Patrick Stewart had a challenging beginning behind the scenes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The veteran British actor struggled with his castmates early on, as openly revealed in an exclusive audio sample (hear Stewart describe the incident below) from his new autobiography, Making It So: A Memoir.
But first, Stewart talked about how anxious he was about taking on the role of a Star Trek captain, how experts in the field believed the syndicated series would never succeed, and how he was determined to treat the role seriously. The British Shakespeare stage actor wanted to prove critics wrong while upholding the franchise’s reputation because it was his first regular TV role and he was being paid more than he could have ever imagined.
So when he was on set for the show’s first season, and co-stars like Jonathan Frakes, Denise Crosby, and Brent Spiner teased him, made up jokes about him, or laughed when they stumbled over their lines, it irritated him.
“I could be a severe bastard,” he writes. “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 and 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,” Stewart continues, “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.”
Stewart continues by describing how Frakes and Spiner visited his caravan for a heart-to-heart chat.
“People respect you,” Spiner told him. “But I think you misjudged the situation here.”
Recalls Stewart: “He and Jonathan acknowledged that yes, there was too much goofing around and that it needed to be dialed back. 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.”
In Making It So, Stewart also acknowledged that his insistence on treating everything seriously gave rise to early worries about the character Wesley Crusher, played by Wil Wheaton “and with Wil himself.”
“I felt that the teen-on-the-Enterprise concept was a little gimmicky, but I was also put off by Wil’s adolescent self-assurance,” he confessed. “To me, he initially came off as cocky. But as I examined my feelings, I realized that they were not really about Wil or some notion that he should know his place as a juvenile actor — they reflected my own vulnerability. In those first weeks, I wished I had Wil’s confidence.”
In the book, Stewart discusses his love life, his time working on the X-Men series, his friendship with his co-star Ian McKellen, and highlights from his decades of experience in British theatre.
In addition, the 83-year-old went back and watched all of the TNG seasons and films again in order to prepare for writing the book, noting which episodes and films stood up the best and worst. — identifying the “hideous racial stereotypes” in the first season’s “Code of Honor” were particularly “cringe,” while fan-favorites like “The Offspring,” “The Best of Both Worlds” and “Chain of Command” are among the standouts. “Upon reflection, I would say that our show peaked in its fifth and sixth seasons,” he wrote.
“Absolutely nothing is made up,” Stewart tells The Hollywood Reporter about the book. “Not at all. It’s all for real. And I must say, surprised about how many recollections I had and how vividly some of the recollections were experienced.”
A fascinating non-Trek incident involved Stewart’s possession of a home in Los Angeles, which he genuinely believed to be haunted.
“Yes, it was haunted,” Stewart recalls. “There was no question about that. There were phenomena present in that house that could not be explained and that I experienced and were experienced by others. My son, one day, was home from college and alone in the house and all of a sudden all the books in a bookshelf were thrown across the room. This upset him so badly that he left the house and waited outside until I came home.”
“After I moved out of the house,” he continued, “not because of the haunting — although it had become bothersome with noises, footsteps on stairs, voices in rooms that were empty and feelings of temperature changes and so forth. I rented the house to a family and one day the mother called me up and said, ‘You didn’t tell us all the other things that came with your house.’ She and her family have been experiencing the same things that I experienced!”
In terms of his future intentions, actor Patrick Stewart is hoping for a film role and intends to keep performing in plays. “I think a lot about what plays I want to do,” he says. “I don’t want to give up the theater. It’s been the main source of acting in my life and, in the beginning, it was all I wanted to do. Film and television happened by accident. I enjoyed it very much, but not having a living audience and responsive audience was unusual for me.”
Today, Gallery Books will publish Making It So: A Memoir, and Stewart says that given his well-known voice, his agency thinks it might be one of the few books where the audiobook sells better than the print version.
“It was very challenging — I had never read an audiobook before,” Stewart said. “And I had never listened to them either. But the publisher said this could be very significant — you speaking your own story. [The combination of] your voice and what you’ve written could be very impactful. I’m astonished and delighted so there’s already proving to be a lot of interest.”
The following is an excerpt from Stewart’s story in the Making It So audiobook:
Making It So: A Memoir is available now.