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William Shatner: “It’s a new world”


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William Shatner
Photo by Manfred Baumann
Short Profile

Name: William Shatner
DOB: 22 March 1931
Place of Birth: Montréal, Québec, Canada
Occupation: Actor

Mr. Shatner, did the success of Star Trek and your role as Captain Kirk ever feel like a curse in disguise?

Well, I don’t know what I could have done if I hadn’t played Captain Kirk, but I never thought of Captain Kirk as a curse. The reason you and I are talking right now is, in all likelihood, because I played in Star Trek. What I might have done without it? I don’t know. What I have done with it is terrific. I’ve had a great time and I am still having a great time. And a lot of it is due to the fact that I got popular as a result of Star Trek.

So you didn’t ever feel trapped by the public’s perception of you?

No, I don’t feel trapped. You know, it’s an actor’s job to perform a role and once the show was over I’ve gone on to other things — many, many other things. Each successful film or play or television show propels you, or should propel an actor, into something else and it has been doing that for me. So no, I don’t feel trapped at all. It’s the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and I’m just enjoying it.

50 years is a long time, especially for a show that initially only ran for three seasons. The show really only became popular through syndication.

Right, nobody could have ever foreseen the popularity that Star Trek has had. It’s a phenomenon and you and I are talking about it 50 years after I did it. 50 years. It’s never been done before and probably will never be done again.

Were you always fascinated by science fiction?

I would think it’s something I’ve always been interested in, certainly in trying to imagine what the future holds and speculating on that. It leaves you open to innovative ideas because there are concepts and laboratory things that are on the edge of being real, but aren’t yet. Science fiction writers make use of that and project it as though it were reality, like being able to transport something from one place to another.

I don’t think Scotty will be beaming us up any time soon though.

Well, science has done it with one molecule, so in theory it’s possible to get every molecule transported. The challenge and the impossibility of it is that billions upon billions of molecules need to be sent from one polarity to another. But theoretically it’s possible!

What about the Internet? Given your impressive online following, it seems that your fame has been revived by the Internet generation.

Well, as you and I know, the whole way of marketing a show has changed to something that you have to sell to the public instead of the traditional route of interviews and newspapers. A large part of it is this public media. It’s a new world and if you’re going to stay up with it, you’ve got to be a part of it. So I joined the social media and I am using it to talk to fans and have fans talk to me, and I tell my fans what it is I’m doing.

You are quite restless for an 84 year old. It seems you are constantly working on new books, TV shows, tech projects, even horse riding competitions…

Yes, and I’m so vitally interested in all these individual things that I’m doing! When this interview is over I’m on my way to ride my horses all morning before I go to my office this afternoon. I also enjoy going to work where I’m creating things, making things happen, and getting ready to continue my tours here in the US. Recently I’ve even invented something that I don’t think has ever been done before. I’m calling it a cinematic graphic novel. The captions move a little bit and the camera moves over the panels of the illustrated novel, something in between a comic book and an animated movie. It has sound effects, it has music, but you read the bubbles.

“It’s easy to say no, but it’s a risk to say yes to anything!”

What made you want to do a project like that?

Well most kids, especially in America, read comic books when they were young and a lot of them continue to do so even when they’re older, so comic books are part of American tradition. Then when I turned one of my novels into a comic book I had the idea of moving a camera over it. So it was a period of creativity where one thing lead to another and there were leaps of imagination and we’ve arrived to what I think is a new concept.

You have been in the film industry for so long. What have you seen change over time?

Essentially nothing.

Really?

Well, it got more efficient, electronic, and all that kind of thing — but those are superficial things. The truth of having to tell a good story and tell it dramatically, and the actors having to be truthful and interesting, and being characters who are bringing personality to it, all those remain the same. There are verities that remain since the Greeks wrote the plays: truthfulness, entertainment, subject matter that people are interested in, commentary. They’re all basically the same. The means of delivering the message has changed, but that doesn’t affect the message.

Your motto is “work equals work” regarding taking acting jobs to pay the bills. Where do you draw the line?

I’m rejecting jobs all the time! For one reason or another. But I wrote a book a while back where I said, “Say yes,” and by that I mean: Say yes to life. Not yes to jumping off a bridge because somebody else jumps off a bridge, but say yes to the opportunities that life offers you. It’s easy to say no, but it’s a risk to say yes to anything! New life, new love, new ideas, new concepts. That’s where the advancement of life is, and that’s really what you and I are talking about.