10 Questions for William Shatner

4 minute read
Clayton Neuman

He has played a seasoned cop and an eccentric attorney, but for many people, William Shatner will always be a fearless space explorer from a long-gone TV series–a role he is now handing off to another actor. Shortly after Shatner, 75, was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Hall of Fame last month, he talked with TIME’s Clayton Neuman about bad game shows, bringing peace to the Middle East and, unavoidably, the Captain Kirk Star Trek legacy.

Show Me the Money, the ABC game show you hosted last fall, was short-lived. What happened?

I don’t want to think that people turned it off because of me, so I’ll blame the game. There is something inherently not exciting about a game that people couldn’t quit. The fun of the game is the shock and awe of seeing somebody get so greedy they’ll stay far beyond what you would think is a safe gamble. Ours wasn’t a gamble.

Boston Legal is now in its third season. How do you feel about the evolution of your character Denny?

I like the character; I think he’s fun. But the writing this year does not enhance him as much as it might. There are a lot of characters in the series that need to be serviced. We always want more to do, to go deeper and funnier. I’m sure that at some point they’ll come around to it.

When Richard Branson’s civilian-spaceflight program was announced, you signed on to take a flight but then later backed out. Why?

Well, I really hadn’t. They were trying to get as much publicity for their venture as possible, so they made this statement that I’d signed on, but in fact nobody had ever contacted me until much later. And I said no, I wouldn’t pay [$210,000] to go into space. Throwing up is a lonely sickness and not something I’d like to pay for. But if it’s thrust upon me, it might be a good adventure.

Lost producer J.J. Abrams is working on a Star Trek movie for 2008 about a young Kirk and Spock, and there are rumors you will make an appearance.

I did have a talk with J.J., and he outlined what he wanted to do. Getting a character who is supposed to be dead to talk to his younger self is a storytelling problem. But if you want to guarantee the audience will come in droves, one of the things you might do is include some members of the old cast.

You are so indelibly linked to Captain Kirk, how do you pass on the torch to a younger actor?

Well, you light a match … No, I really have nothing to offer. I can’t say to some young actor, “Play it this way,” because he’s going to play it his way. But I will say, he’s got to be young and good-looking and rich. And charming.

Some people say Star Trek is past its prime, and it’s time to move on. Would you agree?

There was something about Star Trek that sustained it all those years. But with so many entities of Star Trek out there all at once, the audience began to leave it. Now there’s a huge experiment going on: Will the audience pick up their love affair? We don’t know. And as talented as J.J. is, this is the real test for him. He’s got to give a known quantity the Abrams twist and yet maintain the Star Trek game.

You began a program to provide therapeutic horseback riding to Israeli kids with disabilities. How is that going?

The whole Lebanon war was a setback. But there are many therapy riding programs in Israel, and what we are going to do is bring them financing if they open their programs to children of other nations–to take a small step toward peace.

Babylon 5 actress Claudia Christian recently gave an interview in which she accused you of once making advances on the set of T.J. Hooker.

Well, who am I to tell a lady that she’s a liar. I have no recollection. I’m sure it was memorable for her, though.

Have you heard that actor Jeff Daniels recorded an album and titled one of the songs, If William Shatner Can, I Can Too?

Can what? Sing? [Laughs] No I haven’t, nor have I heard the sentiment. William Shatner knows he can’t sing.

That hasn’t stopped you from recording albums, most recently with musician Ben Folds.

That album was perhaps more positively reviewed than anything else I’ve ever done. [TIME laughs] You find that funny, do you?

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