Stewart Proud To Be Associated With PicardBy Caillan
July 2, 2002 - 11:12 AM
Patrick Stewart only took the role of Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation because he was assured the series wouldn't last - but now, fifteen years on, he will be forever known as the tunic-tugging captain. Although previously uncomfortable with the association, the Shakespearean actor is now at peace with his science fiction alter ego.
"I don't feel haunted by my past, largely because Picard is a very active presence in my present. There was a time, perhaps five or six years ago, when I was irritated," Stewart told SFX's Nick Setchfield (via Sci-Fi Pulse). "That irritation has passed now, probably because until this present movie ['Star Trek: Nemesis'] it was four years since the last one, and I felt I was getting on with my life and career. But for a while I was irritated by the fact that it seemed that the world was largely identifying me as Jean-Luc Picard. But that's fine, because I think that on the whole he's an admirable character. If he were a scumbag, it would be another matter. But he wasn't, and many of the things that he did and said were exemplary, and I had some influence on what those things were."
Despite his notoriety, Stewart said he feels a little uncomfortable at being called an icon. "Funnily enough, I was driving in a motor race this weekend at the Pro-Celebrity Grand Prix at Long Beach. My first motor race. I'm not a racing driver and I'm not sure I will ever do it again, but it was an interesting experience. Christopher Titus, who has his own, very successful show in America, kept saying to me, 'You're an icon, man!' We had several weeks of training in order to drive in the race, and I heard that comment again and again. 'You're an icon, man!'
"I know that he was doing it partly with his tongue in his cheek, and I don't feel that I live up to that term in that sense, and nor does the Captain," he continued. "But gradually something has attached itself to this character, which has given him a resonance in popular culture of North America and, to a certain extent other countries as well. The phenomenon of Star Trek is pretty well worldwide."
For many years, there has been talk about the decline of the Trek franchise, particularly in regard to dwindling ratings. Stewart acknowledged he sometimes feels Trek doesn't have the pulling power it used to. "I think that in a sense that's reflected in the figures that the shows have had, and the audiences response to them," he said. "It's gratifying to know that The Next Generation continues to be the series that consistently attracted the biggest audiences, although I think that there's a good, strong chance of Enterprise doing well, because in Scott Bakula they have a really fine actor. He was the only one of all of us who actually bought positive baggage with him into the series, because he's had such an enormous following with Quantum Leap. But it's been hard to feel any sense of being replaced by any of these people, because The Next Generation has continued. And, as I say, Picard is very much a presence in my present."