The highlight panel for Friday at Star Trek Las Vegas was Sir Patrick Stewart who said he “loved” coming to the Vegas cons but can’t always do so as work keeps him away. His hour-long panel to a packed house covered a wide range of topics spanning his entire career, but a few moments related to his time starting (and ending) as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation really stood out.
Roddenberry ‘profoundly disagreed’ Stewart was right for Picard
When asked about his relationship with Star Trek: The Next Generation creator Gene Roddenberry, Stewart revealed:
Gene and I did not have a close relationship. We had a respectful relationship. Gene had very strongly felt that I was wrong for the role…I am told, and I don’t know the details, but there was a lot of warfare that went on in the producers offices about that.
Stewart also recalled how he was originally discovered by producer Robert Justman leading to a less than satisfying first meeting with Roddenberry.
I was invited up to Gene’s house one morning after I had been seen by Robert Justman on the stage at Royce Hall in UCLA. Justman discovered me. Apparently – and his wife claimed this was true – at some point during this scholarly, academic evening he turned to his wife and said “we found the captain.” Gene saw me the next morning and profoundly disagreed.
The actor noted that eventually Roddenberry was “worn down” and convinced to cast him for the role, and he added:
I got the feeling that he was ultimately kind of satisfied with how it turned out.
Becoming one with Picard, but mixing the tea
During the Q&A in response to a question about his favorite episode (“The Inner Light”), Sir Patrick opened up about how the line between himself and the character became blurred:
The thing is with Jean-Luc Picard, the longer I played him, the closer and closer I came to him and he came to me. It reached a point where I no longer had to sit in my trailer and think “OK, what did Jean-Luc have for breakfast this morning/” and “How does Jean-Luc feel about Commander Riker?” because I knew. It became ingrained so that my responses and behaviors on the set was one that was internalized. I knew him well. The character and the actor merged so totally so that I could not separate them at all.
However, he didn’t completely become Picard. When asked about his preference for tea he noted that he did differ somewhat with Picard’s favored choice:
Actually I do [like Early Grey]. What I like to do is mix Earl Grey tea with English Breakfast.
Proud to be Picard – but didn’t want it to dominate life
Stewart also talked about life after The Next Generation and how there was a downside to being so associated with the role of Picard (something he has also discussed before). He recalled the story of how it was due to Picard that he originally turned down the role of Professor Charles Xavier for the X-Men franchise:
Some of you may not like the sound of this but you have to see it from my point of view. It was a handful of years after Star Trek and the movies – and I was already experiencing that not everything that came out of my world of Captain Picard was good. I found that competing for other roles was challenging…I realized I had a little bit of a battle to fight to persuade people that I was not just Jean Luc-Picard. I am very proud to be Jean-Luc Picard, but I certainly didn’t need to have it dominate my life. So I said no. I am already struggling with one franchise, why would I take on a second franchise.
However, due to director Bryan Singer being a “smooth-talking bastard,” Stewart was persuaded to take on the role, which he has played in multiple films including this year’s Logan.
Never was to play Shinzon
During the Q&A portion a fan asked Stewart about a rumor that he was originally supposed to play the Picard clone Shinzon in the film Star Trek: Nemesis (in addition to playing Capt. Picard). Stewart quickly dispelled the notion:
I have never heard that before. It is news to me. [Star Trek: Nemesis producer] Rick Berman and I did discuss the casting of Shinzon. And hasn’t [Tom Hardy, the actor cast as Shinzon] done really well?…It would have been interesting but there would have been a problem that he was meant to be many years younger than me and I don’t know how we could have done that. It would have been difficult. It is an interesting concept, but I don’t think I would have been comfortable with it.
One last thing, at one point during the panel Sir Patrick delighted the crowd with a demonstration of the famed Picard Maneuver. We caught the moment during our live-tweeting.
— TrekMovie.com (@TrekMovie) August 4, 2017
More Star Trek Las Vegas Coverage
Stay tuned for additional coverage coming all week long.