Best known for playing the android Data on the syndicated television series Star Trek: The Next Generation and in its feature film spin-offs, Brent Spiner is also a talented singer. Before agreeing to play Data, Spiner had spent a decade on the New York stage. A native of Houston, TX, he was raised by his mother and her second husband (Spiner's real father died when he was a baby). The Quaid brothers Randy and Dennis were among his high school classmates and the three learned about acting under Cecil Pickett. Eventually Pickett would leave the school to take a teaching job at the University of Houston. Spiner enrolled there soon after graduation, but only remained at the university through 1974 when he decided to become a professional actor in New York City.
Like many other aspiring thespians, Spiner had dues to pay in the form of taking a job as a cab driver before launching his career off-Broadway. He made his Broadway debut with Sunday in the Park With George opposite Mandy Patinkin. He made his television debut in a miniseries, The Dain Curse, and first appeared in films with a bit part in Woody Allen's Stardust Memories (1980). Spiner had a rare starring role in Rent Control (1981). He moved to Los Angeles in 1985 and launched a career as a television guest star on series and as a supporting actor in telemovies and miniseries. He most frequently appeared on the sitcom Night Court as the man who establishes a snack bar in the courthouse. He then successfully auditioned for the role of Data. Interestingly, Spiner claims no particular love for science fiction and was not a big fan of the original Star Trek. He says he mainly took the job because he didn't think the new series would last and because he needed to pay a few bills. The show lasted seven years also spawning a successful film series, and from the start, his was the most popular character on the show. In an effort to capitalize and satirize his nonhuman role on the show -- and perhaps to poke fun at actors William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy who capitalized on their Star Trek fame by each recording equally awful albums (can anyone forget Nimoy's bouncy rendition of "Bilbo Hobbitt"?) -- Spiner recorded his own album, Old Yellow Eyes Is Back (1991), with an 80-piece orchestra and fellow castmates Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and Michael Dorn.
Though the bulk of his fame comes from being Data, Spiner is not content to spend the rest of his career typecast and so occasionally plays other characters. His portrayal of prissy singing cruise director Gil Godwin was the funniest thing about Martha Coolidge's waterlogged Out to Sea (1997).