William Shatner spoke recently about his lengthy acting career, including Star Trek, his relationship with his fellow actors, and his fear for the future.
When Shatner realized that his childhood performances affected his audience, he realized that acting was for him. “[I could] make people laugh and cry,” he said. “Sometimes they laughed when I played drama and cried when I played comedy.”
Shatner likes to make audiences laugh, but isn’t always successful. “I think of myself as somebody valiantly trying to get laughs all the time,” he said, “missing about half the time which is shameful so I run around humiliated and exonerated about fifty percent of the time, ’cause a laugh is as delicate as an orchid … it can be there and it can be gone, it’s a will-o-the-wisp.”
Star Trek was a dramatic show, not a comedy, and Shatner, like most at the time, had no idea that it would be so successful especially since it didn’t do well during its initial run. “Nobody knew that Star Trek would be successful, in fact it wasn’t,” he said. “It was only subsequently, as it was in syndication, that it became more popular. Then the movies began and the other iterations of Star Trek and conventions and all that took place; ten, fifteen, twenty years later. It’s a phenomenon, nobody in their right mind … now there may have been crazed soothsayer in some cave in the Yucatan, who said but Star Trek will be… but nobody listened to her, because nobody knew. I never thought it’d become a big deal, just thirteen episodes and out.”
Over the years, several actors have spoken up about how hard it was to get along with Shatner and he addressed that issue. “I didn’t think I was hard to get along with,” he said. “There were a few disaffected actors who came in once a week. I had nothing to do with them. Friendly! I was working seven days a week, learning ten pages of dialogue a day. They had one line! Then after the show was canceled and the Star Trek phenomenon began, those actors would go to the conventions. They’d get applause, praise, and begin to think, Hey, I was wonderful, and Shatner stole the spotlight.'”
Even though Shatner has had a lengthy career, like many actors, he is insecure. “After seventy years, the fear never leaves me,” he said, referring to the fear that his last acting job will be his final acting job.