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The untold truth of Patrick Stewart

It's undeniable that the world of science fiction television would be vastly different without the influence of Star Trek. It's also undeniable that Sir Patrick Stewart, in his role as the Enterprise's Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is a cultural touchstone for many modern Trek fans — perhaps even moreso than William Shatner's Captain Kirk from the series' original 1960s run. Plus, he's continued to stay relevant in recent years thanks to his portrayal as Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise.

With a career spanning more than half a century, Stewart has won over the hearts and minds of audiences in all walks of life, through a unique combination of rigorous theatrical training and a willingness to imbue that experience to all his roles, whether in critically acclaimed films and plays or smaller television productions. With all the gravitas Stewart brings to his work, it's easy to imagine him as an intimidating figure. But the man behind some of the most memorable characters in fiction is just as human as the rest of us, and his personal background is just as interesting as his extensive filmography. From his rough childhood to his Hollywood fame, here's the untold truth of Patrick Stewart.

Rags to riches

It's hard to imagine that such a recognizable actor, who owns property both in the US and the UK, grew up poor, with no prospects, and without a plan. And yet Stewart, who left school at the age of 15, didn't have the fairytale childhood that many of Hollywood's modern elite have been blessed with. 

In recent years, Stewart has been very open about his father's history of domestic abuse, which was triggered, Stewart believes, by the pressure of post-traumatic stress after being a decorated regimental sergeant major in the British Army during World War II. Both of his parents were blue-collar workers, and his father was a staunch Labour party supporter — an affiliation Stewart carried until April 2018, in the aftermath of the Brexit decision. After leaving school, Stewart briefly pursued work at a newspaper, but he claims that he was fired because he spent too much time involved in theater. From there, he received a scholarship to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. And through acting, Stewart would find an escape from his working class troubles, propelling him upward toward a new life.

The Royal Shakespeare Company

Patrick Stewart's acting career really took off in 1966, when he began acting as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It's not exactly a secret that Stewart has a penchant for the works of the Bard, some of which carried over into his Captain Picard persona on The Next Generation. For Stewart, acting provided a refuge from his painful home life, and also, it just felt natural. He would continue with the Royal Shakespeare Company for over 15 years, taking on a variety of mostly smaller roles before heading for the world of screen acting. 

After Star Trek and a decent amount of Hollywood success, he would find himself returning to the stage and to Shakespeare, with a new perspective on acting and the experience and star power to take on some of the most famous characters in stage history. He's since played Macbeth in that most famous of Shakespearean tragedies, as well as leading man Antony in Antony and Cleopatra. He even played William Shakespeare himself, in the play Bingo: Scenes of Money and Death, which chronicles the legendary playwright in his final, conflicted days.

Patrick Stewart's pre-Trek screentime

It's tempting to assume that Patrick Stewart went straight from Shakespeare to Star Trek, but the truth is that he took on a fair number of other screen acting jobs while still balancing his theater career. While William Shatner was gearing up to helm the Enterprise for the very first time, Stewart was appearing in small roles on television, like dramatizations of Shakespeare and other plays. Star Trek wasn't even his very first Hollywood role. He would play Leondegrance, alongside Helen Mirren's Morgana and Liam Neeson's Gawain, in a 1981 production of Excalibur. (How very British!) 

In fact, Picard wasn't his first science fiction role, either, as he took the role of Gurney Halleck in David Lynch's 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune. So even though Stewart wouldn't become well-known to US audiences until his tenure aboard the Enterprise, he was steadily racking up acting credits and proving himself a worthy and dependable actor with a decent body of work. He provided for himself and his family this way for a couple decades before being catapulted into fame in his midlife.

Becoming Captain Picard

At 47 years old, Patrick Stewart had a great deal of acting credits to his name, even though no one could call him a celebrity at that time. He was approached to audition for Star Trek: The Next Generation in the late '80s, unaware of what the series meant culturally to American audiences. He was hesitant to sign the six-year contract, knowing it would tie him down to Hollywood and separate him from his stage acting career. But when he was assured that the show probably wouldn't last that long, he reluctantly signed away. And thus, Captain Jean-Luc Picard as we all know and love him was born. 

It's nigh impossible to imagine anyone else in the role of the equally commanding and fair-minded captain, and it's shocking to think that it might not have been if Stewart had placed his stage career over the need to make a little more money. He brought a great deal of sophistication to what many might've considered a silly pulp show, and even today, he never misses a chance to defend his decision and the importance of Star Trek in the lives of many fans. After all, Shakespeare was entertainment for the common man, too, once upon a time.

A voice for animation

One of Patrick Stewart's most recognizable and beloved features, aside from his smooth pate, is his deep, luxurious voice — a voice toned for the stage and utilized in many voice acting endeavors. Anime fans will recognize him as the voice of Lord Yupa in Studio Ghibli's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which he followed up a few years later with the role of the swashbuckling book Adventure in The Pagemaster.

