“Diversity in the roles that I play is what keeps me committed to this job, and sometimes the difficult circumstances that we work under.” – Patrick Stewart
No matter how much acclaim Emmy and Tony Award-nominated actor Patrick Stewart receives for his roles on stage, the 79 year-old actor will continue to be associated with the character that made him famous: Jean-Luc Picard, the Captain of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The association will be strengthened even more because Stewart is reprising his role in Star Trek: Picard, a CBS All-Access series. Speaking about returning to play Picard with NPR, Stewart reflected on the connection he has with the character — and the challenges he had in his career after his first Star Trek series ended.
When the interviewer asks if Stewart considers Picard as a version of himself, Stewart responds, “There came a point, maybe sometime in the third season, when I realized that the gap between Jean-Luc Picard and Patrick Stewart had gotten narrower and narrower. And finally, we began to overlap until by the time we had wrapped the series and we were doing the first of our movies, I knew who this man was inside-out, back-to-front because he was not wholly Jean-Luc Picard. He was partly Patrick Stewart.”
Unsurprisingly, because Stewart became so closely associated with Picard after seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and then four feature films, for some time after the series wrapped he had some difficulty getting cast in roles. He remembers:
I was unprepared for the extent to which Patrick Stewart, the actor, would become identified with the role. And there was an instance: Soon after, I’d finished my work as Jean-Luc Picard, when I was campaigning to meet the director for a quite a modest supporting role in a movie. And he was very nice to me and very polite. But he suddenly said, “Look, why would I want Jean-Luc Picard in my movie?” And that made me feel so bad because I was proud of the work that I’d done. But at the same time, I was suddenly beginning to discover it was a bit of an albatross.
Most of that has gone now because the one thing I have continually said to my managers and my agents, diversity in the roles that I play is what keeps me committed to this job, and sometimes the difficult circumstances that we work under.
Of course, Stewart’s career has thrived in recent years — so returning to the role that made him famous is probably even more satisfying now.