As much as we all love Patrick Stewart as the indomitable Admiral (formerly Captain) Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation, we also know that he wasn’t Gene Roddenberry’s first choice. Far from it. In fact, Stewart says Roddenberry didn’t want “a bald middle-aged Englishman” to play the part. Instead, Roddenberry was looking for someone who could follow in Captain James T. Kirk’s footstep, and he already had someone in mind before casting even started for the role.
Roddenberry knew actor Stephen Macht through one of his writers, and he wanted Macht for the role right away. In fact, he told the actor that he was the guy for the part, that he’d seen everything Macht had done, and he wanted Macht to play Picard
Macht, best known for his three-year stint on Cagney & Lacey from 1985-1988 and for his role as Trevor Lansing in General Hospital, admitted that he didn’t have his stuff together when he was offered the role. He thought it was going to be “a guy talking to people with two to ten heads all the time.” And no amount of reassurance from Roddenberry could convince him to change his mind.
Over twenty years later, Macht told Soap Opera Digest that he was probably too scared to play the part, adding that “actors make terrible mistakes when they’re in fear and don’t understand who they are.”
Gene Roddenberry did eventually accept Patrick Stewart in the role
This year, it’s been thirty-four years since Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted, and while it may have taken fans of The Original Series a while to warm up to Patrick Stewart as the next captain of the Enterprise, to new fans, he was the captain. Macht might believe he made a mistake not accepting the role of Jean-Luc Picard, and he might have made an incredible captain. But Patrick Stewart made that role his own and continues as the unflappable commander even to this day.
Do you think anyone else could have been Captain Picard? What other actor do you think could have made the role so memorable?