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The Hot Seat: William Shatner

The actor beams up to Broadway for a one-man show.

By Tim Lowery

RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews

Will your show, Shatner's World: We Just Live in It, involve any singing or dancing?
No, unfortunately I neither sing nor dance. I used to dance like Fred Astaire, but that was when I was 70. I used to sing like Mario Lanza, but he died and so did I. I lost my voice. What I'm doing [in this show] is trying to cull some lessons from my experiences and make sense of the various crazy things that have happened to me.

What crazy stories will you talk about?
Trekking across the States, getting into a philosophical argument with a rabbi, attending the [funeral] of a horse, and some of the major acting events in my life, going on as an understudy with no rehearsal...that sort of thing.

Is this your first time on Broadway since the '60s?
Yeah. I was actually at the Music Box 50 years ago with [the play] A Shot in the Dark. I've been refurbished; I hope the theater has.

Broadway has changed a lot since then.
It's cleaned up, and it's a tourist haven as a result. Forty-second Street used to be something quite different. Two fleas were hitched to carts when I was last on Broadway.

Wait, that was a show?
Yeah, they were hitched to carts and they raced in a shop on 42nd Street. So there were fleas on Broadway when I was there last; now I'm doing a one-man show.

You're no stranger to the spotlight, but you have an aura of mystery about you. Do you consider yourself an enigmatic person?
No. I'm so wide-open that I'm vulnerable. But what is the truth? And how do I tell you what happened to me without characterizing it in some manner? The truth, in any event, is ephemeral. So I'm going to give you my version of that clouded past [in my show]. And I'm tense with anxiety.

Do you still get nervous before performing?
No, no. If you know the words, there's nothing to be nervous about. The nervousness comes [from hoping] the material is good enough for Broadway. It has been good enough everywhere else, so I don't see why this would be any different.

What are your thoughts on Comic-Con and fanboys, since you're such an icon in those circles?
I directed a documentary called Fan Addicts. [In it] I tried to explain what these people are doing when they go to these conventions. One [reason] is that they go to see each other. They go for a feeling of community. Not last on the list, but certainly not on top of it, are the celebrities. And in the case of Star Trek, they're also dealing in mythological subjects not unlike what Joseph Campbell wrote about. Their heroes are the heroes of the show.

You've enjoyed such a long, successful career. What's your secret?
The basic part of it is both the accident—the luck—and the preparation of my genetic material. Of all the material that I've worked on, only my genetic structure is the thing I can't [change]. I've been gifted with health and energy, and that's key. I feel as vital as I ever was, and as creative as I've ever been. I have as much ambition to please the audience as I've ever had. So I feel nothing of my age.

You've done so much: acting, singing, writing books, roasting... What haven't you tackled that you'd like to?
Well, since you use the word tackle, I haven't played quarterback for the Jets. And I think the Jets could use me.

Shatner's World: We Just Live in It opens Thu 16.

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