When the iconic James T. Kirk began his mission of exploring “strange new worlds” across space as captain of the starship Enterprise, it was the Canadian-born William Shatner who made the classic science fiction character come alive on “Star Trek”. It was through this role that the Shakespearian-trained actor became a cultural icon as a U.S.-backed space program strode to put a man on the moon. A feat they accomplished a month and a half after the cancellation of “Star Trek”. Since then, Shatner’s pioneering spirit endures as the 83-year-old actor continues to make joy the primary theme of his life.
Shatner, who hails from the Cote Saint-Luc neighborhood of Montreal, Canada, is the grandson of Jewish European immigrants who moved from Austria, Poland, Hungary, and Ukraine. Shatner’s father worked as a clothing manufacturer. Had Shatner decided to step into the family business, he likely would have remained in Canada. As an actor, however, Shatner immigrated to the U.S. and started taping shows in New York, later moving to Los Angeles for his “Star Trek” role.
In contemporary times, Shatner is largely known as the pitchman for competitive pricing travel site Priceline.com. Just as much as Shatner is the face that drives traffic to the go-to travel site, however, he’s also at least one of the facea that has driven science fiction to science fact. In his autobiography, Up Till Now, Shatner says his role as Captain Kirk has won him invitations to events organized and attended by astrophysicists. NASA scientists, he says, have told him of a direct link between the television show and their current careers.
As if shoring up humanity’s push toward becoming a space-faring civilization—and wrangling a good deal on hotel rates—wasn’t enough, Shatner’s storied career makes him a true renaissance man. An author, director, equestrian and businessman, the constant quality has been joy, he says. “Life has many facets, including grief, sorrow, and death,” Shatner told media outlet JNS.org. “But it is a joyful experience in the end.”