When I saw that actor Patrick Stewart had penned a memoir, I was eager to read it. Being the huge Star Trek fan that I am, it seemed like a no-brainer. While his time as Picard is detailed here, I was also very happy to read a life of details that I heard hints about but never knew in depth.
Stewart is honest in Making It So, which is refreshing. Too many celebrities either try to excuse poor behavior on their part, brush it off, or don’t bring it up at all. Stewart accepts responsibility for his mistakes in his two failed marriages, along with his behavior as a child he’s not proud of.
Stewart was born in 1940 in the town of Mirfield, England. His father was gone during the war, so it really wasn’t until he was five and his father returned home that he had that adult figure in his life. Stewart has talked publicly before about witnessing his father abuse his mother. In the book, he tries to get into the psychology of why he did it, perhaps as a result of his frustration with going from leading men during the war and jumping out of planes to being a virtual nobody again in his hometown. Drinking also had a lot to do with it. It was Patrick and his brother Trevor who would defend their mother when it seemed like his father was about to erupt in violence. Still, the two stayed married throughout their lives.
There was an older brother as well, Geoffrey. Patrick talks about him a bit but I think he was much of a mystery to Patrick. Geoffrey was born man years before, and before his parents were married. They had planned to be, but apparently, Alfred Stewart got cold feet and left. Their mother raised Geoffrey while living with her mother. When Alfred did come back to town, they were married and had two more sons. Stewart does ask the question if they really had the same father, but it’s a question that was never answered. Geoffrey hated Alfred, though. Patrick loved his father despite the abuse and often laments throughout the book that he wishes his father had lived to see the astronomical success he had after being cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Stewart details his early life in Mirfield where the family didn’t even have an inside toilet. He knew they were poor, but at the same time it was a simple life with simple pleasures. Stewart does a terrific job recounting what it was like to grow up in post-war industrial England. Were it not for a number of people on his side, he likely would have never broken out of that existence. Not only did he have the drive to become an actor, but there were enough local theater companies at the time to help him along the path. Plus, when he did get accepted to acting school in Bristol, there were community resources he could turn to for financial help.
I found his journey as a theatrical actor to be fascinating. There are so many details of who he worked with on the various productions during this time in his life that he must have kept a journal of the time to look back on. If you’re looking for dirt or gossip, there’s little of that here. Stewart has praise for just about everyone he worked with, save two or three. I could tell by the way he writes that theater is truly his first love, despite the fact that two science-fiction series have made him into a household name.
It was his casting as Jean-Luc Picard that changed his life and brought him to the attention of so many people, myself included. Gene Roddenberry did not want him for the role. It was Rick Berman and Robert Justman who really wanted him for the role. Stewart doesn’t dish dirt here, either. Although he’s honest about the conflict with Roddenberry, he doesn’t say much negative about him, either. Likely that’s due to knowing how revered Roddenberry is by Star Trek fans. He may have been a visionary, but that didn’t mean he always got it right. Stewart is honest that Roddenberry had Gates McFadden fired after the first season, and the showrunners brought her back after he passed away.
Stewart was married with grown children at the time he was cast as Jean-Luc Picard. He said he felt the marriage was already fractured, but apparently, it was still somewhat surprising to his wife and children when he started an affair with Trek guest-star Jennifer Hettrick. This was also the pattern for his second marriage, to Wendy Neuss who worked on the show with him.
The book goes right up through the COVID-19 shutdown and to his working on Star Trek: Picard. He explains what has gone into all of the different decisions he made as an actor. The one I found particularly insightful was reading how he thought he was through with both Jean-Luc Picard and Charles Xavier, but ended up going back to tell more of the story for both characters. Stewart also details how Ian McKellen became one of his closest friends during that time.
I found the book a little slow at times. Stewart did seem to get a bit bogged down in the details of his youth, but he presented a complete picture of his life. He doesn’t really have a bad thing to say about anyone. The closest thing to dishing dirt is his discussion of Gene Roddenberry. Otherwise, he has praise for everyone he encounters. He’s also willing to admit to his own mistakes, as well as laugh at himself. He doesn’t get angry that his Trek co-stars needle him still, all these years later, about his presumption during the first season. It was a good and fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend fans read it.
Categories: Book Reviews