William Shatner: Stories Of Star Trek's Captain Kirk's Real-Life And His Impact

By | March 20, 2020

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William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the STAR TREK episode, "The Apple." Original airdate, October 13, 1967, season 2, episode 5. Image is a screen grab. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

As Captain Kirk on Star Trek, William Shatner carved out a place in TV sci-fi history. A brooding, brawling lothario, Kirk was the id of the otherwise cerebral crew of the Starship Enterprise. Though Kirk is William Shatner's career-defining role (with Denny Crane of Boston Legal and cop TJ Hooker in second and third place), Kirk isn't Shatner. Or is he? Off screen, William Shatner has a reputation as a moody egomaniac, and he's the Star Trek actor whom seemingly no one else in the cast gets along with. Maybe Kirk and Shatner aren't so different after all.

Shatner Is A Classically Trained Shakespearean Actor

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Publicity photo from 1958. Source: (wikipedia)

Shatner was born and raised in Canada in a conservative Jewish household. He attended McGill University, where he studied Economics and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. His time as an actor began when he was the business manager for the Mountain Playhouse in Montreal. He next joined the Canadian National Repertory Theater in Ottawa, training as a classical Shakespearean actor. This led to performing at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario in 1954. By 1956 he made his Broadway debut. His film debut had occurred in 1951 in the Canadian film Butler’s Night Off and his first feature role was The Brothers Karamazov in 1958. He continued to appear in film, on stage, and on TV throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, including appearances on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.