Patrick Stewart: “Always do the best work you can do, but don’t expect that it will lead to the next thing”
“It’s always for me been about performance and trying to produce the unexpected.” – Patrick Stewart on Acting
The name Patrick Stewart will mean different things to different people, but it’s highly likely that almost everyone will, at the very least, have heard of him before. The actor has been working for over fifty years, after joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1966. From there, Stewart’s work has expanded across theater, film, and TV, though he has repeatedly come back to Shakespeare time and again.
Stewart played the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: Next Generation, from 1987-1994, and then in various Star Trek movies through 2002. At the time of his casting, he was billed to American audiences as an unknown British Shakespearean actor, though the reality was that he was a solid, established presence in classic British theater. Still, his role on Star Trek won him millions of fans and brought worldwide fame and notoriety. However, that kind of recognition also meant that Stewart found it hard to find other work after Star Trek, and was in danger of being typecast.
Undeterred, Stewart took on the role of Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise, a role that he’s played across eight movies now, including the most recent release, Logan. For Stewart, as well as for Hugh Jackman who plays Wolverine, this will be the last outing in the X-Men franchise. Though the series will continue without them, it’s time for these characters to say goodbye, and they couldn’t have chosen a better movie to go out on; brutal, powerful and extremely emotive, Logan has received widespread critical acclaim with very good reason.
Since Star Trek, Stewart has been fortunate enough to play a massive variety of roles, from Charles Xavier, to playing opposite his close friend Ian McKellen in Waiting For Godot. Right now, he is about to lend his voice to the poop emoji for the upcoming Emoji movie. Certainly no one can accuse Stewart of always playing the same role. Talking to The Independent, Stewart says he always seeks to play someone different, and strives for diversity in his work.
“Diversity and contrast have been important to me from the very start. When I graduated from drama school in Bristol, I didn’t have a job, an agent or anything. It seemed to be everyone else did except me, but after a month of signing on at the Labour Exchange in Dewsbury, I suddenly got an offer out of nowhere. I was introduced to variety from the beginning, so it’s stayed with me. I’ve never been interested in finding a Patrick Stewart persona and simply regurgitating it – and anyway, who’d be interested in Patrick Stewart? Very few people. It’s always for me been about performance and trying to produce the unexpected.”
“I feel incredibly fortunate because aspects of my career, not only did I never anticipate any of it, they weren’t looked for. I was a stage actor and the fact that somebody would employ me to work on the stage was enough for me. I did a bit of TV, but movies, Hollywood, it was la la land and a lot of it was accident – being at UCLA illustrating a friend’s academic lecture on Shakespeare; a producer of Star Trek signed up to the course of lectures. I say to my son who is also an actor, it’s a lottery, it really is. Always do the best work you can do, but don’t expect that it will lead to the next thing.”