[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the season two finale of Star Trek: Picard.]
As Sir Patrick Stewart watched the season two finale of Star Trek: Picardhe became awash in emotion.
The distinguished, iconic actor, who has played Jean-Luc Picard since the 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot “Encounter at Farpoint,” realized for him and Q actor John de Lancie, the adventure they began 30 years prior had officially concluded. And the moment was perfect.
Of course, that was not the only scene in “Farewell” that struck a major chord with the Picard star as he viewed the finale episode in the sophomore season of the Paramount+ series, but the final exchange between the two left an indelible impression, a sensation different from that which came on while filming the moment.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on the eve of the season two finale, Stewart explored a number of topics that arose from the series, and explained why the experience of making both the second and upcoming third and final seasons, while tremendously rewarding, was also extremely taxing. Stewart also addressed the mental health aspect of this season and why it was personal to him.
I must start by saying this season was extraordinary. You all did a tremendous job with an action-packed-and quite emotional-roller-coaster Star Trek season.
Thank you. It was tough. You know, we were set up to go with season two when the pandemic broke out, so we were shut down and sidelined. About after eight months, I was called up and told, “Look, here’s the plan: We’ve lost a lot of time and we need to record both seasons two and three back-to-back.” Normally, there is a long break between a season’s shooting. But we wrapped season two at about 7 pm and started season three at 7 am the next morning. We worked for about 14 months, continually. It was thrilling and exciting much of the time, but it was also for me – who I would imagine is more than double the age of anybody else in this series – tough. (Laughs.)
There were a number of deeply beautiful and profound moments this season for Picard, especially in the finale. I loved that final chat with Picard and Q. Was that overwhelming, you two starting this adventure in “Farpoint?”
I watched the episode for the first time this morning, and I was so deeply moved by those scenes with John de Lancie and the content of those scenes because he was making himself, as a character, vulnerable. John can bring complexity to the simplest line. I mean that as a compliment. I’m envious. His whole attitude and the things he was saying and his gentleness and sensitivity, it choked me up.
And then when we came to the moment when [Borg Queen] Alison Pill took off her mask. We had this curious angle shot, rather low into her face, looking up into her eyes. I’m afraid I began to weep, it was so touching. Because, of course, it meant that I was saying goodbye to John and to Alison, who are both wonderful actors.
Mental health has been forefront and deeply impactful this season. I’m curious if Picard’s trauma over his mother’s death changed your perception of this character, whom you’ve known for 30 years. We, the viewers, have a better understanding now of this complicated man. How was this new information for you to digest and perform?
My only regret is that once Jean-Luc revealed those hidden facts about his childhood to us, I almost wished we could immediately put him back on the bridge of the Enterprise to hear and see what the impact this revelation had on him. But we couldn’t do that.
There are so many emotional complexities in this whole series that we did not investigate much in Next Generation. I grew up in a violent home and over the years, thanks to lots of very expensive American therapy, it’s something that I think I’ve come to terms with. But the harm that it could do while it was being compressed and kept out and kept back and not acknowledged, it was very dark. I realized this was the same with Jean-Luc.
Now, if you watched episodes nine and 10, you will hear that my voice sounds different. Whenever smoke is used onstage, I have to make a protest because – I know it’s not poisonous, it’s not going to harm – it gets onto the vocal cords. I particularly suffer badly from this. And it made me a little hoarse. So, at first, we were going to rerecord a lot of what I said, but I urged [executive producer] Akiva [Goldsman] and my fellow producers not to do that because the weakness in my voice was reflecting the weakness in the character.
Jean-Luc putting the key back behind the brick knowing his younger self would find it, hence his trauma would take place, reminded me of the TNG episode “Tapestry,” where, after getting stabbed in the heart, he laughs, knowing his timeline is secured. Did you have glimpses of those moments during this series, those callbacks you actually experienced?
The fact is, during the seven years of shooting TNG, I truly began to understand that I didn’t know where Patrick Stewart left off and Jean-Luc Picard began. Over those first few years they just merged, and I found that I was, as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, becoming more and more like Patrick Stewart. So when you get these moments of a character’s situation or his actions or his risks and dangers, those are something you recognize as a person.
There is an exercise in acting called “sense memory” that I was taught at my drama school when I was 17. The basic premise of sense memory is that no experience is ever wasted on an actor. Such as, I recently had injections in my hands, going into the knuckles because I have arthritis. Eight injections. And the first one was tolerable, I thought, “I can live with this.” And then the doctor put the second needle in, and I screamed! I don’t think I’ve ever screamed as an adult before. Of course, they had to do it six more times after that. And each time I told myself, “Patrick, sense memory. Remember every part of this, how it feels, how you reacted to it. ”
One of my all-time favorite TNG moments is the final shot, when Jean-Luc finally joins his command crew for a game of poker.
Do you happen to remember the final line?
“Five-card stud, nothing wild. And the sky’s the limit. ”
Yes! (Claps hands.)
Yeah, I’m kind of a huge fan. Anyway, I bring it up because I would love to hear how it feels, after 30 years, to still be playing in the cosmic sandbox with the amazing TNG actors, as we know several of whom will appear on Picard next season.
We have been bonded together for years and years in different ways and for different reasons. I adore them, and I love them all deeply. What they brought into my life in 1987 was rich and complex. They all are as committed as any group of actors I’ve ever worked with. And yes, we had a lot of fun, and we joked. But nevertheless, we were a serious group of actors, and I was so proud of the work that we did.
Interview edited for length and clarity.