Exclusive Interview: Brent Spiner Talks Fresh Hell and Star Trek: TNG @25

On Friday Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Brent Spiner debuts the first episode of the second season of his comedy webseries Fresh Hell. So TrekMovie thought it world be a good time to check in with the actor to talk about season two, along with talking some Trek of course.


Spiner talks Fresh Hell and TNG @25

Last year Brent Spiner played "Brent Spiner" in the first series of the comedy webseries Fresh Hell (you can catch all 5 webisodes on YouTube). The show tells the tale of how "Brent" is trying to get his career back on track after he was involved in an unnamed (yet apparently very embarrassing) incident. Season two, which will have 10 webisodes,  kicks off on Friday. Today TrekMovie talks to Spiner about the show and about Star Trek: TNG turning 25.

TrekMovie: Let’s start with your latest TV appearance, last weekend’s Simpsons. So you get a call from them and they say "so we want you to play a robot," did that feel a bit too on the nose?

Brent Spiner: No, well it wasn’t just a robot it was many robots and that made all the difference. If they had said "just a robot" I wouldn’t have done it. The truth is, it was The Simpsons for god’s sake. It is one of those shows that you can say you were on. 

TrekMovie: I was surprised they didn’t do a more overt Star Trek reference, like when they had Nimoy and Takei in the past.

Brent Spiner: I don’t think they knew I was on Star Trek. I think they thought, who would make a good voice for a robot and they thought "the guy from Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" and then they got me.

Spiner’s many robots on The Simpsons ("Them, Robot")

TrekMovie: So the second season of Fresh Hell starts on Friday. What can we expect from season two?

Brent Spiner: You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be glad you aren’t me. I don’t want to give anything away and because the episodes are so short, if I tell you just one sentence I’ll give away the whole show.

TrekMovie: As I understand it, the people who work with you on the show are all pitching in their time in between other projects. Is this something that you are all doing as a proof of concept, in hopes that you can sell it to an HBO or a Showtime or someone on TV turns it into a series?

Brent Spiner: I would be fine if it were the Fabric Network. I would like to do it on television so we could do longer episodes. We can’t afford to do that on our own, we don’t have a sponsor. Obviously in my dream of dreams either have it on TV or get a sponsor and we can do it in this format, which is fine with me too.

TrekMovie: Shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Episodes seem to a new sub-genre of celebrities playing versions of themselves. So how much of the real you is in Fresh Hell’s Brent Spiner?

Brent Spiner: The real me? I’ll give it 10% because I do actually look like that. Basically it’s me but it’s not me. It’s me in another reality. The whole piece is a metaphor for our times. Every day you see on the web about how some celebrity has done something terrible that they have to apologize for or go into rehab or anger management and it wrecks their career at least for a time. "The Incident" that we talk about on the show is really a MacGuffin. It was that thing that wrecked his career but it doesn’t matter what it is. It really is that subtextual incident and that incident is about getting older and getting used up and getting kicked out of this fraternity you have been in and wanted to be in your whole life. And where you go from there and how do you get back in and the desperation about getting back to where you once belonged.

Teaser for Fresh Hell Season 2

TrekMovie: So as a MacGuffin are we never going to find out what the incident was?

Brent Spiner: I wouldn’t say that. It is likely you won’t but you very well might. We do know what the incident was and it would be a shame to never reveal it because it is pretty fun. We will see. Depends on how long we do it and when we feel is the right time to reveal it.

TrekMovie: Are there shows, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, that you look to as a model?

Brent Spiner: The closest thing taste-wise and in sensibilities is Extras – Ricky Gervais’ show. There is something sad about it. There is nothing sad about Larry David. Curb is a show about a guy that happens to the world. Mine is a show where the world is happening to this guy. Larry is happy and successful. It is all going great for him, it is the damage he does in his wake. My guy is the victim. That is why we call it a "sit-trag." Although it is presented in a completely comic way and we are after laughs, there is a serious subtext to it that is sad and heartbreaking. And I always felt there is something like that in Ricky’s show Extras. I always felt very sad for that character, even when he was becoming successful. When he became most successful, that was the saddest he was. 

TrekMovie: With a lot of these shows, like Larry’s and Ricky’s, often they bring in some of their real-life colleagues. So in season two of Fresh Hell should we expect any of your friends and colleagues showing up, maybe some Star Trek co-stars? 

Brent Spiner: Well that is very possible. I have been hearing a lot of noise from Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, but I don’t think they are right for it. I am holding out for people that I actually know right now. We’ll see. I don’t want to give anything away.

TrekMovie: Obviously this is the 25th anniversary year of Star Trek: The Next Generation

Brent Spiner: Why is that obvious? Do I look that bad? [laughs] People are starting to write me and say "you remind me of Dr. Soong." Twenty five years! Yes it is.

TrekMovie: Well I know you aren’t the kind person who does a lot of navel gazing on your past career, but if you were…what would you say you are most proud of from your time on Trek? And what are you most critical from the show?

Brent Spiner: It’s a funny thing. Patrick [Stewart] said – very early in the run of the show- if one word describes us at our very best and our very worst at the same time, that word is "worthy." And I thought "you know what, you have got something there." It was wonderful because it was worthy, and its worthiness made it sometimes dull. But pride? I was happy that I was on it. I think it was a good thing and continues to be. I get really good feedback from the fans. After 25 years people are still discovering it and embracing. I am pleased to be part of something that has been going for almost fifty. It is the biggest thing that has happened in American television. What has been longer-lasting and had more hours than Star Trek? Once it hit fifty years, it is hard making fun of it. It is a major phenomenon and that has been fun to be part of, I feel lucky to be part of it.

I don’t know what the worst thing about it. I don’t like to focus on it. No matter what I say, I am going to get grief for it.

Spiner playing the aged Dr. Soong on TNG and as Brent Spiner on "Fresh Hell"
– not exactly a match

That’s it for part 1 of the TrekMovie interview. Tune in tomorrow for part 2 where I press Brent and get him to spill on his least favorite episode along with talking about Nemesis, JJ Abrams Star Trek and more. 

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