Sir Patrick Stewart is returning to the screen reprising his role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the new CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Picard,” which premieres Thursday.

Stewart played the character in the series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” from 1987-94. Stewart was knighted in 2010 and is now addressed as “Sir Patrick Stewart.” Sir Patrick met with the media to discuss the new show.

“There was actually nothing that strange to be stepping into ‘Star Trek: Picard’ because he’s never actually left me,” Stewart responded when asked how he felt stepping back into the role he originated. “He has always been there, and it’s a relationship that I am happy to continue with. That’s an understatement. I’m absolutely thrilled to continue.”

The actor was proud of the seven-year series and the subsequent four films based on the series, with the final film closing the franchise.

“I was very content with that because I felt, as I’ve said, very proud of the work we had don,” Stewart said. “But the context in which the work was done, the fact that we were then, as we are now, an ensemble and not a star-led series, it has been far easier than I expected to make this transition nearly 20 years later. But because, as I’ve said, the man exists inside me, the interesting question for me is … ‘What happened in those 20 years?’ So now I have a very, very clear vision, and little snippets of that backstory will creep into the series that I’m sure already has, because it is important that our audience get to know why we are living in the world that we are, and what it is that has brought that about.”

The “Star Trek” franchise has been part of pop culture since the original series premiered in 1966. Quotes like “Beam me up” and “Live long and prosper” have become part of our lifestyle. So why has it been embraced by viewers around the world and why did Stewart feel this is a good time to reprise his character?

“And my feeling was, as I look all around our world today, there has never been a more important moment when entertainment and show business can address some of the issues that are potentially damaging our world today,” he said. “Now, I’m not saying we are turning ‘Star Trek: Picard’ into a political show, not remotely. What we are making is entertainment, but that it should reflect perhaps in a subtle and gentle way the world that we are living in, is what ‘Star Trek’ has always done, and I think it’s important.”

Stewart acknowledged that being permanently identified as Picard has been a little bit of a burden. For a while after wrapping the final film, the actor found it difficult to find roles because directors typecast him. But he eventually did break out of that and continued with his career. And now he is thrilled to return to the character that has been beloved by fans worldwide.

“I feel, once again, the sense of pride of being, I’m not the leader, but in a sense, I’m a kind of symbol,” he said. “I’m very content to be that because I think it’s all about the quality of the work.”

When asked if his fellow “Star Trek: The Next Generation” cast mates will make appearances on his new show, he replied, “We actually talk all the time. The whole ‘Next Generation’ cast are very, very close. I love all of them, and they are dear, dear friends. Jonathan (Frakes), Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Del Arco, and Brent, of course, do appear in Season 1 (of ‘Picard’). It is my hope that whenever that point arrives in which we are wrapping the series, that we will have encountered all of the principal actors from ‘Next Generation.’ ”