The Current

What would Jean-Luc Picard do about COVID-19? More than Trump and Boris, says Patrick Stewart

Actor calls delay in responding to outbreak ‘profoundly disconcerting, worrying’

Posted: April 01, 2020

Patrick Stewart has returned to the ranks of Starfleet with Star Trek: Picard, the first season of which ended last week. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

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Patrick Stewart thinks his fictional alter ego Jean-Luc Picard would have responded to the spread of COVID-19 "very much quicker than either the U.S. government or the U.K. government did."

"There were good examples around the world of how best to handle this dangerous and difficult situation, and it wasn't taken up," he told q host Tom Power in an interview that aired on The Current


"I think that Picard would not have hesitated in finding, if not solutions, at least ways of minimizing the risk and the danger to individuals," he said.

In the U.S., the White House played down the severity of the threat early on, but has now projected between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths from the virus

While the United Kingdom government explored the idea of achieving herd immunity by letting the virus spread in the hopes people who recovered would become immune. This idea was criticized as putting many vulnerable people at risk of death and the country switched to social distancing strategies last week.

Stewart first played Starfleet Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in the late 1980s and early 1990s. (YouTube)

Stewart called those delays "profoundly disconcerting [and] worrying," and said the fact that U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19 shows the virus "has no respect for power."

But he said that it seems "the situation is now being handled as it should have been from the beginning, and taken seriously, and not just something to make political points with."


The actor and director, 79, has played a broad range of roles on stage on screen. He first played Starfleet Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He returned to the character this year in the series Star Trek: Picard, which finished its first season last week.

Stewart said he wanted the new show to draw parallels to "the world that we find ourselves living in now, because it's a very, very tough world indeed." 

"I wanted a different man in a different world with a different set of values perhaps," he said.

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Patrick Stewart, 79, returns to his role as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard, a ten-part series far from the utopian show fans know.  3:57

The show touches on contemporary humanitarian and political crises — in Star Trek: Picard, the Romulan home planet has been destroyed, turning billions into refugees — but he said he wouldn't encourage a pandemic-themed plot in season two.

"This is a disturbing and frightening and sad time for many thousands of people," he said.


"It is too sensitive, too upsetting, too frightening, I think."

The actor is currently staying home with his wife, singer-songwriter Sunny Ozell, in Los Angeles. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

'A sonnet a day keeps the doctor away'

Stewart has been in isolation for three weeks with his wife, singer-songwriter Sunny Ozell, at their home in Los Angeles.

Recently, he recited a Shakespearean sonnet to Ozell, which she enjoyed so much that she recorded and posted online.

It's led to a daily sonnet reading on his social media accounts, to pass the time in isolation, and help others do the same.

"It suddenly occurred to me that there was this little saying that my mother used to chant when I was a child: An apple a day keeps the doctor away," he told Power. 


"I thought, well, what if I did this thing where I said: a sonnet a day keeps the doctor away?" he said.

"It's silly, and it's perhaps a little embarrassing … [but] I've been enjoying it very much."

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Catherine Stockhausen.