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Q&A: William Shatner

A cultural icon since the 1960s, William Shatner shares some of his secrets to living long and prospering, as well as behind-the-scenes stories from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

Rob Harmon
January 28, 2020

Stepping out onstage in front of a live audience to do a question and answer session, without knowing what will happen, is just as entertaining for William Shatner as it is to his audience. Go figure, that a man used to boldly going where no man has gone before, is in his element on a one-person transcontinental Q&A tour where anything goes.

After doing everything from television to movies, from multiple spoken-word albums to novel writing, there isn’t anything Shatner hasn’t done. For nearly 70 years, Shatner, who turns 89 in March, has embraced a career of ups and downs, failure, and successes, all while becoming a pop culture icon with such roles as television and film’s Captain James Kirk from the Star Trek franchise, TV’s Denny Crane from Boston Legal, as well as the eponymous T.J. Hooker.

With a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television and one on Canada’s Walk of Fame in his country of origin, Shatner has nearly done and seen it all. What’s left for him to do but join us in Tulsa Feb. 13 at Tulsa Theater, for a night of nostalgia with a showing of Paramount’s 1982 film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, including a Q&A with Shatner afterward.

Q. Is there anything attendees would find surprising about the Wrath of Khan Q&A?
A. If you’ve never seen an actor struggle for an answer, you have your opportunity that night. But, seriously, it’s got to be unique, in some way, for many people in Tulsa to come to a theater, see a movie, and then the actor comes out and talks about the film. Surely that’s got to be a different experience.

Q. What do you like about doing a Q&A tour?
A. I’ve gotten accustomed to touring. I had a one-person show on Broadway, and when it closed, I went on tour. I thought, ‘How romantic, how wonderful, going from city to city.’ By the time I got to the second city, I realized it wasn’t romantic. Just getting to the theater took all your energy. But I toured that one-person show. On this tour of Wrath of Khan, it’s fun to go out and ad-lib, do a spontaneous hour, and walk that rope in front of an audience. It’s a challenge I think is fun. We tried this in a couple of places and found that it worked. After Tulsa, I’m going to tour 10 cities in Europe.

It is a bit like reality TV. You go out and see what happens, see what questions the audience asks, and how informative or amusing or entertaining I can make my answers.

Q. Which of your characters have surprised you most by their popularity?
A. The familiar thing in show business is failure. We’re all accustomed to seeing what doesn’t work until you’re graced by a touch of good luck and fate, that something works. Then you think, ‘My gosh, this is a success. I can’t believe it.’ And that’s the way we feel about it in show business. There’s a wonderful legend about the show biz manager. There is out there a guy who is the show biz manager, who visits you at night, usually while you’re fast asleep, and says, ‘You know, you really aren’t any good.’ And you have to fight that thing. So, when you have success, it comes like a bolt of lightning.

Q. Is there any one award or honor you’ve received that is more special to you?
A. I talked earlier about seeing an actor struggle for an answer. There’s one, right there. Let’s see. I’ve got a Golden Globe and some Emmys. Those are the top awards the industry can give you. I am gratified that they thought enough of my performances to provide me with those. I suppose those are the most special ones.

Q. What’s something you don’t usually get to talk about?
A. There’s a wonderful thing you gradually learn. Somebody says, ‘Tell me about your sore tooth.’ Then I say, ‘You know, I’m looking at the blue sky and wondering how come blue.’ You don’t have to answer the question at all. You see, politicians do that all the time, and personalities have to learn how to do that, but it takes a while because people in show biz want to be loved. So, they want to do what you say, and they don’t know until it’s late in their life that you don’t have to.

I work with horses a lot, and you can train a young horse. You can make the horse jump or slide or roll on its back, but a lot of horses, after they get older, think, ‘You know, I’m not going to do that,’ and they don’t do it.

Q. Any life advice from William Shatner? How would Captain Kirk answer that same question?
A. Captain Kirk and William Shatner would say the same thing. My advice to the folks in Tulsa is that Feb. 13, go to the Tulsa Theater, and you will have a life-changing time with me.

William Shatner
Tulsa Theater
105 W. Reconciliation Way | Tulsa
Feb. 13: 7:30 p.m.