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Patrick Stewart teases return of Jean-Luc Picard, says new 'Star Trek' series 'is a 10-hour movie'

After seven seasons and four movies captaining the good ship Enterprise as Jean-Luc Picard, Patrick Stewart officially stepped down from Starfleet following the release of 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. At that time, he had no intention of ever requesting a cup of “Earl Grey, hot” from a shipboard computer ever again. “Although I loved being Picard … I had not realized that there would be a downside to that,” he confessed to Yahoo Entertainment. (Watch our video interview above.)

That downside was convincing the film industry that he could play something other than a starship captain. Never mind that Stewart’s pre-Next Generation stage and screen credits ran the gamut from Shakespeare to Frank Herbert; whenever he met with directors, they only saw Picard. And so he made the difficult decision to permanently retire his alter ego, turning down all entreaties to put on the Starfleet uniform again with a firm, “I’m done.”

Not anymore, he’s not. Last August, Stewart shocked the world by announcing that Picard will make his return in an all-new Star Trek series for CBS All-Access. “It is an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard,” he wrote in his Twitter statement.

Stewart elaborated on why he’s ready to boldly go back to Star Trek in our interview. “I agreed to a meeting with the people who were going to produce this new version of Star Trek only because I wanted to seriously and respectfully explain to them why I was turning the project down. I heard just enough to realize this was something very unusual, and I was intrigued. What I was afraid of was … this was going to be jokey, and I didn’t want to do that.’ I asked a lot of questions and the answers were all very satisfying.”

Naturally, Stewart declined to share any of those answers with us. But he did reveal a few tantalizing details. For starters, this new series will tell one long tale instead of Next Generation‘s episodic structure. “They are writing a 10-hour movie,” the actor says, referring to the writers’ room headed up by Discovery showrunner, Alex Kurtzman. Earlier this year, Kurtzman shared that the still-untitled Picard series will take place after the destruction of the Romulan Empire, an event that throws Picard’s life into turmoil. And that turmoil may take more than 10 episodes to resolve. “We’re hoping for more than one season,” Stewart volunteered.

Stewart also says that audiences shouldn’t expect the older Picard to be sporting a grey beard as he does in the TNG series finale, “All Good Things.” That episode — which celebrates its 25th anniversary in May — memorably bounced between timelines, depicting Jean-Luc in the past, present and future. “I remember vividly those scenes [in the future],” Stewart says now. “I grew a beard and they made me up. I looked older than I will in the upcoming series!”

Star Trek: The Next Generation is currently streaming on Netflix. The still-untitled Picard series will premiere on CBS All-Access later this year.

Watch: Patrick Stewart on winning the wizard wars:

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