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Patrick Stewart reflects on his life and legendary career in new memoir, 'Making It So'


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Geoff Bennett: Patrick Stewart cut his acting teeth in the theater, taking on numerous roles in Shakespeare and other classics.

For his second act, he became known to millions as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the revival of the "Star Trek" television and film franchises, as well as Charles Xavier in the popular superhero X-Men films.

Now he tells his own story in a new memoir, and sat down with Jeffrey Brown recently for our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Patrick Stewart, Actor: Glamis hath murder'd sleep. Therefore, Cawdor shall sleep no more.

Jeffrey Brown: He would become one of the world's best-known actors, and everyone has to start somewhere. And, for Patrick Stewart, that was the day a teacher handed his class the text of William Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice."

Patrick Stewart: He said: "All right, Act 4, Scene 1. Your all cast. All right, start reading."

And, of course, we all went -- and he yelled at us: "Not to yourselves, you idiots!"

And then he said: "This is a play. It's people. It's real life. It's not just being on a stage. You have got to invite people into it."

Jeffrey Brown: Some seven decades later, at age 83, Stewart invites us into his own life drama in a memoir titled "Making It So."

Patrick Stewart: There was something about having those words, even though I was mispronouncing them, in my mouth that felt good, felt I was in control.

Jeffrey Brown: It gave you a voice. It gave you a self. It gave you a confidence.

Patrick Stewart: Yes, exactly.

What it gave me was that I could drop the Patrick Stewart.

Jeffrey Brown: What does that mean?

Patrick Stewart: It means that I didn't really like who I was. And I felt much more comfortable when I was somebody else.

Actually, the first time I walked onto a stage and breathed in, because I was nervous, I realized suddenly I felt safer than I had felt in any of my childhood years. I mean literally safe. Nothing bad can happen to me on the stage.

Jeffrey Brown: As he writes, the future captain of the Starship Enterprise grew up in a tough blue-collar town in the North of England without hot water or an indoor toilet.

His first years alone with his mother and older brother were good ones. But his father's return from World War II changed everything. His father, described as a weakened alcoholic, would beat his mother, and young Patrick could not protect her.

So, there is this mix of wound and strength, I think, that runs through your whole life story. Do you feel that?

Patrick Stewart: I do. I feel it in my work. I feel it in important relationships. And I have benefited from it and also from, oh, 30 years ago, when someone I knew quite well said to me: "Have you ever thought of therapy, Patrick, psychological therapy?"

And I said: "No, no. Why would I do that?"

"Give it a shot."

And, thoom, I was hooked right away. And that has been one of the ways that I helped to understand my life, my childhood, my father, understanding, because he just made me angry and fearful when he was around. And he's one of the people I miss now, because I'd like him to read book.

Jeffrey Brown: Stewart would work his way up as an actor from local productions to studies in Bristol, eventually to the heights, the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He writes of lessons along the way, including how great actors develop -- quote -- "an invisible cloak of truth that elevates their performances."

The actor is both pretending and not pretending?

Patrick Stewart: I don't like the word pretending, although, in a sense, pretense is partly what we're activated to do when we're acting.

But the people that you have mentioned, their performance, their work lives inside them.

Jeffrey Brown: A lesson he learned when a director convinced him to take on one of Shakespeare's vilest monsters, Polixenes in "The Winter's Tale."

Patrick Stewart: And he said: "I think you're fearful, Patrick, but what you must understand is that this character already lives inside you."

And I was kind of outraged at that. And he said: "But you're an actor. All you have to do is let it out."

Jeffrey Brown: A whole other level of fame would come in his late 40s. While the actors strike continued, Stewart asked us not to use clips from his work on "Star Trek" or "X-Men," where, by the way, he co-starred with Ian McKellen.

But fans well know how he, yes, commanded those roles with his voice and presence. In fact, though, Stewart himself knew nothing of this new world when he first came to it.

You were not "Star Trek"-literate, huh?

Patrick Stewart: Not remotely. I wasn't even a fan. I wasn't a fan of sci-fi at all.


Patrick Stewart: And I still struggle just a little bit.

Jeffrey Brown: But you're saying that, in these characters for television and film, you were able to find the same way in that you found to Shakespeare on the stage?

Patrick Stewart: Exactly the same.

Jeffrey Brown: The complexity?

Patrick Stewart: Yes, and making sure that, if the complexity was inside him, when I released it, it would make sense. It would be understandable. And I think...

Jeffrey Brown: To yourself, as well as the audience?

Patrick Stewart: Always to myself, yes, but, hopefully, as often to the audience. And that was always my objective.

I wanted to bring the audience into our world. I was never that interested in thrusting it out, but just inviting people to come in and share what we were experiencing.

Say I am happy!

Ian McKellen, Actor: I am happy.

Patrick Stewart: In 2013, he took to the stage, again working with McKellen, in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."

Ian McKellen: What do we do now, now that we're happy?


Patrick Stewart: It requires connection. And that connection isn't made by yelling and acting.

There's a wonderful American comic whose name I now can't remember who was asked once: "What is acting?"

And he said: "Acting, acting is yelling!"


Jeffrey Brown: But not for you?

Patrick Stewart: No, not for me.

Jeffrey Brown: There is one big role Stewart still wants to take on, King Lear. But, he says:

Patrick Stewart: Somebody, actually, the other day said: "You know, you're a bit too old for King Lear."


Patrick Stewart: Can't -- can't get it right.

So, I feel that, even though I may be too old to play Lear, I could give it a shot.


Jeffrey Brown: All right, we will look for your King Lear.

Patrick Stewart. The book is "Making It so."

Thank you very much.

Patrick Stewart: Thank you.

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