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Brent Spiner in Blackpool, May 1977  Saturday Part 1

We had been told we could take flashes only at the beginning, so for the first few minutes, Brent is posing for cameras - some wonderful movements, turning round and round, showing his mime training - and the applause going on the whole time, of course. He is answering individual requests for poses, and shaking hands. I may have missed a word or two during this time, because although I was near the front, the audience applause was very loud.) Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you very much for that (he means the applause.) Thank you, you wanna take a photo? Go ahead. OK, letís do some casual shots, like Iím in action, you know? Iím sorry? Closer? Closer to what? What díyou want, I donít understand? I think Iíve got it, just a second, let me give you my very sincere smile! Happy! What? Remember the Alamo? Just crouch down low. Lower? Can't get much lower than this. Hallo. All right. Anyone else want to take a photo while Iím here? OK. There we go. Hallo. Wait, wait. I'll be seeing these on sale in America, I really will. Thank you. Hallo, thank you. I hoped youíd do that, simply go right through the stage! Oh, hallo, everybody. Hallo. You know, this is really a distracting thing happening over here, ( the large screen at the side of the stage for the benefit of those further back in the audience, he sees it each time he turns in that direction) I can't stop looking at myself.! Ohh! Sorry. Oh, my gosh, is his hair long or what! Hi! wanna a photo? Well, hallo ladies. Hallo? Hi. Goodness, I, er, I'm really disappointed - I was told there were a lot of people coming! One more? There.

(The staff are motioning people back to their seats.)
So, what can I tell you that you don't already know about?

Everything!
About Marina's dog!

What was that? Everything.? Oh, what a nice dog! Whose dog is that? (A woman is sitting in the front row with her beautiful guide dog.) Beautiful. beautiful. And, is this a male or a female? Male or female? Yeah, the dog! Female? I have two dogs exactly like that, both females. What's your dog's name? Irma? That's my dog's name! Both of them! Hi, Irma, (whistles to the dog), oh, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful girl. Um, so Ok, here's the deal, everybody knows I have absolutely nothing to say, so , but we have microphones, I see one over there with Di, and Manny, where's Manny? oh, Manny's over there, and so anybody who wants to ask me a question, I'm counting on you, please ask me a question! Ask me more than one question, ask me two questions! Um, I'd be happy to answer everything, er, if you've seen any conventions in the States, I always say the same thing, which is that I'd be more than happy to answer anything you wanna ask me, I'd just like to stay away from two areas, if you don't mind (alerted by the audience hoots, he looks at the screen and sees the message the technicians have added asking if he is fully functional) - who is responsible for that?

That's Steve's fault! Steven! Steve Reilly.

Steve Reilly? Oh, there you are Steve. Hi Steve, I just want you to know I work alone! Thank you. "Are you fully functional?" Do you have other questions, Steve, or would you like me to answer that one? There are children in the audience, aren't there? Yes, there are. Ah, um, let me just say in answer to that question, "As far as I know". Oh, good, I see some queues happening. We call them "lines". "Queues". Alright, let's start over here. Yes, Ma'am?

Hi, Brent.

Hi!

I've been asked to ask you about when you worked in the ER room at the hospital and about the story with the thermometer.

Alright. Do you all know that story?

