William Shatner on Denver Comic Con and saying yes to all the right opportunities
In true Captain James T. Kirk style (or the style of whatever heroic character he's portraying, for that matter), William Shatner has come through to save the day once again -- taking the place of Denver Comic Con's original guest of honor, Stan Lee. (The ninety-year-old comic icon had to bow out last week because of scheduling conflicts.) Star Trek fans will now be treated to not one, but two original cast members of the most popular sci-fi television show in history: George Takei, the actor who played Hikaru Sulu on the original series, will be shaking hands and signing autographs alongside his longtime friend and once captain at the Colorado Convention Center on Sunday, June 2, the third day of Comic Con.
Shortly after Shatner agreed to step in, we talked with him about Denver Comic Con, as well as always keeping life interesting by saying yes to golden opportunities. See also: - Five things William Shatner hasn't done -- yet - Who said it: Andrew W.K. or William Shatner? - William Shatner has a sci-fi themed social networking site
William Shatner: Chester, how are ya?
Westword: I'm good. My first name is actually Britt.
It's what? It's Britt? All right, I won't call you Chester anymore. I'm liable if I alienate you, and you could write something terrible.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
I have learned this. Thanks for taking my call. Where were you flying in from?
I flew into Chicago from Los Angeles. I've been here for about half an hour, but this is cool. I'm glad I'm able to talk to you.
I appreciate it. Just to start things off, let's talk about Comic Con a little bit. You've done a lot of these over the years, so what does it mean to you? Is it connecting with fans, or is it just fun now?
Well, it's both. It's connecting with the fans, and you know I am always turning things out. I've got a new record coming out at the end of summer, and a new television show coming out at the end of the year. It's good for me to go out and tell the fans about it, and see what they think of it, and also see their reaction to the things I have already done. This helps me to do something better the next time. This interaction between the fans and me is really valuable to me. It's good to be enthusiastic with the opening of this movie, [Star Trek: Into the Darkness], as well as playing some of my old movies. It's all niched in together, so that's why I'll be in Denver in order to celebrate all that with the fans.
Do you think having, like you said, a record coming out, a book coming out, and a new TV show coming out, that you are able to give your all to each project?
Well, I don't do them all at the same time. I've been working on the record for six months with Billy Sherwood of the band Yes, and the TV show is already filmed and will be playing on the Syfy channel, and the book is being written as we speak.
Do you watch any of the television shows that you make? No. I try to stay away from them, actually.
Do you watch any television?
I watch a great deal of television -- from movies to sports -- but the last thing I'll swipe to watch is something that I'm in.
Why is that? Do you struggle watching yourself? I don't like to look at myself. It's like showing you a picture of yourself and saying, "See this? See that mole on your face?"
Do you have problems with identifying your own imperfections in that way?
Yes. Exactly. As you know, they multiply. When you read something that you have written, and you think, "Oh my god! I chose the wrong word!" Nobody else notices, but you do, and it looms very large on your horizon.
With that said, do you read your own book? Do you do in store readings, or meet-n-greets?
No. What I prefer to do at [in-stores] is just to sign them, rather than read them. I understand authors do that, and it can be quite celebratory, but I prefer to get with the people a little more one on one.
You've done a lot of stuff: You've had your solo show touring around the country, in Canada, Australia; you've done television; you've hosted your own talk show of sorts. Do you feel like those are things that are defining you, or is it constantly changing because you are involved in so many outlets?
I don't know if anybody can really be defined by one thing, or by several things. We are all complex, and we are all a mosaic. I'm not trying to leave a legacy. I just find these things interesting to do. Somebody said to me, "Would you like to do an album?" I say yes, and find some interesting people to work with, and we produce what I think is going to be a terrific album. That's a source of great joy. I'm not trying to show some aspect of me. I'm just having fun.
Are there things that you've said no to?
That I've said no to? Well, yea. I said no to several Denver newspapers and chose you.
Thank you for that. Are there any projects that you've said no to?
Yes. [Laughing.] There are lots of individual projects that I'll say no to. Why? Because I've said, "Say yes?" In my one-man show, I advocate for saying yes to opportunity and happiness and new ideas and new ways of doing things. That's what I advocate saying yes to. I don't say saying yes to rape and pillage.
Are there things that you've said yes to in the past that you may, looking back now, not have said yes to? Or do you think that all those experiences have just built you up to who you are today?
That's two aspects, exactly. One is that I'm having the pleasure of speaking to you as a result of coming to Denver as a result of being on Star Trek. All of those lines coalesce in my coming to Denver, and I wouldn't come to Denver if any of those lines had been broken. I'm in a happy state, basically, and I've been so lucky, that to say I regret one thing or ten things would be very callow of me.
True. Let's talk a little about the book that is coming out, without revealing too much, of course.
[Coughs] I'm in the middle of eating dinner. The book is about, well, statistics show that anyone over the age of 55 that is unemployed has more difficulty finding a job than people younger, based on a number of truisms. Although these stats show how many people are unemployed over the age of 55 are less than the rest of the unemployed public, they take longer to hire. This book is advocating that if you are having trouble finding a job, try hiring yourself and go into business for yourself based on the experience from the 55 years you have been working. It's called Hire Yourself, or at least that's the working title.
Stats aside, which I can't argue because those are the numbers, but do you see a lot of people at that age who are struggling with that? Do you have friends that are in that position?
Yes. All of that is there, but the reality is that somebody with great experience and great skills finds it hard to be employed and there must be, well, I know there is because part of the book is called "Don't tell me about being unemployed" because an actor is unemployed every time the job is over. Unemployment is a familiar feeling. The panic and the questions are there for every actor. I'm dealing with familiar territory here. The idea of employing yourself has a great deal of merit, and a lot of people in that age group are doing it. Some are successful, and my book will try and help those people with the skills that need to be honed to achieve that success.
Switching gears a little bit, tell me about this forthcoming album that you have. You said you are working with Billy Sherwood of Yes? I'm assuming [sings] "I'll be your roundabout..." Yes! There ya go! Britt, I didn't know you could sing. I wrote the lyrics and Billy has written the melodies and scored the album. We have some great musicians on some of tracks on it. It will be called Ponder the Mystery, and it will be out there in late summer.
I read an interview you did with The Smithsonian where you talk about the "musicality of words" in the choosing of your dialogue for your one-man show. Did you have troubles writing your own lyrics? That seems to be the "musicality of words" in their rawest form.
Exactly. Some of the stuff is stuff I am pleased with, the lyrics at least, and the poetry is there, as is the musicality of the words. [Billy Sherwood] took them and wrote some great stuff. It has drama, and the album has a forward motion. One song leads to the other.
I have one final question, Bill, and this is a broad one, but I'd like to get the scope of how you see the world now: Let's say you wake up tomorrow and you are President of the United States of America, what would be the first you change? Huh. Well, let's see, I would take the two heads of the Democratic and Republican parties and bang their heads together. I would fuse them. We need to get people back on track and back in the boat. We need to have people who can take 75 percent of what they want, and leave the other 25 percent for the other party and have a good negotiation so that everyone is happy. That needs to happen.
Is there anything in particular that you've seen?
Everything. Education, immigration, taxation, our nation... You get my drift. Flip the script on everyone?