Ian McKellen Advised Patrick Stewart To Not Play Jean-Luc Picard

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At this point in Star Trek history, it’s hard to imagine any actor besides Sir Patrick Stewart playing Jean-Luc Picard. With his return to the role (see: Star Trek: Picard) about to debut, another distinguished British actor, Sir Ian McKellen, recently revealed to Variety that he once tried to talk Stewart out of playing the role. “He had had a distinguished career doing Shakespeare, and he was a leading young actor here doing the classics,” McKellen explained. “He said he had been asked to go do Star Trek, and I said, ‘Do be very careful. You’re having such a wonderful career here; to stop it to go off and do a telly that might not work is a very dangerous step.’ Thank goodness he didn’t take my advice.”

In all likelihood, the ultimate success of Star Trek: The Next Generation helped bring these actors together onscreen in X-Men—and this collaboration only cemented McKellen’s sense of Stewart’s virtues, both on screen and off. “He plays very strong characters,” he said. “And he looks formidable. He looks reliable. He’s the guy who you want to have in a difficult situation. ‘Captain Picard is here, don’t you worry.’ But inside that strength is a tenderness, which responds to love and affection, and which gives out the same thing to people who are closest to him.”

Patrick Stewart returns to his signature role on January 23 when Star Trek: Picard premieres on CTV Sci-Fi Channel. Check out the latest series trailer below.