Stage to Screen: An Hour with Stewart and McFadden

Photo by Jesse Garrett
Photo by Jesse Garrett

The Marriott Atrium Ballroom was full to capacity at the “Star Trek: TNG: All Good Things” panel on Saturday at 1PM. Guests Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden came out on stage to a standing ovation. Trek Track director Garrett Wang wasted little time getting into the questions from the audience, which included broader topics on acting as well as specific Star Trek: The Next Generation questions.

One of the common themes in the questions was about the camaraderie between the cast members and how it grew and changed over time between the television show and the movies and into the present. McFadden told a story about a gag she played on Stewart during filming of the episode “Descent.” At the end of the episode, McFadden’s character, Dr. Beverly Crusher, is in charge of the Enterprise. She planned out an elaborate gag for the first rehearsal of the scene when Picard returns to the ship that included framed pictures of Wesley Crusher and Riker up on the bridge, a champagne bucket, guys stripped to their waist at the ship controls while she sits in the captain’s chair in a bathrobe and curlers. However, the gag fell a little flat because Stewart walked on set without his glasses and couldn’t see a thing! Stewart remembered the gag and called it “brilliant and really entertaining.”

At one point during the Q&A, a fan asked if Stewart would do the opening monologue in a French accent, as he had apparently done previously at a con in Chicago. Stewart obliged, doing the first few lines of the opener in what was frankly a fairly outrageous accent. After concluding, Stewart said that “somewhere in the vaults at Paramount pictures there is indeed a tape when I was put on camera before we began filming ‘Encounter at Farpoint’ of me reading a scene in a French accent because they thought maybe I should have a French accent … It sounded like—it sounded like Peter Sellers! Like Inspector Clouseau.”  He went on to say that they had a deal worked that all technical terms would be Americanized instead of said in Stewart’s natural British accent.

In response to a question about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and how the cast reacted to a new show starting, Stewart said, “You cannot have too much Star Trek… I just hope that it goes on and on and on. I don’t need to be any part of it because we are part of it. And that’s something that gives us—all of us—a lot of pride.” McFadden immediately agreed, calling it a “great legacy.”

Both Stewart and McFadden are accomplished stage actors as well. They responded to a question about the difference between film and movie acting by saying that they had always wanted to be stage actors. For Stewart, it’s because for all the time you’re on the stage, you’re in control of the experience and the response is immediate. There’s a delay in knowing what the impact is when you’re filming a movie and there are many other hands involved in shaping it. McFadden agreed, saying that she particularly enjoys directing and the rehearsal process.

One audience member thanked Stewart for his involvement with the charity Combat Stress, which works with veterans diagnosed with PTSD. The organization has just celebrated its 80th birthday, but Stewart’s involvement started about three years ago.  While filming a BBC documentary program, he learned that in 1940, his father returned from Northern France suffering from severe shell shock. No one in his family, including his mother, knew and his father never received any treatment. “Suddenly a man who I had seen as one kind of a man for decades became someone very, very different…There is no doubt that it remained with him all of his life, so now, I do that work in my father’s memory.”

The panel concluded on a particularly warm note as a woman in a Next Generation uniform asked Stewart if he would bless her recent engagement by saying Picard’s iconic phrase for when he wants an action to be taken. Stewart asked her and her fiancé’s names, then said, “Heather, James… make it so!” The audience cheered in congratulations for the happy couple and the enthusiasm continued in appreciation for Stewart and McFadden sharing their time with us all.

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Max sees to the needs of her kitty overlords; polices the grammar on all kinds of published material including signage, menus, and food packaging; and cuddles with her wife while watching her favorite shows (Our Flag Means Death, Killjoys, Sense8, and Doctor Who among them). She continues to be far too excited to be working for the Daily Dragon.