Sir Patrick Stewart and the cast of Star Trek: Picard reassembled for a virtual chat as part of the Comic-Con@Home Star Trek Universe panel. This included some of Sir Pat’s Star Trek: The Next Generation co-stars who appeared in Picard. While the panel didn’t offer any clues about the second season, both the new and returning cast members offered up a lot of insights into their characters.
Closure for Data
Brent Spiner had two roles in the first season of Star Trek: Picard, reprising his Star Trek: The Next Generation role of Data, and playing new character Altan Inigo Soong. The actor said the new role was what motivated him:
It was terrific. It was part of what really encouraged me to do the show. I had sort of put Data to sleep, or blew up him or something, and didn’t really expect to ever be doing that again. And then I met with Alex and Akiva and Michael, and, well… they wept. They actually cried, begging me to come do it… But then I spoke to Patrick about it, and HE wept. So I thought, “Of course, let’s do this.”
Later when asked about giving closure to Data, Spiner replied without the sarcasm:
We had had closure, of a sort, in Nemesis. This was a different kind of closure. And it’s kind of a wonderful gift, in both cases, we’ve had some of the greatest writers in the world write these two closures for us. I’m utterly grateful for that.
Sir Patrick also weighed in on the topic:
Working with someone I’ve known for 35 years, and whom I love, and discussing aspects of living that apply to both of us, Brent, I think we can say, and most importantly learning from Data that his desire to be human had to include the knowledge of certainty that life was terminal. That it would end and it is the fact that it will end that makes living so important. And living well, and properly and appropriately and for society as much as for yourself.
The Rikers in Space, again
Also returning from Star Trek: The Next Generation were Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi and Jonathan Frakes as her husband Will Riker. For years, they have delighted convention crowds with their tongue-in-cheek sitcom pitch for “The Rikers in Space,” but Picard actually brought them back in the episode “Nepenthe,” finding the pair still married and in retirement. Frakes also returned in the season finale as an acting Starfleet captain. Sirtis said she was surprised it all happened, while Frakes revealed he was nervous about moving back from behind the camera to in front of it:
Marina Sirtis: Johnny, did you think that we’d ever be back in space? Because I didn’t. I didn’t think I’d be back in space. I was just happy, to be honest, that I didn’t have to wear the spacesuit. Because I wouldn’t fit in it anymore. So that would be an issue. But it was lovely. It was really lovely. Johnny, over to you.
Jonathan Frakes: I had just directed [Patrick]… I knew that Patrick was at the top of his game and I loved working with him. And then Marina had just closed in a play in the West End, I knew that her acting muscles were pretty strong. And I was a nervous wreck to come back as Wild Bill Riker, Space Cowboy.
A couple of other stars of Star Trek: Picard were reprising their roles as former Borg. Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager) were both happy to see how fans reacted to their return to Trek:
Jeri Ryan: It’s been amazing. And the fan reaction has been kind of overwhelming. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun to bring back these characters we played so long ago, and I could not be more thrilled with the way they’ve developed her.
Jonathan Del Arco: It surprised me that there was that much love for the character, even though I knew it organically because I’ve been at conventions for so many years. I was honestly surprised at the amount of love I got, and excitement and how the fans really craved to know how that adolescent character had evolved into a man. And so that was surprising to me. It was very gratifying.
New cast drawing off each other for energy
For his part, Sir Patrick said he “made the right decision” to bring back Jean-Luc Picard after he was initially reluctant, especially as the show had a different take on the character. Although there was some joking about how it took him a while to learn everyone’s names, Stewart also talked about being energized by his new cast:
The daily excitement was working with you guys, and discovering this extraordinary range of talents that had been assembled. Because there is such diversity in our ensemble that for probably the first five episodes, I was just awash with the satisfaction, the deep profound satisfaction, of working with you all. BUT, he was also not the same man. He was a disappointed, sad, guilty, angry, possibly dangerous individual. So that was what absorbed me. As the season wore on, I began to feel, as I had begun to feel with Next Generation, that the character was actually inside me anyway, and twenty years had passed for Patrick.
His new co-stars were just as effusive talking about working with Stewart.
Michelle Hurd (Raffi Musiker): That’s right there in my amazing scene partner. I, like the rest of us, first meeting [Patrick]–you know, it’s intimidating… All this to say, that all the people out there who think of Patrick Stewart in this sort of iconic world which we all place him in—the truth is, he’s one of the most generous, human, empathetic individuals I’ve had the honor to work with.
Evan Evagora (Elnor): Meeting everyone, initially. I was terrified. Patrick Stewart, I don’t know if you remember but you introduced yourself and I just said, “Good, thanks.” You said “Hi, I’m Patrick” and I just said, “Good thanks.” It took me a day to get over that entire embarrassment. But then the cast and everyone, including Jonathan [Frakes] directed my first episode, they all made everything very easy and comfortable. It’s never really been hard or difficult. It has just been fun since the beginning.
Santiago Cabrera (Cristobal Rios): [On the Rios/Picard relationship] It was like discovering it as you go along as well, and that how different as they were, you start to realize some similarities as well. Not just the background of being from Starfleet, and that kind of similar background, but at the end of the day what I think was interesting from Rios is that… at the beginning he rejects him [Picard] for being the embodiment of Starfleet, but then as the season goes along he starts to see the real man.
Alison Pill (Dr. Agnes Jurati) explained why she was drawn to the role, attributing her interest to Patrick Stewart, as well as Michael Chabon’s take on Star Trek:
Having a showrunner who both appreciates the whole idea of both appreciating Star Trek and kind of take it into a new direction. It’s streaming. We get to use the f-word. That combination was very exciting to me of amplifying the things that worked and taking it into new directions at the same time.
Isa Briones, like Brent Spiner, played multiple characters on the show (Soji/Dahj/Sutra), but said it wasn’t too challenging:
The way that it unraveled was very gradual, so it didn’t feel like a total shock to the system, because as I was auditioning, I didn’t realize I was auditioning for multiple characters, and then I eventually found out they were twins, and then one of them is gone pretty quickly, so I was like, ‘All right well, this is your usual playing your one role,’ but then Sutra came in later. And I think the fact that I had so much of the beginning filming process to just lock in Soji and who she was, was amazing because then Sutra came later, and I already knew who Soji was.
Watch it for the banter
In addition to the character commentary there was a lot of fun banter during the panel showing great chemistry for both the Next Gen cast and the new Picard cast. Marina Sirtis was in especially high spirits, jumping in to comment throughout the panel and admonishing the Picard cast for taking Patrick Stewart so seriously.
You can watch the entire panel here (video should cue up to Picard segment, starting at 59:37):
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