Patrick Stewart’s career has spanned six decades creating memorable characters on stage, television, and the big screen. But lately when people approach him, the first thing they want to talk about isn’t Charles Xavier or Jean-Luc Picard: It’s a sweet pitbull named Ginger. Stewart and his wife, singer-songwriter Sunny Ozell, fostered Ginger earlier this year and soon videos of the pup licking Stewart’s head in the pool and photos of them napping together went viral.
“It’s quite amazing, I go into these meetings or events and the very first thing someone will say is, ‘How’s Ginger?’” Stewart says with a laugh. “And I’m OK with that.”
The couple was unable to adopt Ginger due to breed specific legislation in the U.K., where they reside most of the time, but they recently had a “glorious” reunion with her. “There is breaking news about Ginger I’m afraid I can’t mention just yet, but her future is very, very bright,” he says.
Ginger was but one highlight in a busy year for the English actor, who will be presented with Variety’s Creative Impact Award on Oct. 7 at the Hamptons Intl. Film Festival. Stewart can be seen on screens now in “The Wilde Wedding” opposite John Malkovich and Glenn Close, and is earning raves and awards buzz for what may be his final turn as Charles Xavier in James Mangold’s “Logan,” the dark and gritty finale to the Wolverine storyline.
Stewart’s iconic voice has also been omnipresent, whether as the head of the CIA in “American Dad!” or as Poop in “The Emoji Movie.” Of the latter he jokes: “I don’t think any small role I have played has brought me quite so much notoriety. I got the joke right away: Sir Patrick Stewart as Poop.” Leave it to the Royal Shakespeare Company veteran to draw a parallel between the silly animated film and modern culture. “The great thing about emojis is when you use a sequence of them, you can actually say quite complex things. And pictures as language is as ancient as language itself.”
While many actors perform a role and leave it behind, Stewart is unique in that he’s been able to reprise beloved characters. That includes Captain Picard in seven seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and four films and Professor Xavier in six “X-Men” films. He compares it to the opportunity he’s had to play Shakespeare’s Shylock multiple times throughout the years.
“I first played him when I was 23 and I last played him when I was 75,” he notes. “As we get older, we change and our views on the world change. The chance to take another look at these characters is irresistible.”
Still, Stewart admits he was uncertain how people would react to the darker tone of the R-rated “Logan,” which finds Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine ailing mutant caring for Xavier as he suffers from a brain disease that can result in destruction.
“We never had any doubt about the quality of the work we were doing but I think we were a little uneasy as to what the audience and critical reaction would be,” Stewart says.
The film went on to be embraced by critics and audiences, having grossed nearly $617 million worldwide. And while it may mark the end of the road for two beloved characters, Stewart says he has no regrets. “Is there a better way to say goodbye to this marvelous franchise I’ve been involved with for almost 20 years than this?”
Stewart has a lot of work ahead, adding that he is “enjoying this process more now than I ever had.” He has just wrapped the film “Coda” and is about to work on a miniseries, his first TV venture since the early cancellation of “Blunt Talk” last year. He loved doing that series, particularly the opportunity it gave him to delve into comedy.
Speaking of which, Stewart triumphantly hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 1994, isn’t he about set for a return gig? “I would love to be part of that and the series is in such great form at the moment. It’s been so long since I appeared in it and I think I might have developed a couple more skills since then,” he says. “So anybody who’s listening or reading, keep me in mind!”
What: Patrick Stewart receives Variety’s Creative Impact Award.
When: 1 p.m. Oct. 7
Where: Hamptons, N.Y.