William Shatner continues to boldly go where no Canadian has gone before.
At the age of 80, the former Star Trek captain recently completed his third season hosting William Shatner's Weird or What? Born and raised in Montreal, Shatner studied at McGill University before diving into his acting career headlong. His first filmed appearance came in 1951 – 60 years ago! – and has accumulated numerous television and film credits ever since. After originating the role of Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek in the sixties, he starred in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, its five sequels andhis 1963 Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet is regarded as one of the best in the series.
In 2004, he joined the legal drama The Practice, which eventually morphed into Boston Legal and earned Shatner his first Emmy for his portrayal of lawyer Denny Crane.
In recent years, he starred in the CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says, based on a popular Twitter feed. Shatner appears to enjoy himself most though on Weird or What, in which he endeavours to attach scientific logic to bizarre real-life phenomena. He spoke to us last week from Los Angeles.
What is the intent behind William Shatner's Weird or What?
To explain the mysterious things that happen in our life. Everyone wonders around saying, 'How can that be?' We attempt to explain some inexplicable thing, or at least give some alternate theories. In some cases there's simply no explanation.
Do some of these stories seem unbelievable to you?
All of them. They're culled from strange places of information. We had a story where two guys fell off a window-cleaning platform, 40 stories up. One guy splattered, the other fluttered to the ground. How? We have a story where a girl's parachute became entangled and she fell in a parking lot face down and walked away. It's weird, isn't it? The show attempts a partial explanation, though in many cases it's not a total explanation. The mysterious element in our world appeals to me.
Is there always a scientific explanation for these occurrences?
Science gives us insight into such mysterious things that beggar our imagination. The great mystery of our consciousness is beyond our grasp. I mean, quantum physics gives us insight into strange things in the universe that man can't comprehend, because it's simply beyond our imagination. But every so often we get a glimpse of these mysterious forces that are all around us.
Is hosting a TV show easier or tougher than acting?
Hosting is easy because it's words falling off my tongue. There's a research team of very intelligent Canadians in Toronto, who find these stories, which is a lot of work, because we need three stories for each episode. The material is so enveloping that I'm entranced when I'm doing it.
Are you still actively fielding acting offers?
Oh, yeah. I just finished The True Story of Puss and Boots, an animated film. This is different than the version with Antonio Banderas. Ours is the Canadian version of the story.
Do you have any guilty TV pleasures?
Of course, I don't even feel guilty about it. The shows on National Geographic and Discovery Channel are great fun to watch. I don't watch the hour dramas and half-hour sitcoms. I love the adventure stuff, the adventure of the mind and or the body.
What other projects are you working on?
I have a new record coming out, called Seeking Major Tom, and a book, called Shatner Rules, out in the fall. And I think they're really good. I would have chosen a stronger adjective, but you're The Globe and Mail. But I don't know if they're good until the audience hears and reads these things if they're accepted or not.
Would you ever consider retirement?
I don't even know what that means. What does that mean? I stop and go twiddle my thumbs somewhere? Maybe they could film me twiddling my thumbs.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
William Shatner's Weird or What? airs Fridays on History Television.