A conversation with William Shatner

Entertainment icon brings his ‘World’ tour to NJPAC on Sunday

Pop-culture phenomenon William Shatner will be presenting Newark with his one-man show, best described as a veritable roller coaster ride spanning key moments, memories and emotions from the actor’s life.

It was with a bizarre mixture of sheer delight and utter terror that I made the phone call to William Shatner on Monday night. And the thought of conducting a one-on-one interview with my childhood hero was starting to get the better of me.

Kathleen, his amiable assistant, promised me that the Hollywood institution would be on the line in mere moments. Five seconds later, I was greeted by that recognizable voice. That unforgettable cadence. Instantly, any fears I might have been harboring were dispelled by the familiar, reassuring tone of the iconic actor.

“Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It” has returned, and this new leg of the tour finds the Canadian-born superstar back in New Jersey. His one-man, multi-media show garnered rave reviews earlier this year, anchored by a solid run at the Music Box Theater on Broadway.

With a stop scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m., at Newark’s NJPAC, Shatner was eager to discuss his new “World” agenda. He was quick to point out that the current version is identical to the earlier model that even The New York Times swooned over in February.
When I asked him if the state of New Jersey had ever factored into his long career, Shatner recalled, “I have only fond memories of the many shows I did years ago at the Paper Mill Playhouse. The staff, the audiences … they were outstanding people.”

I pressed him about any upcoming projects for 2013, and the 81-year-old legend exploded into a description of activities.
“I plan on filming my Hamilton, Ontario, performance of ‘World’ next month for future broadcast. I have a new and very unique iPhone app called ‘Shatoetry.’” (The best-selling app recites messages in the actor’s voice.) “I’m about to pitch a new TV series which I like very much. It would definitely be a comedy, but I am trying to deepen it so that it has a little drama in it as well.”
Shatner continued, “I’m in the final stages of a movie script which I think is really good. And someone is coming in later today about being the sponsor for my five-minute podcasts focusing on wine tasting.”

When I mentioned how enjoyable I found his recent appearance on an equestrian-themed episode of the hit cable series, “American Pickers,” the actor made a confession that might surprise many. “After acting, after my family, after my great wife,” he admitted, “my overwhelming passion is horses. Riding, training, selling, … especially riding the horses in competition; just trying to win a blue ribbon against kids who were born on horses.”

As to whether he had any regrets about roles not chosen for or not taken, Shatner waxed philosophical, “I have tried to live a life without regret. Regret is an emotion that you can’t do anything about. And you really don’t know what your life would have been like if you had taken that turn in the road.”

It’s no secret to die-hard fans that the versatile actor has kindled a lifelong love affair with singing. Could he foresee “Shatner’s World” eventually being retooled as a “music only” vehicle?
“No,” he responded. “But I love the human voice. I love the musicality of language. And I am attempting to begin on another album. There’s a concept to it that hopefully will be entertaining enough for the listener to stick with it for an hour or so.” Shatner continued, “One of the true joys in my life is recording. To be partnered with a musical genius like Ben Folds on my last album, 2004’s ‘Has Been,’ was a real blessing.”

I asked him to reflect upon the lean years of his career. In his darkest hours, could he ever have imagined that things would turn out so wonderfully? There was a moment of silence until Shatner replied, “No. I am so grateful and so astonished with every breath I take. I am living in a joyful life, as much as one can in the human condition.”

With his recent turns as wacky “Boston Legal” lawyer Denny Crane, the over-the-top Priceline Negotiator, and risque Comedy Central roaster, I asked if it was possible that Father Time had made him slightly more self-deprecating.
He chuckled and replied, “It comes with me acknowledging that I’m inadequate!”

I suggested that maybe it was just that positive spirit which has endeared him to generations of fans. And why was it that so many of his contemporaries didn’t last? “It was because they criticized me,” he laughed.

And his inimitable acting style? Shatner mused, “To me, acting is moment to moment. If you can just hit the truth of the moment — if I can sound the right note on this current one-man show every evening, then I have accomplished what I set out to be all my life, which is an entertainer.”
I could sense my time was running out, and I had one last question for the man the world has embraced and exalted as Capt. James Tiberius Kirk:
Of all his leading ladies, which did he find to be the most desirable?

A long pause followed, triggering fears that I might have just crossed the line.
And then came that familiar voice:
“All of them, Dave. All of them.”

David VanDeventer reviews the arts for Worrall Community Newspapers and can be reached at [email protected]. Be sure to check out Dave’s all-new review of  “Shatner’s World”, also featured on this website.