William Shatner’s career began over six decades ago on the stages of Canada. His numerous roles in projects such as Star Trek, T.J. Hooker, and Boston Legal, as well his turn as a musician, author, and spokesperson, has elevated him from actor to cultural icon. Next week will see the release of Shatner’s thirty sixth book, Spirit of the Horse: A Celebration of Fact and Fable. We had the chance to speak with Mr. Shatner in advance of his appearance at Nickel City Con in Buffalo, NY.
I would like to start by discussing your new book. What can you tell us about Spirit of the Horse: A Celebration of Fact and Fable?
Well, it’s a book that portrays some of my feelings about horses over a period of many decades, in which I have owned horses and bred them and worked with them and rode on them and loved them. It’s a time when I had farms and I had herds of horses and I have a lot of horses still and different breeds. I had quarter horses and American saddlebreds and American standard bred, which are trotting horses. I have ridden all three of those breeds and have done very well over the years as a competitor. This book reflects my feelings and my sense of a spiritual sense with the horses that have evolved from a time when I first bought a horse to now.
What do you hope that readers take away from the book?
That horses are more than four legged beautiful creatures upon whom you can place yourself on their back and ride in a park; that they are sentient beings whose mentality is that of a herd animal and a prey animal. And that means that that the horse needs to be in the now. It can’t be thinking about yesterday or tomorrow, that over years of evolution it’s as it has to be aware of what is going on this instant. And it can convey that information, that ability, to human beings who are oppressed by what is happening or what can happen.
What you would say you learned most about yourself in the time that you have spent with horses?
I was a natural on horses. I jumped on a horse at a very early age and had to balance, and then stopped until I was middle-aged and could afford to buy one. So I wasn’t trained as a youth, but I had a natural thing for it. And I learned quickly and I got fairly good. But there is a mechanical way of riding a horse in which you sit on the horse and balance and you put the horse through it’s paces, depending on what the discipline is and what the horse has been trained to do. But there is another whole area in which you enter the mind of the horse and you have a Zen experience, a sense of unity with the horse, which can make you a better horseman and rider.
I would imagine that is dependent on the horse as well as the rider, correct? I would think you may not have the same connection with every horse.
Well, probably like people, there are horses that have more of a soul than others, but horses can be mistreated or trained badly, and from an emotional point of view, might be stunted and therefore may be difficult to communicate with, yes.
Switching gears a little bit, you are going to be starring with Christopher Lloyd in the comedy, Senior Moment. What can you tell us about that film?
I’m in shooting it right now in the desert, in Palm Springs, at this very moment as I’m talking to you. It’s a movie about an older guy whose companion is a really a car; an old, an antique car. He loses the car because he is told he is too old to drive and…boy loses car, finds girl. (Laughter) Loses the car, gets the girl.
Have you found that what you look for in a role has changed over the course of the years?
I can’t say that it has. This is a comedy and I have always enjoyed playing comedy. I have done it from a very early age. I like to add a genuine character to the comedic hijinx so there is a real person going through the throes or whatever it is that is amusing. And I look for that all of the time. So, no. My problem is I’m looking for a twenty year old role (laughing).
Thanks to networks like MeTV and Heroes and Icons Network, Star Trek is on every night of the week with a whole new audience watching it. Have you found that you are being approached by a new generation of fans?
Absolutely. I did the voiceover for a kids’ program on CBS that has gotten quite popular and so the audience that I attract is three year olds sitting on their mother’s lap whose grandmother is holding their hand. And ancient great grandfather is hovering back there, trying to draw oxygen into his failing heart. That is my audience.
You have worked in every imaginable medium, from stage, to music, to screen, to TV, to writing. Is there any particular medium in which you prefer working? Is there anyone that you feel is most expressive for you?
No, but [in film], we’re called to work six or seven o’clock in the morning and it goes to 7 or 8 o’clock at night. It’s a long day. But I find myself sitting on the set watching the goings on of making a film. I so enjoy the art of putting a film together and the technique and the technology. I find myself sitting on the set for hours, absorbed in the minutia of making film. I certainly enjoy that.
Have you found that aspect of the process has changed for you at all?
Essentially not. You break the scene down into such, the cameras are different and the technology is substantially different. Some of the old words still hang on. When it was film, if any dust or hair or something got into the gate of the film’s shutter, it would show on film, so once you finish the shot, somebody would check the gate to make sure it was clear. With digital you don’t have that, and yet they still use “clear the gate.” The film vernacular is still there but film no longer exists.
Do you have any opinions on the current status of the Star Trek franchise ?
The movies are great in that they bring in a large audience, but I don’t know anything. You know more about all of the iterations.
We would like to extend a special thank you to Mr. Shatner for taking the time to speak with us. He will be appearing at the Nickel City Con in Buffalo, NY on Saturday May 20th. You can visit williamshatner.com for all of his other appearances, and you can follow him on Twitter @WilliamShatner.
Transcribing services by Eaya Moore.