Patrick Stewart Says He Was Clueless About 'Star Trek' Before First Audition

His children had to remind him of the original 1960s sci-fi series. "They told me, 'Dad, we used to watch it every night!' " Patrick Stewart tells PEOPLE

Patrick Stewart is known around the world for his portrayal of Star Trek: The Next Generation character Captain Jean-Luc Picard, but before his first audition, the actor knew very little about the sci-fi series.

"My children thought it was hysterical that I was even auditioning," Stewart, 81, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.

A stage actor with a long list of Shakespearean credits, including Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing and King Lear, Stewart says he wasn't keen on participating in a revival of the 1960s sci-fi series.

His son Daniel, 54, and daughter Sophie, 48, convinced him otherwise. "They told me, 'Dad, we used to watch it every night!' " he recalls of his children with ex-wife, dancer Sheila Falconer. "I said, 'The guys wearing the colored T-shirts?' That was all I knew."

Star Trek - The Next Generation
Paramount Television/Kobal/Shutterstock
Sir Patrick Stewart
Magnus Sundholm/Shutterstock

He was very close to never getting the role when he auditioned in the '80s.

"My first interview [with Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry lasted all of about six minutes," Stewart remembers. "I learned afterward that when I had gone out the door, he said, 'Who the hell suggested inviting that guy to come up here? What a waste of time.' Six months later I was offered the role. Gene thought I was completely wrong, but he was outvoted."

Stewart, who married wife Sunny Ozell in 2013, played Picard for all seven seasons — until the show was canceled in 1994 — and reprised the character in four feature films.

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

Jean-Luc Picard
Trae Patton/Paramount+

In 2020, he returned to the role again for the Paramount+ series Star Trek: Picard. "Thirty-three years later and I'm still doing it," he says. "I've been very, very lucky."

Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard premieres March 3 on Paramount+.

Related Articles