Patrick Stewart very nearly turned down the chance to reprise his iconic role of Jean-Luc Picard in a new Star Trek series – but has revealed that it was the creative team’s willingness to ‘break the rules’ of the franchise that convinced him to sign up.
Stewart will play Jean-Luc again in Star Trek: Picard, 18 years after his final big-screen outing as the character in 2002’s Nemesis.
“I was all ready with my speech of refusal,” he explained last night (15th January) at a screening of the first episode in London’s Leicester Square.
“Indeed, I insisted through my representative that I would meet them face-to-face, and tell them why I was going to say, “NO!”– I did my best.
“And [once] the meeting was over, I asked my agent, ‘Would you ask them if they could put on paper the things that they said to me just now. Because I’d like to study them a lot closer.’ Because, believe me, the very last thing that I felt I wanted, or needed, was to return to Star Trek.
“Well, two days later, 35 pages showed up, and I read them, and… I was hooked. Because what they were writing about was an image of the future of Jean-Luc and the world of Star Trek that I had never envisioned before, and thought could not even be possible under the overriding rule of what Star Trek is, and what it isn’t.
“These guys were breaking those rules again and again and again. And, well, that’s the kind of stuff that interests me. And with increasing excitement, I signed on.”
Alex Kurtzman, executive producer on the Star Trek franchise, agreed that his desire and that of the creative team on Picard was to do something with the series and the character of Jean-Luc that had “not been done before”.
“Patrick said, ‘I don’t want to just do season 8 of The Next Generation. I want it to be the next chapter of this man’s life.’ Picard is living with regret and loss in a way that is profound. The idea that he has this opportunity in a very unexpected way to right the wrongs he feels he was a part of; he has a second chance to make amends.
“It’s a beautiful story. You almost never get to tell that story from the point of view— Jean-Luc is 92 years old in Starfleet years How many shows allow you to tell the story from the point of view of somebody who’s looking back on their life, and giving them one last chance of hope? I think that’s what we really wanted to say.”
Star Trek: Picard will explore the retired Admiral Picard’s life post-Starfleet, as a new arrival in his life takes him on an unexpected journey of discovery. Franchise veterans Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Brent Spiner (Data) and Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine) will also reprise their roles, alongside Trek newcomers Alison Pill, Harry Treadaway and Santiago Cabrera.
The series launches Friday 24th January on Amazon Prime Video.