to properly commemorate the anniversary of patrick stewart’s birth (or: happy birthday, old baldy)

There are two ways that I can commemorate Patrick Stewart's birthday, today.
The first:

And the second, which comes in two parts. The first part should illustrate how awesome Patrick is, and why I like him so much. The second part should remove any lingering doubt.

This is from Chapter Seven of Just A Geek, which is titled A Sort of Homecoming. It recalls a convention appearance I did with Patrick, Jonathan and Brent in 2001. Wow, 2001 … was I really just 29 when I wrote this? I guess I was.

A deep, commanding voice bounced off the marble floor of the hallway, and filled the room before its creator crossed the threshold.

“Are there Star Trek people in this room?” it boomed, “I just love those Star Trek people!”

We all turned to the door, as Patrick Stewart walked in.

Patrick is one of the most disarming people I've ever met. If you only know him as Captain Picard, or Professor Xavier, his mirthful exuberance is shocking. Patrick is one of the most professional and talented actors I've ever known, but he's also one of the most fun.

“Bob Goulet? I haven't seen you in ages, man! You look great!” he said to Brent, and hugged him.

“Jonathan Frakes! I am a big fan,” he smiled at Jonny and hugged him to.

He turned to me. “Who are you? You look familiar, but . . . I can't place you.”

“Wil Wheaton, Mr. Stewart,” I said.

He looked thoughtful for a moment and shook his head. “I'm sorry, but it doesn't ring a bell.”

“I was Wesley on Next Generation,” I said.

“Get out! You were never that young!” he said.

“Oh, but I was, sir,” I replied, solemnly, “I believe we spent some time in a shuttlecraft together.”

He nodded slowly, but remained unconvinced. “Go on . . .”

“That's all I've got, man,” I laughed.

“Wil, darling, you look wonderful.” he said with a huge smile. He held his arms wide, and pulled me into a warm embrace. “I am so happy to see you!”

He held me at arm's length, and looked at me. Even though Patrick and I are the same height, I felt, like always, that he towered above me.

“You too,” I said. 

*******

This is also from Chapter 7 of Just a Geek. This excerpt picks up right as I’m about to wrap shooting on Nemesis.

The day is a blurred composite of images, and no matter how hard I try, I can't get my brain to separate them into individual memories. All I can clearly recall is how I spent the day spiraling around the Yin and Yang of joy and sorrow, until the director called cut on the final take.

"Thank you, everyone!" The First AD called out, "That is a company wrap for today, and picture wrap for Wil Wheaton!"

There was some polite applause from the crew, who really didn't know me, and some very genuine applause from Patrick and Gates, the only cast members who were still on the stage. They walked over, and embraced me. We knew that this was the real Journey's End for me and Wesley Crusher, but we didn't talk about it.

"I'm going to walk back," Patrick said to me. "Would you like to walk together?"

"I'd like that a lot," I said.

It was late, but not nearly as late as it had been the night before, and it was very cold as we walked through the "New York Street" area of the back lot.

"Remember when they built this for Bronx Zoo?" I said. "I used to come over here and pretend it was real."

Patrick slowed, then stopped. A huge arclight towered over us. Apple boxes and cables ran into the facade of a deli, and someone had left a styrofoam cup half-filled with coffee on the window ledge.

"When I first came here to audition for Next Generation," he said, "I didn't know if I'd ever get a chance to be on a backlot again, so I left the casting office, and spent nearly an hour's time walking round here."

He began to walk again.

"That's so weird," I said. "I mean . . . here you are, fifteen years later."

He smiled. "I know. I remember worrying that the security department would catch me, and I'd end up in a great deal of trouble!"

We laughed together.

"I've lost count of the number of times I had run-ins with the security department." I said. "Most of them involved dangerously speeding around the lot in a 'borrowed' golf cart, or playing music too loudly in my dressing room.

"I wish I'd been able to hang out with you guys when we were doing this every day," I said.

"Oh, my dear, you missed out on a great deal of fun!" His voice became excited. "The late Friday nights when we'd close down Nickodell's [A restaurant that used to be on Melrose, with a backdoor that opened right onto the Paramount lot. It was bulldozed for "progress" in the 1990s] were great!"

"Can I tell you something?" I said.

"Of course," he said.

"I really blew it when I was here before. I should have treasured the experience that I had working with you guys, and I didn't. I'm really sorry that I was such a dick when I was a teenager."

He stopped again, and put his hand on my shoulder. "Wil, my dear, you were a teenager. We all understood."

