Interview with Brent Spiner from Independence Day: Resurgence

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By: Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)

Brent Spiner wants to make it clear: his character, Dr. Brackish Okun, did not die in the first Independence Day film. He’s alive and well 20 years later in the sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence. The character is a fun one for Spiner to play and he’s now one of a few people who have had the privilege of re-playing a character many years later. Read on to find out what it was like coming back as Dr. Okun, how technology advancements made things different this time around, and more. Plus, is he open to playing Data in Star Trek again?

So your character died in the first Independence Day movie. How are you back in this one? You kind of went through the wringer!

I admit, I went through the wringer, but are you a doctor? [Laughs] My character did not die! He looked bad, I admit it. I think he was just – well, you’ll find out. But he did not die. He was just badly shaken up.

What was it like stepping back in to a character after 20 years?

It was cool! I mean, who gets to do that? What a wonderful opportunity. I feel like I now belong to a fraternity of people who have gotten to do that sort of thing. Not many have! Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill – theirs was more than 20 years, I think! [Sylvester] Stallone got to play Rocky probably 40 years apart, [Arnold] Schwarzenegger got to play the Terminator again after a number of years. So it was a great opportunity.

I asked Twitter if they had any questions for you and got a few responses.

No kidding!

Yeah, your fans love you! Someone tweeted me and mentioned that your character was based on an actual person. He wanted to know if you’ve met the real Okun and what has he thought of your portrayal.

To say he’s based on a real person is not exactly accurate. He’s named after a real person. His last name is, anyway. And that’s Jeff Okun who was the special effects supervisor on Stargate and many other films. He’s a wonderful special effects guy. Oddly, I had met Jeff Okun before I ever got the role. Years before I got the role! So I kind of knew him already. And I don’t know how he felt about it. Obviously he was honored to have me playing a character named after him! [Laughs]

One big change from the original film to now is the technology and special effects advancements. How did that change the way the set was run and the film was made?

The set looked very different because there were a huge bank of very large monitors and people working special effects while we were doing them while we were acting. They were digitally laying things in behind us so we could take a peek and it would give us an idea of what it was we were supposed to be doing because we were working on green screen a lot – or blue screen, depending. But there were practical sets as well. There were some really wonderful, gigantic sets like the whole underground of Area 51.

Do you have a preference between practical sets and green screen?

It doesn’t really matter to me because acting is, to a large degree, employing your imagination anyway. So yes, it’s easier on a practical set because it’s one layer of your imagination you don’t have to deal with, but at the same time, you always have to imagine things. Anytime you go on stage, there’s a fourth wall you have to imagine. So it doesn’t make it any more difficult. I think it gave Roland [Emmerich, the director] a lot more toys to play with.

Why do you think now was the right time to make a sequel? Most come out within a few years and this one took twenty!

I know! I think it’s because they wanted to get it right. And they wanted to make sure the script was right. And they worked on it for a long time and I think they kind of decided ‘it’s now or never.’ I think certainly if they were going to use those of us from the original film, they couldn’t wait too much longer! Of course, I’m not talking about myself. I’m going to live way into my 100s. So I’ll be able to do the next four Independence Day movies.

Yeah, I hear the ending sets it up for a sequel.

Who told you that? [Laughs]

The Internet!

You haven’t seen the movie yet?

I have not.

I haven’t seen it either!

That’s surprising! I’m looking forward to it, though!

So am I!

Well like you mentioned, most of the original cast is returning, but there are also a few new faces. Can you tell me about how the newbies fit in to the dynamic both on and off screen?

I think it was a really nice conglomeration of old and new. I think it was cool for them that those us from the previous film were there and it was nice for us to see this new, young blood come in and take up the mantle and run with it. And they were great! They’re all terrific actors. And even one or two movie stars in there, I think. [Laughs]

Going back to replaying characters for a second, are there any other characters of yours that have died that you’d like to revisit . . . and yes, I am talking about Data.

[Laughs] Oh, I was going somewhere else entirely! You know, there are a couple of other characters I’ve done I wish I could do again. I don’t know if you know, but I did a webseries called Fresh Hell and we never really finished. We had great ideas to keep going, but we ran out of money. So if anybody reads this and has a whole lot of money and wants to do another season of Fresh Hell, please let me know! But Data, yeah. Would I want to do Data again? You know what, never say never. I would never say never, but Paramount Pictures would have to pay for the plastic surgery so I kind of look the same!

Finally, what do you hope people take away from this movie?

I hope they take away as much enthusiasm as they had for the first film and as much desire to see it again as they had for the first film. That’s what I’m hoping.

Independence Day: Resurgence hits theaters June 24, 2016.


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