(Audience: No)
Well, let me just say, let me just finish what I was going to say before Steve so brutally interrupted. I'm perfectly happy to answer anything you might ask, there are just two areas I'd like to stay away from if you don't mind, and that's Star Trek and my personal life. Anything else will be fine. The hospital story I think falls into the category of my personal life, so, no, no, no, I'll tell you the story. It's a long story but I'll make it as short as I can. When I was 16 years old, I worked as an orderly at St. Luke's Hospital, in Houston, Texas, and my uncle was a doctor. He got me the job, assuming I wanted to be a doctor. Er, I had absolutely no interest in being a doctor but he insisted that I take this job, and I wound up working in the Recovery Room, er which is a brutal place for a 16 year old to spend a summer. And um, I was working, er there was a famous doctor there, Dr Michael Dubaky, who was a very famous heart surgeon, and I was working basically in his Recovery Room. (Hi, Jackie.) And, um, so one day a man came into the hospital, into the Recovery Room. He'd just been in the Operating Room, they'd just operated on him, he had a very serious operation. I believe he'd had a stroke. Anyway, they brought him into the Operating Room, I mean the Recovery Room, and um, all of the doctors were around the bed, and they were monitoring all of his vital signs and so on, and my job was to take his blood pressure so I - this was in the old days, by the way, when we wrapped a thing around the arm and had a pump - and um so I was taking the man's blood pressure, and suddenly he opened his eyes and he looked at me and he said, "Am I dead yet?" and I said "Not yet", and I felt the doctors grab me by the back of the shirt and they hauled me away, and they screamed at me, and said "Don't you every say that to a patient, that's the worst thing you can say." Alright, alright, so finally they were comfortable with his signs and they left and he was unconscious again, and the nurse said to me "Take this man's temperature". And I said, "Well, but, he's unconscious". She said "Roll him over on his side and insert the thermometer", and uh, I was 16, and I said to her, "Iím not gonna do that, I'm 16, I don't do those things", and er she said "Look, don't be a baby, you wanna be a doctor, put the thermometer in". So, I said, "OK, alright". So I roll the man on his side, I insert the thermometer, Iím looking at my watch and I'm going, Come on, two minutes, let's go, let's go, let's go, two minutes. Finally two minutes was up and I went to take the thermometer out but he'd rolled back onto his back, so I rolled him on his side again, and there on the bed are all these little broken pieces of glass and beads of mercury lying on the bed. So I put together the pieces of glass, and it made about half a thermometer, and er, they had to call the doctors to come back up, to take him back into the Operating Room, and remove the other half of the thermometer before he woke up and sued the hospital, and er, that was not only my last day as an orderly, it was the end of my medical career. So, there you have that story. Manny, Do you have anyone there?

Hallo. In Generations, what did you think about Data having an emotion chip?

In Generations, what did I think about Data having an emotion chip? (Brent is copying the guy's accent, which gets some cheers. The guy comes back with "At least I'm fully functional!")

Well, that's - we'll be the judge of that! Uh, (back to his own voice) what did I think about Data having emotions? I thought it was great. I, er, when they initially suggested to me that Data was going to have emotions in Generations I didn't think it was a good idea, because - not that I didn't think it was a good idea that Data had emotions, but er I felt that it was too soon, I thought that we needed to do one movie first where it was the normal Data that you'd come to know in the television series, and then maybe in the second film er give him emotions. But because I'm so powerful, er, they said "No, you're going to do it now", and I understand a lot of people didn't care for it initially, I think maybe it's OK now when you saw where it went in First Contact, but as far as I was concerned as an actor, I loved it, because er, I loved the idea of having played the character for seven years and then completely changing the character, it seemed a great idea to me. Er, as an actor it made it more interesting for me to play, so er, I had no problem with it but I do understand why people have a problem with it, um, I kinda think it's equatable to er having a child who is so adorable when they're a child you just wanna keep them that way, you don't want 'em to grow up, but er, I think evolution's a good thing, and growth is a good thing, and certainly for me it was good, so!

Hi, Brent. A lot of us ladies would like to know how d'you feel about being a sex symbol!

Feels goood! Is that what I am, a sex symbol? I love that, thank you, thank you so much. Everyone should be one at least once in their lives! Hallo?

Where's the bathroom on The Enterprise?

I'm not really sure, er, I have one in my trailer, so, you know, that's a very good question, and it's been asked many times, I think there are diagrams of The Enterprise that illustrate where the bathrooms are. They must have them, all that Earl Grey's gotta go somewhere, you know! Hi!

Hi. Which film did you enjoy making the most, Generations or First Contact?

Oh, I preferred First Contact. I, er think it's a better film. Um, I can't tell you how difficult it is to make a good movie, um, it's even difficult to make a bad movie, er, just making a movie is difficult, and it's an accident if it turns out right, and obviously you have to start with a good script or you don't have a chance in the world, but I really felt First Contact was an interesting script. I think Jonathan Frakes did a great job directing it, and ah, um, we had some great guest stars on it, and er, it was just a deeper and darker and more interesting piece. The problem with Star Trek movies in general, however, is that er they're rushed, it's a real rush to do them. You know, we'll see a script in January, in March we start shooting, it's finished first of July and it's in the theatres by November. Nothing shoots that fast, and they're really - Paramount Pictures understands that there's a real market for these films and so they don't really - there's noone here from Paramount is there? they don't really care if they're good or bad, they just want Ďem out there, and we're complaining all the time and saying, No, it has to be good, it has to be good, we don't want to do it unless its good, but they're really rushed. And so, we got very lucky on the last one, I thought First Contact was really a quality movie. I wasn't that crazy about um Generations until I saw Twister, and then I thought Oh, Generations was good! Yes?

Did you have to use (the person is interupted by another on-screen message - "Is the Borg Queen snoggable?")

