John de Lancie on Returning as Q for Season 2 of 'Star Trek: Picard'

Star Trek: Picard sees a new batch of major The Next Generation characters return to the franchise. As well as Whoopi Goldberg coming back as Guinan, Episode 1 sees the return of Jean-Luc Picard's longstanding nemesis, Q (played by John de Lancie).

The scene featuring Q comes at the end of the episode, where Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) finds himself in a strange facsimile of his house seemingly controlled by his enemy.

This new Q, however, is slightly different than when we last saw him. He has grey hair and is a darker version of the character than we have seen before—no tights and mariachi bands this time.

In the lead-up to the release of Star Trek: Picard Season 2 on Paramount+, Newsweek spoke to de Lancie about his surprise return to Star Trek, this new take on the character, and the one condition he had for signing up to the show.

Newsweek: When you weren't asked to star in Season 1, did you think that was it or did you expect that you might get a call for Season 2?

John de Lancie: I've always taken the position that you cannot run your life hoping that you're going to be invited to somebody's dinner party. And so, after Next Generation, they did the movies, and I just began going, "it's their dinner party. If they give me a call, that's great. And if they don't, that's the end of it."

But I was delighted when they did call. And I went in to meet with Terry [Matalas, executive producer], at Paramount, and he said "you just knew that we were going to call you didn't you?" And I said "no, no, it's been a long time."

john de lancie q star trek picard
John de Lancie as Q in "Star Trek: Picard." The actor is reprising his role in live action for the first time since 2001. Paramount+

N: You have not played Q in live action since Star Trek: Voyager in 2001. Is it hard to get back into the role after so much time?

JdL: You know, it's not. I mean, I play the character pretty close to the vest. It's not a difficult character to play. Truth be told, I kind of am mostly playing a version of myself.

It helps that they are good scenes, played with good actors. The intentions are always very clear, and so it was fun to play it. It's a little bit like going out on the tennis court and deciding to play a really good game with an opponent that also plays a really good game.

N: When Q is first introduced at the end of Episode 1 and the start of Episode 2, it is a more serious version of the character than we often saw on The Next Generation. Will we see a bit more of the goofy side of the character as Picard goes on?

JdL: No, not really. These are different writers, with the intention of doing something different than what was done.

One of the problems with reprising a role is that you do not want them to make the mistake of recreating, trying to go back. There were times that I thought, "oh, gee, it might need a little bit of whimsy. That's certainly some something that that that audiences will have remembered." But it wasn't really there [in the script.]

N: How is this version of Q different from the one we saw in TNG and Voyager?

JdL: When Q is usually on Star Trek, it's usually about what Picard has at stake. And this time, what we discover is that Q has something at stake. And that is what motivates a lot of this now. This show is of a darker nature.

N: How did the producers pitch this new idea of the character to you?

JdL: Well, I sat down and I said, "listen, the first thing I want to know is you're not going to be putting me in those tight again, are you? Because if that's the case, the deal's off!" They said "No, no, no, no, we're going for a different feel." I looked pretty much as I do now [with grey hair and a beard.] And they said "as a matter of fact, we even want the beard, we want a sense of maturity. Time has passed, and there is something that is up on your side." And I said, "so it's not like mariachi band time?" And they said, "No."

N: When we first see the character, he looks as he did in the '80s, only for Q to snap his fingers and transform to how you look now. What was the idea behind that?

JdL: What was great about this team was that they were open to suggestions, but I don't know whether they used the line or not as I haven't seen [the episode]. In the script, when I say to Picard, "Oh, dear, you're a lot older than I imagined," we talked about me not being on camera so that then I could say let me fix that. And then when they come on me, I am this age. So that I have actually done what I need to do off camera to be at the same age as he is.

[In the episode as released, this happens on camera]

Those were things that we were able to talk about, as opposed to just being like "hey, man, this is how it's written, just say the words." So that was nice to be able to participate in that element.

Interview condensed and edited for clarity.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 1 is streaming now on Paramount+. Episodes air weekly on Thursdays.