"Really?"

"Yes. And when we worked together, I always related to you as an actor, first, and you were a lovely actor. You know, I wasn't thrilled about working with a child, but working with you was a great pleasure."

What do you say to that? How do you respond, when it comes from the man who was, for all intents and purposes, a father figure, mentor, role model, and hero? If you're me, you say, "I'm so sad that this is over for me."

"So am I," he said we began to walk again. As we turned the corner and neared stages 8 and 9, I saw someone come out of the stage.

"Hey! That's Brad Yacobian!" I said.

"It is!" Patrick said. "Hello! Brad!"

Brad started as a First AD on Next Generation, and has worked on all the incarnations of Star Trek since then. He was working as the co-producer and unit production manager on Enterprise.

"Hey you guys," he said. "Are you just wrapping?"

"Oh yes. It's Thursday, you know." Patrick said. Brad smiled a knowing smile, and I laughed. See, production usually starts out with early calls on Monday, but the Screen Actor's Guild requires a 12 hour break for the actors between their release, and the next day's call time. So if we start at 8, but don't wrap until 10, we won't start until 10 the next day, and so on. This doesn't happen very often, because it's very expensive for the studios, and if a show isn't starting until the afternoon on Thursday, it usually means that the director is incompetent, the schedule is very complicated, or a little of both.

"Director
or schedule?" Brad said.

"Schedule," Patrick said. He pronounced it with a soft "ch" sound, like "shelf." I suppressed a giggle.

"Who's working tonight?" I asked, hoping the answer would be "Jolene Blalock, and she wants to see you without your pants in her trailer right now."

Brad looked at his call sheet. "I think Scott is still here –"

"Is he in his trailer?" Patrick asked.

"Yeah. You want to say hello?" Brad said.

Oh my god. I'm going to stand with Patrick while he talks to Scott Bakula!

"I'd like to, yes."

Brad walked us to Scott's trailer. It was in the same place where Patrick's trailer was so many years ago.

That's a little weird.

He rapped twice on the door, and from behind it, a muffled voice emerged. "Yeah?"

"Scott, it's Brad. I have someone here who wants to say 'hello.'"

I thought back to all the times I heard this when I was on the other side of that door, and felt a little uncomfortable. The door opened, and there was Scott Bakula, in that cool Enterprise jumpsuit.

"Hey, Patrick! How are you?" He said.

Oh . . . they know each other. Interesting.

"I'm well," he said. "Scott, this is Wil Wheaton, he plays Wesley Crusher."

Plays Wesley, not played Wesley. That was cool.

He extended his hand and I shook it.

"It's really nice to meet you," I said. "How are you guys doing?"

"It's Thursday night," he said with a tired grin.

"Some things never change, I guess, " I said.

We all laughed.

"Listen, Scott," Patrick said. "I've been on and off the lot for several weeks now, and I should have come over much sooner to say hello to you."

"Thank you," Scott said. "I've seen you pass by several times, but I've always been too busy to say hello myself."

They talked for several minutes about the things that you talk about, I guess, when you're the captain of the Enterprise. I remember Patrick said, "You're doing a wonderful job," and I realized that he was having the conversation with Scott that Shatner should have had with him in 1987; he was passing the torch to — well, to the next generation.

I looked at Brad, and before either one of us could say anything, his walkie said, "We're ready for First Team on the bridge." How many times had I stood in this exact spot, and heard those exact words, over the years?

"Gotta go to work," he said. "I'm so glad you stopped by. I'll come over and visit you . . . are you on 16?"

"Shortly," Patrick said. "We're on 29 until tomorrow, then location."

Scott shook my hand. "It was nice to meet you."

"You too."

"Have a good night, you guys," Brad said, as they walked into the stage. He keyed his walkie and said, "I have Scott, and we're walking . . . "

I turned to Patrick. "That was very cool, man."

Patrick just nodded.

We arrived back at the dressing rooms. My trailer was farther away than his, so I said, "I guess this is goodbye."

"Not goodbye," he said. "Farewell."

Happy Birthday, Old Baldy. I miss you.

75 thoughts on “to properly commemorate the anniversary of patrick stewart’s birth (or: happy birthday, old baldy)”

  1. That is one of my most favourite videos EVOR!
    I just love it when your blogs are about things that I have discussed in the past few days. First twitter and now Patrick Stewart and The Picard Song *geeky swoon*
    Patrick is one dude I would love to meet! He is beyond awesome for so many different reasons.

