In the ultimate “what might have been”, Gene Roddenberry opposed Patrick Stewart’s casting as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Some actors are well-suited for certain roles, and others are perfectly-suited for their roles. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry didn’t believe Patrick Stewart was suited at all for the role of Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, flagship of Starfleet in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Per TrekMovie.com, Stewart had this to say about their relationship:
"Gene and I did not have a close relationship. We had a respectful relationship. Gene had very strongly felt that I was wrong for the role…I am told, and I don’t know the details, but there was a lot of warfare that went on in the producers offices about that."
He went on to say:
"I was invited up to Gene’s house one morning after I had been seen by Robert Justman on the stage at Royce Hall in UCLA. Justman discovered me. Apparently – and his wife claimed this was true – at some point during this scholarly, academic evening he turned to his wife and said “we found the captain.” Gene saw me the next morning and profoundly disagreed."
Of course, in the end Roddenberry was satisfied with Stewart as Picard.
Hindsight is easy, mind you. In the late 1980’s, audiences were unsure about an older captain. They were accustomed to a younger, brash, swashbuckling captain in the form of James T. Kirk, and a bald, older captain who was much more chaste in his decision-making process didn’t really resonate at first with either fans or The Great Bird of the Galaxy.
It’s no surprise that Patrick Stewart didn’t unpack his bags for the first six weeks of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s run. While that anecdote is usually assumed to be based on the fact he wasn’t sure the series would catch on with fans, surely some of his hesitance came from the fact the show’s creator didn’t believe in him to be able to carry the most important role on the show.
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine any actor fitting the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard than Sir Patrick Stewart. Bob Justman deserves credit for fighting for him, and Roddenberry deserves credit for wisely yielding eventually.