Why Patrick Stewart Was Terrified To Take On The Role Of Jean-Luc Picard

"Change is the essential process of all existence." When Spock said that, he was absolutely right — change is absolutely an important part of being alive. However, that doesn't make change any less scary. Big changes in one's life can certainly be intimidating for everybody. Even people that are seemingly fearless, like Starfleet officers, can find change to be daunting. So if you think that the Captain of the Starship Enterprise may be immune to that fear, think again.

Things Are Only Impossible Until They Are Not

Sir Patrick Stewart has inhabited a number of iconic roles throughout his career. He's played marquee roles in plays from William Shakespeare, David Mamet, Harold Pinter, and Charles Dickens. He brought Professor Charles Xavier from the pages of Marvel Comics to the big screen. And he even had a great guest spot on "Frasier." But obviously in most circles, he's best known for his portrayal of Captain Jean-Luc Picard on "Star Trek: Next Generation." However, if he had listened to his gut reaction to the part when it was first brought to him and gave into a fear of change, then things might have played out much differently for one of the most legendary actors of all time.

Seize The Time... Live Now!

During an appearance on NPR's Fresh Air, Stewart discussed his initial hesitance to join the TNG cast back in the day. Not only would he be leaving behind the illustrious career on stage that he had built up for himself, but many felt at the time that a revival of "Star Trek" wouldn't live up to the expectations set by the original series. As he explained: 

It was terrifying to me, because what it meant was that I was going to have to shut down my career, which actually — and I don't know whether there is any connection here — actually had started to take off in a way that I was very pleased with. I'd been playing leading Shakespearean roles for a number of years, and now I was getting leading roles on television, and I was being offered transfers into the West End and transfers to Broadway. And the idea that I would have to shut that down for six years was horrifying.

But ... that was when my agent was the very first person — and many others followed him — to say to me, "Look, don't worry about six years. That's in all these contracts. I've got to tell you, this show will be lucky to make it through the first season. You cannot revive an iconic series like those three seasons of the original 'Star Trek.' You just can't. So you're not going to be here for six years. Forget about that!"

So I happily and delightedly signed a contract which committed me to six years. And we ended up doing seven.

Thankfully, the star was able to overcome his fear and embrace change. Because of the 178 episodes over the course of seven seasons from September 28, 1987 to May 23, 1994, Stewart and company reinvigorated "Star Trek" for (pun intended) the next generation of fans. Stewart then reprised the role of Captain Picard for four movies before leaving the character behind. That is, until CBS All Access (now known as Paramount+) reeled the actor back in 18 years later with "Star Trek: Picard," which has brought in even more fans to the beloved franchise created by Gene Roddenberry.