Patrick Stewart: Picard is more our world than Next Generation

LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 14: Actor Patrick Stewart, who played the character Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on the television series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," speaks at the Star Trek convention at the Las Vegas Hilton August 14, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 14: Actor Patrick Stewart, who played the character Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on the television series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," speaks at the Star Trek convention at the Las Vegas Hilton August 14, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Sir Patrick Stewart revealed how much Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was opposed to him originally, how Star Trek: Picard reflects our times better than Next Gen, and how he “felt like Sting” when he attended his first Trek convention.

Star Trek: Picard is just a few weeks away, and excitement has been building for Patrick Stewart’s eagerly awaited return as one of the most popular icons in the nerdverse, Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The acclaimed actor — who has done his fair share of Shakespeare adaptations and other celebrated works — talked about the relevance of bringing Picard back during our divisive times in Variety, with some very surprising revelations.

How Hugh Jackman helped make it happen

It’s been more than 25 years since Star Trek: The Next Generation aired its last episode, and over 17 years since the TNG characters concluded with the disappointing (both narrative and box office) Star Trek: Nemesis. In the interview, Stewart admitted he wanted to correct the impression that Star Trek: Nemesis left, and said his experience working with Hugh Jackman in Logan inspired him to rewrite the Picard narrative.

“Hugh and I were so thrilled when the last thing we did for X-Men was Logan,” Stewart explained. “It was the best X-Men experience we both had, because we were the same characters but their world had been blown apart.” He added, “Next Generation didn’t end like that. In fact, our last movie, Nemesis, was pretty weak.”

Logan is an excellent example of how a franchise can be reimagined and take on a darker tone that still resonates with a fanbase, if there’s an excellent script. And from the looks of Picard, the sleek and intense storytelling seem to be just as captivating. Star Trek narratives have received a new life since the 2009 J.J. Abrams’ film that featured the young versions of The Original characters, and with Star Trek: Discovery on CBS Access.

Thankfully, he didn’t listen to Ian McKellen

If talking with Jackman helped the 79-year-old revered actor revisit the popular captain on his own terms, Stewart wisely ignored the advice from his good friend and X-Men co-star (as well as alum from the Royal Shakespeare Company) Sir Ian McKellen. The 80-year-old counseled Stewart against the television gig that made him a household name.

“He had had a distinguished career doing Shakespeare, and he was a leading young actor here doing the classics,” McKellen said in Variety. “He said he had been asked to go do Star Trek, and I said, ‘Do be very careful. You’re having such a wonderful career here; to stop it to go off and do a telly that might not work is a very dangerous step.’ Thank goodness he didn’t take my advice.”

The Shakespeare-trained Stewart may have been ambivalent of his Star Trek fame at first, but became “very proud” of his Next Gen work as the series progressed. Looking back at riveting episodes such as “The Chain of Command,” there were plenty of opportunities for Stewart to display his classical range and be challenged.

“I felt like Sting,” was how Stewart described attending his first Star Trek convention. He also noted that his American counterparts taught him to relax on set during Next Gen.

What Gene Roddenberry thought of him originally

Stewart also talked about Star Trek’s visionary creator, Gene Roddenberry, being adamant in not wanting the actor to play a role coming after the swashbuckling Captain James. T. Kirk. He noted that Roddenberry felt he was “too old and too bald,” taking it further in a Paramount memo: “I do not want to hear Patrick Stewart’s name mentioned ever again in connection with Next Generation.”

“I know more than once, I caught him sitting in his director’s chair looking at me, and I knew he was thinking, ‘How the f— did we end up with this guy?’” recalled Stewart about Roddenberry’s visits to the set. You can read more about how attitudes evolved for Stewart and Roddenberry in the full Variety interview, which also includes the British actor talking about working with David Warner, the Cardassian Gul Madred who interrogates Picard on “The Chain of Command.” (“There are four lights!”)

Why Picard reflects our society more realistically than Next Gen

Next Generation was the first syndicated series to receive an Emmy nomination and a Hugo award for “The Inner Light.” As great as Star Trek: The Next Generation was, Patrick Stewart seemed resigned to think that it just was too ideal, and Picard highlights the corruption we’ve grown used to and the fractious world we live in today.

"“In a way, the world of Next Generation had been too perfect and too protected,” Stewart said of Next Gen. “It was the Enterprise. It was a safe world of respect and communication and care and, sometimes, fun.”The Federation in Picard is more isolationist than inclusive, with Stewart describing a current Jean-Luc Picard, “responding to the world of Brexit and Trump and feeling, ‘Why hasn’t the Federation changed? Why hasn’t Starfleet changed?’ Maybe they’re not as reliable and trustworthy as we all thought.”"

The full interview with the actor is in Variety, that also includes fascinating insight into Stewart’s childhood and difficulty coming to terms with his father, recently re-visiting his acclaimed A Christmas Carol, discovering acting, and so much more. For any Stewart fan, it is a must-read.

Picard will pick up the action from the French vineyard where Captain Picard has retired to, still dealing with the aftermath of decisions that have haunted him since Nemesis.

Next. 5 characters we want to make cameos in Star Trek: Picard. dark

Star Trek: Picard premieres on January 23, 2020, on ABC All Access, with fans in the UK able to view episodes the next day on Amazon Prime. It is one of the most exciting shows to watch for this year. Stay tuned here for all your Star Trek: Picard news.