‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’: Gene Roddenberry Almost Didn’t Cast Patrick Stewart

When you think of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you think of Patrick Stewart. The English actor is synonymous with Star Trek these days. That wasn’t always the case, however.

There was a time when his casting was hardly the foregone conclusion it now seems like it must have been. There was one incredibly influential figure in the show’s lore who didn’t want him in the captain’s chair: none other than series creator Gene Roddenberry himself. Let’s take a closer look at why he didn’t want to cast him at first.

Patrick Stewart has had a long, distinguished career as an actor

Sir Patrick Stewart
Sir Patrick Stewart | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

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Stewart has had a long career on both stage and screen. He’s a classically trained actor, but he’s best known for his role in two iconic properties. Star Trek is one of them, of course, but there’s another almost equally popular one he’s helped shape on the big screen. 

Stewart played Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men films. He first starred as the wise telepath in 2000’s X-Men. He starred in the series’ first trilogy. Though his character died in the third film, he returned when the series had a soft reboot in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

His last performance in the role was in Logan, where he played a much older version of the character experiencing the horrors of Alzheimer’s. 

Comic book movies can seem over the top and cartoonish at times, but Stewart brought plenty of grace and dignity to Xavier. His version of the character predated the MCU. It’s safe to say that his portrayal of Professor X helped usher in a time period when it became okay for stage actors to play comic book characters.

After Stewart, theater stalwarts such as Anthony Hopkins became the norm rather than the exception in superhero movies. 

Patrick Stewart starred in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’

While Xavier is one of Stewart’s most famous roles, he would have never gotten the opportunity if not for Star Trek. Stewart portrayed Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Stewart was like no other Star Trek captain before him. Whereas Captain Kirk was known for his outlandishness and loud personality, Picard was quiet and reserved. He rarely raised his voice, so when he did you know he meant it. 

It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role of Picard. He effortlessly blended in with the rest of the talented ensemble cast. He also brought his own distinctive presence to the show. Picard was softer, quieter, and speculative than Kirk before him.

It made for a different viewing experience – one that Trek fans appreciated. The show wouldn’t have been nearly successful without him. 

Stewart played Picard in the show and throughout several movies as well. He may not be quite as iconic as Shatner’s Kirk, but he’s certainly beloved by Trek fans everywhere. He even received his own show on CBS’s streaming platform. 

Gene Roddenberry almost didn’t cast Patrick Stewart in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’

Looking back now, it seems like the choice of Stewart in the role was an easy one. But the creator didn’t think so.

According to Mental Floss, TNG executive producer Rick Berman said that Roddenberry didn’t initially like the choice of Stewart as captain. Berman’s exact words were that Roddenberry wouldn’t want a “bald English guy taking over.” 

This was when Roddenberry was playing less of an active role in the development of Star Trek, but his opinion still held a lot of weight. Luckily for all involved, the producers still cast Stewart. Roddenberry’s instincts were off in this case: Stewart became one of the greatest performers in the history of Star Trek.