THE FINAL FRONTIER
William Shatner Is Biting His Tongue Under President Trump: ‘I Won’t Do Anything That Might Get Me Deported’
The ‘Star Trek’ icon opens up about his new books, late pal Leonard Nimoy, why he hasn’t seen the new ‘Star Trek’ films, and his burning desire to perform on NBC’s ‘The Voice.’
William Shatner is one of the hardest-working men in showbiz. The alleged 86-year-old is an icon for multiple generations: one only has to utter the words Star Trek, Boston Legal, T.J. Hooker, and Priceline to get an idea of his immense popularity. But Shatner’s also a best-selling author. St. Martin’s Press has just released his new book Spirit of the Horse that Shatner co-wrote with Jeff Rovin, who also pairs with him on the book Zero-G: Book 2 out this September. And Leonard, Shatner’s memoir of his 50-year relationship with his legendary Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy that he wrote with David Fisher, is out in paperback now.
If that weren’t enough, the man forever known as Captain Kirk is about to embark on his second season of TV series Better Late Than Never alongside co-star Henry Winkler, and just finished shooting Senior Moment, a big-screen comedy. Oh, and there is the star-studded Hollywood Charity Horse Show, an annual sold-out event in Burbank, California, on June 3rd.
In the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Shatner, who is Canadian by birth, was relatively mum on candidate Trump, and was one of a few notable absences when, back in September, the cast and crew of Star Treks past and present signed an open letter endorsing Hillary Clinton over the real estate heir, claiming that Trump stood against the show’s message of inclusion. After the election results came in, however Shatner tweeted:
The Daily Beast spoke with Shatner about his myriad projects and his thoughts on the new U.S. president. Below is a condensed version of the conversation.
For a long-time lover of horses are you surprised that the only film footage of you riding a horse is in Star Trek: Generations?
William Shatner: Not really. Hollywood is a business. They haven’t really made westerns in years because they think people don’t want to see them. I always look for a western when I watch television. I’m a big fan of Gary Cooper and John Wayne and obviously horses. I’d find time to make a western if I’m ever asked to.
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry originally pitched the series as “Wagon Train in outer space.” Since TV’s Wagon Train was such a big hit show in the fifties, could they reboot the series today with Star Trek virtues and characters?
A strange, interesting thought—but when it comes to the Star Trek universe anything is possible.
Anything except you being in any of the rebooted Star Trek films. Why is that?
I’ve met with J.J. Abrams, who seems to be running the film franchise now. Though I’ve repeatedly expressed my interest in being in one of the Star Trek movies they seem to have no interest in bringing back old Captain James T. Kirk.
Yet in the last Star Trek film they showed a photo of the original cast that got a huge positive response at the screening I was in.
I did not know that because I haven’t seen the new films.
What do you think of President Trump, who you signed a petition against last September?
I didn’t do that. I would never have done that.
Ah, most of the rest of the cast then. Are you afraid when it comes to the arts that President Trump...
…I don’t want to discuss Trump or [George] Takei. Listen, I’m Canadian and I’m apolitical. I love America. I consider myself a guest here. I won’t do anything that might get me deported.
You’re listed as being different ages on the internet. Can you set the record straight as to how old you actually are?
I’m 35 but I look older because I’ve worked very hard all my life.
What was your purpose in writing your Leonard Nimoy book?
I wanted to say how much I loved my longtime friend. I also wanted to set the record straight how I couldn’t leave the charity event I had committed to prior to his death and just rent a plane and fly to his services. I never knew how sick he really was. The last five years of his life we didn’t speak as much as I would have liked to. Leonard was always the person I would seek out on the Star Trek set whenever I was confused or upset or truly needed the solace of a friend. Hopefully all this comes through in the book.
Do you feel Doctor Spock was the soul of Star Trek?
Most definitely. There had never been a character like his on national television. Spock was serene yet dynamic at the same time. And he had a welcome sense of humor and deadpan comic delivery. I remember once he came out of makeup and he asked me right before the scene started if his ears were on straight. Ten minutes later we were still trying to keep from giggling over that. The Doctor Spock character—and the humanity Leonard brought to him—helped immensely in making Star Trek special.
Do you feel that carried over successfully in the Star Trek films?
As best as it was allowed to. Remember: we made six films and I think all of them had different directors, including myself. With the screenwriters seemingly changing with each film, it was the Star Trek characters that Gene Roddenberry created that got us through any rough spots in the scripts. One of the many things I was proud of with the TV show was we were the first scripted network series to have a main character—myself—engage in an interracial kiss, and that happened in the 1960s when our nation was engaged in racial turmoil!
The first Star Trek film was not very well-received. Did you think that would be the last movie at the time?
Most definitely. The film was rushed to make a Christmas release date and the special effects were terrible. Fans wanted the essence of the television series and the interaction between the main characters, which they had watched come together in the three years that we were on the air. I was very surprised and so was Leonard when Paramount came back with an offer to make Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which became an excellent film due in part to screenwriter-director Nicholas Meyer’s love and knowledge of the series. Plus, it had an excellent performance by Ricardo Montalban playing the lead villain.
Was it the best Star Trek film that you made?
I believe Star Trek III. For me, it was because of the final scene between Kirk and Spock. There was real emotion between both of us and its very well-edited and directed. At the end of the scene, Leonard and I thought that was the end of the film series but we were going out in style. I thought Star Trek IV: The Long Voyage Home, which was directed superbly by Leonard, captured the true essence of what the series did so well. It was also the biggest hit worldwide and got the best reviews of any movie the original Enterprise crew made.
So do you think J.J. Abrams will ever put you in any of the rebooted Star Trek films?
You’ve got to ask him. As I said, we’ve met and discussed me being in them but he wants to keep the film younger—whatever that means. With Leonard’s untimely death it would be nice for the millions of Star Trek fans to say goodbye to the original Captain Kirk one last time.
What show business goals do you have left?
I’d like to be on The Voice and sing a song from my forthcoming Christmas album. That reminds me… I haven’t recorded the album yet. I must do that before I get old!