Friday, August 20, 2010

Shatner treks with his fans

At 79 years young, William Shatner is boldly going where few of his peers have gone before: cyberspace.

Betty White may have her Facebook fan base, but Shatner recently started his own online community catering to sci-fi fans (, he uses Twitter and next month he'll be on the sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says," based on a popular Twitter feed.

On his Bio channel interview shows "Shatner's Raw Nerve" and "Aftermath," he's repeatedly proved his savvy with celebrities and newsmakers. A recent exclusive interview with Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the infamous "D.C. Snipers," made Shatner the envy of many television journalists.

In a rare convention appearance on Saturday, Shatner will be signing autographs ($75), posing for professional photos with fans ($95) and appearing on a panel ($85 upgrade for the best seats) at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. We chatted with him by phone from his office in Los Angeles about his new show, social media and fans. Here's the captain's log:

Q. Why don't you often make convention appearances?

A. The truth is, my deathly fear is I'll disappoint the fans. "Star Trek" means that much to some of them. It's more than a TV show, it's a community. I realized a couple of years ago that they are there to see each other more than they are to see us.

Q. What's your most memorable convention story?

A. There was a kid who used to show up at the conventions with his cat dressed in a "Star Trek" costume. You initially think that's kind of silly, but the whole thing had a unity to it that made it both memorable and outstanding. He loved the show and the cat was kind of his buddy, so I guess he thought he might convince the cat to love "Star Trek," too, if he dressed him up in the outfit. Over the years, this shy kid and the cat developed a following at the conventions, and the kid ended up overcoming his shyness.

Q. What's one obscure fact about "Star Trek" you can tell us?

A. I am the last person to come to to ask that question. So much has been written about the show that inevitably people come up to me with things I didn't even know. I always encourage people to remember that it was 44 years ago. At this point, I can only hold on to major points ... like the fact that I got paid [chuckles].

Q. Last year's "Star Trek" served as a relaunch for the franchise. What did you think of it?

A. It was a wonderful ride. I tweeted after I saw it that you know you're old when you're part of a science-fiction series that goes back in time, and you're still old.

Q. In "$#*! My Dad Says," you play a rather opinionated 72-year-old father of two grown sons. What's the best and worst advice your own dad gave you?

A. The best and worst advice from my father is the same thing. My father didn't want me to become an actor. And he was probably right, given the percentages of those who are able to make a living as a working actor. I would give the same advice to any child of mine. It was the best advice from a loving father, but I'm glad I didn't listen to him.

Q. What do you admire about the character you are playing?

A. Well, first off, the show is being refashioned and recast as we speak. You have to understand that at this moment the character only exists in my mind, so this is all speculative. I think he's alone, lonely and can't admit it. My own experiences have certainly given me some insight into the character. As for what is on paper and the way I'll be playing it? That's the marvel before us. Once we start shooting, it will be like Michelangelo hacking away at the marble.

Q. Can we expect "Star Trek" jokes?

A. I don't think so. The jokes in [his earlier series] "The Practice" and "Boston Legal," that was [show creator] David Kelley poking fun at all of us in that. I think it takes you out of the world you're trying to create, though. If this situation comedy has a sense of reality to it, I don't want you as the audience to pulled out of this world we're trying to create just so we can wink and nod to "Star Trek."

Q. You had a memorable appearance on "Saturday Night Live" in 1986. Should we start a Facebook campaign to get you back on it?

A. Yes! Somebody start a Facebook campaign, please! You've got to do that before either Lorne Michaels or I get any older. We aren't going to live forever. Some say he's lost it, and I'm losing it, so hurry!,CST-FTR-shat18.article