It’s hard to imagine now, because of how successful it was, but Star Trek The Next Generation was a big gamble at the time. Star Trek had fallen out of fashion and favor, and having a respected British Shakespearean actor leading a silly sci-fi series in spandex was a big risk that many viewed as a joke to begin with. It took Patrick Stewart some time to get comfortable on set, as is revealed in his new memoir.
When Patrick Stewart accepted the role of Captain Picard in Star Trek TNG in the late 80s, he’d only ever done single episodes of TV that were mostly plays. He was now number one on the call sheet on what was set to become a long-running, and one of the best TV series, and felt a lot of responsibility to take it seriously.
“I could be a severe bastard,” Stewart writes in his new memoir Making it So, via THR. “My experiences at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre had been intense and serious … On the TNG set, I grew angry with the conduct of my peers, and that’s when I called that meeting in which I lectured the cast for goofing off.”
Stewart continues; “I responded to Denise Crosby’s, ‘We’ve got to have some fun sometimes, Patrick’ comment by saying, ‘We are not here, Denise, to have fun.’ In retrospect, everyone, me included, finds this story hilarious. But in the moment, when the cast erupted in hysterics at my pompous declaration, I didn’t handle it well. I didn’t enjoy being laughed at. I stormed off the set and into my trailer, slamming the door.”
Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes reached out to Stewart and made peace with him. “People respect you. But I think you misjudged the situation here,” said Spiner. Recalls Stewart: “He and Jonathan acknowledged that yes, there was too much goofing around and that it needed to be dialed back.”
Stewart needed to learn good leadership skills which were worthy of maybe the best Star Trek captain – Picard; “But they also made it clear how off-putting it was — and not a case study in good leadership — for me to try to resolve the matter by lecturing and scolding the cast. I had failed to read the room, imposing RSC behavior on people accustomed to the ways of episodic television — which was, after all, what we were shooting.”