Being a Starfleet captain can be very stressful, but the important thing is to have fun with it. That’s the main lesson Patrick Stewart learned over the course of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s seven-season run. The 83-year-old actor recently sat down and made a video with AARP detailing how Star Trek helped him shed his overly serious demeanor.
Patrick Stewart believed that the only thing he had to bring to the role was a strong sense of no-nonsense leadership.
Sir Patrick Stewart doesn’t have a high opinion of himself. The actor told AARP that his first stage role at the age of 12 gave him “so much pleasure and satisfaction” because it helped him pretend that “Patrick Stewart” didn’t exist. “I didn’t care for him very much,” Stewart mused about his 12-year-old self. According to Stewart, he “wasn’t very smart” and “didn’t have many skills” when he first began acting.
A little light prompting from the interviewer, however, helped Patrick Stewart to admit that he has since come to embrace himself, thanks to Star Trek and many years of therapy. Although the actor claims he never had any ambitions of making it in Hollywood, he jumped at the chance to be a part of the 1987 Star Trek sequel series. The only problem was that he thought Jean-Luc Picard should be played like a Shakespearean monarch.
“The brilliant crew of the Enterprise, and my colleagues and those who have become now my dear, dear friends, they opened me up.”Patrick Stewart
Stewart approached the role of Captain Picard as if he were playing King Lear or his own father, a regimental sergeant major in Britain’s parachute regiment. The actor believed that the only thing he had to bring to the role was a strong sense of no-nonsense leadership. There’s no denying that Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 and 2 featured a cold, rigid Picard with a very large phaser stuck up his butt.
But it wasn’t until Patrick Stewart’s co-stars taught the actor how to lighten up and have fun that we got the true Picard. Being able to relax and enjoy the role a bit allowed Stewart to portray Picard as more human—serious when the situation called for it but also able to crack a smile now and then. “The brilliant crew of the Enterprise, and my colleagues and those who have become now my dear, dear friends, they opened me up,” Stewart told AARP, giving all the credit to his fellow Star Trek co-stars.
According to Stewart, his fellow actors taught him that it was possible to act and “work intensely and seriously and hard” and still have fun. Sir Patrick Stewart even recalled a time when he and his co-stars were on the Star Trek set, and he tried unsuccessfully to turn them to his way of thinking, only to fail miserably. “I said to them once, ‘We’re not here to have fun!'” Patrick Stewart revealed sheepishly.
As a result of his serious declaration, his co-stars laughed in his face. “They just laughed, they thought I was funny!” Patrick Stewart confessed. That incident, as well as several others, helped Stewart to stop taking himself and his craft so seriously, a skill he still employs to this day.
A quick glimpse at Patrick Stewart’s filmography reveals some decidedly un-serious roles. Family Guy, The Simpsons, American Dad, Ted—all projects stuck up Shakespeare quoting Patrick Stewart wouldn’t have been caught dead being associated with. But post-Star Trek Patrick Stewart? Loosey, goosey, laugh-at-himself Patrick Stewart?
That dude was in the freakin’ Emoji Movie—as a talking poop!