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The return of Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard has been twenty years in the making. Fans haven't seen Captain (now Admiral) Picard since the 2002 feature film Nemesis. That's twenty years of anticipation, hopes, and expectations. It was a particular kind of pressure for Stewart who revealed reprising his role as the iconic character still makes him squirm.
Appearing on the new Star Trek: Picard Podcast from Deadline along with executive producer Akiva Goldsman, showrunner Michael Chabon and EP and co-creator Alex Kurtzman, Stewart spoke intimately and passionately about the return of Jean-Luc. The podcast is heavy on spoilers for Star Trek: Picard. Still, it is great to hear from the creators what it's been like to take on the monumental task of bringing Picard back into the Starfleet after so many years away.
Speaking about having the series named after his character, Stewart says “Initially I had proposed the title should be Jean-Luc. Nobody liked that idea at all!" He added, "I still feel a certain amount of pressure with that [Picard] in the title. When I see it driving alongside Sunset Blvd and there's this massive poster up there, I still kind of squirm a little bit.”
The CBS All Access series premiered earlier Thursday with the Episode 1 "Remembrance" (you can read our recap here). The first three episodes were directed by Hanelle M. Culpepper and there is certainly no mistaking this Picard for the man we left at the end of The Next Generation or Nemesis.
Executive Producer Akiva Goldsman talked about what makes the show different and why the entire creative team feels excited about the different direction the series is taking. "It’s a different cusp of life, it’s a different frontier. Fundamentally we don’t get to the opportunity to tell stories about people at that juncture of life. Older, wondering what comes next. If loss isn't a compelling part of that mix, you probably haven't lived.”
Goldsman is referring to the loss of Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) which has weighed heavily on Picard. On loss, Kurtzman says "Picard has been sitting in this vineyard now for a decade, over a decade, just sitting there with this loss."
Kurtzman added, “For me, it was essential to the narrative that we had a Picard who was confused, who was unclear about what he had done, but at the same time suspecting that he got something seriously wrong and that he is responsible solely for what happened. Right from the getgo, we have been made uncomfortable with what his world has become.”
Stewart is pulling double duty as the lead character of the show and executive producer. He calls the experience "massively influential." He added it's allowed him to give the writers and production team with clear feedback for who Picard is, especially at this point in his life.
The podcast hosts (Senior Editor Dominic Patten and Genre Editor Geoff Boucher) asked Sir Patrick Stewart about how loss manifests itself physically in his character and he credited those decisions as ensemble choices made with the entire production team. Stewart went on to discuss some of the similarities between the character development of Picard and that of his character in 2017's X-Men feature film, Logan. "There were thematic strands. When Alex and our colleagues heard me talk about the significance of Logan to my relationship with the X-Men, they got it. They got it.”
Stewart has previously credited the film with helping him to decide to return to Star Trek.
In the new series, Picard is 92 years old, looking back on his life and choices. The hosts asked the actor what it's like to have all your emotional guts on the table.
Stewart responded with the most poignant part of the podcast, "They are not only Jean-Luc’s emotional guts they are mine too. During the seven seasons of TNG, I found Jean-Luc and Patrick became closer and closer until they overlapped entirely." Adding, "So I came with this rucksack full of history which I had lived through, which I had shared. It wasn’t like recreating a character it was like beginning to write an autobiography.”
We can't wait to see what Sir Patrick Stewart, and the rest of the team behind Star Trek: Picard write.
You can listen to the entire Picard Podcast here.
Star Trek: Picard is streaming now on CBS All Access.