Fan-Favorite Star Trek Actor Tried To Quit Decades Ago

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

If you know who the actor Brent Spiner is, you likely know him from something very specific: Star Trek. While the actor has more than 100 projects listed in his filmography, he’s most well-known for playing the android Data in The Next Generation, a role he persistently tried to quit decades ago. Despite enduring uncertainties and his initial reluctance to commit to the role, Spiner eventually became an integral part of the Star Trek universe as one of the most beloved fan-favorite characters.

Remembered For Only One Role

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In 2012, Brent Spiner disclosed his recurring contemplations about departing from Star Trek throughout The Next Generation’s original seven-season run from 1987 to 1994. Despite Data’s widespread popularity among fans, Spiner found himself grappling with the notion of being confined to a single character portrayal, fearing the potential limitations it might impose on his career trajectory. He once commented that he could one day win an Academy Award but Data would still be the biggest thing he’d be remembered for.

Spiner Didn’t Think TNG Would Last

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Brent Spiner joined the Star Trek universe during an uncertain time for the franchise. The early days of The Next Generation were marked by skepticism and turbulence, as the series sought to carve out its own identity separate from its predecessor–the original Star Trek series. The uncertainty happened to be what made playing Data so attractive to Spiner. 

Amidst doubts regarding the show’s longevity and viability, Brent Spiner’s decision to join the Star Trek universe was initially driven by pragmatic considerations rather than a deep-seated affinity for the franchise. He had never been a Trekkie and simply wanted a well-paying gig. Rumor had it the series would be canceled within a year, meaning Spiner could be in and out, get paid, and be able to move on with his career.

TNG Course Corrected

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But that’s not what happened. Despite the initial skepticism, Star Trek: The Next Generation found its footing and garnered a dedicated fan base, ultimately paving the way for its enduring success. This meant Brent Spiner had to go on playing Data in the new Star Trek show year after year.

Spiner Grew Tired Of Playing Data

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Brent Spiner went on to play Data in 177 out of 178 Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, spanning seven seasons. When asked if he ever got tired of playing the same character over again, he said he did. “Every year at the end of the year, I thought, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if I’m going to come back and do another year. I’m going to get out of this contract.'” 

Spiner Played More Than Just Data In Star Trek

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Despite not initially wanting to stay in the series long-term, Brent Spiner eventually became a Star Trek fan himself. He wound up returning to the franchise over and over again, playing multiple characters, totaling seven distinct roles within the franchise: Data, Data’s twin Lore, B-4, Noonien Soong, Adam Soong, Altan Soong, and Arik Soong. Most recently, he graced the third season of Star Trek: Picard portraying a remarkably human-like android imbued with the memories of Data, Lore, B-4, Noonien Soong, and Lal–Data’s deceased daughter.

Spiner Loved His Coworkers

Reflecting on his decision to remain with the franchise, Brent Spiner cited the camaraderie among the Star Trek cast and crew. It was his relationship with his coworkers that sparked his commitment and eventual love for the show. Despite his initial reservations, Spiner found fulfillment in portraying Data and made peace with the fact that this role would become the largest part of his legacy.