Whether or not you’re a Trekkie (and yes, we’re referring to Star Trek – this magazine has yet to inspire a cult following), you have to acknowledge that Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise is part of our cultural DNA.
Originated by William Shatner in 1966, the playfully shrewd Captain Kirk is the actor’s most iconic role to date, but Shatner’s expansive acting resume also includes a mid-80s stint playing no-nonsense street cop T.J. Hooker in the TV show of the same name, and his Emmy-winning role as eccentric lawyer Denny Crane on The Practice and Boston Legal. Non-fiction credits include one-man-show Shatner’s World and Shatner’s Raw Nerve, an intensely up-close-and-personal celebrity interview series.
Shatner’s pursuits are not limited to the stage and screen. He has also found success writing books (more than 30 of them), recording music (speaking the lyrics rather than singing them is his trademark style), and riding and breeding champion horses (American Saddlebreds in particular).
His 2008 autobiography, Up Till Now, was a New York Times best-seller, as is Leonard, his latest book recounting his friendship with Leonard Nimoy. His popular album Has Been (2004) inspired the Milwaukee Ballet’s Common People, a dance presentation set to several numbers from the record. Shatner is also a philanthropist, once selling his own kidney stone to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity, and spearheading for many years the annual Hollywood Charity Horseshow, which raises money for programs to support handicapped children – often through therapeutic interaction with animals.
Shatner’s diverse and fruitful repertoire is perhaps down to his willingness to take on new challenges and boldly go where he hasn’t gone before. He is continually learning. Unlike those who suppress curiosity in favour of security, Shatner embraces it and stresses the importance of living a life driven by curiosity.
On May 28th, 2016, at alumni UBC’s Centennial close event UBC100: What’s Next? William Shatner talked about what it means to live with a spirit of curiosity and shared stories about the fascinating places his curiosity has led him, and the possibilities that await us if we follow our own.
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What is your most prized possession?
I hesitate to possess anything. There are many things I love to be with but possession is not in my vocabulary.
Who was your childhood hero?
Describe the place you most like to spend time.
With my horses.
What was the last thing you read?
Riding Between the Worlds: Expanding Our Potential Through the Horse by Linda Kohanov.
What or who makes you laugh out loud?
What’s the most important lesson you ever learned?
Nobody knows anything.
What’s your idea of the perfect day?
Sun, sea, snow, equines and family.
What was your nickname at school?
If you ruled the world, what’s the first thing you’d change?
The tectonic plates.
What item have you owned for the longest time?
Whom do you most admire (living or dead) and why?
Alexander the Great – for his statesmanship, and because he was a warrior philosopher.
What is your latest purchase?
A really nice car.
If you could invent something, what would it be?
A device that takes all the greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
This is not my favourite place.
In which era would you most like to have lived, and why?
This present era is perhaps the most exciting in the history of man.
What are you afraid of?
A bad death.
Actor, director, author, singer. Is there anything else you’d like to try?
Holding my breath under water for four minutes.
Which three pieces of music would you take to that desert island?
An album called Has Been, an album called Seeking Major Tom and an album called Ponder the Mystery.
What is your pet peeve?
These stupid questions.
What’s the strangest fan encounter you’ve ever had?
I was in a hospital room, coming out of sedation, and a man came in the door with no shoulders. Apparently I hallucinated.
What’s the best thing about being an actor?
Apart from the essentials for life, what can’t you do without?