News

Patrick Stewart and the Star Trek: Picard Crew on Why the World Needs Jean-Luc Now More Than Ever

After two decades away, Stewart returns to his iconic Star Trek role. Why now? The celebrated actor, his costars, and the series' creative team explain.

by | January 22, 2020 | Comments

The news that Patrick Stewart had, after 19 years, agreed to return to the character of Jean-Luc Picard, the Star Trek role that made him a global celebrity, sparked loads of excitement among the fanbase. As the 79-year-old actor explained, the decision to head back into the universe that Gene Roddenberry created, relied on the caveat that Picard would boldly go where no Star Trek series has gone before.

“I don’t mean to give any offense to anyone, but I struggled a little bit with this issue,” Stewart told select members of the press at the official junket for Star Trek: Picard. “I was so obsessed with this idea that we must leave The Next Generation behind, that we must pull the curtain down on that and explore new things.”



In the latest Star Trek series on CBS All Access, a strong ensemble of Star Trek newcomers join Stewart; Isa Briones plays the mysterious Dahj, Michelle Hurd appears as former Starfleet Officer Raffi Musiker, Alison Pill plays Dr. Agnes Jurati, and Santiago Cabrera takes on the role of hot-headed pilot, Chris Rios.

“It is not the same world when we wrapped The Next Generation,” Stewart continued. “And I argued that I wanted that change and that world to be reflected insofar as it affected Jean-Luc and what had happened to him. The backstory of those 19 years is very, very important. But the great thing about it is — and I wasn’t prepared for this — I discovered I also lived through those 19 years; Patrick had lived through them. And I had changed. I’m different. I feel differently about the world that I’m living in, and in subtle ways.”


Pictured: Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Matt Kennedy/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by Matt Kennedy/CBS)

As Star Trek fans know, there are multiple timelines that exist within this cinematic universe. That can add continuity confusion, depending on a viewer’s expectations with Star Trek: Picard. Showrunner Alex Kurtzman explained that the Romulan supernova that impacted the events of J.J. Abrams’ 2009 movie, which sparked a new timeline and universe separate from the original Star Trek series — this event is also referenced in Picard — is the catalyst for the vastly different timelines that exist across the Star Trek universe. That’s a lot to take in for new viewers, but the return of Stewart in his iconic role will most likely be a huge draw for people to tune in. Through all the strife Picard has been dealt since we last saw him, he’s still the highly-revered Starfleet admiral fans have grown to love and respect.

“We live in a continuity of a timeline,” Kurtzman said. “There’s emotional experiences that have certainly informed the show, but [Patrick Stewart] did not want to just play the part he had played in the same way. And I think you’ll find, as you go on that, fundamentally, Picard, as a character, has not changed. He’s not the dark angry version of Picard. He’s still very much the man you know from Next Generation. But the circumstances of his life have changed radically and threw him off course. And so he’s really wrestling with who he is now and what it means to be Picard in a world where not only does he not have an army, but things are very, very gray. How do you hold on to your clear moral compass in a world that’s very gray? There is no greater captain in my mind for that challenge than Picard.”


Pictured: Isa Briones of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: James Dimmock/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by James Dimmock/CBS)

According to series co-creator Michael Chabon, one of the themes Star Trek: Picard explores is the “it’s never too late” concept of age and retrospection. This, according to Chabon, is something mostly unseen in the Star Trek universe.

“What we haven’t ever had before, not just on Star Trek, but on almost any television show ever, and certainly any kind of serious dramatic television show is a central protagonist — a hero — who is effectively 80-years-old. Patrick was 78 when we started, he is 79 now. Jean-Luc Picard, in canon, is about 92. To have a person at that point in his life, reckoning with that question of: What does it mean to be a man, a human, a captain, a leader? And now he’s an old man and he’s still trying to answer that question, just like Star Trek is always trying to answer that question, but he’s answering it in a different way than he did before.”


Pictured: Harry Treadaway as Narek of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: James Dimmock/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by James Dimmock/CBS)

Discovery ended up being the first series in the Star Trek television universe that strayed from the narrative formula of exploring a different mission on-board a starship in every episode. Star Trek: Picard takes that storytelling baton and runs with it. Not only does much of the program take place on Earth, the series, which Kurtzman identifies as “the first true adult drama in the world of Star Trek,” hones its focus on the characters in the world and not just that of Jean-Luc Picard.

“Uniquely, that’s a kind of storytelling which I don’t think has been done much, period. Much less, in Star Trek,” executive producer Akiva Goldsman added. “So we’re super delighted by that prospect because, as storytellers, it gets us to do the narrative hours in a way that’s different and complicated. Relationships get to change and move, and you get to show one thing and then reverse it up.”


