It’s said that a highly visible role as James T. Kirk in the Star Trek franchise can be the “kiss of death” to a professional acting career, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt William Shatner. The Canadian-born actor attended McGill University where he was active in theater productions on campus. During his summers through college, Shatner performed in the Royal Mount Theater Company. When he graduated in 1952 with a B.A., Shatner began work at the National Repertory Theater of Ottawa. He eventually won co-starring roles in plays such as "The Merchant of Venice" and "Henry V," as well as the Most Promising Actor award. After a run in New York in the play, 'Tamburlaine," Shatner was signed to a seven-year contract by 20th Century Fox. He married a Canadian actress, Gloria Rand, and honeymooned in Scotland. It was something of a working honeymoon, however, as Shatner had a role in an Edinburgh Festival production of "Henry V."
After his honeymoon, Shatner returned to New York where he guest starred on numerous series, including the anthology programs Goodyear Playhouse, Circle Theater, Philco Playhouse, Studio One and the series The Defenders. Then came his movie debut, The Brothers Karamazov, with Richard Basehart. Not wanting to miss out on the Western genre that was so prominent in Hollywood, Shatner learned to ride a horse and to rope.
Next, Shatner landed the starring role in the two-year Broadway run of "The Secret Life of Suzie Wong." This was followed by "A Shot in the Dark" with Julie Harris and then "L'Idiote," all on Broadway.
In 1961, Shatner landed two films, "The Intruder," where he plays a rabble-rouser traveling from one Southern town to another, getting people to riot against court-ordered school integration. It was later released under the titles, "I Hate Your Guts!" and "Shame." Shatner also appeared in "Judgment at Nuremberg."
Then came the role for which he is undoubtedly best known: Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek. Shatner actually came to the series for its second pilot, when Jeffrey Hunter declined to continue in the captian's role of Christopher Pike after the first pilot was rejected. Unfortunately, during the three years that Star Trek series ran, Shatner not only separated from his wife, but lost his father, as well.
Following the cancellation of Star Trek on NBC in 1969, Shatner went on to star in seven Star Trek films, make appearances in countless television series (including several long-running non-Star Trek series in which he played a leading role—TJ Hooker and Rescue 911, among them), and to serve as the long-term, highly visible pitchman for Priceline.com. Over the years, the actor’s self-assertive sense of humor has come to define his career, and even translated into the personality of his Emmy Award-winning character, Attorney Denny Crane, of The Practice and Boston Legal. He also made such films as "Sole Survivor," and the Sherlock Holmes classic, "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Guest appearances on series like The Sixth Sense, Barnaby Jones, and Hawaii Five-O kept him in the public eye. In addition, Shatner has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books in and out of the Star Trek vein, and even become an iconic pitchman for over a decade with Priceline.com.
Off-screen, he raises champion American Saddlebred horses on his ranch in Kentucky, and then he produces and hosts the annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show, an event that raises money for various children’s charities. Shatner appeared at conventions alongside Nimoy until his 2011 retirement, and then began sharing stage with Patrick "Picard" Stewart and Kate "Janeway" Mulgrew. Together on stage, the two provide a highly enjoyable hour of entertainment. In 2010-2011, Shatner starred in the CBS comedy $#*! My Dad Says, produced a special documentary The Five Captains for Science Channel with his four fellow lead actors, and also the 30-minute talk show series Raw Nerve. Another documentary, Fanatics, is in the offing as well.
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