Boldly going where no actor has gone before, William Shatner has embarked on a voyage from Star Trek to the brand-new Twitter-spawned CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says. Yesterday, during a session at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, the 79-year-old Shatner discussed his one-of-a-kind television journey.
The panel was not without a few Shatnerian flourishes. As he said of the new series, “It is, in my limited imagination, it is an electronic miracle. It’s a show that stems from the culture of now, not yesterday, but now. This is a show that is in front of the curve, the wave.”
And that was only the beginning.
On His Experience With Twitter:
I know it's 148 characters. Is it 148? No wonder they won't print my— but I don't Twitter. I can't even remember my password name. So I have problems with electronics. So what I've done is I've hired a young man out of college, whose very fingers are the extension of computer keys, and he Twitters. He does the mechanics, but I very carefully modulate what I say and have used Twitter to publicize stuff, to have conversations, instigate competition. It's been an exploration in the immediate language of being short-termed and pithy, and I have had a growing and glowing experience with Twitter.
On How His Character, Ed Goodson, is related to Boston Legal’s Denny Crane:
Third cousin by his mother's marriage. It's linked by me, of course, and so physically and mentally, I'm the same. But the way the writers are writing for the character, it's much more precise. I found, playing Denny Crane, fumbling for the thoughts was the way to go as he lurched into senility. But here, this guy is very much with it, and there's a snap to the way he speaks, and that's the way the jokes work, best of all. So if I'm fumbling, it's not the character, it's me.
On Whether He's Responsible for the Internet:
Note: One critic repeatedly asked about a theory that pornography and the social nature of Star Trek fans "did sort of launch the Internet." Shatner tried to deflect the question but the critic followed up and finally asked, “Do you not in some minor way feel responsible?”
I am responsible. And I'm shouldering it. I'm okay.
On How the World of Television Has Changed:
I started in live television. I was there when the cameras were as big as this table, had internal fans that were whirring and tubes… I was there. And, now, there's—we are talking about green screen and putting us in locations that we'll never visit. But it is beyond irony. It is trying to catch the tiger by the tail. It's a miracle, what has happened to us. The miracle is our inventiveness, and the tragedy of our lives is our inventiveness. It's beyond irony. It's whatever term you guys can come up with.
On Working on His First Multi-Camera Sitcom:
Unbelievable. You cannot begin to imagine the shock I had when I came down on that floor for the first time. First of all, there's this whole thing about playing sitcom comedy. A lot of people—writers, directors, and actors—have got into a sitcom thing, and I didn't want to do the sitcom thing, but I didn't know what else to do. So I was starting low and slow and not enough of that comedic energy, but you don't want to do too much. So I kind of went slowly.
Then we got on the floor with the cameras, which I'm used to because of my experience in the old days. Then came camera day with an audience and not just the audience up there, on the floor. Like if this is the set, right where you guys are sitting are the cameras and 200 people wandering around—agents, actors, mothers-in-law—partying, eating pizza. And we are doing the circus up here.
It was stunning. The fourth wall was totally gone. I mean, I'm talking to the audience. We now correct all the lines. The writers come up with other lines to try. And the audience is aware of the process. I've got to learn the other line. I've got to say the other line a couple of times, knowing that's not the way I want to do it. That's not the music I hear. But that's the music because everybody laughs. It was stunning. It was enthralling. It was exciting. It was chaotic, totally stunning.
I had never experienced anything like that before as an actor. I was part minstrel, part actor.