William Shatner has enjoyed more sequels than the original "Star Trek" movie.
Shatner, 73, has spent his careers -- all of them -- in the limelight. He's been on stage and on camera, acting in television and movies, as well as behind the cameras directing. He's written books -- nonfiction and novels -- starred in commercials, recorded musical albums and competed in the show ring with his prized American saddlebred horses.
Shatner picked up a Creative Arts Emmy on Sept. 12 as best guest actor in a drama series for his appearances last season on "The Practice." His character, an eccentric lawyer named Denny Crane, returns in a principal role on executive producer David E. Kelley's new "Boston Legal."
During a lunch break from filming, Shatner recently chatted with TV Week about his new role.
Have you ever run into a lawyer like Denny Crane?
Yes, with my car. Seriously, there are historical precedents here. Some of the biggest names in law were outrageous characters, and I think Denny is culled from several of the big-name lawyers.
What was the appeal of this character?
The guy is kind of a mystery to everyone, including me. Is he really off the deep end? I don't think he's underwater, but he's probably up to his neck. He's a little strange, and that is the mystery, that is what I keep looking for.
Are you having fun with it?
It's great fun. I'm talking to you with a Botox needle in my forehead, and I won't let anybody touch it till the doctor who is supposed to have done it gets here.
And you can't laugh about it.
You don't laugh with your forehead. Oh, wait, yes, I guess you do.
Before you guest-starred on "The Practice," had you seen the series?
I had not watched it. I can safely say I have not looked at any hourly TV program in many, many years, so I am at a deficit when it comes to new personalities or shows that people talk about.
So how different will this show be from "The Practice?"
This show is a balance of humor and seriousness. Exactly what it is, David is attempting to find out. . . . The show is lighter in tone and certainly more humorous. And the characters are not as solid.
Would you call Denny Crane a loose cannon?
Loose cannon is good, although that implies damage if it's not controlled. He might be more of a scattered cannon, a grapeshot more than a cannonball.
The question must be asked: Have you been able to overcome, move past, the James Kirk role? Because even now, people still approach you in public to talk about Kirk.
Yes, they do. Here I am, all these years later, but, yes, I have edged my way around that. I am not hostile toward it ["Star Trek"]; it provided me with a great opportunity. But I hope I have overcome the Kirk character.
So which "Star Trek" movie was the worst?
Why do you ask which was the worst? Are you trying to set me up to say it was mine? [Shatner directed "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier."] I don't look at the ones that way, at the ones that were the worst.
Then which one was the best?
The one I did, of course. See how I set that up?
Do you ever watch tapes of either the TV series or the films?
I very rarely watch anything I am in. I don't like the way I look.
What about those Priceline.com commercials, where you're the Priceline guy?
Ah, the Priceline guy. It is a lot of fun, the ads are very imaginative and they've been successful, which is nice too. People are very complimentary about what they evoke, but also about the message being sent out. The best ads are those where people remember what the ad is about.
Have you always been interested in the Internet, in computers?
I'm interested in computers, but I just don't know how to work them.
So it's much different than aboard the Enterprise?
Yes, exactly. There you just clapped your hands and it was on.
What kind of a run do you see for this show?
If "Boston Legal" fulfills its promise, it should have as long a run as any other David Kelley series. It's rich with talent behind and in front of the camera. There's great writing, the best director, the genius of David Kelley and the popularity of James Spader. Where do I fit in? I probably help things to the degree I should.
Besides "Boston Legal," what else do you have going on?
My wife, Elizabeth, and I have saddlebred horses we show out of Lexington, Ky., and quarter horses in Los Angeles. I just won the world championship against some very tough competition, in harness, and my wife won in the saddle, so we have two world championships this year. And we breed and train.
How did you get involved with horses?
I like the way they look, same as with Dobermans. I've had them all my life. The horse is one of the most beauteous creatures, and I just fell in love with them.
You also have a musical career.
Yes and I have a new album coming out, called "Has Been." It's due in stores October 5, and it's a work of great love and detail. I wrote a lot of the songs, Ben Folds produced it, and it's been getting a lot of attention. I had a joyful experience making the record, being in Nashville.
So between acting, singing, writing, directing, showing horses, what do you enjoy doing most?
I like everything that I am doing at that moment. If I don't like it, I am uncomfortable, but most of the time I am in the fortunate position of liking the things I am doing.
Airs: Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC
The tagline you'll never see: Objection! Practice might not make perfect.
The basics: Lawyer Alan Shore (James Spader) and paralegal Tara Wilson (Rhona Mitra) leave the wacky firm of Young, Frutt, & Berlutti to join up with the even more wacky Denny Crane (William Shatner), pretty young lawyer Sally Heep (Lake Bell), and recently cast Monica Potter and Mark Valley ("Keen Eddie").
The lowdown: Last season, Spader's inventive, nuanced performance as the renegade, troubled, irrepressibly charming Alan made "The Practice" watchable again. And Shatner won an Emmy for his deadpan portrayal of senior partner Denny Crane. But executive producer David E. Kelley has a pesky habit of running his once brilliant shows into the ground ("Ally McBeal") and allowing his distinctive voice to become repetitive and ridiculous. When Kelley's legal shows are good, the twists and turns take viewers on extended and exhilarating rides. Now that Alan Shore and Denny Crane are off on their own, will this spinoff of "The Practice" turn into "Ally McBeal: The Annoying Years" or will Kelley return to his less outrageous legal roots? Because no review tape was available at press time, the verdict is still out.
Reality check: Last season on "The Practice," Bell's character represented all that is traditionally wrong with a Kelley show. Viewers have already had enough scantily clad, irrational women traipsing around law offices for one lifetime. She should be evicted from this courtroom.
-- Amy Amatangelo