Is the Bord Queen snoggable - (Brent is enjoying practising his accents again) What d'you mean, "snoggable"? Is that a word? (Audience members yell out "Kissable") That's a word, that you say it often over here? Snoggable? It's, where am I? What is this place called? (audience: Blackpool.) Blackpool. Is it er only used in Blackpool, snoggable? (audience: No) What does snoggable mean? (audience: Kissable) Kissable, huh? Does it mean kissable? (audience: Yes) Does it mean anything else? (Half the audience yells Yes, and the other half yells No!) Let me just say, I'll go on record now, yes, Steve, she was snoggable, OK? She was more than snoggable actually! What's more than snoggable? Donít say it, there are kids! Thanks! Where am I? Am I over here, Manny?

Hallo. What's the wierdest thing you've ever signed?

The wierdest thing I've ever signed? Well, let me just say this, I can't tell you what it was but it was not snoggable! I'm trying to think if I've ever signed anything particularly wierd, um, you know, signing a photo of myself is pretty darned wierd, let me tell you that, something I never in my life bargained for, and I have only done it two, three times now, I do, I have about the most worthless signature on the planet because the fewer there are the more valuable they are - I've signed 16-17 million, something like that. Paul Newman, you know, does not sign autographs. He - at all - but he's very nice about it. I've actually seen this happen. A friend of mine went up to him and asked for an autograph, and he said, "I don't sign autographs, but I'll buy you a beer", and he took her and brought her a beer. She was snoggable, believe me!

Did you have to use your Star Trek acting when you had to die in Independence Day? (That from another youngster.)

I didn't have to use - whadda you mean by Star Trek acting? Its, acting is acting, you know? You have certain objectives, you try to accomplish them and do them with some level of believability, that's all I did. But I have to tell you I was something of an expert on the Independence Day set. Um, Bill Pullman who played the president was constantly coming up to me and saying "Now, how do I do this? and "there's nothing there, what am I supposed to be doing?" and I said "Ah, you need to know how to do Spining, I can teach you how to do Spining, but uh, there was something similar about it, ah, believe me in that scene when we got there er it was a laboratory, or an operating room as those of you who saw it - 800 million dollars Independence Day has made so far, and I'm happy to say I had 50 per cent of it - that's why I'm here in Blackpool, eh? uh, but um, I was thinking, this is really wonderful, I'm getting to play a human being and its a different character, and he's sort of fun and crazy, and I was really enjoying it and I was thinking No, this is not like Star Trek at all this is great, - not that I ever knock Star Trek, but it was new for me and it was different, and uh, we're in the laboratory and suddenly they started to fill the room with smoke and I think it was just like being on Star Trek again, it really was. Actually the guy who, you did say, that killed me, didn't you? What makes you think that Dr Okun is dead? Ah,

He stopped breathing!

He stopped breathing? That may be true but the camera was only on him for two or three seconds, you know. Actually, I just ran into Dean Devlin, who wrote Independence Day, and he said that there is going to be a sequal to Independence Day, not for a couple of years, but they are going to do another one, and he said to me, "Got great news for you, I finally figured out how to bring Dr Okun back", and he wouldn't tell me what it was, or I'd tell you, of course! but apparently, well, I don't know if Dr Okun was dead, he just fell on the floor, and had his eyes open. Er, there was a line originally, and it was actually filmed, it was the guy who came over and knelt down by me said, "He's dead", and they cut that because if there was a sequal they wanted to bring me back again, which I'm very happy about, so we'll see, I don't know, I don't know what the deal is, I could be his evil twin brother, y'know. Lore Okun. Oh, Manny?

Hi, Brent. I wanted to know, in your non-Data roles in Star Trek, did you prefer to play Dr Soong or Lore?

Um, did I prefer Dr Soong or Lore? Gee, that's tough, er, I enjoyed playing both of them. I particularly enjoyed Lore because he was, he was like me, and it was an opportunity for me to play myself, y'know, so. Not really! Yes, Ma'am?

I know you want to say no, but can I give you something?

Can you give me something?

To read.

To read? I don't see why not. It's OK (to the security people). Watch me tackle her! (to the audience) Well, thank you so much. (to the security people, "Get her!") It's so nice of you, you're Angela, right? (reading the girl's T-shirt) "Do not touch, property of Brent Spiner", it says, (warmly) ummm, yes, quite snoggable, you are, Angela! Thank you so much, Angela, oh, I'm always loosing, thank you, her address is in it, she says! I waved to you in London? Of course, Hi, I haven't seen you since the premiere in London. Angela!

