Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shatner Improvs Raw Nerve

I rarely comment on actors, but when you have followed a chap’s career from early days it is hard to avoid.  He is a talented actor that makes it look effortless and has often been seriously underrated because of it. His oeuvre is impressive however, though this is not the place to grind that out.

Without question though it has been defined by Star Trek it self.  I actually saw the original star trek series in the late sixties on first release and certainly appreciated it.  Its post release history is both storied and an outline of the emergence of science fiction and fantasy into mainstream sensibilities.  Those were a future I believed in back in 1967 but obviously pending technical improvements.

Here we learn from him how he develops an interview that is prepared by conversation and perfected by improv.  The interviewer becomes the professional actor and carries his subject along.  Rather insightful.

I am sure these interviews will be well worth the time and effort and I am sure they will be available in the USA shortly, however unusual they may seem.

Shatner draws on family life for 'Raw Nerve'
1 hour, 2 minutes ago
By Nick Patch, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - William Shatner didn't have much formal experience as an interviewer prior to the launch of his chat show, so the 79-year-old prepared for "William Shatner's Raw Nerve" by calling upon his experience as a dad.
"It comes with having a family and getting people to talk about themselves at the family table," Shatner said during a telephone interview.
"And we used to joke, my kids and I, about how if there wasn't somebody crying at the end of the meal — and not out of rage, but out of something meaningful — it wasn't a good meal."
It's with that spirit that Shatner approaches "Raw Nerve," a chatfest in which he tries to steer his celebrity subjects away from the comfortable and into sensitive areas they'd probably rather not explore on TV.
The first season of the show, which debuts in Canada this Sunday on the Biography Channel, features candid sitdowns with the likes of Kelsey Grammer, Tim Allen, Valerie Bertinelli and Shatner's former "Star Trek" co-star and close friend, Leonard Nimoy.
And, true to the title, you can expect Shatner to boldly go where few interviewers have dared venture before.
"My impulse was to find something about that celebrity that even they themselves hadn't thought about either ever or in a long while," the Montreal native said. "And that they would feel confident enough to reveal themselves a little bit more than they have in the past. And I felt that I could effect that because I was speaking to them on their own grounds.
"I had no agenda, I wished not to hurt them, I didn't want to do any tabloid stuff. I very specifically kept away from tabloid matters and talked about things of the heart."
The interviews take place on an odd S-shaped couch that positions Shatner and his subjects directly next to one another.
Though each episode of the show is 22 minutes long, Shatner says the interviews all took at least an hour, and he eased his subjects into a comfort zone by focusing on banal topics that wouldn't necessarily make the final cut of the program — "photography, sports, that kind of thing," he says.
"(Then) they gradually warmed to the idea that I was in a conversation with them, and not in attack mode," he explains.
In one memorable Season Two interview (the show has already been airing in the United States), Shatner reduces typically unflappable Kiss frontman Gene Simmons to tears by zeroing in on the 61-year-old rocker's relationship to his estranged dad, who abandoned Simmons and his family when he was a boy.
It's not an uncommon result. Shatner recalls interviewing Larry Flynt and Rush Limbaugh in the same day, and he says both interviews ended with the men nearly in tears. Yet he bonded with so closely with each of them that in both cases, they made plans to get together again socially.
One might figure that Shatner pores over pre-interview research to arrive at such emotional moments, but he insists that's not the case.
"I have no preparation," he says. "I have a paragraph: 'They're married. They have children.' I have nothing in my pocket. I have no notes. I've memorized a divorce date or a child's birth or death or something meaningful in their life that I think: 'Hmm, that might be interesting to get there.'
"But I have no agenda. Literally and figuratively. I'm talking like you and I or talking, meandering down a pathway and then all of a sudden there's clarity. I don't quite know how it happens."
Shatner says he was dialled in to verbal and non-verbal cues that indicated whether his probing had become too invasive. But he says that he's yet to have a guest tell him beforehand that a certain area of conversation was out of bounds.
And he said he was able to win the trust of his subjects and form a bond because he has been on the other side of interviews so many times.
"It's just that (I'm) a fellow actor, a fellow person who has been through the wars, the fires of interviews," he said.
Sometimes, "you (think) it went well, and you read what it is they reported, and it seems to you not to have any relationship to what you said. You go through that enough, you enter an interview with your guard up and choosing your words very carefully."
While the show is only being aired in his native Canada now, Shatner is beginning work now on a third season, which he says will feature interviews with Bill Cosby and Conan O'Brien.
It's hard to imagine how he finds time, given that the indefatigable star is also headlining the upcoming CBS sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says," the reality series "William Shatner's Weird or What?" and another interview show, "Aftermath," which he calls "one of the most thrilling things I've ever done."
He's also producing and writing the documentary, "The Captains" for his own production company.
But he says he's been invigorated by his recent foray into interviewing.
"It's a total improvisation and it's right on the air," he said.
"You don't know where it's going. It's a happening. And it's jazz. It's a riff that a jazz musician goes on. I do it verbally and intellectually.
"It's a high that nothing else equals."

1 comment:

William N. Grigg said...

William Shatner is a criminally under-appreciated talent. Though his acting style is easily and frequently parodied, he's compulsively watchable. Perhaps his tendency toward "large takes" explains why he's at his best when he under-plays a moment.

Most of the people who mock the guy haven't achieved a fraction of what he has done creatively.