In an excerpt from his new novel Making It So: A Memoir, the Royal Shakespeare Company veteran recalled clashing with his fellow Enterprise shipmates during the first season of the sci-fi series because he didn’t believe they were taking their roles seriously enough.
“My castmates doubled over in laughter when they flubbed multiple takes and, in rehearsals, they sometimes ad-libbed things that weren’t in the script to make their lines funnier,” Stewart recalled, per the Hollywood Reporter. “My experiences at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre had been intense and serious. Naturally, we enjoyed a bit of levity, but in general we knew our time was limited and we didn’t fool around.”
As a result, he continued, “On the TNG set, I grew angry with the conduct of my peers, and that’s when I called that meeting in which I lectured the cast for goofing off and responded to Denise Crosby‘s, ‘We’ve got to have some fun sometimes, Patrick,’ comment by saying, ‘We are not here, Denise, to have fun.'”
Stewart’s bold proclamation didn’t exactly win over his peers. “In retrospect, everyone, me included, finds this story hilarious. But, in the moment, when the cast erupted in hysterics at my pompous declaration, I didn’t handle it well,” he recalled. “I didn’t enjoy being laughed at. I stormed off the set and into my trailer, slamming the door.”
After he had been “sulking for a while” in his trailer, Stewart said his costars Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner stopped by to hash everything out. He remembered the latter telling him, “Everything’s okay. People respect you, but I think you misjudged the situation here.”
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Patrick Stewart on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’
“He and Jonathan acknowledged that yes, there was too much goofing around and that it needed to be dialed back. But they also made it clear how off-putting it was — and not a case study in good leadership — for me to try to resolve the matter by lecturing and scolding the cast,” Stewart acknowledged. “I had failed to read the room, imposing RSC behavior on people accustomed to the ways of episodic television — which was, after all, what we were shooting.”
Over the course of several decades and spinoffs, Stewart noted that he’s “learned so much from my Star Trek friends about acting for television and simply being a good colleague” on set.
Still, it wasn’t easy to adapt to his new environment in the beginning. “It took me that entire first season to relax and thaw out from an uptight Englishman to a loose, amiable colleague given to quasi-American behavior but, bit by bit, I got there,” he acknowledged. “Chance had thrown me into a company that was as generous and funny as it was talented. Our mutual respect grew over time and into friendship and ultimately, a feeling of family.”
Listen to Stewart recall his walkout in the clip above. Making It So: A Memoir is out now.
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