William Shatner is a man, a myth and a legend who somehow still walks among us. Although he’ll turn 88 at the end of this month, Shatner still keeps up an incredibly active schedule of travel and personal appearances, while he also acts, writes, sings, rides and, as you’ll read below, lives life.
This particular weekend he’ll be appearing both Saturday and Sunday at the Big Apple Con in New York City, but he’s also touring with screenings of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, where he introduces the film and does a talk afterwards. Tonight he’s in Rosemont, IL and next month hell be appearing across the Midwest.
Although our conversation was brief, it ranged over a lot of topics…I wish it could have gone on much longer. There’s only one William Shatner and you owe it to yourself to hear him speak at least once in your life, because he is the best there will ever be at being himself.
Thanks to Jamie Roberts of For The Win Media and Michael Carbonaro of Big Apple Con for setting up this chat.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
THE BEAT: Thanks for taking the time to talk. Since we only have a little time, I’ll get right to it. You are you are probably the most –
SHATNER: I have NO IDEA what you are going to say! [General laughter] “The most…” It could be anything! Asshole? Or…
THE BEAT: It’s much more positive! You are a guest at so many conventions, how do you do it? I go to cons and I’m exhausted. How do you travel so much and why do you go got so many cons?
SHATNER: Well, I’ve only been to…two [this year]? What I’m [doing now] other than what I ordinarily do, perform and write, is I’m playing the Wrath of Khan at theaters. It’s a really good film and very successful when it was released. So we’re playing it on the big screen with big sound. And then I come out for an hour or more afterwards. We’re getting record crowds and people are coming out and enjoying it. The word of mouth is quite wonderful. I’m doing three shows before I come to New York, a full week. So that’s what I’m doing a lot of. Comic cons, less so, but I’m looking forward to coming to the Big Apple.
THE BEAT: You famously did a sketch on Saturday Night Live that was set at a Star Trek convention.
SHATNER: Now, did you ever see it or you just going by its reputation?
THE BEAT: No, I saw it. I know it was done with love….
SHATNER: Why is that what people talk about still! I don’t understand why of all the great sketches that were performed on SNL, why they would remember that one!
THE BEAT: Well, I think because it spoke to how at that point going to a Star Trek convention was considered very strange. But now, as you know, they’re huge. Some conventions have hundreds of thousands of people. So I’m wondering if your own perception of them has changed over the years?Embed from Getty Images
SHATNER: Well that sketch was really meant as a joke and I have never forgotten my roots on Star Trek. As a result of Star Trek you and I are talking. I have never forgotten that playing Captain Kirk gave me this celebrity.
THE BEAT: I’m not surprised the Wrath of Khan tour is a success. It is a beloved film, one of my favorites, and I love it every time I watch it. What do you think fans now are getting out of it when they see it again?
SHATNER: Probably the same enjoyment that they got to begin with. In my introduction I explain that if it hadn’t been for Wrath of Khan, due to the failure of the first movie which was called The Movie, if Khan hadn’t been as successful as it was, it probably would have knelled the death of Star Trek.
THE BEAT: I’m still impressed by your touring and travelling. What’s your secret for staying so active?
SHATNER: [Chuckling] The secret. I always try to come up with something that amuses me. It’s genetic, obviously. But, I was listening to a lecture about the biomass inside us, the second brain in our gut. Five pounds of trillions of bacteria that are giving us commands. It’s the source of our dopamine and it orders the brain around at times. You have the ability to change its character within 36 hours via what you eat. So if you eat well, your second brain is happy [laughter]. If you don’t eat well, it gets unhappy and therefore your whole bodygets unhappy.
Now I think that suggests that I eat well most of the time. I get the requisite number of hours of sleep a lot of the time. And then I ride a lot of horses, including competitively. I just came off of a dog show where my dog won everything a nine month old puppy can win in a Doberman dog show. Right now I’m pinned to the ground because it’s been raining in Los Angeles every four or five days the ground is so wet I can’t get on a horse. Getting on a horse is extraordinarily important to me.
And then I’m busy creating stuff all the time. I’m in the midst of working on a blues album in which telling the journey of a white guy from Montreal wanting to learn what are the blues. I’m going make a documentary. It will be me exploring the blues and then I’ll make an album. Kind of an original idea.
SHATNER: It’s a great album! And I have some albums out I’m just there now. I had a Christmas album that did extraordinarily well. Number two on somebody’s chart. And then a country music album in which a couple of weeks ago did a number at the Grand Ole Opry.
THE BEAT: Wow.
SHATNER: It is a wow, isn’t it!
THE BEAT: I mean it certainly sounds like being creative is essential for you.
SHATNER: I think all those elements that I’ve described is part of the reason. It’s – life isn’t passing me by. I have two Dobermans, one who has been winning these dog shows, but another beloved dog, five or six years old, just died this weekend.
THE BEAT: Oh, I’m so sorry.
SHATNER: A heart attack. So just this morning I buried her and there were four or five of us. Some of the help and the gentleman that helped me dig the grave and I spoke a bit about her, sort of like a requiem. And then I came here to work and talk to you. So my life is filled with…life.
THE BEAT: Being an animal lover keeps us connected to the world, I think.
SHATNER: I wrote a book. It’s out there now. It’s got good notices called Live Long And… in which I talk about the very things you and I are talking about, with the premise that you can’t give advice to anybody over 10 years of age because they’re filtering a whole different reality than you are, they have a whole different filter. A whole different way of looking at things. And you and every individual is unique, so that my advice on an amorphous subject like love has no connotation to you because you’re totally different. All I can do is describe what worked for me. And that’s the premise of the book.
THE BEAT: What do you do to relax?
SHATNER: I talk to people like you!
[William Shatner appears this weekend at the Bg Apple Con at the Penn Plaza Hotel in New York City.]