(The girl goes back to her seat. Brent stops to get some water.) This is me drinking. This is me choking! Manny, who do we have behind door number three?

Brent, you know when you did Independence Day and Phenonomon,

Yes.

Do you think you want to retire from Star Trek and do those for the rest of your life?

I'm sorry, what?

Retire from Star Trek and do the cameo roles for the rest of your life.

Um, yeah! You know what, they don't pay near as well, but (another message flashes on the screen, I don't remember what that one was) that Steve, what a sense of humour, huh? You know, I really enjoyed doing both of those films. Its been great, I've been doing Star Trek for 10 years and its been fantastic, and obviously it was the best thing that ever happened to me careerwise, so I'm perfectly happy to continue doing it as long as the scripts are good, but, um, but I was sort of looking forward to a time when I wasn't doing it every week. When we were doing the series we worked five days a week for 16-17 hours a day, for 10 months so that there was no time really to do anything else, and um, so I was really looking forward to seeing what would happen after Star Trek and ah I've been really lucky and I've gotten some really fun parts to play. I did a movie that's coming out in America on the 4th July so it should be here around 2010, right? It's er called "Out to Sea". It's Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and it was so much fun. I actually, forgive me, but I play a British cruise director. But what was great about that was not just Jack and Walter, who were fantastic to be around, but it was also Donald O'Connor and Elaine Stritch, and Hal Linden and Rue McClanaghan and Gloria de Haven and on and on, a really good cast, so yuh, I'm enjoying it. Hallo, Donna.

Hi. I'd like to know if you had to instigate variations in character that you had during the filming of the series or whether the scriptwriting team came up with (we canít hear this very well.)

Huh? I'm sorry, could somebody tell me, I couldn't hear you.

OK. (Someone gets her to talk into the microphone.) Hallo.

Hallo.

During the filming of The Next Gen series,

Yes.

Did you have to ask the scriptwriting team for variations on Data, or do they come up with (We still canít hear her) by themselves.?

I think I know what you're saying. Thank you. Actually, it was sort of fifty-fifty. I mean, I really enjoy playing other things aside from Data on the series, and I enjoyed playing Data in different sort of modes of behaviour, and we all sort of discovered that at the same time in the first season. My biggest fear when I took the part was it was going to be a very limiting role, and I actually had a director on the third episode say to me, ĎYouíre gonna get so sick of this because there's nothing you can do with this, its just going to be flatí, and fortunately, luckily, the writers rose to the occasion and gave me all kinds of fun things to play, and the more they did that the more I encouraged them to keep doing that.

Sorry, I don't know if Iím going to dump you in it here, but Eric Menyuk did say, when you were chatting before your last audition for the part that you weren't a Star Trek fan.

That I was not a Star Trek fan? Eric Menyuk told you that? Why on earth would you be talking to Eric Menyuk? He did two episodes and we didn't even speak to him! No, I'm kidding. Ah, no, there's a certain amount of truth to that, I actually wasn't that familiar with it. I mean, I'd seen a few episodes when I was three or four! - er, I enjoyed them, but I wasn't the kind of fan Eric Menyuk was a huge Star Trek fan, and loved it, and really wanted the part; you do know that Eric Menyuk was the Traveller, and he was also second choice for the role of Data. Actually, Colm Meaney auditioned for the role of Data too. Ah, and Tom Cruise, but, I thought I was going to be Jerry Maguire, so, but, um, no, it's true. I called Cory Allen, is that his name, Cory Allen? Didn't he direct the pilot, yuh, oh, he called me, and he said, "We really love what you're doing with the part, and I really think that you'd be great in this role", he went on and on, and he was very nice, and I said "You know, Cory, I don't really know if I want to do this",and he said, "Well, nobody's offering it to you",and er but Eric really wanted to do it because he was a huge Star Trek fan, and I actually, in all honesty, when the part was offered to me, I called my agent and said "I don't think I wanna do this, and I'm gonna pass",and he said, "Oh, don't pass, just do the pilot, see if you enjoy it, if you don't I can get you out of the series",and I had such a good time doing the pilot and working with those people, I thought, you know, "I could do this for a long time",and as it turned out I did.

Thank you.

You're welcome.

Hi Brent.

Hi there!

Will you continue to play Data if they make any more films?

