'Nobody really knows what we’re really doing yet and we’re planning on keeping that way for a while,' exec producer Alex Kurtzman says.
Details surrounding Patrick Stewart's Star Trek series have been under lock and key since it was announced last summer, which is completely by design, by the way. But executive producer Alex Kurtzman shared major new information about the upcoming CBS All Access show that aims to explore the next chapter of Jean-Luc Picard's life from "a new perspective."
"Nobody really knows what we’re really doing yet and we’re planning on keeping that way for a while," Kurtzman told a handful of reporters, including ET, on Wednesday at the Television Critics Association press tour.
Production begins on the 14-episode series in the Los Angeles area in less than three months and the writers' room, which includes novelist Michael Chabon and Stewart, is already knee-deep in arcing out the season. Kurtzman, who oversees the Star Trek universe on CBS All Access, gave a sense of what the tone of the series would inhabit, promising that it will feel "grounded."
"Everybody in that room loves Jean-Luc Picard very deeply and, obviously, the benefit that we have is that Jean-Luc Picard is in the room with us. As we’re breaking story, we’re asking ourselves, 'How do we live to the spirit and to the character and to the tone that Next Gen set to some degree? But also make it something very, very different in other ways,'" Kurtzman said.
"Patrick was very clear to us in the beginning: He did not want to repeat what he had already done. And by the way, it’s been 20-plus years so he couldn’t possibly be that same person anymore," he continued. "So the question becomes: What has happened to him in that period of time? Have there been occurrences that force him to reckon with choices that he’s made in his life? How do you hold on to being the person everybody loved when the circumstances around you may have changed so radically? Those are the big questions that we’re asking."
By having Stewart, who is an executive producer on the series, actively engaging with the creative process, Kurtzman said that having him there since Day 1 has been invaluable.
"Patrick didn’t want to put handcuffs on us in any way by saying, 'I don’t want to do this and I don’t want to do that.' He said, 'I want you to have the freedom to explore this character from a new perspective and I will always know in my gut if it feels like something he would or wouldn’t do,'" he shared. "That’s the conversation that we have as we’re building it scene to scene. We’ve started to internalize his thinking about Picard. Because that conversation is literally daily, either on email or in the room in person, we feel confident that we’re making choices that he would be happy with and is happy with because ultimately he’s a producer on the show too and he gets as much of a say."
While it is unclear what events have taken place over the years since audiences last saw Picard, Kurtzman confirmed that the destruction of Romulus plays into the kick-off to the series.
"One of the many things people loved about Next Gen is that it is a very, emotional, thoughtful, grounded piece of entertainment," he said. "The easy thing to do is to come up with crazy floating skyscrapers and all the cliches of science fiction and we’ve tried to avoid that across the board. In the production design and the look of it, it’s about the small, personal, intimate details that you can still connect to now even though it takes place so far in the future."
Earlier in the week, Stewart previewed the series in an interview with Yahoo!, calling it "exciting."
"It’s exciting for me because it excites me as an actor. Oh, the story is great. And, I could be so careful what I say or they’ll skin me alive if I say the wrong things, but it has... it references the present day at times, and that’s all I can say, really," he teased. "I’m not saying we are in the present day. We’re not. But the world that we find Jean-Luc Picard in is not quite the world that we left him in."
Stewart played Captain Picard in Star Trek: New Generation for seven seasons from 1987 to 1994. He reprised his role in the movies Star Trek Generations (1994), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).
This is just the latest in CBS All Access' expanding Star Trek universe. The streaming service premiered Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, with its second season currently airing; a series of shorts titled Star Trek: Short Treks; a Michelle Yeoh spinoff about Section 31; and an animated comedy series, Lower Decks.
Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard series launches at the end of 2019 on CBS All Access.