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From ‘Star Trek’ to ‘X-Men,’ Patrick Stewart Steals the Show — Read About His Early Career Here

The 83-year-old Brit still has it!


With his strong, authoritative British voice and dedicated, Shakespearean manner, you would think Patrick Stewart was born to be a “Sir,” but that certainly wasn’t the case — a young Patrick grew up poor in a particularly violent household.

Born in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England, a young Patrick’s life was a difficult time. He and his brother Trevor were raised by his mother while his father was serving in World War II. His home was a squalid two room house with no indoor plumbing and the boys shared a single bed.

Patrick Stewart, 1990
Patrick Stewart, 1990Bettmann/Getty Images

He’s cited the first five years of his life as being blissful, but all that changed when his father returned from serving in the war, suffering from what we now know as PTSD. He was a heavy drinker and often abusive husband, to the point where Patrick would physically put himself between his mom and dad to protect her.

“As a child I witnessed his repeated violence against my mother, and the terror and misery he caused was such that, if I felt I could have succeeded, I would have killed him,” he told The Guardian in 2009.

The actor in 1995
Patrick Stewart, 1995Eric Robert/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

“If my mother had attempted it, I would have held him down. For those who struggle to comprehend these feelings in a child, imagine living in an environment of emotional unpredictability, danger and humiliation week after week, year after year, from the age of seven.”

He continued, “My childish instinct was to protect my mother, but the man hurting her was my father, whom I respected, admired and feared.”

Patrick Stewart takes charge of his fate as a young man

Turning obstacles into opportunities was Stewart’s way out of poverty, violence and anger. He was a member of various local drama groups from age 12 and left school at 15 to work as a junior reporter on a local paper.

Patrick Stewart as Launce during rehearsals for a production of of Two Gentlemen of Verona for the Royal Shakespeare Company, 1970
Patrick Stewart as Launce during rehearsals for a production of of Two Gentlemen of Verona for the Royal Shakespeare Company, 1970Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Unfortunately, he quit when the editor told him he was spending too much time at the theatre and not enough working. Undeterred, Stewart saved up money as a furniture salesman to attend Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1957 along with fellow actor Brian Blessed, making Stewart’s professional debut in 1959 in the repertory theatre in Lincoln.

Patrick Stewart turned to the stage at a young age

A young Patrick dealt with his home life challenges by turning to acting to escape the turmoil. He discovered Shakespeare through his older brother Jeffrey, and it was his mother who encouraged Patrick on the stage.

He immediately became passionate about his newly discovered craft. One of his earliest teachers became a mentor and at a drama camp, Stewart knew he had met his calling.

Patrick Stewart, Sue Johnstone and Lisa Dillon in The Master Builder, London, 2003
Patrick Stewart, Sue Johnstone and Lisa Dillon in The Master Builder, London, 2003robbie jack/Corbis via Getty Images

Juggling high school, acting and his father’s disapproval of his newly found passion, Stewart dropped out of school at 15 to pursue his dream. “My education was very basic,” he told The New Yorker. “And for years I felt uncomfortable about that, when I found myself working with Oxbridge men and women.”

In May of 1959, Stewart played Cutpurse, a thief among the audience for the play-within-a play in Cyrano de Bergerac. He then had a period with Manchester’s Library Theatre before becoming a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1966, remaining with them for another 16 years.

Within those years, Stewart appeared with actors such as Ben Kingsley and Ian Richardson.

Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley, 2009
Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley, 2009Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

Patrick Stewart had a career on the small screen as a young actor

His first TV appearance was in 1967 in Coronation Street as a fire officer. Two years later, he had a brief cameo role as Horatio opposite Ian Richardson’s Hamlet, and then there was a brief appearance in an episode of the British TV series, Civilisation.

Over the years, Stewart took on roles in major TV series without ever becoming a household name. Fall of the Eagles and I, Claudius came first. Karla in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley’s People followed.

The actor in 1990
Patrick Stewart, 1990Paul Harris/Getty Images

Then came a departure from his usual authority figures for a romantic lead role in a BBC adaptation of North and South in 1975, followed by Hamlet in 1980, where Stewart played Claudius.

A Christmas Carol in 1999, where he starred as Scrooge, as well as numerous other TV appearances, came and went — but then came Star Trek: The Next Generation.

MUST-READ: The Original ‘Star Trek’ Cast: Where They’ve Boldly Gone, Then and Now

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Jonathan Frakes, Marina Spirits, Patrick Stewart, and Brent Spiner
Jonathan Frakes, Marina Spirits, Patrick Stewart, and Brent Spiner Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

In 1987, Stewart agreed to work in Hollywood on a Star Trek revival, but he knew nothing about the sci-fi show, its cultural influence or its rabid fan base. He reluctantly signed a six-year contract because he, and everyone around him, thought the show would be a dismal failure. Then, he thought he could return to the stage with some money in hand.

In 1987, Stewart became Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Initially, Stewart was living out of his suitcase, feeling as though the producers would soon realize they’d made a mistake casting him and he’d be on his way. Instead, he stayed, the role lasting seven years.

MUST-READ: DeForest Kelley: Remembering the Life and Career of the Heart of ‘Star Trek’

The actor photographed in 1987
The actor photographed in 1987Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

 Stewart, at first, saw the actors as being unprofessional, but his demeanor softened and he has been credited by fellow Trekkies with the show’s success due to his preparation and dedication to the scripts.

“Early on,” the actor related in the pages of the Star Trek oral history book The Fifty-Year Mission, “my fellow actors would frequently make each other laugh on the set, and I couldn’t understand it. I would get rather stern in my response, and Jonathan Frakes would say, ‘Patrick, we’re just having fun.’ I responded, ‘We are here to work. We are not here to have fun.’ Can you believe what a pompous ass I was?”

Because of Stewart’s recognition and the show’s popularity, the franchise grew to the big screen in Star Trek Generations (1994), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).

MUST-READ: The ‘Star Trek Voyager’ Cast Then and Now, Sharing What They Thought of Their Characters (EXCLUSIVE)

Due to his outstanding performances, Stewart was nominated for a 1995 SAG Award. With an initial reluctance to take on this role, Stewart has since said the highlight of his career was Star Trek: The Next Generation, because it changed everything for him.

The actor prepares to engage, 1987
The actor prepares to engage, 1987George Rose/Getty Images

X-Men films

Though Stewart was stereotyped over the years as the Enterprise captain, the role also offered him star recognition and opened doors to other opportunities. In 2000, he became Professor Charles Xavier, mentor of the superhero team in the big budget X-Men film series.

Once again, Stewart was reluctant to sign on for another sci-fi project, but he wanted to work with director Bryan Singer and his friend Ian McKellen, who had been cast as Xavier’s friend and nemesis. The franchise proved uber successful, spawning seven feature films.

MUST-READ: 10 Photos of Young Ian McKellen — Long Before He Was Gandalf or Magneto

Ian McKellen and Patrick, Waiting For Godot, 2013
Ian McKellen and Patrick, Waiting For Godot, 2013Walter McBride/WireImage

Return to the stage

Stewart couldn’t get acting on stage out of his system, but his association with the Royal Shakespeare Company had rather lapsed due to his Star Trek shooting schedules. That said, he began writing one-man shows that he performed at California universities.

A Christmas Carol was one in which he portrayed all 40-plus characters and in 1991, he brought the play to Broadway. In 1993, he took the run to London and eventually brought the show back to Broadway, with all the Broadway proceeds going to charity.

Shuler Hensley, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Billy Crudup, 2013
Shuler Hensley, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Billy Crudup, 2013Walter McBride/WireImage/Getty Images

All was not lost within the Shakespeare realm. Stewart played Prospero in The Tempest on Broadway in 1995, and in 1997, he took on the role of Othello in Washington D.C., a role he had wanted to play since the age of 14.

Stewart has continued to work on the stage, on TV and in various films since 2000. The accomplished actor was awarded the Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 2010 Queen’s New Year’s Honors List for his service to drama.

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