He's done his fair share of video game voice acting as well, appearing as Captain Picard and Professor X in adaptations of Star Trek and X-Men, respectively, but also in games like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, its sequel, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Then, of course, there are his recurring appearances on adult animated shows like Robot Chicken and Family Guy, proving that for all his sophisticated theater training, Stewart has a healthy sense of humor and a willingness to be crass when it's called for.

Patrick Stewart is an advocate for those left behind

Every October, otherwise known as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, social media is inundated with that one picture of Patrick Stewart holding a bag of groceries and an Amnesty International sign that pleads "Stop Violence Against Women." Stewart grew up in a fraught environment where he had to watch violence meted out against his mother, and that has in turn made him a fierce advocate for victims of abuse. 

Reading his personal account of his father's abuse against his mother is heartbreaking, but he seems to recognize the importance of talking about domestic violence, ending the silence so that many women and children can find safety. To this end, he supports the charity Refuge, which works to aid abused women and children. But in the wake of advocating for women like his mother, Stewart learned that his father returned from World War II with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which surely led to much of the tension in their household. As such, he also campaigns for Combat Stress, a charity that advocates for and aids military veterans coping with mental health issues as a result of combat. In this way, he honors the memory of both of his parents, and he serves as a powerful voice for those whom society frequently forgets.

He's just a regular guy with regular hobbies

Behind the knighted actor and stalwart activist, Patrick Stewart is a guy with some very down-to-earth hobbies. He's a big car enthusiast, having conducted interviews at the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship, and he even drank champagne out of racer Daniel Ricciardo's shoe in celebration. Clearly, that's something only a real race car lover could manage! 

He's also a long-time soccer (or football to him) fan, supporting Huddersfield Town since he was very young. These hobbies — cars and football — are so charmingly normal that it really brings home to fans that Stewart is just a regular guy, raised in poverty, who takes joy in the simple things, even with his adulthood fame and fortune. Of course, without that fame and fortune, the chances of him having had the opportunity to drink champagne on stage out of a shoe are slim to none, but it's nice to see him being able to enjoy his downtime between being one of the most recognizable faces to ever grace screen or stage.

Patrick Stewart is the sexiest man alive

Even as Patrick Stewart ages, there's no denying that there's just something about him that viewers find extremely physically appealing. Ryan Reynolds even went to bat for Stewart in 2017, claiming that he, and not country singer Blake Shelton, should've been crowned People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. But Stewart claims that he could've used this positive outlook on his appearance when he was younger. The star began balding as an older teenager, the effect of genetically inherited alopecia. As a teen, going bald only added to the list of insecurities Stewart was already likely facing, especially as he tried finding his way in acting and putting himself on display for the judgment of audiences. Today, even without a single strand of hair on his head, Stewart's bearing, talent, support of women, and yes — even his looks — have made him the subject of many fantasies. If only there was a Patrick Stewart for all of us!

Acting runs in the Stewart family

Patrick Stewart has been married a few times, but it's only with his first wife, Sheila Falconer, that he's had any children: Daniel and Sophia. Daniel Stewart has followed in his father's footsteps as an actor, with his first role in the TV miniseries Shaka Zulu, which starred, among others, the legendary Christopher Lee. From there, he appeared in The Next Generation with his dad, and the two played on-screen father and son (though Captain Picard doesn't have a son of his own, and instead has awoken to find that he's the leader of a community, where he's supposedly suffering from delusions of being a starship captain). 

Daniel Stewart has kept up with acting intermittently over the years, appearing in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Blunt Talk. There's no word on whether he'll take his real-life role as son onto the screen with his dad again, but it would be cool to see how the two interact now, almost 30 years after their first on-screen performance together.

The dropout goes to school

Rooting for Huddersfield football is not the only involvement Patrick Stewart has with the West Yorkshire university town. For a time, he was the University of Huddersfield chancellor. He was determined to be more involved than just being a celebrity name to help the school's enrollment, so he even taught master classes in drama to students. It's amazing to think that in our modern world, a man who never finished school could become the professor of a master class in anything, but surely Stewart has proven that if there's anything he's a master at, it's acting. 

Through passing on his skills, he was able to continue the tradition of serious Shakespearean acting, hopefully peppered with a healthy dose of humor and love of the craft. And how lucky for those students, to be taught by such an accomplished performer and to be able to take a little piece of his experience with them into their own careers.

Patrick Stewart is boldly going forward

With a career already spanning over half a century, Patrick Stewart has claimed in the past that he can't fathom retiring. He clearly loves what he does, both on the screen and on the stage, and he's been afforded rich rewards in his adult life after a whole lot of struggles as a young person. He's clearly found an outlet for his passion, and he's fully embraced his living legacy as possibly the most famous of the Star Trek captains. 

After circling back to another King Arthur-inspired film in The Kid Who Would Be King, Stewart is reprising his most famous role for Star Trek: Picard, following the beloved captain into his own next chapter of life as he grapples with his own retirement. It's rare to see an actor continue performing with such regularity into his 70s and 80s, but fans everywhere will agree that there's still plenty of life left in the man who rose from poverty and tension in post-war Yorkshire to become one of the most distinguishable — and distinguished — actors in all of stage and screen.