Ever since Patrick Stewart’s singular voice rang out in the Super Bowl trailer for Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” fans have eagerly awaited the return — really, the resurrection — of Professor Charles Xavier, the role Stewart played seven times over 17 years as part of 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” movie franchise.
In 2017’s “Logan,” Stewart seemingly said goodbye to Prof. X — quite literally, since the character dies. And when Disney purchased 20th Century Fox in 2019, that appeared to be final nail in Stewart’s tenure in the role, given that the X-Men would now enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, primed for a full reboot.
But then Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige brought the multiverse into the MCU, allowing for, among other things, multiple Lokis — including an alligator Loki and Richard E. Grant Loki — and three different Peter Parkers played by Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland. If Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was going to go traipsing through the multiverse, why couldn’t he come across a universe that contained a Charles Xavier who looked and sounded remarkably like Patrick Stewart?
A couple weeks after the “Doctor Strange 2” Super Bowl trailer premiered, Stewart confirmed he was in the movie, and Marvel and Disney have since further teased the actor’s appearance as Prof. X with TV ads that include a shot of the classic giant wheelchair Xavier used in the comics and the animated “X-Men” TV series in the 1990s.
So when Variety spoke with Stewart about the Season 2 finale of his Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Picard” — in which the 81-year-old actor revisits his other iconic role — there was no resisting asking him about returning to play Xavier one more time. And, as Stewart hinted, it may not be the last time, either.
Also, don’t worry: This interview does not contain any spoilers for “Doctor Strange 2” that Disney has not already included in its marketing for the film.
I saw you at the premiere of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” in Los Angeles on Monday. It’s so fascinating that you’re revisiting two major roles from your past — Jean-Luc Picard and Charles Xavier — in the same week, at least as audiences are experiencing them. What was it like for you to revisit Professor X?
Well, it was a day-and-a-half’s work. I was in a very different environment from the one that I had ever been in, in any of the “X-Men” movies. And just like “Picard,” I was grateful for it, because I could think refreshingly about who he was and how he related to others. Just like “Star Trek: Picard,” I was a little unsure at first if it was a wise thing to do. Given that “Logan” had been such a powerful movie and we watched him die in Hugh Jackman’s arms. So having seen [“Doctor Strange 2”] on Monday night, I’m very happy and very proud that I’ve been part of that.
How was it for you to watch the movie?
Well, it needed me to do quite a bit of reading and looking at comic books and things. I’ve never been that comic book person. And even when I was a kid, I used to read books instead of comics. I was unfamiliar, and in fact, a lot of what I saw on Monday night, I had to work hard to connect these things together. Because you could hear the audience knew exactly what the actors’ characters were referring to. You remember the laughter when an actor would just mutter some line, and the audience would laugh, because they knew what the context was and they knew what the history of that expression was. And I found that delightful, when an audience become part of the film experience.
You’re in Charles Xavier’s classic wheelchair, which you never really got to do before. What was that like? It’s so big!
Yes! It was very unlike the Porsche that I was driving in the films. That was a very fast, very manipulative wheelchair. And when I first saw the monster that I was going to be driving in this one, I was dismayed. But it was fine. It worked very well. I had to bring it to a stop before a flight of stairs. That was my only concern, was that I would somehow get out of control and go all the way down the stairs in this thing! But it was a very, very different world from the “X-Men” movies, with references here and there, of course. But I was very, very happy.
You’ve been clear that when “Star Trek: Picard” ends with Season 3, you are also finished with that role. But is there a chance you’d play Xavier again?
Charles Xavier? Yeah. There may be. You know, the whole X-Men comic series is so huge, so vast, there might be an opportunity in which he comes back. We’ll see.
This interview has been edited and condensed.