  2. It’s great experiences like these that leave me speechless and only able to beam and give a virtual thumbs-up in response.
    I’m glad that Patrick had the opportunity to dispel your regrets about your previous time together, and that you guys were able to make the better of it.

  3. Your gift for storytelling is amazing. Even though I’ve read these before I am equally as touched each time I read it again. It touches be so deeply and wraps me into the story so well I can only imagine how it must make you feel. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself.

  4. I was lucky enough to see him in Hamlet last year at RSC (he was just amazing as Claudius/the Ghost). It happened to be the night of the run that had a post-show talkback. Patrick had such wonderful things to say about his castmates and provided tremendous insight into the acting process, the challenges of playing such a well known role and keeping the material fresh. It must have been so rewarding to work with him, Wil!

  5. I’ve seen a lot of extraordinary performances on stage. But Patrick Stewart’s one-man “A Christmas Carol” stands out indelibly among them.

  6. As a (former) English teacher I clocked one TNG episode when Patrick Stewart pronounced schedule with the /ch/ sound on one occasion and /k/ on another. From what I’ve heard of Mr Stewart he has a certain sense of humour that would make him an endearing person. I don’t know what it is with the TNG cast – I feel that most of them have very friendly personalities – a feeling I don’t get from most other shows or even Star Trek spin offs. I think I’d rather not meet anyone from the cast to keep that feeling.
    The ‘there are four lights’ scene was one of my favourites. I think I should hunt out some of the parodies.

  7. <3 for you, and for Patrick. From all accounts, he is a gentleman in the most classical and wonderful sense… and so, too, are you.

  8. I too love your blog posts & tweets. I have very fond memories of those years of Next Gen. Forever a geeky sci fi girl. Love & Happy Birthday to Patrick Stewart!
    Baygirl69

  9. Oh, GOD, yes. I saw it in New York years ago, from third row stage right (i.e. spitting distance of Patrick’s lectern). It was, in a word, PHENOMENAL.

  10. Patrick Stewart is AWESOME in everything he does!
    Wish him a Happy Birthday from the Wil Watchers (well at least this one!) :-)
    I think someone else has a birthday coming up too right?!!? ;-)
    XO
    Heather

  11. Hey, I caught one of those performances too, but not one with any post-show stuff. I did hang out by the stage door like a dork for a bit (which wasn’t mobbed at the time because David Tennant’s unfortunate back injury forced him to sit a couple of weeks out). I’m not a big autograph hound, so I just said hello and something about really enjoying his work. He was incredibly gracious and polite, and seemed like an all around cool guy. Not to mention the fact that he absolutely killed as Claudius.

  12. That was friggin awesome, man. I mean, how do you show tribute to such an awesome actor? You nailed it, for sure. I hope he reads this, and realizes that he’s the one who was lucky to have worked with someone so kewl. ;)
    Ok, well, he’s kewl too, I guess… *ducks*
    Happy Birthday, Mr. Stewart.

  13. Wil, I have been a fan of yours and TNG for years. I love reading your blog for posts like this one. It was a memory well told. Thank you and Happy Birthday to Patrick Stewart!

  14. This was wonderful. Thanks for sharing!
    Grumble. Amazon seems unable to ship me my copy of Just a Geek. I’m going to have to have some words with them.

  15. I was teary-eyed while reading this, and it wasn’t because I have a cold. It’s really nice to be reminded that celebrities are just as in awe of each other as we are of them. If all your books are written like this blog, I’ll have to buy them… well, find them first. We don’t get a lot of books stationed overseas unless Amazon has them, and they don’t seem to have most of them. Too bad you weren’t published back when I met you at SDCC in the nineties. Thanks for the excerpt1 (^_^)v

  16. Have some words with the geniuses at O’Reilly, while you’re at it, for letting it go out of print (but not really, I suppose, because it’s in some kind of on-demand limbo that I don’t understand. Grr.)

  17. This is one of my favorite excerpts from JAG. It is obvious that you have strong emotions for some of your co-stars, and your descriptions of the interactions with them are both touching and charming.
    Thank you for the look inside your world and best wishes to Mr. Stewart.

  18. How funny that you mention the time you “spent some time in a shuttlecraft together.” I just turned on the TV after reading this . . . and there was “Final Mission”, in which Wesley and Picard spend some time in a shuttlecraft.
    Ah, synchronicity.
    This was lovely to read. It’s always nice when you find out that the actors and writers you admire really are admirable people.

