Anybody who sort of filled those shoes would have been shot down. It is absolutely crazy, because like it or not, the fans watch the show. Deep Space and Voyager and all of our movies have had really considerable audiences maybe not as big as Next Generation had, but that was another time, too. Truly, Gene's participation on Next Generation pretty much came to an end by the third season.
IGNFF: That's about the time his health really started to fail, wasn't it?
SPINER: Yeah, and by the second season, really his participation was and he was a wonderful man, and we loved him but he watched the final cuts of the shows and gave notes on them. He didn't write them, or re-write them, or anything. Rick produced the show.
IGNFF: So it was a consultation type aspect.
IGNFF: While you have the horn any other rumors you'd like to dispel that just irk the hell out of you?
SPINER: I don't know... there is this sort of bizarre thing that goes on, though, of wanting the movies to be good and also wanting them to be bad. You know what I mean? Self-fulfilled prophecy, "This movie's going to be terrible." And believe me, it's really not. I think it's the best action film that's come out this year.
IGNFF: I'm hoping.
SPINER: Oh, it is. It really is. And Shinzon is a fabulous villain, as good as we've ever had. The kid's terrific in the part. The scenes with Patrick and Tom Hardy are wonderful. What's good about this movie is not only is it a huge action ride because the last hour is hold onto your seats, because it never stops, it just keeps going, and it's exhausting, and it's action but at the same time, it's also a really emotional film.
IGNFF: Would you do another?
SPINER: I would probably do another, it's just... the truth of that is...
IGNFF: Of course, I'm sure it gets to be more of a logistical nightmare each time one of these is mounted.
SPINER: It's difficult. I think we can do another, but it's really not about whether I want to or anybody else wants to except for the studio, because it finally comes down to "Will Nemesis be financially successful?" And if it is, we'll probably do another. If it's not, we won't.
IGNFF: Did the marketing campaign surprise you?
SPINER: You mean, "Generation's Final Voyage Begins"? I thought it was genius. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Because it was, as I said, utterly ambiguous it was both the finale and a beginning at the same time.
IGNFF: There are also other rumors floating around would you be averse to reprising your role in another television series?
SPINER: What's the rumor?
IGNFF: There's supposed to be this brand-new Trek series, that's supposed to launch halfway through Enterprise, and is supposed to be voyages of a different starship in the Next Generation universe, populated with some of the Next Gen characters and so on.
SPINER: Wouldn't you think I'd have heard about that?
IGNFF: I would think so, but it's nice when you can put all of this stuff to rest.
SPINER: That's the first that I've heard about it.
IGNFF: Because all of this stuff just self-perpetuates itself.
SPINER: What do I get to play in that one?
IGNFF: At this point, you could probably cast your own role.
SPINER: Maybe! No, I have not heard anything about that, nor do I think anyone at Paramount Studios has heard anything about that.
IGNFF: There's a lot of talk once it's been transitioned onto a big screen, could you see yourself bringing the character back down to TV?
SPINER: It's not a huge desire of mine. I just don't see the point. I really enjoy the group I work with, and the fact that we're doing features and it's a three to four-month proposition as opposed to a ten-month proposition, and also the fact that I did 178 episodes and 4 movies so it's not like something I'm just dying to do.
IGNFF: If you were to be pigeonholed for the rest of your career in one aspect either doing films, a regular TV series, or theater what would be your preference?
SPINER: I could do it the rest of my life? You mean, I'll be successful?
IGNFF: Yes, we'll add that factor in.
SPINER: Okay, well that sounds good. I guess... I guess film is the preference, because of it's limited nature. You've got a window in which you know it's going to end, and then something else is going to begin. It's fun to do different stuff. That's part of the joy of being an actor.
IGNFF: The variety?
SPINER: Yeah. But I'd like to think I'm going to be able to continue doing all three, in some capacity.
IGNFF: Would you say that you're satisfied with where your career is at this point?
SPINER: I don't think anyone is. I think, no, I wouldn't say that.
IGNFF: But it's better than driving cabs in the dead of winter.
SPINER: Yeah, it's better than a stick in the eye. It's been perfectly nice, and at the end of the day I'll probably look back and go, "Yeah, that was a nice ride and I managed to accomplish a few of the things I wanted to do, but certainly not everything."
IGNFF: Is there any one project that you've wanted to get off the ground for years and never been able to?
SPINER: Well, I had a series idea that I pitched, and I tried to get it going and I could not get it going. It was just I think it was ahead of the curve, frankly. It had to do with playing a character who had been an icon on a TV series who was now uncastable and flat broke, but famous at the same time. So it was kind of about the double edge of celebrity.
IGNFF: Now, why haven't you re-pitched that?
SPINER: Because last time I pitched it was last pilot season.
IGNFF: Maybe it's all the wrong venues...
SPINER: You know what, it was all about celebrity, and the response we got from everyone was, "We're not interested in anything about celebrity." And of course now...
IGNFF: Then The Osbournes hit...
SPINER: Yeah, exactly.
IGNFF: So this season will be the one where it gets it.
SPINER: Yeah, maybe.
IGNFF: Is it a role that you'd like to play in the series, or are you happy just being the creator?
SPINER: Well, in this case, I was going to be that guy but I would be just as happy writing and producing it.
IGNFF: I can't wait to see it.
SPINER: Yeah, it really was funny we had many episodes planned, and it was good.
IGNFF: Well, the pendulum swings the other way.
SPINER: Oh, it's a really good idea someone else will do it, though. We pitched it...it's bound to happen.
IGNFF: No, no. See, but now it's in print now it's documented.
SPINER: Exactly. Thank god for you, Kenneth.
IGNFF: Anything else you can think of to mention any projects coming up you want to plug?
SPINER: No... actually, right now, I'm feeling like James Mason in A Star Is Born remember that scene at the Oscars where he got up and said, "I need a job." That's sort of my motto right now but I'm saying that with a laugh in my voice.