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