When John de Lancie accepted the role of Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation, he had no idea how it would change his life. Speaking to Variety, the actor still remembers clear as day about what franchise creator Gene Roddenberry told him three days into shooting the two-part premiere "Encounter at Farpoint". "[Gene] said to me, 'You have no idea what you've gotten yourself into,'" de Lancie said. "And oh my god, was he right." The actor would reprise the omnipotent character seven more times on TNG and make additional appearances across other Star Trek series in Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and most recently, the animated Lower Decks. During First Contact Day, Paramount+ revealed the live-action return of the character to be a thorn of Jean-Luc's (Patrick Stewart) side at least one more time on the streamer series Picard in its second season.
"Well, it's interesting," de Lancie said. "Terry [Matalas], one of the executive producers, when I met with him, he said, 'Oh, of course, you knew you were going to be coming back.' And I said, 'You know what, Terry, Star Trek has done a lot of movies and other shows without me. So I did not assume that that was going to be the case.' I just sort of discipline myself as a professional over the years to go, 'look, it's somebody else's dinner party. You cannot spend your time worrying about whether you're getting invited. Just take it off the radar. You get invited or you don't get invited, that's all.'" De Lancie's Q bookended TNG's time on syndication from placing humanity on trial in the premiere to giving Jean-Luc a temporal menace which he must confront his past, present, and future selves to stop the anomaly in the finale "All Good Things".
The actor noted how it was six months since he was asked to reprise the role with COVID complicating shooting. "You know, it was, and is, a little bit of a mixed bag," he said on how it feels to come back to the role. "One of the issues that I have is you don't want to fall into the trap of re-creating. I was obviously a little concerned — very concerned — about the issues having to do with, well, excuse me, this is 20 years later. I'm supposed to be immortal and I certainly look very mortal. There were issues about all of that. I was flattered. Of course, I said yes. I didn't have to think about that part. And then I wondered, where are they going to go with this?"
De Lancie shared Stewart's ideals when it comes to justifying the need to revisit the past. "There was generalized talk, which intrigued me," he said. "One of the things that's sort of unusual, having played a character that has had such a long history. I've always thought of it as being kind of a diamond in the rough, and having new facets of that stone that's going to be cut. So here it is, many years later, we're still cutting that stone. There will be elements of that stone which have already been cut, and they will simply need to be burnished up. And then there will be elements of this stone that will be newly cut, for which there will be people who go, 'Oh I always thought you would go in that direction,' and then others, 'Oh, I like him the way he was before!'"
Why John de Lancie Returned to Star Trek as Q
Like Stewart, de Lancie felt like the writers gave Q enough to advance in growth for his character. "It solved one major problem for me, and that is I feel very strongly about the whole thing of, you can never go back," he continued. "Dare I say, how often have we gone back to meet with old girlfriends or boyfriends or what have you and you go, 'Oh, I think it would have been better just keeping this in my imagination!' Here, we are not, in fact, going back. We are taking what we have and we are moving forward. And to me, that's exciting." When it came to his reunion with Stewart, de Lancie tapped what worked for him in the past. "It was fun," he said. "My own issues have always been the same. I have to put in a lot of homework because I'm very dyslexic and I just have to work really hard to get all of that into RAM, as it were. And then once that's done, I'm there to play. And so it was just fun. That type of preparation has paid off and you're just ready to rock and roll." For more on de Lancie's return to Star Trek from fan reaction, if he feels any pressure after all these years, and his place in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe you can check out the rest on Variety.