Exclusive: Patrick Stewart going back to Charles Xavier, Picard made lives difficult for those close to him
In an exclusive chat, Patrick Stewart talks about why he chose to return as Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek universe, and opens up on his process of ensuring his portrayals of Picard and Charles Xavier don't get repetitive.
It seems like a time machine has taken cinephiles back to two decades ago. Not only is Sir Patrick Stewart back in a Star Trek series but he is also set to return to cinema screens and in a Marvel film no less. The 81-year-old is playing the lead in Star Trek: Picard, which saw its second season premiere last week. And soon, he will reprise his other iconic character--Charles Xavier--in Marvel's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, the veteran actor talks about returning as Picard and Xavier, how he tries to ensure his portrayals aren't repetitive, and his wish to return to theatre acting soon. (Also read: Patrick Stewart on theories about his death in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: 'I've already died twice')
Patrick played Jean-Luc Picard in the popular TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94) before appearing in four films in the subsequent years. Years ago, Patrick had said he didn't want to return to the character as he felt there was 'nothing left to be told' in Picard's story. He reveals that when the producers of Star Trek: Picard first pitched him the series in 2018, he wanted to reject the offer, "I just wanted to tell them face to face that I was not going to accept their offer. I felt I had explored everything there was to explore about the life of Jean-Luc Picard."
Yet, somehow, in that meeting, he was convinced to return to the role, and that too in his late 70s. Patrick recalls, "They (the producers) said to me, 'Well, Patrick, 30 years have passed since you last put on the captain's uniform and 30 years will also have passed for Jean Luc in the stories we want to tell, and he will be in a different kind of world than the one we saw him in Star Trek: The Next Generation'. And I was intrigued by that."
But Picard isn't the only character he is returning to. Patrick is also doing a cameo in the Doctor Strange 2 as Professor Charles Xavier. He has played the character in the X-Men films from 2000-17. The actor admits that reprising old roles like Picard and Xavier is challenging and shares how he makes sure they aren't repetitive. "One lies enormously on the quality of the script and how unique and original it is. If the script has an entirely original aspect, that is what you absorb. It is full of new experiences but you have to pursue those new experiences and take them on board. You have to experience them as fully as possible. It can sometimes make lives of the people you live with a little bit difficult but I find it's the only way one can do it," he says.
One of the other challenges for the octogenarian has been shooting in the post-pandemic world. He tells us, "I have been filming every week for the last year and a bit because we did seasons two and three literally back to back. For a man in his 80s, it has been a challenging time but I have been very well looked after. They are taking good care of me and I have enjoyed every moment of it."
The makers of the Star Trek: Picard have announced that it will, in all likeliness, come to an end with season 3, which Patrick has wrapped up filming. However, Patrick Stewart says he won't miss playing the Starfleet captain. "He is not a real person," he says with a laugh, before adding, "Anyway, he is also largely me. I've got him with me all the time."
The thespian adds that this may free him to explore other acting avenues and return to his first love- theatre. He says, "There is other interesting work out there that I very much want to do, including, hopefully, at some point, returning to Shakespeare." In response to the question that out of theatre, films, and TV, which one gives him the most joy, the actor says without missing a beat, "I have to be honest that it is live performance that has the biggest impact on me. When you are in a theatre in front of an audience - it doesn't matter if its 20 people sitting or 2000 - they are all there in the moment. And one of the things that actors like and focus on is being in the moment themselves. Every time that curtain goes up, it is a different show because it's a different day."
Star Trek: Picard is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The show's second season premiered on March 3 with subsequent episodes releasing every Thursday. The show also stars Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Jeri Ryan, and sees the return of notable Star Trek alumni Whoopie Goldberg and John de Lancie. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Patrick's next project, is set to hit the theatres on May 6. The Marvel film stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen.