1 Patrick Stewart Quote A Star Trek: TNG Guest Star Will “Always Remember”

Patrick Stewart said something in an interview that Star Trek: The Next Generation guest star Howie Seago will never forget.

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Summary

  • Howie Seago, a deaf actor who appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation, recalls a quote from Patrick Stewart praising his authenticity and the tension he brought to the role.
  • Seago’s portrayal of Riva, a deaf mediator, marked an important moment for disability representation on Star Trek, as he is one of the few actors with the same disability as the character he portrayed.
  • Despite progress in disability representation, Riva remains the only deaf character to have appeared onscreen in Star Trek, highlighting the need for more diverse and inclusive casting in the franchise.

Star Trek: The Next Generation guest star Howie Seago will never forget a particular quote from Patrick Stewart. Seago appeared in TNG, season 2, episode 5, “Loud as a Whisper,” as a deaf mediator named Riva who was being transported by the USS Enterprise-D. In order to communicate, Riva has a chorus of three people who act as his interpreters. When his chorus is unexpectedly killed, Riva must find new ways to make himself understood, which proves to be a struggle. Along with Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Patrick Stewart’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard helps Riva regain his confidence, but it was something Stewart said in a later interview that stuck with actor Howie Seago.

Seago, who is deaf himself, has had a lengthy career in theater and performing arts, and he helped develop the story for his Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. In a 2022 interview with the Trek Untold podcast, Seago (with help from his ASL interpreter Paul Bert) spoke about his time on TNG and referenced a quote he once read from Patrick Stewart. Read Seago’s words and watch the full podcast episode below:

The quote that Patrick – [circles on hand around the top of his head] this is his sign because he’s bald- In an interview about his experience working with me as a deaf actor for the L.A. Times. They published a quote in the paper that I’ll always remember. It was so well stated. I’ll go ahead and read it to you. ‘When you’re dealing with an actor who has the authentic handicap, that person carries an authentic tension around with him and it never dissipates; it’s always present. Whereas with an actor without the handicap, that is necessarily going to fluctuate. And I think all the actors in the show were sensitive, aware of, and sometimes even nervous of that very idiosyncratic tension. And tension is what makes theater.’ Unbelievably beautiful. So well said. Fantastic. I use that when we have to fight our battles with certain films, roles where they try to select hearing actors to play deaf parts. And we have to tell them this over and over. Now it seems like there are more opportunities opening up, but this is from 1988, believe it or not. And it’s still happening today.

Star Trek: The Next Generation cast & character guide
Star Trek: The Next Generation Cast & Character Guide

Star Trek: The Next Generation has one of the most beloved cast of characters in all of science fiction. Here are the major characters of the classic.

Riva Remains The Only Onscreen Deaf Star Trek Character

Many other disabilities have been represented in Star Trek.

While Star Trek has had its fair share of diversity representation, Riva remains the only deaf character to have appeared onscreen. Howie Seago is also one of the only Trek actors who has the same disability as the character he portrays. One of Star Trek‘s first disabled characters, and likely the most well-known, is Lt. Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), who was born blind and wears a special VISOR that allows him to “see.” LeVar Burton is not blind, but Geordi’s presence on TNG, and the fact that his blindness is not presented as a handicap, marked a step in the right direction.

American Sign Language (or an imagined alien version of signing) could be beautifully integrated into the far future setting of Star Trek to continue espousing that Trek philosophy that celebrates infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

In “Loud as a Whisper,” Riva and Geordi have a conversation about their disabilities, with Riva saying: “It’s a blessing to understand we are special, each in his own way.” Geordi agrees wholeheartedly, and this was a progressive idea at the time the episode aired. Despite the appearance of other disabled characters since then, Star Trek has yet to have another deaf character or actor appear onscreen. Opportunities continue to grow for deaf actors and characters (as seen with Alaqua Cox in Marvel’s Echo), and Star Trek should consider adding a deaf character to one of its diverse casts. Howie Seago’s Riva may have only appeared in one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but he made a significant impression and marked an important moment for the Star Trek franchise.

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