Pictured: Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: James Dimmock/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by James Dimmock/CBS)

As much as the team was able to switch things up and delve into a more character-driven storyline, essentially creating a 10-hour movie, in the process, Goldsman asserted that Star Trek: Picard was made for both the die-hard Trek fans and newbies alike.

“We’re trying to be able to deliver emotion and information and philosophy and character in a way that is engaging because you’re watching it,” Goldsman said. “And if you know everything about it, you’re like, ‘Well, that was cool.’ And if you know nothing about it, you’re like, ‘Well, that was cool.’ And it might be cool, differently. It may have more color, or more revelation, depending on where you live in that spectrum of audience. But we really, really wanted to be welcoming of a listener’s heart. Because that’s part of the story we’re trying to tell.”

Chabon agreed: “We were absolutely committed to the idea that we wanted to make a show that, if you’ve never seen Star Trek — if you’re not sure what Star Trek really is even all about and you think you don’t like Star Trek because what you’ve seen before hasn’t really grabbed you — or if you’re a total novice, you will be able to sit down and still watch the show and enjoy it.”

 


Pictured (l-r): Patrick Stewart as Picard; Jonathan Frakes as Riker of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Trae Patton/CBS

(Photo by James Dimmock/CBS)

Of course, having Patrick Stewart involved helps. The familiarity of fans to the actor, whose cinematic repertoire blossomed greatly after leaving the world of Star Trek behind, will surely help bring newbies into the fold. And, against his previous wishes, Stewart eventually warmed up to the notion of bringing some Next Generation characters and storylines back for another go in Picard.

“I was involved in meetings I’d never been involved in as an actor before,” Stewart, who had the added responsibility of co-executive producer on the series, explained. “I could contribute. And I began, increasingly, to feel my colleagues from Next Generation, we need to see them. They, too, can reflect how the times have changed. I think it was the right thing to do. And I hope, with time, we are able to see more.”

To keep track, four familiar faces will be joining Jean-Luc Picard on this new adventure. Brent Spiner is reprising his role as android Commander Data. Marina Sirtis is returning, alongside Jonathan Frakes — who, once again, steps behind the camera to direct — as Deanna Troi and William Riker, respectively. Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan and Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Jonathan Del Arco will be bringing their beloved Borg characters, Seven of Nine and Hugh, to this new tale, as well.


Pictured: Michelle Hurd as Raffi of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: James Dimmock/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by James Dimmock/CBS)

Thematically, Star Trek has always operated best when it’s held a mirror up to society to show us what works and what needs fixing. The first interracial kiss on television happened in the original series, between Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Star Trek has always been a series based on the ideas of inclusion and exclusion while digging into the evolving question: what is humanity? These are some of the ways Roddenberry’s concept has thrived for over the past five decades. And that’s a trend that continues in Star Trek: Picard.

“This was one of the shows that our family, as a family, would happily sit down and watch,” Michelle Hurd explained. “When I got this job, that’s the first thing I remembered: sitting with my mom and dad and my two sisters and watching the show. Not only because of Uhur,a but the fact that it was telling the stories of people who were ‘other,’ the people who were pushed away. It just really brought me back to the understanding that Star Trek is more than just a show; it’s a place where we can all be seen and represented and it makes me so proud to be part of it.”

Every Star Trek has a bridge family, and, in Picard, a rag-tag crew eventually forms. But every unit needs a leader, and Stewart discovered stepping back into his most iconic role was quite easy.

“He’s never left me,” the actor admitted during the 2020 Television Critics Association winter press tour.


STAR TREK: PICARD -- Key Art Photo Cr: James Dimmock/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by James Dimmock/CBS)

Jean-Luc Picard may have been gone from our screens for nearly two decades, but his return is coming at just the right time, Kurtzman said.

“Right now more than ever, we need great leaders. We need great leaders like Jean-Luc Picard. And we don’t have them,” Kurtzman added. “My hope is that we will inspire people to remember that and think about that deeply. And the next generation that is now much more vocal about many of the problems they’ve been left with, because of previous generations, will look to something like Star Trek and say it’s possible. You know, maybe we won’t get there in our lifetime. But maybe we can lay brick for our children’s children to get there.”

Star Trek: Picard premieres on Thursday, January 22 on CBS All Access.



Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Cosplay science fiction Interview Ovation Disney rotten HBO binge concert LGBTQ PBS cancelled TV shows DC streaming service E3 USA Network Disney Plus Mary poppins laika television Star Trek Netflix Winter TV TV fast and furious NBC romance Music Television Critics Association See It Skip It Quiz asian-american Action Box Office HBO Go Sci-Fi NYCC Pixar Avengers Endgame criterion canceled TV shows Baby Yoda Red Carpet news Nominations DC Universe Winners WarnerMedia jamie lee curtis Trailer Sundance Now period drama Turner Classic Movies Marvel Studios Opinion reboot game of thrones true crime cartoon BBC One CBS All Access discovery supernatural Song of Ice and Fire docudrama Epix remakes best PlayStation festivals cancelled TV series Comedy zero dark thirty book Television Academy comedies BAFTA Adult Swim documentary festival travel films Tumblr 2015 indie CNN Horror richard e. Grant Video Games Grammys Shudder scorecard Walt Disney Pictures BET Awards renewed TV shows RT21 Universal Spring TV christmas movies Western Hear Us Out Logo Hallmark Christmas movies GIFs parents 2018 Film zombies Hallmark Rock latino cults Disney Channel Travel Channel MSNBC Anna Paquin Crackle cinemax critics GLAAD Ellie Kemper game show theme song Rocketman FOX The Walking Dead Paramount werewolf worst movies Martial Arts golden globes Kids & Family Musicals adaptation slashers joker hispanic Summer Showtime cancelled boxoffice Nickelodeon Country mutant Academy Awards blaxploitation Musical Peacock hist series TCA Winter 2020 Amazon Prime Video IFC psychological thriller political drama Sundance TV ESPN Marvel Television movies dc Best and Worst CBS Character Guide Spectrum Originals 21st Century Fox crime thriller indiana jones Captain marvel 2016 TCA Women's History Month Reality Competition The CW Disney+ Disney Plus YouTube Premium spy thriller Food Network worst award winner Schedule nfl vampires revenge psycho rotten movies we love YouTube USA Hulu Classic Film BBC dogs Arrowverse ABC cars Ghostbusters Rocky green book Comic Book 2020 foreign sequel San Diego Comic-Con halloween 2019 Mudbound VICE technology harry potter canceled Cannes animated OneApp elevated horror Binge Guide Pet Sematary composers versus Cartoon Network Pirates CW Seed robots DC Comics Pop TV justice league Podcast spanish language SundanceTV Certified Fresh spain mission: impossible quibi Amazon nbcuniversal VH1 VOD Watching Series IFC Films Mindy Kaling The Purge E! Funimation Nat Geo finale children's TV video Stephen King Trophy Talk Lionsgate screenings singing competition The Witch AMC classics LGBT Starz Reality venice Film Festival Columbia Pictures Writers Guild of America Marvel a nightmare on elm street TCM President PaleyFest Mary Tyler Moore Star Wars Chernobyl police drama Set visit franchise 72 Emmy Awards Lifetime Christmas movies anime sag awards unscripted streaming cooking Sony Pictures Heroines Spike Creative Arts Emmys name the review MCU 71st Emmy Awards spinoff sequels BBC America witnail die hard Bravo movie Awards Tour stand-up comedy what to watch Emmys Drama independent anthology 24 frames Countdown Comics on TV comics space Chilling Adventures of Sabrina historical drama dark based on movie Brie Larson TruTV Discovery Channel aliens Tomatazos sports DGA First Look breaking bad thriller GoT child's play New York Comic Con 20th Century Fox ghosts Sneak Peek Vudu miniseries zombie Crunchyroll Election Emmy Nominations Extras batman romantic comedy X-Men Teen crossover doctor who ABC Family cops DirecTV CMT social media ratings El Rey kids talk show 007 Turner crime Apple comiccon twilight Marathons Lifetime biography Syfy TBS Family Premiere Dates Superheroes Thanksgiving Pride Month Britbox TNT Elton John screen actors guild adventure Masterpiece Black History Month chucky SDCC Warner Bros. Lucasfilm Holidays 2017 facebook Holiday football superhero universal monsters APB Superheroe Esquire Acorn TV American Society of Cinematographers Disney streaming service Infographic MTV History OWN Oscars toy story dramedy comic ITV 4/20 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TCA 2017 disaster emmy awards mockumentary dceu Pop Photos Awards south america Toys FX on Hulu medical drama Apple TV Plus nature Apple TV+ video on demand A24 Tubi Dark Horse Comics Netflix Christmas movies YouTube Red FXX Amazon Studios war diversity dragons 45 teaser Amazon Prime toronto Mystery scary movies documentaries TLC casting A&E Shondaland National Geographic blockbuster Fantasy HBO Max strong female leads spider-man Freeform Fall TV WGN Calendar First Reviews transformers Year in Review Polls and Games Animation Comedy Central obituary TV Land TCA Awards Tarantino FX satire Fox News tv talk crime drama Rom-Com RT History YA all-time SXSW BET sitcom Mary Poppins Returns reviews hollywood TV renewals Sundance free movies Trivia stoner natural history Valentine's Day Christmas Paramount Network Super Bowl serial killer stop motion politics Biopics Black Mirror cancelled television cats The Arrangement TIFF directors