Something's going on these days that just might involve Star Trek's space-time continuum by way of Syfy's Warehouse 13. Brent Spiner, aka Cmdr. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, kicked off his run last week on Warehouse 13 as a mysterious monk named Brother Adrian.
"I just want to hire great actors," said Warehouse 13 executive producer Jack Kenny. "And I feel like that's what we get with somebody like Brent or Jeri Ryan or Kate Mulgrew or René Auberjonois. Yes, they have a sci-fi icon background, but they're also magnificent actors in their own right. And so they bring that to the table, which is probably why they're sci-fi icons, by the way."
Spiner appeared on the season-four premiere of Warehouse 13 last week. While his character died, time was reversed, which will allow him to cause all sorts of trouble for Artie (Saul Rubinek) and the team throughout the first 10 episodes of the season, which will run this summer.
"It was the first monk I've ever played," said Spiner. "I've never played a man of the cloth that I can remember. Every role is different from the one you've played before, hopefully. This is nothing like playing an android, for example."
"The storyline about Brother Adrian—we always like to have a Big Bad in each season, and we like to play with what that Big Bad is and what's underneath. Even with someone like MacPherson or Sykes, it's never black and white, 'He's just an evil guy.' There's always a reasonable thing going on underneath, there's a reasonable desire," said Kenny.
"It's a gray area. Everybody has their reasons for doing what they're doing, and Brother Adrian has his reasons for going after Artie, as you'll see in the next episode. It was really about giving Artie an arc for the season, and about giving him a nemesis," he added.
"He's a very powerful character, too, and that's the other thing that Brent brings to the table is a sense of power without having to twirl a mustache or flex a muscle. He just has a presence," said Kenny. "And that was what was so important for Brother Adrian is that there has to be almost a serene, powerful presence that you understand when you see this guy. Do what he says, or you will be unhappy. And that's very important for the relationship that we build throughout the season between Artie and Adrian."
As for Saul Rubinek, who plays Artie, he's known Spiner for a long time, and, in fact, they worked together on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
"It was like swimming in a rainbow to work with Saul again," said Spiner. "No, actually Saul is an amazing actor, he's an amazing talent, and it was just fantastic to be back on stage with him. We have a history that goes beyond even Star Trek. We did a play together in 1978 at the New York Shakespeare Festival. So Saul and I have quite a history of working [together]."
"You were each 10 years old," joked Kenny.
"Well, I think Saul was 11, because he is older than me," said Spiner, without missing a beat.
"It's fun watching them work because, after a while, it became a war of pauses. They would each say their line with so much intensity that the next one had to beat it," said Kenny. "It's a really fun ride, I'll tell you. Their relationship is not like anything you're going to expect."
"The Brother Adrian-Artie relationship is very, very much like two brothers, which is one of the great advantages of having Brent play it, because Saul and Brent act very much like two brothers. And they have that inherent chemistry going on, so you turn a camera on them and it just comes through. And it leads very well into the familial nature of our show," said Kenny.
Spiner said he loved working on the show, although his wardrobe was a little unusual.
Brother Adrian is a monk, so he wore a "cassock for the whole time, and it's not something that most people are used to wearing, and [he] had to do a lot in it," said Kenny.
And that started banter between the two which ended up in a very revealing place.
"I think [the cassock] looks great. Very glad we went that direction, but I know at first it was a concern in terms of how much you were going to be able to do in it. Did you feel like that got in your way at all?" Kenny asked Spiner.
"You know what? It really didn't. And you're right, I did initially think, 'Oh, my gosh, is this going to be inhibiting in some way?' And it really isn't, it kind of informed a lot of things and in the right way. And sometimes the externals will do that," said Spiner.
"Yes, it gave you a real stillness," said Kenny.
"Yes, exactly. And I am wearing it right now, actually," joked Spiner.
"And nothing else," said Kenny, egging on Spiner.
"Exactly, and nothing else, as I was on the set."
"Which is why those scenes have that subtext going on," said Kenny. "In the close-ups, Saul is not wearing any pants."
"Exactly! So we were only shot from the waist up, thank god," said Spiner.
Of course, it seems Spiner and Kenny can't quite help themselves. While Spiner's Brother Adrian won't be cracking jokes on Warehouse 13, the actor admits he loves humor.
When it comes to Brother Adrian, "you get a different version of Brent Spiner humor. Because he spends the entire season basically torturing and toying with Saul. So it's an evil humor that comes through, I think, in a lot of ways," said Kenny.
"Exactly, it's the real Brent Spiner humor. It's the evil Brent Spiner humor," said Spiner.
For Spiner, there were some challenges beyond wardrobe when it came to playing the mysterious Big Bad with evil humor. "The most complicated thing about playing Brother Adrian for me was figuring out who he was. I never quite knew who he was until the episode after the one we were shooting would come out," he said. "When we were working on episode two, or my episode two, I had an idea about how to play him until episode three arrived. And I read that and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, no, no, no! I was all wrong. Let me go back.' It's a very tricky and complicated role."
While it's certainly not the first complicated role he's had, Spiner admits he's surprised to have done as much sci-fi as he has done. Beyond his iconic role as Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, he's done everything from the films like Independence Day to a significant role on Syfy's Alphas to the web series Fresh Hell.
"It wasn't a plan. I'm not like really zeroed in focused on sci-fi. But if it's good sci-fi, I like it. I like westerns too. I like comedy. I was much more of a Lucy kind of guy than I was a Star Trek kind of guy. But fate has taken me in this direction, and as Robert Frost said, 'That made all the difference,'" said Spiner.
"I think my association with Syfy is just happenstance. Really my bag, if I have one, has always been comedy and I just have found my way into this. I don't know how it happened and I'm tearing at the walls trying to get out ... No, I'm not," he said.
Luckily, he'll be around for a while with Warehouse 13, which has a 20-episode, two-part season this year. "The first 10 really follow an arc unto themselves and, as we usually do, end with a major cliffhanger and major emotional turmoil," said Kenny.
"Essentially, the Brother Adrian character wraps up in the first 10 episodes. I will not rule out bringing Brent back again, because I absolutely just love working with him. So if I have my druthers, we'll see Brother Adrian once again," he added.
"Well, thank you. And I will not rule out coming back again, because I need a job ... No, because I love working with Jack and Saul and Eddie and the crew. It was fantastic," said Spiner.
Here's a look a look at last week's knife-wielding Brother Adrian:
Are you happy to see Brent Spiner on Warehouse 13 as the new Big Bad?