William Shatner On Acting
William Shatner On Acting
William Shatner (Author) gives expert video advice on: Why did you become an actor?; What's the William Shatner 'Problem Solving' approach to acting?; How should an actor learn to embrace a role? and more...
Why did you become an actor?
It was magical to this young person in Montreal. Now I consciously look on television to some of these old black and white films, to see if like comfort food if I can remember where I was, and the Munklin theater. You had to be thirteen to get it. My mother would take me and she would leave. I would sit there through a double bill looking at films and I just grew up on them all. I would go when I was able to get into the theater and it was twenty five cents, I would go with seventy five cents in my hand. And I would go to a double bill in the morning, in the early afternoon with twenty five cents, and then late afternoon into evening. I would go to six movies in a day in downtown Montreal when I was growing up. I was so much a part of that magic screen.
What's the William Shatner 'Problem Solving' approach to acting?
Yes, there is a great deal of, there is a great deal to acting that is entirely, how do I? You can think of it, intellectually, how do I solve, this? How do I get this job? How do I make this, a motion without being obvious?
How should an actor learn to embrace a role?
Well, I try to find the core of everything: the core of the story, the core of the scene, the core of the character. And from this core, these tendrils come out. So you angle…. Captain Kirk, if you want to go to that popular character. I always saw Captain Kirk as full of awe and wonder. So if you see something, rather than being afraid, or angry, or whatever it is. It's “Holy (bleeped out), look at that.” It's a “Holy (bleeped out) moment”, everything.
Is it true you've been difficult to work with on the set?
I'm sure I was especially when I would not have much respect for the guy who was directing. I mean, some directors come out of production and they don't understand what acting is or they don't understand drama. They don't understand pace, they'll say faster, lets go faster, pick up the pace, faster. Faster isn't pace.
What's the secret to the longevity of your career?
I don't know, it's totally luck, certainly not by design. I'm a firm believer in the chaos theory and everything's chaotic and it just works. I think that there are parameters of existence, whatever that is. Whether it's an acting role, a star, I mean a celestial body. Everything has parameters that, in which they can live. Once you exceed those parameters, you cease to exist in that form.
What motivates you after 50 years in front of the camera?
Acting is a challenge and I was so sorry when I would hear that Marlon Brandon was tired and he looked down on himself, he was so full of self hatred that he became evident how much he hated himself. The latter part of his life, this wonderful genius actor who was this beautiful man with this great face and great body and he would denigrate acting all the time. And I never understood that because to me it's noble work, it's entertainment, it's the minstrel, it's the storyteller around the campfire. And if you do it well, it's an unusual skill and performing a part is a lot of problem solving.
Do you actually believe actors are a lot like horses?
A great show horse has to have form. It has to be beautiful. Beauty is one of the criteria. It has to be... has to have a talent. Has to be put together right. Even a horse that isn't beautiful per se needs to have the beauty of form and function. So they have to be put together right. Then they have to have a talent for whatever it is the horse is going to do. Then it has to have what horsemen call heart but it also means brain. It means trainability. It means it wants to go out and do and do and do no matter what you do to it, it's going on, forward. And yet it needs to have the ability to be disciplined so that going, going forward is going forward and then turning to the left and if you miss any of those three things your horse is pretty and does but it's crazy, or your horse is pretty and crazy but doesn't do or it's the worst thing you know; it's all of that. Well, when that convergence happens, and you've got heart and you've got ability and you've got the form then you have an unusual thing happen. And in any world, whether it's the horse world or show business.
Can you do any celebrity impersonations?
Jimmy Stewart used to go "hmm, ah, ah, ah". Or, a guy I really worked with was Eddie G. Robinson. Edward G. Robinson, who was in his forties and fifties, and he would always play the bad guy, the gangster. And his thing was, he went "nyah". "Nyah, nyah, I'll tell ya, nyah." And, so I was working with him, and I said "Eddie, are you aware you go 'nyah'?" And he said, "I go nyah?" And that's what I do. Why the hell do they do that? "I-what-what-is that." That's not me. Who knows?