Um, presumably, I know Paramount Pictures thinks I'm going to. But I'm fortunate, neither Patrick Stewart or myself have contracts to do any more than one film at a time. and, um, I'm certain the same goes for Patrick as it does for me, as long as the script is a reasonable story and something that might be interesting to people we'll do it. If it seems like its something that they're just trying to perpetrate on this audience, then I have no interest in doing it. I'll do it as long as it's interesting, and as long as I'm believable agewise, because er, I do think I'm kind of skating on thin ice right now in terms of believability where Data's concerned. And it's not just about whether one looks young or old, there's a real essence to Data that has to do with a childlike quality that the older I get the less of it I have, and I don't wanna compromise something that I spent ten years doing and felt really good about, so the next film - I have no idea by the way what that's about, we don't have a story yet, er, we do know its number nine, so it sort of doesn't matter what the story is, it's an odd numbered movie, and my suggestion to Paramount - I called them, and they won't listen to me, was let's skip nine, and go right to ten, but . Yes Ma'am?

With Independence Day, what was it like to be supposedly killed by an alien, and did those short trousers give you a draft?

What was the part before the trousers?

What was it like to be killed by an alien?

To be killed by an alien? Well, I wasn't really killed I was just brutalised, I had his being and his essence inside of me and I spoke for him, it was heaven! Actually, an interesting, or maybe not, thing to know, is that er the guy who was inside the alien in Independence Day, um, assisted Michael Westmore on my makeup on First Contact and was nominated for an oscar. Little titbits you didn't know, or maybe you did? Manny?

Hi! What advice do you have to young budding actresses like myself who want to get in where you are now, preferably not go to a good theatre school, that's what everybody tells me, so any other advice you can send my way would be great.

I would suggest going to a good theatre school! No, I mean obviously you should go to a regular theatre school, but er, I'm not really sure that I could advise anybody to become an actor, er it's a really difficult road as I'm sure you know, and people told me the same thing. I think it's really a matter of if you have to do it you will do it, and it doesn't matter what anybody says but I think the most, from my experience, the most important ingredients are luck, is number one, I'm sure you've heard that, it's absolutely true, and tenacity, I think, is number two, just not being discouraged, because when I look around at all the people I know who are actors, that is the one thing they have in common, is they couldn't be discouraged. Talent is way down on the list. Um, clearly, I'm here to prove it, but, oh, that's called self-deprecation, it endears you to people, that's why I do it! No, er but truly it's such a cruel business, and, I have a theory that everybody in the world wants to be in show business, or has wanted to at one time in their life, or at least toyed with the idea, to get to be actor, maybe I could get to be a singer, I'd really like to do that, it looks like fun, and it's simply the people who couldn't be discouraged who are still doing it, because you get so much rejection, um even when you get successful you still get rejection. I still have to audition for films and you know I'll work for somebody, like when I did Independence Day I did that film for Twentieth Century Fox, the movie made more money than any film, except for Jurassic Park I think, worldwide in film history, and they were very pleased with what I did at Fox, and Out to Sea came up next, and it was a Twentieth Century Fox film, and I thought they were just going to give it to me, and I had to audition twice and still they didn't want to give it to me because they thought, "No, he's the crazy guy from Independence Day",and fortunately the director came in and said, "This is the guy I want",and they went with her, but it never stops, it really doesn't, unless you're Jack Nicholson it never ends, the difficulties, so I hope you'll change your mind, go into medicine, work as an orderly! Good luck. Hey!

Hi. Good evening, Brent.

Good evening.

You're a man of many, many talents, many parts, most of which are functional if we understand them, but as an actor you've had an awful lot of experience of different parts, but if somebody said they'll give you a blank cheque, sit you in front of a laptop and write a script for yourself, anything you like, take as much time as you want, what would you do, what kind of part would you write for you, based on what you've done so far?

Well, take as much time as I want?

Yep.

(Brent is taking his time!)

See you tomorrow!

Er, I don't know, I think if I could write one part for myself it would be a guy with multiple personalities, um, someone incredibly schizophrenic, because it does get dull playing the same thing over and over. I've been lucky I haven't had to, but.

I mean, the good side or the bad side?

Both. Everything.

Let it all hang out?

I wouldn't go that far, no, but I am fully functional, its, er you know, I don't know, people have asked me, I don't really fantasise about what I would like to play anymore. I used to do that when I was a kid, and I used to think well that role could be right for me, or that role would be right for me, but, I've found over time that careers seem to have a life of their own, and you wind up doing things you never dreamed you would do or that you even dreamed you were right for, believe me it never occured to me I would be playing a super strong, super intelligent android, you know, action hero kind of guy, that just didn't seem possible, and there it was, and that just keeps happening over and over until finally I've just given in and let my career go where it may, and just see if I can do it.

Well, keep doing what you're doing.

Thanks.