ELIOT STEIN'S INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK STEWART (C)ELIOT STEIN
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: When did the acting bug first hit you? At what age? PATRICK STEWART: I didn't know that it was a bug. I was first lured into a play when I was 12 years old! At that time I didn't know anything about acting...but the teachers at my school had a drama society and in this upcoming production there was the role of a 12-year old student....I accepted it largely because I was flattered by the attention of my teachers...and I thought it was a neat thing to do! What I soon discovered was that entering into this world of imagination...that both the rehearsal room and the stage was a pleasantly better place to be than the real world.
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: How familiar were you with the original "Star Trek" series when you were given a script for "Generations"???
PATRICK STEWART: Hardly at all!!! It was not possible to be in the Western World and not have heard of it...and the familiar phrases...I do recall the first time I heard "Beam Me Up Scotty..." at the time I had NO idea what it referred to! In the late 60's...early 70's...I caught my children watching "Star Trek..."and I never saw a complete episode. In 1987...when I was offered the role of Picard...I had to turn to my children to find out what it was all about!!! In my meeting with Gene Rodenberry and Robert Justman...I pretended to them that I knew more about the program than I did. Half of what they said to me was meaningless. I had to pretend to know more about "Star Trek" than I did!
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: Did they tell you how the Picard character should be played?
PATRICK STEWART: They never discussed the character. It was 6 months later that there was any mention of the role of the Captain. I assumed than that I was going to be the token Brit on the crew! My interest in the project deepened at that point....As then I knew their interest in me was for the leading role!
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: What role has stretched your enormous talent most: The Tempest, A Christmas Carol, Jeffrey, or Star Trek?
PATRICK STEWART: It was "Christmas Carol"...I was alone on stage for two hours..apart from telling the story...I play more than 40 characters...but in terms of stamina and concentration it would be "Star Trek."
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: Is there one role you haven't played that you feel your career would be incomplete without?
PATRICK STEWART: There is a movie role...which I am very excited about...which I hope will be in production in 1996...I unfortunately can't talk about it...It is the best script and role I have seen to date...In addition...there are a number of Shakespearean roles I haven't played that I'd like to do...King Lear...Macbeth....for example!
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: You narrated a great video called "The Planets" and now you will be doing another educational/entertaining space production called "From here to Infinity"...why have you chosen these out of probably hundreds of offers that come your way?
PATRICK STEWART: There are many space related projects that I get sent...I am always looking for the ones--I am very selective about this---which represent the highest quality in terms of production, script and the technology that goes into the production...the educational aspect is very important to me...that a video can be used to entertain and inform. One of the most effective means of reaching the audience. "From Here to Infinity" is also a Paramount project...and we have a very special relationship.
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: Do you ever think that you will turn to writing?
PATRICK STEWART: I have no plans for any original writing work...I don't think I have the talent for it. I hope to produce as well someday!
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: Please comment on your experience with the production of "The Tempest"
PATRICK STEWART: This is a play that I have done a few times before...the very best thing I can say about this is that I felt like I was doing a new play!...The director's approach was so fresh...it was a new experience for me. "The Tempest"--this production handled the difficult parts of the play better than I have ever seen before! It was a good time in my life to do this again...the director and I were in fundamental agreement about the interpretation of the character...I was excited to be involved in this multi-racial production!
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: What has been the most rewarding experience of TNG for you?
PATRICK STEWART: Two sections: professional and personal...professional...the huge volume of new audience I reach as an actor...more people saw me act when the show premiered that week than had done so throughout my entire career...the personal...very deep intimate friendships that have developed between myself and the members of the cast...these are LIFELONG friendships...the absence of the day-to-day contact with my friends is the one thing that makes me sad!
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: Did you once play Salieri in a BBC inquest - Do you plan to do modern classic drama?
PATRICK STEWART: I played Salieri in a BBC production but this must not be confused with "Amadeus." This was called "The Mozart Inquest"...and was very challenging to do. The program was IMPROVISED. There was no script!...If you love Mozart, drama, or a real curiosity of TV...you will enjoy it greatly! "The Inquest" was conducted by actual lawyers trying to find out about Mozart's death.
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: What American TV shows have you enjoyed most in any decade?
PATRICK STEWART: I didn't watch TV at all for many decades...I missed the whole era of "Lucy" and "Dick Van Dyke."But I love "MASH" and "Kojak"...and most recently "Hill Street Blues" and "Cheers.""Frasier" is a brilliant show! When it comes to sheer quality of entertainment, there's little better than "Beavis and Butthead"!
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: Sir, do you feel that your role in TNG gave TV sci-fi more 'class'?
PATRICK STEWART: I thought all of "The Next Generation" was classy...It was one of the highest quality TV shows we have ever seen. Of course, I also think the producer showed good taste in casting me!!!!!!
ELIOT STEIN-HOST: Did you find the non-speaking role of Kala particularly challenging? What has helped you most in your training as an actor?
PATRICK STEWART: All my fans out there...who have taken an interest in my career as the result of TNG...are VERY IMPORTANT to me!...these fans allow me to do the work I do now! I have been able to open theatrical shows based on the support I am receiving from the audience. I want you to know that my fans are extremely important to me. I am blessed! My training was a long time ago. My formal training... I continue to work on what I do. I think it continues to be the combination of the technical aspect of acting--voice, body---and the imagination...alongside a continuing trust: that what I have to say as an actor is worth hearing!