Sir Patrick Stewart’s new series, Star Trek: Picard, spotlights the next chapter in the character’s life.
It’s been almost 20 years since Sir Patrick Stewart portrayed the iconic role of Jean-Luc Picard, which he played for seven seasons on Star Trek: The Next Generation and in four movies.
CBS All Access streaming service premieres Star Trek: Picard on January 23rd, 2020. In Canada it’s on the same service as Star Trek: Discovery. Elsewhere in the world you can find it on Amazon Prime.
Sir Patrick Stewart came to the TV Critics tour today, Sunday January 12th, to tell us how excited he is to be bringing back his beloved role.
Sir Patrick, what was it like stepping back into Picard all these years later? The first time that you were back in costume and back in that role?
Sir Patrick Stewart: Well, of course I wasn’t in costume because I only appear very briefly in my uniform, and this was another one of the rather presumptuous conditions that I laid down. I didn’t want to wear a uniform in this, because I felt it very important that we put a lot of distance between Next Generation and what we are seeking to do here in this.
Not ignore it, no, not at all. But so far as the character’s concerned, halfway through Season 3 of Next Generation, I no longer knew where Jean-Luc started and Patrick Stewart left off. We became melded, and (that) has never left me.
So there was actually nothing that strange to be stepping into Star Trek: Picard, because he’s never actually left me. He has always been there, and it’s a relationship that I am happy to continue with. That’s an understatement. I’m absolutely thrilled to continue.
Did you think you would ever play this character again? Had you gone through the process of saying good bye to him for good?
Sir Patrick: Oh, yes. Years ago. I was proud of the work we did on the seven years on the series and the four movies that we made. The last one maybe had less impact than the others, and that brought the franchise to a close.
I was very content with that because I felt, as I’ve said, very proud of the work we had done. But the context in which the work was done, the fact that we were then, as we are now, an ensemble and not a star led series, it has been far easier than I expected to make this transition nearly 20 years later. But because, as I’ve said, the man exists inside me, the interesting question for me is, and we talked for days, what happened in those 20 years?
So now I have a very clear vision, and little snippets of that backstory will creep into the series that I’m sure already has, because it is important that our audience get to know why we are living in the world that we are, and what it is that has brought that about.
I wanted to ask about the dog on the show. Obviously, you are passionate about pit bulls. Did any of that have to do with you?
Sir Patrick: Like so many things of this show, it has a great deal to do with me.
The dog I think was it my idea?
Picard’s life has changed. He’s troubled, disturbed, lonely, and with feelings of strange, unnatural guilt. To just see him with a dog seemed to me to write a lot of things that didn’t have to be said, because the presence of the dog alone means that he’s looking for some form of comfort, which he cannot find anywhere else, but he finds it in the dog.
Yes, it had to be a pit bull, because I’m passionate about these dogs, and they are abused and treated appallingly all over the world. I’m now campaigning in the UK for the laws to be changed and for them to be allowed into the country. So it’s terrific to have Dinero in the sequel, and I hope we see much more of him.
Why do you think Star Trek has endured as a franchise for 50 plus years?
Sir Patrick: Hope. It is the dominant emotion behind everything that we did on Next Generation and, as I’m beginning to discover, on Picard too. It has always been part of the content of Star Trek. That it will be attempting to create a better future. With the certain belief that a better future is possible if the right kind of work and the right kind of people are engaged in that.
My feeling was, as I look all around our world today, there has never been a more important moment when entertainment and show business can address some of the issues that are potentially damaging our world today. I’m not saying we are turning Star Trek into a political show, not remotely. What we are making is entertainment, but that it should reflect perhaps in a subtle and gentle way the world that we are living in, is what Star Trek has always done, and I think it’s important.
In the pantheon of Star Trek actors, you are now and have been face of Star Trek, in a sense. Does it ever bother you that Star Trek will be the work you’ll be most known for?
Sir Patrick: No, it doesn’t bother me that I’m identified in that way, partly because I know that there are some people I won’t name any names, but their initials are Bill Shatner – (everyone laughs) who might take a little offense by what you said about that. But I am very content to stand in Bill’s shadow.
Was it a blessing or a burden?
Sir Patrick: It has at times been a burden, yes. I’ve been honest about this. I found quite soon after we wrapped the fourth of our movies, Star Trek: Nemesis, that I had hung a albatross around my neck.
This is a story I’ve told probably to every one of you at different times. I got an interview with a director who I was passionate to meet with because there was a role in his next movie, a small role I wanted to play. And he was very nice to me and saw me and said, ‘I think you do terrific work, but why would I want Jean Luc Picard in my movie?’
That was a savage blow for quite a long time. So I went out of my way to try to find as many diverse roles as possible, and that was fun. The biggest most important one was Jeffrey, of course. It came out just after Next Generation closed.
It has taken a while for me to truly absorb the impact of this work. And being with a new, brilliant, ensemble I feel, once again, the sense of pride. I’m not the leader, but in a sense, I’m a kind of symbol. I’m very content to be that because I think it’s all about the quality of the work.
Sir Patrick Stewart Soundbyte
I asked Sir Patrick which of his Next Generation co-stars will be in Picard?