Although best known for his role of Lieutenant Commander Data on the iconic television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Brent Jay Spiner is a multi-talented performer with a varied history.
Born in Houston, Texas on February 2, 1949, Brent Spiner was the younger of two children born to Jack and Sylvia Spiner. In post-war America, they lived a typical family life centered around the furniture store that Jack and Sylvia owned. When Brent was 10 months old, his father passed away at the age of 29 of kidney failure. Five years later, his mother remarried to a man named Sol Mintz. As a result, Sylvia, Ron and Brent adopted his family name. Although his mother and step-father divorced when Brent was 14 years old, he retained the name "Mintz" until he was 26. In 1975, he reclaimed the name "Spiner".
He was first inspired to pursue an acting career while still at Bellaire High School by his drama teacher, Cecil Pickett. Brent was not alone. Other famous celebrities got their starts in Mr. Pickett's including Randy & Dennis Quaid, Robert Wuhl, future West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip Executive Producer Thomas Schlamme and his own daughter, Cindy Pickett. After high school, Brent continued his studies of drama and the stage while taking his first steps into his professional career. His first acting gigs included working with The Houston Music Theater and a television film called My Sweet Charlie. He eventually migrated to New York and had parts in several Broadway and off-Broadway plays like A History of the American Film in 1978, Leave It to Beaver Is Dead in1979, Sunday in the Park with George in 1984 and Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1985. After heading off to Los Angeles to play in a stage production of "Little Shop of Horrors", Brent decided to remain in California. With acting jobs paying the bills, Brent enjoyed dabbling in music as well. His preference is jazz, specifically the crooners from the 1930s and 1940s, and he occasionally performed for small groups and local clubs. However, it was in 1986 that his life took a drastic turn for the better. Gene Roddenberry had gotten the green light from Paramount studios to produce a new incarnation of the television show "Star Trek", based on the phenomenal popularity of the original show in reruns and the four feature films which had all done extremely well at the box office. A casting call went out and Brent auditioned for the role of Data, the emotionless android whose goal in life was to understand the human condition. Brent had impressed Roddenberry with his ability to appear both blank faced and inquisitive at the same time. That was the heart of the Data character and Brent was signed on.
In October of 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation hit the air and was an immediate success. His character of Lieutenant Commander Data was a smash hit among fans, drawing immediate comparisons with the unexpected popularity of Mr. Spock in the late 1960s. Determined not to have the show be turned into "The Data Show", Roddenberry made sure that all of the main characters were allowed to develop evenly and not to focus too much on any single character (or trio of characters as the original show did). When the show ended its seven year run, Brent was signed on to carry his character over to the first of the feature films based on the new incarnation of the series. He went on to do four "Next Generation" films and also played the ancestor of Data's creator in the latest Star Trek effort, Star Trek: Enterprise. Outside of Star Trek, Brent has kept himself busy with various other film and television projects. He has lent his voice to Disney's Gargoyles and to the feature film South Park: Bigger, Louder and Uncut in addition to appearing in box office blockbusters like Independence Day and The Aviator. His list of accomplishments include critical successes like Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and I Am Sam. As a consummate performer, he continues to practice his music. In fact, in 1991, he released an album called Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back. The title is both a nod to both Frank Sinatra, whose songs were recorded on this CD, and to his character on Star Trek, known partly for his yellow eyes. In fact, his male Star Trek co-stars (Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn and LeVar Burton) sang backup on this album.
His personal life is something Brent keeps very guarded and therefore little is known. He has resided in Los Angeles for the past several years. He has been romantically involved with actresses Swoozie Kurtz and fellow Star Trek performer Terry Farrell in the past. He has had a long term relationship with Loree McBride and the two have a son, Jackson (born June 29 2002), but it isn't known whether or not they are married. He maintains very close ties with all of his Next Generation cast mates. He served as Patrick Stewart's best man at his wedding as well as a groomsman for Marina Sirtis' ceremony. He is even the godfather to Gates McFadden's son, James (born June 10 1991).