Sir Patrick Stewart had six years of therapy to overcome his abusive childhood.

The 80-year-old actor's father Alfred was a soldier who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and physically abused his mother Gladys and the 'Star Trek: Picard' star admitted it was only after he moved to Los Angeles for work that he started seeing a therapist to help him deal with his childhood trauma.

He said: ''We barely knew him. He was a stranger to us. He'd drink at the weekends, get angry and hit my mother. I would put my body between them to protect her. Sometimes we'd have to call an ambulance or the police. We asked her to leave him, but she wouldn't -- she adored him.

''He retired from the army as a regimental sergeant-major, a senior non-commissioned officer in the Parachute Regiment. Very strict. I met someone who served under him. He said that when my dad was out on the parade ground, even the birds in the trees stopped singing.

''It wasn't until I came to California and people would say, 'You're not in therapy? Let me recommend somebody.' I was introduced to a brilliant woman with whom I did therapy weekly for about six years. It was thanks to her that all this stuff came out and I realised that acting was an escape for me.''

And Patrick now realises what a profound impact his father had on his own life and acting career.

He explained to The Sunday Times magazine: ''I had been in denial about the impact my father had on my acting until I played Macbeth. [The director] Rupert Goold set it in Stalinist Russia.

''I grew a moustache. And in the first dress rehearsal I was in battle fatigues and my wonderful dresser handed me my AK47, I put it on my shoulder, turned and looked in the mirror. My father was looking straight back at me.

''And that's when the penny dropped. This man had been influencing my life for years and years and years. There is a great deal of Alfred Stewart in Jean-Luc Picard.

''The first moment that I walked onto the school stage I felt safe -- it was the safest place I'd ever been. For one thing I wasn't Patrick Stewart, because I didn't like Patrick Stewart very much. And it was a different world, it wasn't my world -- because I didn't like that very much either.''