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Patrick Stewart: Why I Stormed Off the Set of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’

Patrick Stewart had a rough start behind the scenes at Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As candidly detailed in an exclusive audio excerpt (hear Stewart narrate the story below) from his new autobiography, Making It So: A Memoir, the veteran British actor clashed with his castmates early on.

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But first, Stewart detailed how nervous he was about playing a Star Trek captain, how industry insiders were predicting the syndicated series was doomed to fail, and how he was determined to take the part quite seriously. It was the British Shakespeare stage actor’s first regular TV series — he was being paid more money than he had ever imagined earning — and he wanted to prove naysayers wrong while respecting the legacy of the franchise.

So when he was on set shooting the show’s debut season and co-stars like Jonathan Frakes, Denise Crosby and Brent Spiner would tease him or ad-lib a joke or laugh when they flubbed their lines, it would low-key infuriate 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 then details how Frakes and Spiner came to his trailer 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.”

Here’s the excerpt from the Making It So audiobook where Stewart tells the story:

This wasn’t the only time in the show’s history that Stewart walked off, by the way. He also did it when Good Morning America shot a campy segment on the set that he found disrespectful to the series.

Stewart also admitted in Making It So that his insistence on taking things seriously led to early concerns about Wil Wheaton’s character Wesley Crusher “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 details highlights from his decades in British theater, his love life, his time on the X-Men franchise and his friendship with his co-star Ian McKellen. The 83-year-old also went back and rewatched all TNG seasons and films in preparation for writing the book and notes which episodes and movies held up best and worst — noting 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.”

One interesting non-Trek anecdote was about a house in Los Angeles that Stewart owned, which he firmly became convinced was 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!”

As for what’s next for the actor, Stewart has a film role he’s hoping comes through and plans to continue his beloved theater work. “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.”

Making It So: A Memoir is being released today by Gallery Books, and Stewart notes that his agent suspects it might be one of the few titles where the audiobook outsells the print edition, given Stewart’s iconic voice.

“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.”

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