Brent Spiner

I had a fantastic teacher in high school. I had one of those guys you dream of having, who molds your life and inspires you to go in a particular direction, and he was quite brilliant. His name was Cecil Pickett, and a lot of the kids from my high-school drama class are in professional show business and have done quite well.

A couple of years ago, I went to see a production of Wicked in San Francisco with a friend of mine, one that Patty Duke was in, and he said, “Do you want to meet her?” And I said, “Yeah!” And I went backstage, and she walked out of her dressing room, looked at me, and said, “I know you.” And I went, “Well, uh, yeah, I was in My Sweet Charlie.” And she said, “Yeah! You were the guy in the car on the road!” And I was. It was amazing.

Gian Luigi Polidoro and his girlfriend had written this script, it was an American comedy, and they decided I was the guy to play the part. I was young, they offered me the lead in the film, and I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” And I’m telling you, there is a movie waiting to be made about the making of a movie like that, particularly at that time in New York. I mean, we shot all over the streets of New York without permits. We would literally grab a shot and run. But Rent Control… I think the total cost was $100,000, and to this director’s credit, I think it looks like $200,000.

I wanted to look right. I remember a review – a very positive one – in The New York Times that said I was so good in the role [Earl Mills] that I “even managed to overcome a terrible red wig.” I wanted to write her and tell her about the agony I’d gone through with the perm, but I thought better of it.

It was kind of an amazing class. I went to the Strasberg Institute in New York for a little while after I got there, and I’ve never seen anybody who was in any of my classes there ever again. I mean, that’s not to say they didn’t become somebody. I’m not sure. I mean, Sam Jackson could’ve been in my class, for all I remember.

So it was a really pleasant surprise when [Independence Day] turned out to be a successful film. I don’t know if you’ve heard that they’re going to be re-releasing it next Fourth of July in 3-D. I’ve actually only seen it once, and it was in Hawaii, in a little theater in Oahu shortly after it was released. But Roland Emmerich is a really smart guy, and he makes really fun movies to watch.

I had no idea I was part of what was going to be a big mega-hit. I thought I was doing a B sci-fi movie [Independence Day]. And, actually, it was Jeff Goldblum who looked at me one day and said, “You know, I think this is going to be really something.” And I said, “Well, I hope you’re right.” And sure enough, it turned out to be.

Dr. Okun. Who’s named after a special-effects guy named Jeff Okun, who had done Stargate for Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, who did Independence Day. But “Brakish” just came up one day when Jeff Goldblum and I were improvising, and he told me his character’s name and I told him mine.

Like, she had a caterer, she had wardrobe people, she had two makeup artists… I mean, we have makeup and we have wardrobe, but Felicia [Day] was, like, on it. She had two cameras operating, sets, extras everywhere. It was unbelievable. I don’t know what her budget was or is, but she had sponsors for her show, and we don’t have a sponsor yet, so basically, the difference is, our moms make our costumes.

It really was not that difficult a process, because I was playing [Data from Star Trek] something that doesn’t exist. So it was really based on… Imagination was the key element in that, and whatever I could think of, I could do, because there was no precedent for it. It wasn’t like someone was going to say, “Well, an android would never do that.” They didn’t know!