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Gates McFadden Interview: InvestiGates & Star Trek Picard Season 3

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Screen Rant chats with Gates McFadden about season 2 of her podcast, InvestiGates, and her comeback as Dr. Crusher in Star Trek: Picard season 3.

With her starring role in Star Trek: Picard season 3 and her podcast, InvestiGates: Who Do You Think You Are?, Gates McFadden is reconnecting with Star Trek fandom while winning over a new generation. McFadden reprises her iconic role of Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: Picard season 3 alongside the rest of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

McFadden also hosts her own podcast, InvestiGates, which is in its second season. Produced by The Nacelle Company, InvestiGates features Gates joined by her fellow Star Trek actors for intimate conversations about their careers and their lives. InvestiGates season 2’s guests include William Shatner, Kate Mulgrew, Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, and Anson Mount, with new episodes streaming Tuesdays.

Screen Rant had the absolute pleasure to chat with Gates McFadden about season 2 of InvestiGates, her comeback as Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: Picard season 3, future guests on her podcast, what’s next for Picard’s TNG cast, and even why Gates didn’t continue playing Cathy Ryan in the Jack Ryan movies.

Screen Rant: What I love about your podcast as a Star Trek fan is I feel like we’re at a restaurant. And I’m at the table next to you pretending I’m not eavesdropping.

Gates McFadden: [laughs] Oh, that’s great. I take that as a high compliment. That’s what I’ve been trying to do, sometimes more successfully than other times. But yeah, it’s been quite a learning curve for me, because I do not consider myself an expert in the field. It has been completely learning on my feet.

And I think the one caveat I had was that I wanted to do the sound editing myself. I tried it sitting next to somebody in a studio, and it just didn’t work for me. I have a director’s mind. And I like to edit things and make them because the rhythm of something, and the flow, is very important to me. So I’ve learned a new skill. They refine what I’ve done. But basically, all of the editing is [by] me. And so, it’s made it arduous [and] challenging, but also very interesting.

It seems like your guests ask you as many questions as you ask them.

Gates McFadden: Well, you see, some do and some don’t. I have told everybody, please feel free to ask me questions. But it’s interesting. I think it’s more successful this year than it was last year for me to get people to ask me questions. I think people are so used to being interviewed. I have part of me that actually wants to say, “Oh, so where do you live in Canada? And what do you do?” You know, I am interested in that, I truly am. I find it fascinating to know where the person I’m talking to [is] from, what their background is. Because it’s so much cooler that way.

You’ve already spoken to some of the biggest names in Star Trek. Do you have any dream podcast guests both within and outside Star Trek?

Gates McFadden: I would say there’s some people, someone like Stacey Abrams, who after losing the election, what’s going on with her now? What are her feelings, what’s happening? I know about her life, but I’d love to have a conversation with her. Or people who I haven’t seen in my life for a long, long time. I just ran into a friend of mine, Anna Deavere Smith, and I thought, “Wow, I would love to sit down and just have a long conversation with her.”

I was told by Brian Volk-Weiss, my boss who hired me at The Nacelle Company, “You can ask anyone you want, but I would like Star Trek people.” So it was very clear that that’s who he was interested in having on. And I was interested in talking with Michael Westmore just because I adore him. This season, I don’t know the people as well, because they’re not in my cast. And people are just fascinating to me. I love knowing about their grandparents, [and] about their childhood, whatever they want to share. And some people do not feel like sharing much and others do. I love it the most when it is a conversation. I love it also when I shut up and let the person talk.

Stacey Abrams is actually part of Star Trek. She appeared at the end of Star Trek: Discovery season 4. She’s the President of Earth.

Gates McFadden: I know. And that’s why it’s very interesting to me. I know that she’s a big fan of Star Trek, I’ve done different podcasts for [President Joe] Biden, trying to raise money for Biden. When somebody puts out as much effort as she has to try to change the world for the better and then loses an election… I’m very curious how she’s dealing with all of that now. I expected her to win like so many of us did. So it’s interesting. I would love to have a chat with her about that. And many other people, good lord. It’s more about feeling qualified. I don’t know that I feel qualified enough to speak with a lot of people who I admire so greatly. I feel that I would have to get myself to just relax and be myself. And not try to impress anybody. It’s very hard.

Really, the goal is to just be two human beings talking. That’s the goal, where you’re not feeling judged, or you’re not feeling judgmental, where you’re just there, and you’re listening and responding. That’s the ideal. It’s very hard to get to. Sometimes I achieve it. And many times I don’t. So again, it’s a learning curve, and I’m learning about it. And you learn a lot about yourself at the same time. Not always fun things. To listen to yourself back and go, “Oh, God, just listen, Gates. You don’t have to respond so much.” But again, that’s how you learn. You learn by figuring out who you are, and how can you improve that, and who the other person is, and just taking it in.

You’ve had your space son, Wil Wheaton, on your podcast. Of course, you have another space son in Picard season 3. Will you try to get Ed Speleers on at some point?

Gates McFadden: Yes, he’s already done one. As has [Star Trek: Picard showrunner] Terry Matalas. I adore Teddy. He’s great. And I adore Terry Matalas. I think he’s a storyteller par excellence. He did a remarkable job with this season, I think.

Would you want to try to interview both of your space sons together?

Gates McFadden: Maybe! Maybe that would be a really good idea. Does that sound interesting to you?

Oh, certainly, that’s why I brought it up. I think that’d be amazing.

Gates McFadden: Well, then I should try to do that. Because that really would be cool. They are both so wonderful as human beings. Really, really love, love them. And that would be really fun, actually.

In your podcast with Kate Mulgrew, which I thought was wonderful, you mentioned at the end that Beverly is a different character when she came back to Picard season 3. I’d love to know what you meant by that.

Gates McFadden: I think in season 3, we see that she’s somebody who has, out of reasons of protecting her child and having an instinct that he was going to be in danger, chose to keep that child. She had to really severely change the life she led because otherwise, people were going to know it was Picard’s child, and he would be in danger. I think she had a gut instinct about that that was right.

I love the fact that she’s somebody who we see [is] able to run her own ship, run her own nonprofit, some sort of Doctors Without Borders a planetary way, that she’s an adventurer and an explorer. And that she’s also a doctor, a scientist, and a parent. I think that’s a whole person. And I feel that she’s someone who… Yeah, she can defend the castle. And she can also scale the wall, and she can also make a nice little hut for everybody, and a fire to sit by. I like that sort of three-dimensional character, whereas I think that the women on Next Gen were much more limited in scope.

I was also awestruck by your performance with Patrick Stewart at the end of episode 2, where you needed no words to convey the truth that Jack was his son. And then your scenes together in episode 3, which I thought were one of the greatest dramatic scenes ever performed in Star Trek. What it was like filming those scenes, and with Jonathan Frakes directing?

Gates McFadden: Well, you know, it was something! The preparation was when we were working on the script, we would be sent the rewrites, and then we go back and forth. Patrick would have his thoughts, and Jonathan would have his thoughts, Terry would have his, that sort of thing. And you don’t always get everything you want. The show is called Picard, not Crusher. But I think that I was at least able to have input, and I was listened to.

Everyone said they wanted it balanced, I felt that it was very tricky. She was in a position of jeopardy because she’s going to be blamed. It’s very easy to blame her, especially in the beginning. Once I had the script, it got changed a couple of days before we shot it, so that was the trickiest part. Once I have my scene, I was able to easily figure out how the character would feel and what it was.

I don’t think we did that many takes, actually. I think we just did a few takes, and there were no real blocking changes or anything that was different in my recollection. And then with the editing, you can change a scene by the way you edit it, of course. So that’s where I think the work was done later. I don’t recall any big long discussions on the day of shooting at all. I think we just did it, you know?

Picard, in this week’s episode, told Jack that he’d have chosen the same name for his son. I’d love to hear your perspective on Beverly naming Jack after her dead husband.

Gates McFadden: Well, there’s another perspective that you need to know, and that is that my real son’s name is Jack. And so, I was like, oh, no, you’re kidding. This is a lot of Jacks in my life! But no, I can understand that if she had named him John, Luke, or Picard, everyone would have made the connection. Everyone was saying why? You know, so obviously, again, I think it’s about protection. And it’s also in its own way, a signal. Picard would know, [because] Jack was their commonality as well as their own feelings for each other. So it kind of seems very appropriate.

The rest of your TNG cast has been very vocal about wanting to continue after Picard. I speak for the fans that we want more as well. So I’d love to know, what is your preference for what happens next after Picard? Would you like a movie? A spinoff? That Crusher show you just mentioned?

Gates McFadden: Well, I would love to do more episodes of a series. I think there’s something quite magical going on. And I think you can have a lot of different things that come out of it, you can break form in many ways, and have all of the characters in play. I think the new characters like Todd Stashwick is just phenomenal. And LeVar’s daughters… Geordi, not LeVar, although one of them is his daughter. I think it was so clever to have all of these younger people. Something I feel is missing so much in our society is young and old people working together and collaborating. I love that about this season.

That we respected the junior officers as much as we respected the older officers. Both old and young make mistakes, and very often, and I am certainly living proof of this, the younger generation is smarter in many ways than the older generation. But then again, the younger generation lacks a certain amount of experience and the wisdom that comes from having made mistakes and how to correct them. So that’s what I love. And I do not see that happening a lot on television. I see there’s often antagonism between the two generations.

And so, that to me, is that gives me hope as a human being. Because I get along really well with my son who’s 31. I get along really well with my nephew who’s going to be 42, and with my niece, I am in their lives, we text all the time, and I have long, deep conversations with all of them about their lives, about their loves about their failures, and hopes, about philosophy. And so, I love that that’s finally being shown [in Picard]. And the annoying part is when I say, “Oh, can you fix my app? I did something wrong.” That’s where I’m mom again, or I’m Aunt Gates. AG is what they call me. That’s when I’m annoying.

But when I’m just myself, it’s really wonderful, the relationships you can have. I used to teach at universities in theater departments, and many of my former students are extraordinary people. And to ever run into them and have a chance to sit down and talk to them, it’s fantastic. We can learn from each other. And it starts with respect. I really have great respect for the younger generations. And I also have very great respect for my own generation. So that’s collaboration on a really high level, as far as I’m concerned, and Star Trek did that this season.

Yeah, absolutely. It really has been great seeing the two generations working together and benefiting from each other’s experience. Speaking of generations, Star Trek: Discovery was canceled. I love Sonequa Martin-Green; I think she should be on your podcast because she is amazing.

Gates McFadden: She is amazing. And you know what? I had just met her. We were in the restroom at Las Vegas last year. I knew she just had her baby. And I said, “I think you’re she’s an astonishing actress, and I would love to have you on my podcast.” She said, “Yes, I would love to do it.” It’s more about [timing], you know, if she was having two weeks off, what are you going to do? She’s got her family.

The younger generation is so great. They go, “Yeah, I’d love to do your podcast.” Jack Quaid? “Yeah, absolutely.” Tawny [Newsome]? “Yeah.” Whereas, some of the people in my class were like, “Okay… just for you, Gates.” It’s like, the last thing they would feel like doing is another podcast, right? So it’s kind of funny that way. But yeah, I would love to have Sonequa on. I don’t know if there’s going to be a third season in my podcast, but Sonequa is somebody who I very much love. I loved having Anson [Mount] on, and he and I might even redo stuff because we both were laughing and commiserating about when podcasts go badly. So he’s probably going to be on last.

But there’s many people who were on Discovery and also people who are on Strange New Worlds I am in awe of. I’m in awe of the casting that people have done for the Star Trek shows, really and truly. I meet these people in the green rooms or at events, and they are lovely people. I haven’t run into anyone who I thought, “Wow, they’re really a jerk,” you know? I really have great respect for everybody.

I cannot wait to hear the Anson Mount and Jack Quaid episodes because I’m such a huge fan of both of them. And Tawny too.

Gates McFadden: Tawny was just great. It was one of the easiest ones I’ve ever done. As I say in the podcast’s beginning, I said, if I could be anyone, I’d like to be her. (laughs) I think there’s something about her that just does it for me. She’s great. She’s so cool and down to Earth.

And then, Jack Quaid. I mean, is there anything anyone doesn’t like about Jack Quaid? He’s so charming, and smart and funny. He’s just fabulous. So yeah, that one comes up next week. And Tawny’s episode is out already. I loved it. I just loved her. We’re gonna do an Instagram. We’re doing an Instagram on the 17th for CBS together, which I’m looking forward to. Because she’s going to make it so fun.

Gates, I really enjoy your podcast. I think you’re an icon. I adore your work on Star Trek. I wish you had gotten to continue on in the Jack Ryan movies.

Gates McFadden: Oh, me too. But that was Alec Baldwin. He asked for too much money, and they said no. But I was supposed to. I would have gone on and done the second movie. That’s why it was a tiny part in the first one, but it was going to be a bigger part in the second one. But then they just said [to Alec], “Nope, we’re not paying you that money.” And they went and they cast Harrison Ford, so they couldn’t have the same woman playing his wife. That hurt.

You still go down in history. You were the first Cathy Ryan in the movies.

Gates McFadden: That’s hilarious. Of course, if you blink, you miss it. It was so funny. I remember going into a store called Barney’s in New York City when it was really the place to go. It was before they even built the big uptown one. It was like the hippest, chic-est one. Cher would get out of her limo and go shopping, and all these different people. And I walk in there and all of the salespeople are very beautiful and chic. And this woman says, “Aren’t you that…?” And I thought she was gonna say Beverly Crusher from TNG. And she says, “Aren’t you the woman in the submarine movie?” Oh my God. I said she must have paused it and gone to the bathroom and come back. That’s how she saw my face. Because otherwise… It really was funny.