  19. “You know, I wasn’t thrilled about working with a child, but working with you was a great pleasure.” The fact that might as well have been something Picard said to Wesley is just another clue that TNG was perfectly cast.
    OT, the “four lights” clips in the Picard Song video make me wonder if a young John Yoo watched that episode, took notes, yet completely missed the point. Forced nudity, check. Stress positions, check. No waterboarding, but instead basically a subcutaneous taser, not unlike what today’s police consider to be a “compliance tool”. What a country.

  20. T’was a great read Wil. This is the kind of thing that makes me wish I could somehow get into acting. I’ve had the bug since I cracked Shakespeare at 13 but living in small town in NC (and not wanting to move to LA or somewhere of the like because I hate cities) kind of trumps my ambitions. But I digress — thanks for giving us a glimpse into the life. Happy birthday Patrick, here’s hoping for many, many happy returns.

  21. Thanks for the galavant down memory lane Wil, felt like i was running and hiding from security in the back lot with you!
    Patrick Stewart is an awesome actor and so funny did you see him on the show extras!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fg_cwI1Xj4M
    Anyway thanks for the story it made me sign up so i can read more and keep smiling as you help us through our days!
    M

  22. Absolutely. I saw him do this at UCSB’s Campbell Hall, and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. He let a little of that “lighter side” out in and after the performance, too.
    That’s why, when TNT put out their version of A Christmas Carol starring Stewart as Scrooge, I knew it was going to be good…because I knew the man had enough talent to carry the entire production himself. Sure enough, it was.

  23. Wil (or anyone else who may know the answer to this question) – for those of us that would like to pick up a print copy of Just a Geek, do you have any suggestions as to where to find one? I know a previous comment made seemed to sound like we could get it from O’Reilly, but the purchase options for print are rather confusing ($24.95 for a hard copy, or $16.99 for a ‘pre-order’ hard copy). I can’t find an explanation of the two on their site.
    If you are going to see a reasonable portion of that $24.95 then I have no problem spending it on the book, but sadly I fear that is likely not how this works.
    To Wil or anyone else – any good suggestions on where to order a print copy of Just a Geek?

  24. I don’t think it’s appropriate to publicly discuss how little I make from each copy of Just A Geek (it’s a huge reason I went back to self publishing). But if you *can* find a way to easily and quickly get a hardback copy, I hope you’ll let me know so I can share it with the rest of the class.

  25. Hey Wil. Newbie to the blog, but not a newbie as far as being a fan of yours goes. lol
    Just wanted to say I loved that quip from your book and have been scavenging book stores recently for your books with no luck in sight so far. But I’m not giving up, I have seen a lot of clips of you on YouTube and I have done some serious laughing lately and can’t wait to read your books.
    Take care and may the Force be with you. lol!!

  26. I love how everyone has such funny or heartwarming stories about Patrick. Ronald D. Moore had a good one told on one of the mammoth BSG podcasts. Ron retold how he got to meet Patrick on the set of the first story he’d wrote, een warmly welcomed, and Ron had been able to chat away about the second story he was planning.
    Patrick’s exit line, said with a straight face, had been, “Remember, the captain doesn’t do nearly enough screwing and shooting.” Cool guy!

  27. I loved your story about Patrick. I’ve been reading your blogs for awhile and following you on Twitter. I’m quite impressed with your writing. I’m going to be looking for your books.
    And the video was darn funny too.

  28. Like others, my wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Hamlet at the RSC last year – sitting not many feet away from the likes of Patrick Stewart, David Tennant and Oliver Ford Davies (“A communications disruption can mean only one thing – invasion.” – The Phantom Menace. :-) ). It’s in settings like that, that you appreciate how good they are as actors, and they are absolutely brilliant.
    This Friday we get to see not only Patrick Stewart, but also Sir Ian McKellen playing the leads in ‘Waiting for Godot’ – I hear the play is incomprehensible at times, but the chance to see these two on stage together is too good to miss. And any production that has acting greats Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup relegated to lower billing has to be a rarity.

  29. What awesome stories about Patrick! I haven’t met him, but I have had the opportunity to meet Jonathan in the past and he is just as down to earth as you make Patrick out to be in your stories.
    Like you, I would have likely geeked out as I stood where you were listening to Patrick and Scott Bakula “talk shop”. I have been a long-time fan of both actors (ironically, I believe “Quantum Leap” and “TNG” started around the same time).
    Like Junieb, I have also been following you on Twitter and reading your blog for some time. I even bought a copy of “Sunken Treasure” and hope to get your other books very soon.
    Keep up the great work!

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