THE NEXT GENERATION OF SIR PATRICK STEWART
CBS Watch! Magazine|January - February 2020
THE RENOWNED ACTOR IS BACK TO GUIDE US THROUGH THE GALAXY IN STAR TREK: PICARD
GINA MCINTYRE
SPEAKING WITH SIR PATRICK Stewart, the first thing one notices is the power and resonance of his voice, that magnificent, mellifluous baritone. It radiates intelligence, commands respect, and suggests profound wisdom acquired during a lifetime of experience—all qualities that the actor imbued Captain Jean-Luc Picard with more than three decades ago, when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987.

By the time he took his seat as the sage, steadfast captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the consummate statesman of the United Federation of Planets, Stewart had long since established himself as a leading presence on the London stage, with impeccable credentials including a 15-year tenure with the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company. Picard became the cerebral, dignified counterpoint to William Shatner’s hot-tempered, impulsive Captain Kirk, and fans around the world embraced the character with zeal. Yet when Stewart’s Trek tenure concluded in 2002, after seven seasons of television and four spinoff feature films, the venerable actor didn’t look back, embarking instead on a slew of movie, television, and theater projects.

He headlined the blockbuster X-Men franchise as the powerful, telepathic mutant Charles Xavier. He played a backwoods leader of a white nationalist gang in the 2015 cult movie Green Room; he starred as a misguided British newscaster trying to make it in America on the acclaimed comedy series Blunt Talk. And he and Sir Ian McKellen, old friends and X-Men colleagues, became the toast of London for a 2009 production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. When the actors reprised their roles—as well as starring in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land on Broadway four years later—the two knights earned a legion of new fans for their internet palling around, thanks to a series of fun-loving selfies. (McKellen even officiated Stewart’s 2013 marriage to Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Sunn Ozell.) Captain Picard, it seemed, was gone for good.

Then came an encounter in 2017 with producers Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman, and Kirsten Beyer, who pitched Stewart their take on a new series that would bring his character out of retirement. “I took the meeting in order to explain to them kindly, politely, in detail, why I was turning down their offer,” remembers Stewart, 79. During their conversation, however, the actor began to see the potential in reprising his most famous role.

As the producers imagined it, time off wasn’t suiting the iconic hero, who appears to have lost his way while living out his days in France. Stewart was intrigued by the creative possibilities. “We quite quickly learn that this is not a happy camper,” says Stewart of Picard. “He is not the same outgoing, positive, optimistic individual that we saw on the Enterprise. I became very interested in picking up the threads of this character whose life had fundamentally changed.”

As his famous alter ego prepares to embark on a mission that takes him to the place where he’s most at home—the stars—Stewart shares what audiences can expect from the show’s first season, and how it felt to re-engage with Federation space after so much time away.

The early looks of Star Trek: Picard have been incredible. This must be such an exciting moment for you.

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