You can boldly go in just about any direction on a phone call with William Shatner. At 86, he has little time for small talk but he can attach himself to almost any subject. He listens and if doesn’t like what he hears it’s next question and if he does he might run off to grab a pencil to write something you said down.
That’s what happened when I spoke with him about his guest starring stint on Jason Priestley’s Private Eyes. Shatner plays a rival private investigator on the series. The episode airs Thursday, June 29 on Global.
Shatner was telling me about playing character parts at this stage of his career. “At my age,” he said, “you don’t get asked to play the leading man anymore.”
Except for a movie he is shooting right now in California called “Senior Moment.” Jean Smart and Christopher Lloyd also star; Shatner plays an old coot who gets his driver’s licence revoked.
I mentioned that my dad had a similar thing happen to him when he turned 90 and that he felt he had lost his freedom. Shatner wanted to write down exactly what I remembered hearing my dad say.
Speaking of senior moment, I wanted to confirm one thing I had read about Shatner: was it true that, in the mid ’50s, he played a human character named “Ranger Bob” on the Canadian version of the popular kiddie puppet series The Howdy Doody Show? Wikipedia suggests Shatner’s future Star Trek co-star and fellow Canuck James Doohan was the main man on the series, Timber Tom — although other sources say Doohan was offered the part but backed out in a dispute over money.
The shame of it is there appears to be no hard evidence. The series either aired live or was taped and quickly erased during its brief run.
Alas, even Shatner cannot confirm his alleged tour of Doody. Still, it may be true:
“You know, I have a trick memory and things I don’t like to remember I’ve forgotten,” says Shatner, who did live and work as an actor in Toronto for three years before moving to the States. “I have no recollection of that whatsoever, but I keep hearing that I was [on the series] so I probably was trying to pay the rent at some point in Toronto and I was on Howdy Doody — it’s very possible.”
Read more about Shatner’s guest appearance June 29 on Priestley’s Private Eyes here at this feature I wrote for The Canadian Press.