You asked William Shatner questions, and Shatner replied. It's not the first time he's answered questions for Slashdot (that was in 2002), but Shatner's given a bit more insight this time into what makes an 80-year-old actor-author-sportsman-father-filmmaker tick as fast as ever. Did he mention that he's got a one-man show about to open? And a new album? Note: Typically Shatner, he's also chosen to ignore (or transcend) the usual Slashdot interview structure, and written his answers in his own style, which is why the format looks a little different from most of our interviews. Thanks, Bill. (Read on for his answers.)
How has technology changed acting for you?
TV and movie productions have become more technically elaborate over the years, evolving from what were essentially filmed theatrical productions, to elaborate and technically demanding productions that require a large industry of people to support it. In your view, how has technology changed the role and experience of acting since you started?
Do you think young actors today have it easier?
In your early days, there were only a few major television networks, and it was much more difficult to move back and forth between television and movies. Today, with so many cable shows, the internet, and with actors moving much more freely between movies and television, do you think young actors have it easier? Or do you think that the proliferation of reality television and the "noise" of so many channels/series has actually made things harder for scripted actors?
The cerebral characters you've played vs. pure action heroes?
Are there times you wish you'd had a quieter, more sedate career like, say, Roger Moore or Bruce Lee, or is there a part of you that craves the geekier, more cerebral hero roles you've played?
Mr. Shatner: I recently watched my way through The Original Series and you were constantly pulling your uniform shirt down. I've also heard that the red uniforms from the movies were quite cumbersome to design and wear. Which was more uncomfortable to you, the uniforms from the original television episodes or the red command uniforms from the movies?
Favorite non-Star Trek roles?
Outside of the Star Trek series, you've had a large number of regular, one-off and recurring roles. What would be your favorite role prior to the beginnings of Star Trek and after the original ST series run? If different, what was your favourite one-off?
You seemed to have a great relationship with Mr. Spader - was that all fantastic acting, or did you become friends - as in you still see/speak with him even after the show ended?
Do you still practice archery?
(Back in 1995 or so you were still noted as an archer and had been for quite a while.)
If so, how often, using what equipment? Still using a compound or have you gone back to using a recurve or longbow? If you do still shoot, do you travel w/ your archery gear? Any issues in doing so? Or amusing anecdotes?
Tek and a vision of the future
by The Bastard
Mr. Shatner, it's been 22 years since TekWar was first published; seventeen since the television series gave us a "common" visualization of Tek itself. Since those two milestones, I've found it intriguing how our technological advancement seems to be aiming towards the development of Tek. And not just advancement with computers and the Internet, but within the neuroscience and brain-computer interface fields also. It is within the realm of possibility that Tek--or similar digital drug--will exist within a couple of decades.
Could you talk about how the concept of Tek came about? Was it just a "crazy idea" that hit you while riding one of your horses, or did you sit down by yourself or others to develop a vision of the future and build a story around that? Also, looking around at people addicted to using smartphones everywhere, what are your thoughts regarding a form of Tek coming into existence in the next decade or two?
Do you have any insights from your interviews with the other Captions from the documentary The Captains that didn't make the cut? Please share, if so. I found that documentary fascinating and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
Henry Rollins tells a great and funny story about working with you on a musical project. What is your perspective on the story?
When I was a kid, your commercial for the Commodore VIC-20 convinced me that I had to have one (because Captain Kirk was advertising it!). I used it to learn some programming (both BASIC and assembler) and it was the early foundation for what I do today. The question: Did you actually use one of them day to day or was it just something they hired you to advertise and they gave you one and it sat in the corner?
You've jested about this in the past, but do you have any thoughts on running for a political seat in the Canadian government? We'd love to have you (but hey, anyone can do better than the current guy in the top seat).
Inspiring the next generation?
Growing up, Star Trek was one of the things that got me interested in engineering and the sciences. It made me want to see the future, or create it myself. What do you think should be done to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers?
The growing "anti-smart" person culture
There is a growing "anti-smart" person culture out there now. When you were playing Kirk, kids could get a real chemistry set, for example. Now it's a lot different, and that desire to "boldly go where no man has gone before" seems blunted, constrained and discouraged. Much better to play in the sand box with the other kids.
When you were playing Kirk, I was a free range kid doing all manner of things, and yes that includes blowing stuff up. Now free range kids are increasingly rare as we consider that bad parenting, or they are "at risk," or some other fear based thing. Have you noticed these changes? What do you think about them?
Mr. Shatner: Recently I saw you in the Raymond Kurzweil documentary Transcendant Man, where you emphatically said that you do not want to die. This year, you have exceeded the average life expectancy of a male for ANY country in the world. Iceland is highest at 80.2 years; you are now 80.5 years.
