To a newer generation, William Shatner is famous for being that guy that seriously takes himself too seriously – on purpose.
But to anyone familiar with Shatner's early Hollywood career, Captain James Tiberius Kirk from the Star Trek franchise was larger than life for two decades in the '60s and '70s (with the subsequent films – and voice acting for the accompanying video games – coming a couple decades later). Shatner was remarkable in the titular role of T.J. Hooker in the '80s; hosted one of TV's first reality shows, Rescue 911, throughout the '90s; and played Denny Crane on The Practice and its Boston Legal spinoff in the '00s.
Shatner has won two Emmys, a Golden Globe, a People's Choice Award and a Streamy Award (for Best Reality Web Series). He is beloved for being entirely himself. His public portrayal as a celebrity who is well aware of his celebrity has won him a wealth of time in the limelight.
The Canadian actor, musician, author and director is more than the ego and personality he portrays in film and in the spotlight, you should know. He's a classically-trained Shakespearean actor, having played a range of roles at the famous and highly-respected Stratford Festival in Ontario, in addition to having performed numerous times on Broadway. The larger-than-life personality of Shatner truly is as talented as we think he thinks he is.
His current endeavor is a stage show that combine all of this favorite forms of performance, and allows him to explore exactly what he's good at – and exactly what he's most interested in conveying – himself. Part stand-up, part musical performance and all personality, Shatner's World has received killer reviews thus far, and it's just gaining steam.
Recently, he took some time out of his current one-man whirlwind of a stage show to provide us a glimpse into what it all means to him. And while you'll get a glimpse into exactly what it is that makes Bill Shatner tick, you'll also notice that the man is well-versed in the history of Detroit and exactly what it takes to be a performer.
How do you prepare for a performance of this sort? With so many different ways (humor, storytelling, music), what does your creative process look like?
Performing is partially energy, so I need to make sure that I harbor my energy until the evening performance. Stretching and warming my voice up is also integral. An actor needs to be immediate, so rather than preparing, you live in the moment.
What prompted you to choose this particular style of show?
It evolved out of other things I have done and then the idea of summing up my life sort of hung there.
How does it feel bringing things back to a live theatre performance of sorts, being that your early days of acting started in a similar manner?
I have been in front of an audience continuously in these last many years. Mostly what you would think of as impromptu humor.
How have you been able to consistently push the boundaries, through your acting career, of playing such a diverse range of roles? And why?
I don't think we should recognize boundaries in many areas and opening yourself up to new experiences should be part of your life.
Of all the hats you've worn in your career (musician, actor, comedian, author, etc.), what has proven to be the most challenging?
This one-man show opening on Broadway is possibly the most challenging thing I have ever done.
What are your next career moves or plans, when you're done with the tour? Ambitions for future projects?
There's all kinds of things that I'm working on – movies, game shows, documentaries and the like.
Tell me something about Detroit – whether it be your view on the current state of the area, a personal anecdote or memory, or something you're looking forward to.
I think of Detroit as being reborn. In fact, that's why they call it Dearborn. The automotive industry in the past was one of the great American inventions and it was overtaken by other nations. I am beginning to see that the automobile companies are rising to the challenge for newer and better cars.
You look fantastic for 80 (happy belated birthday, by the way). What's your secret?
I'm not really 80. | RDW
Shatner's World • 4/19, 7:30 p.m. • Detroit Opera House • 1526 Broadway, Detroit • 313.237.7464 • michiganopera.org • $15