Nostalgia seems to be the buzz these days with films from the 80s and 90s returning to the big screen. This month movie goers will see the return of ‘Independence Day’ with a sequel that literally took 20 years in the making. Taking that nostalgic feel one step further, several actors from the original film have returned to reprise their roles in an effort to once again battle the aliens who want to take over the Earth. While some of the characters are ones that we expected to see, Dr. Okun, played by genre favorite Brent Spiner, was a surprise for fans who thought the eccentric scientist had pretty much lived out his usefulness. But as the saying goes, you can’t keep a good man down, and we had the opportunity to speak to the actor about returning to the role after all this time.
ScienceFiction.com (SF): Are you surprised how well received the first ‘Independence Day’ film was?
Brent Spiner (BS): Was I surprised? I was. At first when I was working on it I thought it was a nice fun B-movie about blowing up things. Then I was having lunch one day with Jeff Goldblum and he said “I have a feeling about his movie. I think this movie is gonna be really good.” And he was right! It was embraced by people.
You know why I think it has lasted this long too? Because it’s pretty much on TV every day and I’m told it gets decent ratings at every showing. And I think it has something to do with the fact that – not to say that superhero movies don’t do great, obviously they do well… we’re looking at ‘Civil War’ right now – but it’s regular people against insurmountable odds and that’s what people relate to. People are able to project themselves into the movie and go that could be me fighting these incredible obstacles.
SF: Were you surprised like the rest of us when you got the script for ‘Resurgence’ that Dr. Okun was still alive?
BS: I already knew.
SF: You already knew?
BS: Pretty much. Well in the director’s cut of the movie there is commentary from Roland [Emmerich] and Dean Devlin and they said he not dead. If we make another movie, he’s going to be back so I knew then that I survived.
SF: What was it like returning to the role?
BS: It was rewarding to come back and play a character I’ve played before and see if I can do it again. It’s been 20 years, I don’t know what I did! I had to watch the movie before I started working to remind myself what I was doing.
SF: Besides being 20 years later and 20 years older, what is Dr. Okun like now compared to the first film?
BS: He’s pretty much the same. If you remember from the first movie, he was already an anachronism. He’s a hippie from the sixties and the idea is that he took too much acid in college but he’s brilliant as well so really, it’s like 20 years has gone by for everyone else but he’s pretty much the same guy. A little more frazzled by the experience in the last film but pretty much the same guy.
SF: Does he ever get to leave Area 51?
BS: (smiling) He doesn’t ever leave. He’s still there. I’m hoping when we make a third film he will emerge from underground.
SF: Have you read the prequel book about Dr. Okun, ‘Silent Zone’ that was written after ‘Independence Day’?
BS: I did!
SF: Did that influence how you played the character this time around?
BS: Not really because they wrote it after I played him and based it on how I played him.
SF: Which is amazing since you didn’t have a lot of screen time in ‘Independence Day.’
BS: I know! They wrote a whole book about my character! In the first film the way it was originally written, he was just a doctor on the page. There was nothing weird about him. So I went to Roland and Dean and asked can I add long hair and they said “Yes!” and that sort of took off. That made his backstory clearer and I think that’s what the writer of the book took off from.
SF: Will we get to learn more about Dr. Okun in this film?
BS: Everyone’s got a story [ in ‘Resurgence’] and I’ve got more of a story in this one than the first one.
SF: That’s what I liked about the first film. Even with a limited screen time, each character was developed in a way that you got invested in them. Even Randy Quaid’s character who didn’t have that much screen time either you felt that loss…
BS: I want to mention Randy briefly… I’ve known Randy since he was 14. We went to high school together so ‘Independence Day’ was really fun because we hadn’t worked together on film since high school. We did a lot of plays together then he shows up on the same film set. I hope things turn around for him. He’s struggled the last few years and he’s such an incredibly talented actor. I’d love it if he can get a good turn somewhere… but [his character] is definitely dead in [‘Independence Day’] and I was maybe dead but not really.
SF. What was it like working with Roland Emmerich again?
BS: Loved it! Love working with Roland. Roland is so much fun because he’s so enthusiastic for one thing. He never loses his enthusiasm. He’s exactly the same after 17 hours of filming as he was in the morning. He’s very collaborative. If you have an idea and have something, he’s so open to it and will build on it. He knows what everything’s gonna look like. He’s a master. He’s certainly a master of this genre. I love working with him!
SF. Speaking of Roland, he had stated to us that he really wanted you back for the film and thought you were the most underrated actor in the business
BS: Oh wow. That’s so nice! That’s very sweet. I adore him and enjoy working with him.
SF: Lastly, and I have to ask this… I’m sure you saw Patrick Stewart play F***, Marry and Kill video…
SF: Your turn! Who would you F***, Marry or Kill given Capt. Picard, Troi, or Riker and if you want, you can substitute Worf in there.
BS: (laughing) If those were my choices, I think I’d kill myself.
You can catch Spiner and the rest of the cast of ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ in theaters now.