Brent Spiner is back playing one of his most popular characters. It’s not Data, however, but rather his Independence Day character, Dr. Brackish Okun, whom the actor reprises in the 20-years-in-the-making sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence. The follow-up once again pits mankind against hordes of aliens, only this time the creatures are bigger, better prepared and more determined than ever to wipe us all out. Set to open on Friday, June 24, Resurgence also features fellow returnees Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox and Judd Hirsch. Spiner recently found a few minutes to chat with StarTrek.com about Resurgence and how, it would seem, Dr. Okun didn’t really die in the original film. He also touched on some other subjects, including additional projects, the possibility of him ever playing Star Trek: The Next Generation's Data again, and his reaction to the sight of his friend, Patrick Stewart, in drag. Here’s what Spiner had to say:
Our guess is that everyone was starting to doubt that an Independence Day sequel would ever happen. How surprised were you to get the call?
I wasn’t really surprised. I’d been hearing through the years that we were going to do another one. I ran into (co-writer/co-producer) Dean Devlin on the streets of New York about 12 years ago and he said, “OK, we’re going to do another one. We’re just waiting for the right story. We think we have it, but maybe not.” Then I knew they went through all this business over whether they were going to do one sequel or two at the same time, and whether Will (Smith) was going to be in it or not. Then, about two years ago, I got the call that we were going to do another one. And so I went, “OK. At last.”
Most people assumed that you Okun was dead based on the pulse-taking scene in the first film. Be honest, did you think he was dead, dead, dead?
No, no, no, not at all. Nobody ever said I was dead. Adam Baldwin took my pulse. If he takes your pulse, you don’t want him as your doctor. He didn’t play a doctor. His character was just a military guy and he put his fingers on my neck for a second. If you look at it, he doesn’t even do it right. So I don’t know why everybody assumed Okun was dead. He was certainly very badly shaken up, but assuming he was dead was a big assumption… particularly in sci-fi.
What was it like to step back into the character again after so long?
It was great. It was fun. Of course, I wondered if I could do it. But really I questioned what I did in the first film. I couldn’t remember exactly because it had been so many years. So I had to watch Independence Day again and I kind of went, “Oh, yeah, now I remember.” And then it all came right back. It was seamless. The first scene we shot, I thought, “I can’t believe 20 years have gone by.”
We know you’re going to hate this question, but without giving too much a way, give us a sense of what he's up to in Resurgence now that the aliens are back…
Well, that would give everything away. I would say that he’s… he’s… he’s deeply involved in trying to overcome this seemingly insurmountable object. And… I can’t. There’s nothing I can tell you that won’t ruin it for people.
Everyone saw the great selfie of the cast that went viral. What was that day like, having so many of you together on set at the same time?
That was really cool. It was the first day on set for me and it was kind of interesting because we did a junket before I had even shot a scene. They had people from all over the world at this big junket and the questions were like, “What’s it like working with (director) Roland (Emmerich) this time?” And I hadn’t worked with Roland yet. So that was kind of bizarre. But that photo, it was great. It was like a high school reunion, seeing everybody and meeting all the new, young kids who are involved in the movie.
Assuming you survive the events of this film, how worried are you that it'll take another 20 years for there to be an Independence Day 3?
I’d be 80-something years old. So I would say, if they wait 20 years… Well, you know what? Never say never.
You've been busy lately. How did Outcast come your way?
I auditioned. I got a phone call while I was shooting Independence Day, towards the end of it. Howie Deutch, who directed a couple of episodes, and who’s the producer-director of it, is somebody I knew and he’s a really good guy. They asked me to go to a meeting with Howie. So I read for it and they cast me. I wrapped Independence Day and, two days later, I was playing Sidney in Outcast.
Sidney is a pretty wild character. How tricky is it to play enigmatic?
It is tricky, and it was particularly tricky in this case because I was sort of discovering the character at the same time you’re seeing him. So, for a while, particularly the first four episodes, he basically lurks. He has little scenes here and there, but for the most part his lurking and sizing things up, trying to figure out the best moment and way to strike. So it’s odd. It’s just mysterious. And that was the primary color of this character for the first four episodes. But he beings to reveal himself as the series goes on.
You've been on Blunt Talk a few times. How did you enjoy reuniting with Patrick on the show?
I loved it, of course. He’s a close friend and we have a real ease at working together. It was a lot of fun. Jonathan Ames is a terrific writer, so it was fun to speak his words and hang with Patrick for the day.
Speaking of Patrick Stewart, what did you think of his look in drag?
I thought he was one of the finest-looking women I’ve ever seen. He said that British men like to wear women’s clothing, and I don’t think he was kidding, actually.
You really interact with your fans and some non-fans, too, on your Twitter feed. How big a kick do you get out of that discourse with people, most of whom you’ll never meet in person?
Well, you know what? My basic thrust there, really, for the most part, is to amuse. That’s my objective. All I want to do is amuse people and have some fun. And sometimes it gets a little darker than that if a serious topic comes up. Most times when a serious subject comes up and I get into a complication, I regret that because it’s pointless. That’s what I’m left with at the end of the day. I don’t think I’ve changed anyone’s mind and I don’t think anyone has changed mine. So what was the point?
It’s the 50th anniversary of Star Trek this year. What does it mean to you to be a part of the whole phenomenon?
I’m really pleased to be a part of it. Star Trek has been very good to me. I still feel that Star Trek is about the most important American entertainment that has ever been. So, to be a part of something like this, this great tapestry that is the great American epic, it feels great.
The franchise will carry on next year with the new Star Trek series that Bryan Fuller is overseeing. How open to being involved in some way, any way, if Fuller called you?
I don’t think they’d ever ask me to play Data at this point because I do think it would be silly. I’m far too old to play Data again now. Data is this childlike, innocent character who, by the end of Nemesis was not quite as innocent as he used to be, but I don’t think you’d want to go too far with that. Plus, I’d look ridiculous in the makeup at this point. Unless they’re willing to pay for plastic surgery, I don’t think I’ll be playing Data. But to play something else on the show? Well, that depends on how much money they have. But sure, I’d be open to it. I think Bryan Fuller is a really talented guy. I’ve loved his other shows. If he came up with something interesting for me to do, why would I say no?