New Picard ... who this? For its second season, Star Trek: Picard boldly goes into an alternate timeline where Earth has become a "totalitarian nightmare" ruled by a tyrannical version of the Enterprise captain we know and love. The image of a despotic Jean-Luc Picard whipping his fervent followers into a frenzy can't help but call to mind the disturbing rallies overseen by former president Donald Trump. But Patrick Stewart is willing to stick up for his alter ego in any timeline.
"You are the first person to compare Jean-Luc Picard to Donald Trump," the actor tells Yahoo Entertainment when we note the comparison. "I think you're wrong by the way. I can think of no element in Donald Trump that might possibly be in Jean-Luc Picard." (Watch our video interview above.)
That said, Stewart does admit that viewers will meet a Picard in Season 2 who has been on a darker journey than the version we've followed since Star Trek: The Next Generation's premiere 35 years ago. "There is a Picard who has, from childhood, misinterpreted his life and held responsible for the shadows in his life with the wrong people," he notes. "That's something that we will learn to do about Donald Trump!"
According to Stewart, part of the prime directive behind Picard's storyline this season is deconstructing the Starfleet officer's life and legacy as the Paramount+ show nears the end of its run. (Picard is currently filming its third season, which will be its last.) "I feel that our directors and writers and producers have addressed aspects of Jean-Luc Picard and elements of the whole philosophy of Star Trek itself in these episodes," he remarks. "And I'm very happy that we did that. It makes me proud of the people who are helping to make these decisions."
Picard co-creator and executive producer, Akiva Goldsman, is at the top of the list of people charged with making those kinds of decisions. And he echoes Stewart's enthusiasm about the opportunity to explore the alternate roads that Picard might have taken. "Part of what we thought was interesting was to create this sort of obviously fascistic alt-Federation and the idea of [a Picard] that was quite fierce and quite disconnected," he says. "It was fun to give Patrick the opportunity to do that. It's brief, but it was fun to do."
The person responsible for ushering the Trump-ian Picard into being is his time-and-space manipulating nemesis, Q, played by John de Lancie. In advance of their long-awaited reunion, Q has altered a small but key moment in Earth's past, setting it on a course to the darker tomorrow that Picard finds himself in. Now, Jean-Luc and his allies — including Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), Raffi (Michelle Hurd), and Agnes (Alison Pill) — have to go on their own time travel adventure to make things right.
"When we were shooting our scenes, it was really important that Picard be scared about the possibilities that could happen," de Lancie explains of the reunion that sets events in motion, adding that this Q has his own motivations that become clearer as the season progresses. "The Q who comes to Picard tells him that time is short," he teases. "And what's different between this Q and the one before is that it's also applicable to me. So that's what's driving a lot of this."
Hurd got a front seat view of Stewart's brief, but memorable transformation into the darker Picard and has one word for the experience. "Delicious," she says, laughing. "Every actor can tell you that we love playing a [hero], but give us a good villain and the gloves come off! Those moments where he's standing onstage and he takes the phaser out. I was like, 'Good lord!' It was very jarring, but really fun."
Q isn't the only TNG fan favorite swinging by Picard's second season. Stewart will also share screen time with Whoopi Goldberg, who served up drinks and good advice as Guinan, the proprietor of the Ten Forward lounge aboard the USS Enterprise-D. Her recurring role fulfilled a lifelong dream for the Oscar-winning actress and comedian, who was inspired to pursue acting after seeing Nichelle Nichols serving on the Enterprise bridge crew on Star Trek: The Original Series. And Goldberg's return is something that Stewart himself helped orchestrate, memorably inviting her back to Trek midway through his Jan. 2020 appearance on The View.
"I think probably might be the first time that an actress has been asked to play a role in front of an audience," Stewart says with a laugh. "We had a marvelous time. There's one scene, which was almost an entire day that Guinon and Picard spent together and it was one of the best days of my life."
It's worth noting that Stewart didn't go rogue by inviting Goldberg back: Goldsman says the Picard creative team was behind the stunt all the way. "Patrick said, 'Let me ask her on camera. She can't say no!'" he remembers, adding that Guinion's return allowed the writers to open a "window" into Picard's character. And Goldberg came prepared with opinions about where she wanted her character to be all these years later. "She had input on wardrobe, on character, on dialogue — it was great. And I was starstruck because she's Whoopi Goldberg! She's all things. That was pretty amazing."
Speaking of amazing, Stewart had a pretty amazing response when we asked him whether or not his voice made a cameo in the Super Bowl trailer for Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Fans are convinced that the once — and maybe future? — Professor Charles Xavier from the X-Men franchise might be appearing in Sam Raimi's superhero sequel for the first time since his death in James Mangold's final Wolverine story, Logan. "Who's Doctor Strange?" Stewart said with a knowing smile.
— Ethan Alter (@ethanalter) February 24, 2022
The actor has since tacitly confirmed that he'll be appearing in the Marvel multiverse in some fashion alongside Benedict Cumberbatch's sorcerer. In an interview with Jake's Takes, Stewart said that he was impressed by how quickly social media pieced together his cameo. "I actually didn't recognize my own voice. It sounded different. Whether I had a cold or something at the time, I don't know. But I was astonished. And all they saw was the back of my shoulder, and I think my earlobe, nothing else. That there would have been so many connections made, it pleased me."
—Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jimmie Rhee
Star Trek: Picard is streaming now on Paramount+