William Shatner: Making Friends Is Hard — Leonard Nimoy Taught Me How
The legendary actor, author, and recording artist describes in touching detail how his relationship with Leonard Nimoy changed his life forever, still affecting Shatner today.
William Shatner is perhaps best known for his roles on Boston Legal and Star Trek, and is one of the most recognizable stars working today. His distinctive voice and cadence have been the subject of many imitations, spoofs, and parodies—all contributing to his status as a pop icon and endearing him to his fans. In addition to being an Emmy Award-winning actor, he has also written numerous books, directed several projects, and even recorded a few albums.
Shatner started his career as a child performer in radio programs for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. As a student at McGill University, he continued to pursue acting. Shatner spent his summers performing with the Royal Mount Theater Company. He graduated from the university in 1952 and joined the National Repertory Theater of Ottawa. Working with Sir Tyrone Guthrie, Shatner also appeared in productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario.
As Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek, he commanded the U.S.S. Enterprise, a starship traveling through space in the twenty-third century. Kirk encountered all sorts of unusual aliens and challenging situations during his journeys. Accompanying him on these adventures was his loyal crew, which included first officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and medical officer Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley). The science fiction series created by Gene Roddenberry premiered on September 8, 1966, and lasted for three seasons.
In addition to acting, Shatner has experienced great success as an author. During the writers' strike of 1987, he transformed a screenplay idea into a novel. The result was TekWar (1989), a work of science fiction featuring a middle-aged private detective working in the twenty-second century. More Tek titles followed and were later adapted for television. More recently, Shatner has worked with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens to create a series of Star Trek novels.
Also a veteran of nonfiction, Shatner co-authored Star Trek Memories (1993) and Star Trek Movie Memories (1994) with Chris Kreski. He and Kreski also worked together on Get a Life! (1999), a look at the whole Star Trek fan phenomenon and Up Till Now: The Autobiography (2008) with David Fisher. His most recent work is Leonard: My Fifty-Year Relationship with a Remarkable Man.
William Shatner: I always knew that it was difficult to make friends. And, of course, you define the meaning of friends. I had to struggle a lot in under school, in the schools before college. I had a lot of stuff I had to deal with externally, fights and stuff like that, to protect myself. And then when I got older I had so many things to do. I was an actor at an early age and I was always dashing off to be a member of the football team or be an actor or whatever I was doing, I was busy. So that making friends was a skill I didn't realize — I didn't know you make friends. Like have you ever wondered what an opera singer goes through to have that divine voice? It's a skill that's learned. You exercise that muscle the way a bodybuilder builds their biceps. You can learn to sing, maybe not as great as one of those gifted naturals, but you can, if you spent 10 years, learn to sing. You can learn to do anything. And if you're taught at an early enough age character manifestations like making friends. The ability to make a friend. Here's what you do.
You've got to be nice; you've got to do this; it takes time; you've got to have commonality; you've got to have mutual interests; you have to have laughter; you can't be sarcastic; you can't be mean. All those things that a child needs to learn, I may not have had that in a large degree. I don't know, but I think it was because I was very busy. I made a friend with Leonard that I've often asked people who I'm talking to or being interviewed by, "Do you have a friend?" "Do you have a friend?" And they have to puzzle about it. And I think that's what marriage is, you make a friend and now it's memorialized in writing, but there's an element of passion there that I think takes it somewhere else than the friendship I'm talking about. That's a very difficult thing to do, to have the brotherly love that I'm talking about, but it's possible and that's what Leonard might have taught me.
Shatner is one of the most prolific artists of the day, conquering the worlds of acting, writing, and recording. He has meanwhile established himself as a cultural icon. His passion for work, however, has come at a certain cost. Growing up, he didn't understand that making friendships was an essential and natural part of adolescence. His friendship with Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy changed all that. Lasting for 50 years, the "brotherly love" between the two is memorialized in Shatner's newest book, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Relationship with a Remarkable Man.
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