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O.C. beams up William Shatner

`Star Trek' star discusses his upcoming Costa Mesa show, journeyman's career.

January 10, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • William Shatner will perform at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Thursday.
William Shatner will perform at the Segerstrom Center… (Joan Marcus, Daily…)

When William Shatner opened on Broadway last February, he wasn't nearly as confident as his show's title indicated.

The actor's one-man show sported the cheeky moniker, "Shatner's World: We Just Live In It." But a nasty elemental force had invaded that world as curtain time approached. It wasn't a simple case of stage nerves or wariness about the critics — it was an acute misery right around the midsection.

"I opened on Broadway with a stomach flu," Shatner, 81, said by phone last month. "How's that for a starter? So it was the challenge of doing a one-man show on Broadway and the absolute possibility of being laughed off the stage, which is the actor's nightmare, and then the night before opening I got the stomach flu. You don't want leave the bathroom for very long. A three-yard radius is as far as you want to go, and I had to go onstage.

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"I thought of it as an adventure, and it was."

Turning adventures, dignified or otherwise, into breezy anecdotes has long been a part of Shatner's persona; few actors have proven so game at being self-effacing. When this reporter asked how to address him — heeding the fact that, per the show's title, it is Shatner's world and the rest of us live in it — the actor responded that "Bill" was fine.

The man who played Captain Kirk may be famous for many things, but taking himself too seriously isn't among them. In his 2008 autobiography, "Up Till Now," Shatner kids repeatedly about his penchant for saying "yes" to countless projects, about his history of taking physical risks, and being at the mercy of the Hollywood system. Playing himself once on "Saturday Night Live," he famously urged a convention of hardcore Trekkies to "get a life."

So when "Shatner's World" stops at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts next week, it's not unreasonable to guess that the stomach-flu story will crop up somewhere, at least as an aside. In Shatner's show, as well as his book, few topics are off limits, and he admits to improvising sometimes.

But on top of the kidding and the more reflective moments, Shatner hopes the show will have an inspirational message to the audience — namely, that those in attendance will learn to embrace a three-letter word he's embraced throughout his career.

"Even if terrible things happen to you, you still have to say 'yes' to life," he said.

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A new final frontier

Think of Shatner as the anti-Daniel Day-Lewis.

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