Los Angeles – Sir Patrick Stewart, the English film, stage and television actor who has given us memorable portrayals in his stunning career, talked to us recently of his return to television with the web TV series, “Star Trek: Picard” where he reprises his role as Jean-Luc Picard.
This time, we see Picard as the retired admiral and former captain of the USS Stargazer and with Fil-Am actress Isa Briones featured as Dahj, a young woman who comes to Picard for help.
Briones is the 20-year-old daughter of actor-singers Jon Jon Briones (“Miss Saigon,” “Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”) and Megan Briones (“Miss Saigon,” “General Hospital: Night Shift”). She was featured in the movie “Takers” as Matt Dillon’s daughter and in the hit musical “Hamilton” where she was the youngest member of the cast of the touring production at 19. She played the roles of Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds and was also the understudy for the Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton role.
We asked Stewart about Briones and how it was working with her.
“I have a very special relationship with Isa because she was the only new member of our series that I asked to audition with her,” he revealed. “Not for myself, I was already cast, but I wanted to work with her. She’s young, she has had a life which has largely been musical. She came to us from ‘Hamilton.’ And she’s young, really quite young. And she is very beautiful.
“But I, because of her background I just wanted to be sure because she has, hers is the leading female role in the series. And so, I worked with her and auditioned with her and there was a second actress, as well. It was down to two rather as it had been when I was cast as Jean-Luc Picard. And although, I never learned who the other actor was. And I am delighted with the choice we made. Isa, apart from being an absolutely delicious, interesting, smart and lovely person is opening up as an actress in a way even when we were working together on the audition, I had not quite anticipated. She’s going up there.”
We asked Stewart, who is turning 80 on July 13, how he plans to celebrate this milestone.
He disclosed, “Well, I am pretty certain, and I cannot speak too much about this, is that a lot of my 80th year will be taken up with ‘Star Trek: Picard.’ That feels perfectly appropriate to me; I’m happy to be doing that. There will be a party; my wife has been in the process of organizing now for some time. The first party will be here in Los Angeles, because this has become very much the center of a certain side of my life. Then there will be one in London, too, because that’s where Ian McKellen is at the moment, and he’s got to come to my 80th birthday party, as I went to his.
“But I think, by the time we wrap Picard, I’m going to be ready for the stage again. You know, that’s all I ever wanted to do in the beginning, was just be up on the stage with some wonderful text to speak. Preferably Shakespeare, but there are plenty of other good writers as well. But all of that was one of the transformations in 1987, when I came here, when cameras and television and films took over my life much more. But the theater still remains a passion for me.
“There is something, one thing, that no movie, no television production, can give you: that is the experience of a live audience every night. And a different live audience. Whenever I get the chance to talk to audiences, I will say to them, ‘Please understand that you must know that you have a role to play when you come into the auditorium of the theater. You’re not passive. You contribute to what we experience. That’s why every single performance is always different and unique.’ So, I will tell audiences, ‘What you are watching has never been seen before. And will never be seen again. Because you are in the auditorium. And you make up part of the experience.’”
He added, “I’m looking for a play. Actually, Ian and I, we had so much fun doing ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘No Man’s Land,’ that we’d like to find another play that we can both be in, but it hasn’t turned up yet.”
What does coming back to the role of Picard mean to him.
“That’s interesting,” he pointed out. “And I’m also a little embarrassed to say that I wasn’t aware that, that was something that was happening as well. I know people have sometimes returned to roles a long time afterwards. But it didn’t actually require very much of me because within a season or two of filming ‘Next Generation’, I began to forget where Patrick Stewart left off when Jean-Luc Picard started. They simply did this, and it happened slowly and subtly.
“But before I left my trailer to go and shoot the scene, I wouldn’t need to sit there and think about what Jean-Luc had had for breakfast that morning and how he might be feeling because he had become me. And luckily, he was quite a nice person. And so, in becoming him, I hope that some of what he was rubbed off on me as well. So, this experiment, which really began nearly two years ago now and we began filming in April, April 22nd of last year, 2019. I too, like Jean-Luc had aged 17, 18 years and that aging has had an impact on me. And I let those changes just bleed into my work and become part of it.
“So, I mean I run up a flight of steps I think in episode one and that was challenging and scary too, but that’s okay. That’s fine. I mean that’s what it will be like for Jean-Luc Picard. So, it is a little like seeing a dear family friend after many, many years of immersing myself back in Jean-Luc’s life, which is very different from the life that he was leading when he was in ‘Next Generation’.”