Patrick Stewart had a rough start behind the scenes Star Trek: The Next Generation.
As candidly described in an exclusive audio clip (hear Stewart tell the story below) from his new autobiography: Make it so: A memoirthe veteran British actor clashed with his cast mates early on.
But first, Stewart explained how nervous he was about playing one Star Trek Captain, how industry insiders predicted the syndicated series was doomed to failure, and how he was determined to take the role quite seriously. It was the British Shakespearean stage actor’s first regular TV series – and he was paid more money than he ever expected – and he set out to prove naysayers wrong, while respecting the franchise’s legacy.
So if he was on set filming the show’s debut season and co-stars like Jonathan Frakes, Denise Crosby and Brent Spiner teased him or joked or laughed when they mixed up their lines, it would infuriate him with low-key anger.
“I could be a serious asshole,” he writes. “My experiences at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theater had been intense and serious…On the TNG When I finished, I got angry at my coworkers’ behavior, and that’s when I called that meeting where I lectured the cast for making fun and responded to Denise Crosby’s comment, “We gotta have some fun sometimes , Patrick’ by saying ‘We’re not here, Denise, to have pleasure.’”
“In retrospect,” Stewart continues, “everyone, including me, finds this story hilarious. But the moment the cast erupted in hysterics over my pompous statement, I didn’t handle it well. I didn’t like being laughed at. I stormed off the set and into my trailer, slamming the door.”
Stewart then tells how Frakes and Spiner came to his trailer for a personal conversation.
“People respect you,” Spiner told him. “But I think you misjudged the situation here.”
Stewart recalls, “He and Jonathan recognized that yes, there used to be too much hassle and it had to be called back. But they also made it clear how unpleasant it was – and not a case study in good leadership – for me to try to resolve the issue by lecturing and berating the cast. I had failed to read the room and impose RSC behavior on people used to the ways of episodic television – which, after all, was what we were filming.
Here is the excerpt from the Make it so audiobook in which Stewart tells the story:
By the way, this wasn’t the only time in the show’s history that Stewart walked out. He did it then too Good morning America shot a camp segment on set which he found disrespectful to the series.
Stewart also admitted Make it so that his emphasis on taking things seriously led to early concerns about Wil Wheaton’s character Wesley Crusher “and about Wil himself.”
“I had the feeling that the teenager-at-the-Company The concept was a bit gimmicky, but I was also put off by Wil’s teenage self-confidence,” he admitted. “To me he initially seemed cocky. But as I examined my feelings, I realized they weren’t really about Wil or the idea that he needed to know his place as a youth actor — they reflected my own vulnerability. In those first weeks I wished I had Wil’s trust.”
In the book, Stewart describes highlights from his decades in British theatre, his love life, and his time on television X Men franchise and his friendship with his co-star Ian McKellen. The 83-year-old also went back and looked at everything again TNG seasons and movies in preparation for writing the book and notes which episodes and movies held up the best and worst — noting that the “horrible racial stereotypes” in the first season’s “Code of Honor” were particularly “cringeing,” while fan favorites like “The Offspring,” “The Best of Both Worlds” and “Chain of Command” are among the highlights. “On reflection, I would say our show peaked in the fifth and sixth seasons,” he wrote.
“Absolutely nothing was made up,” says Stewart The Hollywood Reporter about the book. “Not at all. It’s all real. And I have to say I was amazed at how many memories I had and how vividly some of the memories were experienced.”
An interesting non-march The anecdote was about a house in Los Angeles that Stewart owned and which he became firmly convinced was haunted.
“Yes, it was haunted,” Stewart recalls. “There was no doubt about that. In that house there were phenomena that could not be explained and which I experienced and were experienced by others. My son was home from college one day and alone in the house and suddenly all the books on a bookshelf were thrown across the room. This upset him so much that he left the house and waited outside for me to come home.”
“After I left the house,” he continued, “not because of the ghostly feeling – although it had become bothersome with noises, footsteps on the stairs, voices in empty rooms and feelings of temperature changes and so on. I rented the house to a family and one day the mother called me and said, ‘You haven’t told us everything other things that belonged to your house.’ She and her family have been through the same things I have been through!”
As for what’s next for the actor, Stewart has a film role that he hopes comes through and plans to continue his beloved theater work. “I think a lot about what plays I want to do,” he says. “I don’t want to give up theater. It has been the main source of acting in my life and in the beginning it was all I wanted to do. Film and television came about by accident. I enjoyed it very much, but the fact that I didn’t have a live and responsive audience was unusual for me.”
Make it so: A memoir is released today by Gallery Books, and Stewart notes that his agent suspects it’s one of the few titles where the audiobook is outselling the print edition, given Stewart’s iconic voice.
“It was quite a challenge: I had never read an audiobook before,” Stewart said. “And I had never listened to it before. But the publisher said this could be very important: you tell your own story. (The combination of) your voice and what you have written can be very impactful. I am amazed and delighted, so there appears to be a lot of interest already.”