There are not many men that can say they encapsulate everything quintessentially British, but at the same time, making every American proud. There aren’t many men who can say they have been feminist supporters since the 1940s. Even more so, there aren’t many men who can say that they are going to be the main figure of a flagship tv show at 78 years of age! However, that man, Sir Patrick Stewart, is all these things. He has been an incredibly important player in global popular culture, women’s right movements (particularly the fight against domestic abuse) and a huge player in British politics. He made the news this week for saying that he can no longer support the Labour party with Jeremy Corbyn in charge, with Brexit being everything Labour stands against, yet their leader supports it. As a man who has informed my moral compass over my formulative years and given that he is going to be returning to our screens, as Jean-Luc Picard in a yet unnamed Star Trek series and having had the pleasure of speaking to this incredible gentleman, I decided that it was time for a brief look at some of his career and personal highlights and traits.
Stewart made his name in the Royal Shakespeare Company, with his first appearance being in 1966, which led him to becoming a core member of the company, holding a number of major roles each theatrical season. He has appeared in over 60 productions for the company throughout his career and has continued to indulge his love of theatre by touring recently in the latest retelling of Harold Pinter’s ‘No Man’s Land’ alongside his long-time friend, Sir Ian McKellen.
The friendship between Sir Patrick and Sir Ian is legendary. They are regularly photographed doing activities together, interviewed together and usually found acting opposite each other, most notably in the X-men franchise where they play the adversaries of each other. They are truly the friendship goals of today.
Described as an ‘Unknown Shakespearean Actor’ when cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise in the new series Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987, Stewart didn’t have much faith in the new show. A programme, Stewart quips, he was so sure would fail, he refused to unpack his suitcase as he would be on the plane home, never to be seen on television again after the new series failed to be renewed. However, he couldn’t have been more wrong. The television series took off, spawning 7 seasons, 4 films and catapulting him into global stardom. In the interview, Stewart recalls a fond moment, just after being cast as Picard, where his co-star Brent Spiner printed a poster and stapled it to his trailer’s door, saying ‘Beware! Unknown Shakespearean Actor!’ Stewart states that this is when he realised how much fun he would have on the series.
Following his success as Picard, Stewart picked up various roles, including that of Professor X in the X-Men Franchise and several roles in Seth McFarlane’s comedies in Family Guy and American Dad. However, according to Stewart, he never managed to shake off the mantle of the cool and measured Captain. Hugh Jackman described him as one of the nicest and comical people he’d ever met having worked alongside him in a number of X-Men films, and most recently, the smash-hit Logan. Sir Patrick’s strangest story comes from his personal life, revealed originally on the Graham Norton Show that despite believing for 70 years he was circumcised, and an argument with his wife about it, it took his doctor to declare he wasn’t!
Politically, Sir Patrick has played a huge role in the way that issues such as the European Courts of Human Rights, Brexit and activism are discussed and brought to public attention. He parodied the classic Monty Python sketch ‘What did the Romans ever do for us?’ changing it to ‘What did the European Court of Human Rights Ever Do For Us?’
He has been a longstanding member of the Labour Party, believing in their foundations of equality, public spending and socialism. Yet, following Corbyn’s choice to endorse Brexit, Stewart has made public the knowledge that he is splitting from the Labour Party and that he would be more likely to vote for the Green Party.
Stewart, who has always been a keen admirer of the Star Trek franchise claims that this new series, that will reintroduce Picard to a new generation, will be something ‘very different, but very special indeed.’ An apt description for the new television series, but also for the man himself. I am quite proud to say that Stewart is one of my heroes and one of Britain’s national treasures.