In his seven-decade career, Patrick Stewart has starred as Scrooge and Macbeth on Broadway, from the tragic King Lear to King Richard in Mel Brooks’ 1993 farce “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”
Of course, there’s Professor Charles Xavier in the “X-Men” film series and even the glorious turd of a movie role, Poop Emoji in 2017’s “The Emoji Movie.”
But mostly, when his global legions of fans think of Stewart, he’s bellowing “Engage!” as USS Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the iconic “Star Trek: The Next Generation” role that made him a household name in 1987 at 46 and carried through seven indelible seasons, 176 episodes and four movies.
Stewart, 82, returns to his retired Starfleet commander in the third and final season of the Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Picard” (streaming weekly on Thursdays).
After retiring to his wine vineyard, Picard is pulled back for a secret mission, posing as a visiting dignitary aboard the USS Titan.
Stewart tells USA TODAY he’s proud to return to the role that’s had the greatest impact on his formidable career. “There’s never been anything to compete with ‘Star Trek,’ in terms of interest in my work,” says Stewart. “‘X-Men,’ yes. But it didn’t have the exposure of ‘Star Trek’ for seven years. That’s a lot.
More from Stewart (interview edited and condensed for clarity):
Question: Looking back, your 1980-era first Picard discussions with late “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry went terribly. What happened?
Answer: My first meeting in Gene’s home did not go well. It lasted for 10 minutes and Gene made it clear it was over. I said goodbye. Apparently, after I left, Gene asked, ‘Who the hell’s idea was it to invite him?’ But (producers) Robert Justman and Rick Berman convinced Gene to accept me as Picard. He was never comfortable with me.
“Star Trek: Picard” Season 3 is a “Next Generation” reunion with Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Worf (Michael Dorn) and Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), to name a few.
It’s not a reunion; it’s an emergency. This is the final hope we have with these people because the whole planet – the whole galaxy – is under threat. Profoundly serious. I was intrigued by that. And I was finally able to persuade (“Picard” executive producer Terry Matalas) that I would not wear the uniform. It’s uniform-looking, but no badges. It’s not his life anymore.
We briefly see that classic “Next Generation” uniform in “Picard.” Did you enjoy pulling it out?
Immensely. I have my uniform in my London home in my wardrobe. And one day someone will inherit it. (Third wife Sunny Ozell, 44) is much younger than me, she’s half my age. She and her parents were devoted to “Star Trek.” She might be the one.
Was it strange to not sit in the ship’s captain’s chair?
I had another chair to the side, never the captain’s. I couldn’t wait to be on the sidelines. Jean-Luc is embracing a new life.
You and Frakes have your characters de-aged digitally in one scene. How did you feel about that?
It made me uncomfortable. There was some conversation of giving me hair. That would be a good comic scene, not something we could take seriously. But the actual scene was really beautiful to play. Jon and I are a family. Some work relationships can be foul, yet creatively terrific. I once had my hands around an actor’s throat. It was one of the actors I’d most admired all my life. He was a nightmare person.
The de-aging is not obvious on you. How do you stay looking so amazing?
I played soccer into my 40s and play tennis with a court at home. I love exercising, running and walking. That might play a part. I was obsessed with squash until I hurt my shoulder. I’m even thinking of playing that game – what’s it called? – pickleball. Smaller court and you don’t crash into walls. But, you know, I really don’t know what’s happened with time. I remember vividly my 40th birthday. But between then and now, it’s all hazy.
And we’re calling this the final season of “Picard,” but you’ve said there’s an “open door” to return, what would it take?
A challenge for Picard and “Star Trek” we’ve never seen before. That may not be attractive to studios. But we’ve touched on so much with “Picard” that I feel good. If nothing happens, it’s been a very valuable way to wind up this experience.
Story Credit: usatoday.com