VIDEO: The French Accent Patrick Stewart Almost did for TNG

Sir Patrick Stewart of "Star Trek: Picard" speaks during the CBS All Access segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 12, 2020

David Livingston/Getty Images Sir Patrick Stewart of "Star Trek: Picard" speaks during the CBS All Access segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 12, 2020

One of the most iconic things about the Star Trek universe is Patrick Stewart giving the “Space, the final frontier” speech over the opening credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation. According to Stewart himself, that iconic voiceover could have sounded much different if the showrunners had gone with their original plans for his character.

As fans of The Next Generation (TNG) know, Jean-Luc Picard is French. Throughout the entire series, his family lives in France. Decades later in Picard, the character is shown living in his family’s homestead in the French countryside. However, Picard always spoke with a British accent, which fans know as Stewart’s true voice.

This discrepancy was explained in TNG a few times. In the Star Trek canon, French was considered an archaic language by the 24th century and was rarely used by members of Starfleet. So, Picard never spoke with a French accent because he likely wasn’t raised around people who spoke primarily French.

However, in an interview on the Graham Norton Show, Stewart revealed the real reason that Picard didn’t have a French accent.

Stewart Did Try a French Accent

Stewart said that the producers of the show did want Picard to have a French accent. After they’d cast Stewart, they asked him to come in and read some of his lines with the French accent. Stewart continued, saying that he did his very best, but the producers were far from impressed with his attempt. After hearing the character with Stewart’s attempted accent, the producers decided to let him perform the character in his normal voice, and they came up with the canon explanation for why a Frenchman had a British accent.

When Stewart was done explaining why the French accent was rejected, he offered to let the audience hear exactly how bad his attempt had been. After they cheered at the offer, Stewart started reciting the lines from the voiceover synonymous with the show in the accent he’d attempted years before. The audience, and everyone on stage, immediately burst out laughing at how hilariously different the lines sounded.

Stewart remarked that he couldn’t imagine using that voice for all 170 plus episodes of TNG and Norton agreed.

Other TNG Stars had to Work on Their Accents for the Show

Marina Sirtis, who played ship’s counselor Deanna Troi, also had a British accent. However, the showrunners decided that she shouldn’t keep her accent for the show for two reasons. The first was that Sirtis speaks with a heavy Cockney accent. The second was that the producers wanted the character to have some kind of exotic accent.

In a convention Q&A in 2018, Sirtis told the whole story about how she was the one who came up with Troi’s accent. Originally, she auditioned for the character of Tasha Yar. Since Yar was supposed to be from Eastern Europe, she’d been practicing that accent for the audition.

Though she didn’t get the part, the producers told her they had a part they thought was better for her. Sirtis said that because accents are “her thing,” when she came back to audition for Troi, she tried the lines with three different accents — Polish, posh British, and “a very bad American.”

When she got the role, the producers told her that she would have to do an accent for the part. Sirtis responded that it wasn’t a problem, then asked what kind of accent they wanted. The producers responded that they wanted her to do an accent from “Betazed,” Troi’s home planet. Sirtis was actually excited by the answer because it allowed her to come up with the accent on her own.

“Who’s going to tell me I’m doing it wrong?” she joked.

Sirtis went on to say that at the time she was confused as to why she had to do an accent when Stewart, who was playing a French man, didn’t have to do one. However, she was so excited about the job that she didn’t bring it up.

She then said, “If you’ve never heard Patrick do a French accent… Count your blessings.”

So, Stewart’s inability to do accents meant that he kept his British accent for his French character, while Sirtis’s talent for accents allowed her to create a brand new alien accent for her Betazed character. This goes to show just how iconic characters can be heavily influenced by the actors who bring them to life.

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