William Shatner Shares Why He Doesn't Watch 'Star Trek' and If He's Open to a Possible Return (Exclusive)

William Shatner reveals to ET what it would take for him to return to 'Star Trek' and why he never truly watched the show.

William Shatner recently sat down with ET for the celebrity legends series TV grEaTs to discuss his remarkable journey from a young TV and film actor to the award-winning megastar, space traveler, and philanthropist he is today at 93. 

In this exclusive interview, Shatner discussed his experiences with Star Trek, why he doesn’t watch the show, and whether he would consider returning to the iconic franchise.

Reflecting on his entry into Star Trek, Shatner shared, "I don't remember ever auditioning for anything. I went to New York in a play, and it got great notices, and agents came after me,” Shatner said. “I got a call from this guy [Gene] Roddenberry who wanted me to play the captain of the space." 

Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner in 'Star Trek' the original series episode 'Space Seed.' - Paramount via Getty Images

Shatner portrayed James T. Kirk in the Star Trek franchise, from his 1966 debut as the captain of the starship Enterprise in the second pilot of the first Star Trek television series to his final appearance as Captain Kirk in the seventh Star Trek feature film, Star Trek Generations in 1994.

In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Plato's Stepchildren" (season 3, episode 10), first broadcast on Nov. 22, 1968, Captain Kirk (Shatner) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) shared what is often cited as the first interracial kiss on television. Shatner commented on this historic moment, saying, "She's a beautiful woman, why wouldn't I kiss her?"

Nichelle Nichols as Uhura and William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the STAR TREK episode, "Plato's Stepchildren." Original air date, November 22, 1968. Season 3, episode 10. - CBS via Getty Images

He continued, "Coming from Canada, you know, what's the big deal? So, I didn't really—I mean, I understood the deal, but I didn't get the emotion that's involved in there. I didn't get it until I got it."

Reflecting on his fondest memories of Star Trek, Shatner said, "I loved Leonard, he was a brother to me. Leonard Nimoy. So, I had a great deal of affection for him. I loved some of the acting moments that they put the character into."

American actor Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock and Canadian actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk appear in a scene from 'The Man Trap,' the premiere episode of 'Star Trek,' which aired on September 8, 1966. - CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

When asked about a potential return to Star Trek, Shatner humorously replied, "Yes, I could be tempted for a great deal of money." He laughed, adding, "I'm so busy now. You don't understand how busy I am. I've got a documentary."

Shatner's documentary, You Can Call Me Bill, recounts his personal journey over nine decades on Earth, stripping away all the masks he's worn to embody countless characters.

He added, "I've got an album, I've got more than one album."

Shatner's album, So Fragile, So Blue, was digitally released on April 19, just before Earth Day. The album is a partnership with LSO Live and The Kennedy Center. Shatner performed at The Kennedy Center with Ben Folds and the National Symphony Orchestra in April 2022, and this album features that performance.

Despite his pivotal role in Star Trek, Shatner admitted he hasn't watched much of the series or any other Star Trek shows.

"I’m gonna tell you something that nobody knows," he said. "I've never seen another Star Trek and I’ve seen as few Star Treks of the show I was on, I’ve seen as few as possible. I don't like to look at myself, and I’ve never seen any other. I love it, I think it's great, I just don’t, you know, I don’t watch television per se. I'm watching documentaries, I’m watching the news, I'm watching sports, I’m watching things that were, documentaries that were made but I don't watch television for some reason. I've been urged to watch certain shows by my family, 'You'll love this,' and I just never get around to it."

As for what he wants his legacy to be, 93-year-old Shatner had a thoughtful answer.

"Well, I gotta tell you there's no such thing," he said. "You put up a statue -- that's my legacy, I’m a statue. I was in the civil war and this is what I did and I'm a hero -- and they tear down the statue. I'm gonna put my name on a building, the building falls down, there's no legacy, there's nothing physical that you ... it'll evaporate eventually. What doesn't go away, what is your legacy and mine is the good deeds you do. If you help somebody it reverberates until the end of time, you will not know it, the butterfly wings you won't see ... but it happens. If you help somebody else, that goes on forever, that's your legacy."