TrekMovie joined a group press interview with Sir Patrick Stewart to talk about what’s new for his character in season two of Star Trek: Picard, the return of some familiar faces, and shooting two seasons (two and three) back-to-back.
Note: The interview contains some minor spoilers and has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How do you find the balance between playing nostalgia but also making things new and exciting with Picard?
There is one condition in what the work we’re doing now, which is an absolute understanding that the 30 to 33 years that have passed since I took off the captain’s uniform for the last time, that time has also passed for Jean-Luc Picard and Commander Riker and Deanna Troi, and everyone. And it’s not just aging, it’s comprehension, it’s understanding, it’s compassion. It’s being brave enough to change one’s life by linking it to another person. All of these things, which most of them have happened to me. So, we’re not looking at Jean-Luc Picard in the future. We’re actually looking back over the last 30 years as well. We’re doing both things, in fact.
At times during season one, it seemed like Picard was someone who had been broken by the experiences that he dealt with at the end of his career. So now that he’s literally got a renewal on his life, how much do the experiences of season one factor into who he is in season two?
I think that he has put a lot of that aside. His new understanding is one related to individuals and close relationships with people. He is understanding that his childhood was not resolved in the way that he’s always believed it was. That he had a misunderstanding about what happened within his family, between his mother and his father, and himself. And this, I think, is one of the primary reasons that led him to join Starfleet, because then you escape. Joining Starfleet is a big running away, while at the same time putting yourself in the firing line for huge experiences to happen to you. So it’s both. It’s denying one thing and embracing something else.
And so that’s been the fundamental heartland of this new Picard. It’s the same man, because it’s Patrick Stewart. And, okay, I’ve undergone some changes. And I’ve had some drama in my life and good things and not too good. But it all has fed into being Jean-Luc Picard. And I love it! I love it that we have come back to present-day Los Angeles. I didn’t have much to do in those sections, but it gave me enormous pleasure to be blending 400 years from now with the present day.
Looking at Picard season one as something of closure of the past, then in season two, you’ve now brought us literally to our present. Is there a thematic trilogy here of past, present and future?
I have never heard this expressed quite in the way you have. And I think it’s unique. And yes, you have put your finger on something that’s very important, and why the number three has become critical to the kind of work that we’re doing. I have eight more days of filming. That’s all. And for one, I’m eager for it to come around because I badly need a rest. We’ve just done 13 months of continuous work, which has been challenging, but we are always there. But it’s all been made doable and continually interesting. Because we’re not just dealing with the future, but looking at the past, and how the past has made us into a certain kind of person who may not be authentic, who might just possibly be fake, or phony or, or lying to himself. That’s all part of what we’re doing, in a more personal sense… in these two seasons.
What do you think it is between Picard and Guinan that draws them together and makes their friendship and their bond so close?
Oh, that’s a good question. A feeling that absolute openness and frankness can exist between them. I don’t know about Guinan, because I don’t know about her whole life. She’s lived for about 500 years, I believe. But I’m not sure that Picard has ever encountered anyone like that before. And to be in the company of someone who requires openness, honesty, frankness, self-observation, as part of their life. As well as having a good time. It makes for a fascinating combination of elements, when you begin to put together a character and a character’s relationship as well.
In Jean-Luc’s previous interactions with Q, he’s often served as humanity’s advocate. How does that change now that Jean-Luc is an android?
[chuckles] Yes, I think this android element is really irritating. I actually managed to find one spot, one little corner, when I could let it out. It’s about learning to live honestly, authentically, not hiding, not denying. But being open and accepting about how you live. And Guinan, of course, is the one significant person who has brought this into Picard’s life, but so has Q. There have been little tiny details threaded into Q’s character, and the scenes that I played with him, which have been in part Q confessing something about himself or admitting something about himself. And the impact that Q has had on Jean-Luc becomes greater and greater with each episode. And I found that to be wonderful.
And when John [de Lancie] and I shot our last scene, and the director announced that it was goodbye to John, I found that we were both of us with tears in our eyes. And, in a sense, we were still being Q and Picard. Those tears represented history. But at the same time, it was just the closing of the sheer delight of working with someone like John de Lancie who brought so much to every single moment and every shot that we did and every scene that we were rehearsed. And it was over! It was very, very moving for everybody on the set that day. But it was the feeling that everyone had primarily about John de Lancie.
The first parts of the season find you and Picard back in more of a Starfleet world. Could talk about the level of improvement and changes in production design that you’ve experienced now being in a 2022-constructed starship, compared to your time in the past television and films?
It’s not just on filming Star Trek, but on all other elements of film and television that I’ve been working in the last 25 years. The advances in technology have been such that in one respect, things are being made much easier. But they’re also becoming more of a challenge. At times, it does feel as though technology is an enemy, and not what it has felt in the past.
Almost every year I find that there are different approaches. The way our show is lit, for example, I’ve never seen before. Little elements of it may be in the last five years may be creeping in, but suddenly is huge, and is taken over how the films are being shot and how they will look too. And I think the great advantage of this is that because they can take up a lot of time of setting up, they are going to make what you’re looking at seem more real than ever before.
More to come
Check out our previously released interview with co-showrunner Akiva Goldsman and interview with John de Lancie for more about Picard season two. TrekMovie will have interviews with more cast members in the days leading up to the premiere, so stay tuned.
The second season of Star Trek: Picard will arrive on March 3.
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