Question: I know you keep getting questions about stars being difficult, but I was a big Star Trek: The Next Generation fan and wanted to know if Patrick Stewart was as poorly behaved on the last episode as I've heard. Thank you for your time and effort. Bonnie L., Union, N.J.
Televisionary: I'm not sure how bad you heard it was, Bonnie, but it was fairly well-known that as the syndicated Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was produced from 1987-94, wound down, Stewart did exhibit some difficult behavior. The actor himself admitted to that in a 1994 TV Guide interview (albeit while talking about himself in the third person, which is often a worrisome sign).
"There were reports that Patrick was becoming too much of a diva, having hysterics on the set, throwing people off the set. And then, when we went to Star Trek Generations, it was reported that there were problems between him and Bill Shatner none of which was true.... at least not the problems with Shatner. As far as the last episode was concerned, I was just exhausted, and between the intensity of my role in the two-hour finale, the 18-hour days and the multitude of press on the set every day well, it just became overwhelming. I did my fair quota of yelling, that's true."
Stewart was known for expressing his feelings. But to his credit, he owned up to it rather than being one of those tantrum-throwing stars who insist their behavior is beyond reproach at all times. Take, for example, the time he walked off Good Morning America. "They were broadcasting from the Next Generation set and the weatherman was dressed in a Star Fleet uniform," he recalled in 1992. "I thought that it was disrespectful. They were doing shtick in our costumes, and I thought it was demeaning to the show. I know I sound pompous, and I don't give a damn. Nevertheless, I should not have done what I did. I regret it.... I'm at my least diplomatic when there's a lack of respect. And I'm not speaking only of me, but when I see anyone or any group of people being treated disrespectfully. That's when I'm inclined to lose it."
All that from a guy who, after being spotted by a ST:TNG producer while helping a UCLA professor with a lecture and landing the part, was convinced he'd never last. "When it first started, I didn't think that I would survive beyond the pilot," he said. "I did not unpack I didn't see the point. I thought the producers would come to their senses and realize they'd made a grave error in casting me. I was certain that I'd be on my way back to London.... Eventually, it became clear to me that not only wasn't I going to go away, the series wasn't going to go away. I stayed and have relished every moment."
And why not? The show earned him recognition, even granting him the honor of being named TV Guide's "most bodacious man on TV" in 1992. "For a while I was in total denial of this event, falling back on the persona of a deeply embarrassed Englishman," Stewart said of the accolade. "But as time went by, I began to confess, first to myself and then to others, that I enjoyed it very much. I feel a little and it's only just occurred to me this moment bit of what it must be like to be a Miss World or Miss Universe. And it happening in my 52nd year was as unexpected as it could possibly be."
Also unexpected? The public proposal he received while speaking at a convention in Phoenix, Ariz. "This young man stood up, and he said, 'Mr. Stewart, please, will you marry my mother?'" Stewart said. "An attractive-looking woman sitting beside him bent forward and put her head into her hands."
Then there was his most surprising encounter with fandom, which occurred when he and his girlfriend went to a restaurant in Zagreb, Croatia. "We were ushered in by a very dignified and formal maitre d', shown to a table, given menus," the actor said. "We didn't speak a word of Croat, so we ordered everything by pointing. And when our salads arrived, sitting in the center of each beautifully carved out of cucumber and green and red peppers was a perfect little replica of the Enterprise! The other courses were served, and there was no change of any kind in this man's demeanor without any comment being made. It was the classiest bit of recognition I have ever experienced."
Just one of the many benefits that, as Stewart recognized despite the occasional bout of wrath, come from starring on a hit show. And he wasn't alone. When asked by a reporter if he'd sign on to another series, given the opportunity, Stewart's costar Jonathan Frakes said he'd do so "in a heartbeat." "Hey, I was around and struggling long before The Next Generation came along," he added. "I don't have to be kicked in the head to recognize a good job."