William Shatner on Canada’s 150th, adapting to role of the guest star

William Shatner on Canada’s 150th, adapting to role of the guest star
“I was there at Confederation,” jokes Shatner, not quite Canada’s age at 86. “I said to John A.,” he continues, “you know, you should incorporate this country.”

Though he’s lived and worked most of his life in the United States, Shatner is very proud of his Montreal roots.

“Canada may be 150 but Montreal is 375 years old,” he points out. “Canada’s like this very young country that is still wet behind the ears. Montreal, by comparison, is a grey beard.”

William Shatner plays Mark Twain in Murdoch Mysteries

Shatner never seems to slow down, flying north recently to guest star on season 2 of Jason Priestley’s detective series Private Eyes, airing Mondays on Global.

In an episode airing July 3, Shatner plays rival private investigator Norm Glinski, described as having an affinity for sugary energy drinks, menthol cigarettes and colourful lingo.

“I had a great time playing him and great fun playing with Jason Priestley and company,” says Shatner.

Shatner admits that “at my age, you don’t get asked to play the leading man anymore.” No matter, he says. “Your career becomes that of a character actor. So an interesting character is what I look for.”

It’s what brought him to Toronto two years ago to play Mark Twain on an episode of Murdoch Mysteries. A few years before that, he flew north to appear on Rookie Blue.

The great catalyst for his later career was playing lawyer Denny Crane on David E. Kelley’s The Practice and Boston Legal. The role won him two Emmys and a Golden Globe award as well as a new generation of fans.

Shatner is currently shooting Senior Moment, a film about a driver his own age whose licence has been suspended. He can also be seen this fall alongside comedian Russell Peters in the CTV/CraveTV series The Indian Detective.

Despite all his other accomplishments, including breeding and riding horses, writing books and recording CDs, Shatner can never entirely escape the role that put him in a whole other galaxy: Capt. James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise. While he was in Toronto working on Private Eyes, the new series Star Trek: Discovery (premiering Sept. 24 on CTV and Space) was shooting on a nearby soundstage. Did he happen to beam aboard and visit the set?

“No,” was Shatner’s immediate answer. “My association with Star Trek is all in the press’s mind, not mine.”

Priestley was delighted Shatner made time for his series. He calls the actor “a consummate professional. He is incredibly prepared all the time and comes with tons of ideas and lots of creative solutions. He is really a lot of fun and a nice guy to boot.”

Private Eyes boasts a number of guest stars this season. IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe and fashionista Jeanne Beker joined Priestley and co-star Cindy Sampson, and former Canadian heavyweight champion George Chuvalo is scheduled to appear when the series resumes in the fall.

Priestley has done his own share of guest star roles over his career, including a recurring role on Haven and one-offs on Hot in Cleveland, CSI and even a voice-over on Family Guy. He’s also directed episodes of shows such as Haven and Dark Matter.

“A good guest star is somebody who just wants to come and play with everybody else,” says Priestley, 47. “That’s really what you’re there for. You want to come and enjoy yourself and do good work and make the project better. That’s really what it’s all about.”
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