So my question(s): Are you still fighting the battle for physical/mental immortality? If so, how? If not, can you describe the process you have gone through to accept your mortality and ultimately death?
Cxu vi ankoraux estas Esperantisto?
Bill, you're well known in the Esperanto world as the star of the pre-Star Trek thriller Incubus, written and performed in Esperanto.
Cxu vi ankoraux regas vian Esperanto-kapablon de tiu filmo? (Have you still retained your Esperanto ability from that movie?)
Cxu vi uzis gxin iel ajn poste? (Have you used it an any way afterwards?)
Mr Shatner, can you share what your thoughts were when you found out that NASA decided to name the 1st shuttle as The Enterprise? Can you offer any insights into the general thoughts of the rest of the cast or Gene himself? How was it for you, knowing that part of the show had such an influence on that segment of the world, meaning the fans and the space community, that they actually honored the show by naming a real spacecraft after it?
Also, how the hell did you get mixed up with the Charlie Sheen roast? You're the last guy I expected to see... but your "who's the warlock now? Bitch" was indeed the highlight of the night.
Will you ever tour?
Mr Shatner, It's an honor to at least have the chance of asking you something. Thank you for your time. And for everything. Have you considered touring, as a stand-up comedian or whatever, specially outside U.S. and Canada? You know, you have a gigantic fanbase in, ehem, Argentina.
William Shatner replies:
Performing a role is always the same. You take a deep breath, you speak words, you hit marks, and you listen to what other people say. What has changed is the amount of light that is necessary to get your image on film — which by now is candlelight. So that it’s not any harder and certainly not any easier to be an actor. Yes, there is more need for content, but so much of that content doesn't require experience, talent, the ability to speak English or in fact, the ability to stand upright (e.g. The Jersey Shore). There is a great deal of fun in doing stunts. It makes for a lot of physical activity. You have to remember to do your pushups but sitting in a chair and talking about how you feel is also entertainment, at least for the actor. Now if you have a thinking man’s action hero, that would be ideal.
Wardrobe is certainly a consideration in many instances. It is possible to be beautifully dressed and to be your character especially if you get to keep the expensive wardrobe. The Star Trek wardrobes were made of stretch material so if your lunch was more than bread and water, you had to keep pulling those shirts down because they tended to ride up.
I don't think of favorite roles like 'This was my favorite thing to do, and that isn’t.' I just wish they hadn't cancelled Shit My Dad Says because I could bicycle to work.
It’s best to be friendly with the people you are working with and that goes for everything including acting. If you dislike a person and you have to say 'I love you,' it certainly makes things difficult. I have remained friends with most of the people I have worked with through the years.
Right now I am working on my new album, Seeking Major Tom, my new book, Shatner Rules, a new DVD of the documentary The Captains, and I want all you people in Canada to come to my one man show that starts on October 19th in Vancouver and goes through to Montreal a couple of weeks later, in between, visiting all the major cities.
I am involved in many sports. I think of myself as an athlete. But instead of archery these days I am competing on horseback and I am having just as much fun.
When I wrote Tek Wars, there was a strike that prevented us from working on a movie so I built a detective story of the future. I love to watch TV and it seemed to me that was the drug of the future and low and behold, you can't tell the color of peoples' eyes anymore because they are looking down fixated on their texting.
I enjoyed making The Captains tremendously. The insights garnered from the various actors and my own epiphany I thought made an interesting film. It can seen October 20th on Movie Central in Canada at 9pm MT/8PT and the DVD can be purchased on the United States only right now (as of October 18th).
I have a new album out called Seeking Major Tom and to my great disappointment, Henry Rollins is not on it, otherwise [would] have had another funny story to tell about working with me.
I used to try to assemble computers way back when and they came out looking like a skateboard. I soon gave it up.
There's a large group of people who want me to be the Governor General but other than throwing a party for the king and queen, I don't know what else he does.
Star Trek helped inspire a whole generation of scientists and engineers with the magic of today's electronics I would think people of all kinds would try to find ways of working with around about computers and I also think that with the NASA program put on hold, it is a shame that we can't inspire the younger generation that way.
Death is increasingly fascinating to me the closer I get to it and if I could reach Kurzweil's Singularity, I would don the Iron Man's suit although come to think of it, how do you sleep? Do you sleep on your back? But since that is not possible, I live in a balancing act of terror and acceptance every day.
If anyone asks you to star in a movie shot entirely in Esperanto, say 'Kiam Kaj Kiel Multa?'
In the documentary The Captains, I meet all the actors and share heartfelt thoughts about what it took to do the series. How proud we all are of being in the show and Star Trek’s place in our culture. By the way, did I mention how you can get a DVD of The Captains? Amazon.com.
I had the best time at the Charlie Sheen Roast which I incorporate into my one man show which opens October 19th. Did I mention that earlier?