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Star Trek's Sir Patrick Stewart on Returning to Jean-Luc Picard: 'He's Always Been There'

'It's a relationship that I'm happy to continue,' said Stewart

Lindsay MacDonald

Star Trek: Picard, which CBS All Access just renewed for a second season ahead of its Season 1 premiere, will revisit the iconic character of Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) 20 years after the events of Star Trek: Next Generation. Though fans no doubt feel a giddy sense of excitement to finally have this character back in their lives, Stewart hasn't found himself caught up in the nostalgia quite as much.

At the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Sunday, the cast and creators of Star Trek: Picard took the stage to discuss the new series, and Stewart remarked that it didn't feel surreal to step back into Picard's shoes because he's always been there.

Everything We Know About Star Trek: Picard So Far

"So far as the character's concerned, halfway through Season 3 of Next Generation I no longer knew where Jean-Luc started and Patrick Stewart left off. We became melded, and that has never left me." Stewart said. "So there was actually nothing that strange to be stepping into Star Trek: Picard because he's never actually left me. He's always been there, and it's a relationship that I'm happy to continue. Actually, that's an understatement; I'm absolutely thrilled to continue."

If that's not enough to get you feeling a certain way, you'll be happy to know that Stewart had quite a few opinions about how and where to pick back up with his beloved character. He even admitted to making a few "presumptuous" demands when he signed on to return to the series.

Sir Patrick Stewart, Star Trek: Picard

Sir Patrick Stewart, Star Trek: Picard

Matt Kennedy, CBS

"I only appear very briefly in my uniform, and this was another one of the rather presumptuous conditions that I laid down. I didn't want to wear a uniform in this because I felt it very important that we put a lot of distance between Next Generation and what we're seeking to do here in this," Stewart explained.

"I was proud of the work we did for seven years on the series," he continued. "I was very content with [the end of the franchise] because I felt as I've said, very proud of the work we've done, the context in which the work was done, [and] the fact that we were then, as we are now, an ensemble and not a star-led series. [But] it has been far easier than I expected to make this transition nearly 20 years later. But because, as I've said, the man exists inside me, the interesting question for me is -- and we talked, I think, for days about the backstory. What happened in those 20 years? I have a very, very clear vision [of it], and little snippets of that backstory will creep into the series."

It's hard to imagine putting a beloved character like Jean-Luc Picard in more capable or appropriate hands than those of Stewart. And thanks to the show's early renewal, we'll no doubt get to see his vision for Picard's story play out for years to come, hopefully with a few familiar faces from Star Trek: Next Generation making their way onto the show as well.

Now, we already know a number of familiar faces will appear in Season 1 -- Stewart confirmed that Johnathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Del Arco, and Brent Spiner all appear -- but if Stewart has his way, they won't be the last of his former co-stars to appear.

"We actually talk all the time; the whole Next Generation cast are very, very close. I love all of them and they are dear, dear friends," said Stewart. "It is my hope that whenever that point arrives in which we are wrapping the series that we will have encountered all of the principal actors from Next Generation."

Yes! Yes to all of this!

Star Trek: Picardpremieres Thursday, Jan. 23 on CBS All Access.

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)

Star Trek: Picard

Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard.

Trae Patton, CBS