Patrick Stewart explains why he took the role on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Patrick Stewart rose to fame in the 1980s thanks to his turn on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where he played the second captain of a starship named Enterprise. That captain was named Jean-Luc Picard. While Stewart was a well-respected actor before his turn on The Next Generation, his profile reached untold heights due to his turn on the show.
A role that he almost didn’t take. Money was the driving reason for him to take on the project, as he was making just £140 for his performances. Yet, if he got the role with Star Trek, he’d be making £12,000 per week. A dramatic improvement.
So a significant increase in pay was a major reason to take on the role, but that wasn’t all. The money was nice, but the task was daunting, especially with how little he knew about the show. Not only did he not know about the original show, but he even had no idea who Gene Roddenberry was prior to meeting with him. He relied on his children to help inform him about the show. As he told the UK’s Mirror
"I had to turn to my two kids and say, ‘Kids… I think you watch Star Trek. Tell me about it. What was it? Did you like it? Was it any good at all?’ And, of course, they raved about it.…I remembered coming home after matinees from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre just in time to be able to give them their supper, read to them and put them to bed before going back to do an evening performance.And I would find that they were watching this thing on television with these guys in coloured T-shirts. And that’s all I remember. I knew nothing about it and I did not even recall the name Gene Roddenberry so I had a lot to catch up on."
Patrick Stewart nearly turned down Star Trek in favor of a stage play
Stewart though nearly walked away from Star Trek. While the story of Gene Roddenberry not liking Stewart for the role of Picard is well known, what isn’t as well known is that Stewart was on the fence. He wanted to take his “fringe stage” play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to the West End theater. He claims it was a dream, at least according to the Mirror.
Stewart explains that it was advice from friends that ultimately sealed the deal
"Friends convinced me to ‘make some money for the first time in your life, get a sun tan and go home’ – and on that basis, I took it."
Stewart would obviously go on to get the role of Picard and would play the French captain for nearly 40 years across a variety of different mediums.