Although it’s now difficult to imagine anyone else in the role, actor Patrick Stewart was not the first choice to portray Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the 1987-94 sequel television series that followed up the original 1966-69 “Star Trek” series. Famously, series creator/executive producer Gene Roddenberry rejected Stewart, who had been suggested by supervising producer Robert Justman, in part because he didn’t “want a bald man” for the lead role.
Roddenberry eventually warmed to the idea of casting Stewart as the next captain of the Enterprise, although he insisted the actor wear a wig for his final audition with Paramount Television:
JUSTMAN: I called SAG [Screen Actors Guild] and found out who Patrick’s agent was here in town, because he was over from London just for [an event at UCLA], and I got hold of the agent and made arrangements for Patrick to visit with Gene and me at Gene’s house. Patrick came in his rental car, and we sat around for thirty-forty minutes, and then he made his good-byes and left to fly back to England. After he drove away, Gene closed the door and turned to me, and I will quote him exactly. He said, “I won’t have him.”
RODDENBERRY: Bob Justman, who has been with me since day one, suggested Picard’s identity. He had gone to UCLA and see this man he wanted as Picard. He presented him to me, and my first reaction was, “Jesus Christ, Bob, I don’t want a bald man.” In his wisdom, Justman kept his mouth shut and let me grow accustomed to [Stewart].
Executive Producer RICK BERMAN: [Roddenberry] finally agreed [to casting Stewart], though he said, “But when we bring him into the studio for his final audition, I want him to wear a wig, because I don’t want this guy going in bald.” So Patrick made a phone call to London and got a very, very good wig made by one of the best theatrical wig makers in England. And he had the wig sent over.
Patrick came in, and somebody was there to help him put on the wig. We brought him to read for [president of Paramount Network Television] John Pike at the studio. [Stewart and another actor] read, and at the end Pike said, “Go with the English guy, but lose the wig.” And that was the best three words we could have heard. He knew that Patrick was bald, and he had seen all the photographs of him, and we had played him a tape of Patrick’s clips. That was the greatest sales point for The Next Generation.
In the years since then, social media users have circulated a photograph of Stewart showing him in his Star Trek uniform with a hairpiece atop his pate, purportedly taken on that day when he was required to don a “wig” for his reading with the studio:
Although this photograph is real, it had nothing to do with Stewart’s audition for the show. It appears to be a still shot related to the filming of the fifth season episode “Violations,” which included a flashback sequence during which Dr. Beverly Crusher recalled Picard’s taking her to the morgue on Starbase 32 to see the body of her dead husband, Jack, who had died on a mission under Picard’s command:
Since Jack Crusher’s death had taken place 14 years prior to the setting of “Violations,” Stewart was fitted with a hairpiece for the scene to convey that the events depicted in the scene had occurred well in the past: