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William Shatner Reflects on Being 'Star Trek's' Captain of Captains

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William Shatner in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

He's creating documentaries, writing books, touring his one-man show, and helping a certain travel website boost its stock price 70 percent… in other words, William Shatner is one busy guy.

His latest project, the EPIX five-part miniseries "The Captains Close Up" (just released on DVD), finds the Emmy winner returning to the role that made him a household name: "Star Trek" captain. But this time, instead of leading the Enterprise, he's leading his fellow "Star Trek" universe captains — Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Patrick Stewart, and Scott Bakula — through a series of interviews in which they get personal about their lives in and beyond "Trek."

The 82-year-old star — who won his first Emmy at age 73 — talked to Yahoo! TV about "The Captains," his upcoming album, and his new book, in which he'll advise job-seekers over 55 that the best way to find new opportunities is to get entrepreneurial, a concept he's practicing himself.

"The Captains Close Up" DVD is an expansion of the five-part series that ran on EPIX. What's new on the DVD?

The key difference is, it is an intimate look at these human beings' lives in totality, not just their lives in "Star Trek," so they talk about things they've never talked about before with me. They reveal aspects of their humanity that they were keeping back from other people. [But] they felt comfortable enough with me to talk about things they'd never talked about before.

Watch the original trailer for "The Captains" right here:

What's something that surprised you while talking to your fellow captains?

[Patrick Stewart's] willingness to reveal that his father abused his mother, [Kate Mulgrew revealing] she sacrificed so much time with her children to work, [Avery Brooks revealing] that the color of his skin affected his life to the degree that it did… divorce… The subject matter was profound, and very interesting. These half-hours, each one of the actors who have seen it, they've never seen an interview of themselves like the one we did.

Was there any hesitation on anyone's part to be interviewed like this?

Well, they had to agree to allow me to show this aspect of them, but we've done it with such love, and they saw it. And that comes across in every frame, that there's great affection for these people. Here are these human beings who had to do all these things to get to where they were.

Aside from playing "Trek" captains, what is a major thing you found you all had in common?

The drive to succeed, and the willingness to sacrifice parts of your life that were valuable: time, children, family, love, comfort… willingness to sacrifice that in order to succeed. Success is different for everyone; everybody defines it in their own way, and that's part of what we do in "Close Up," finding what it was each person wanted to achieve and what their willingness to sacrifice for that was. That success was defined differently by each one of [us].

[Related: You Won't Recognize 'Star Trek' Captain Kate Mulgrew in 'Orange Is the New Black']

Did anyone have regrets in the end, that they had taken on these career-defining "Trek" roles?

Oh yeah, there are pieces of regret in that: "I had to do this to get that, and now that I got that, I'm glad that I got it, but I'm so sad that I had to lose the marriage, I had to lose the children, I had to lose whatever it was to get it." We get to see these people in all these aspects of their lives. Take a look at the strangeness of Avery Brooks, and the heart, the absolute depth that Patrick Stewart reveals, and Kate Mulgrew, and Scott Bakula… suddenly you're looking into their eyes and you're seeing this human being revealing themselves. It's quite wonderful.

Did you bond with your fellow "Trek" stars about how much being a part of this world continues to play a role in your lives and your careers?

Absolutely. We had this core understanding between us all, and that was one of the parts, one of the reasons for the intimacy. They saw me as a fellow traveler, and indeed I was.

You're the captain of the captains.

[Laughs] Well, that's true.

After speaking with all of them, how do you rank the captains? Who is the best "Star Trek" captain?

Well, you know, every single one of them had a — I'm giving you the political answer here — every single one of them had a characteristic that was unique. That was the reason why they were cast in the first place. Each brought those facets to the role, and made it totally different. Everybody is totally different. There's no similarity at all.

But still, you're the captain of the captains, let's be honest.

[Laughs] Well, so you and I say, but I don't know how many people, how many of the others, would agree.

[Video: Does William Shatner Have a Crush on Betty White?]

You have a lot of other projects going on right now. You're going to continue touring with your one-man show, "Shatner's World"?

Yes, in January, I'll go to several cities. I've also got an album called "Ponder the Mystery" that drops in early October. That's very exciting to me. Billy Sherwood, who was a member of Yes, who is himself a genius, a musical prodigy, did the music. I did the lyrics. It's an unusual album. I think from what I can see, it's going to be great, but I'll need you to make that observation. Then there is the possibility, if it's as good as I think it is, to tour it with a group.

Like a musical theater production, or more of a concert performance?

A concert, maybe play Las Vegas. It would be amazing. Las Vegas is interested, and we're talking about it, and when I put the phone down with you, I'm going to talk more about it in a meeting. It's going to be something fun.

In the meantime, I've got a book that I'm writing, and this album, and podcasts. You should take a look at my website, and go to "Brown Bag Wine Tasting," in which I do man-on-the-street interviews with a brown bag of wine under my arm, using the taste of wine as a means of conversation. I've done 36 of them over the last couple of years, and in some cases, it's extraordinary.

Will you film "Shatner's World" for DVD or TV release?

Absolutely, I have filmed it, and we're getting ready to show it someplace. Maybe theaters, maybe TV, maybe both. We are in the middle of planning that. 

[Related: William Shatner to Receive Legacy Award From Canada's Stratford Festival]

What about the book you mentioned? Is it a memoir?

The new book is for the unemployed over-55-year-olds who are having trouble getting back into the workforce, because they are more expensive. One of the solutions is the title to the book, which is, "Hire Yourself."

Create your own opportunities?

That's exactly right.

Which you are obviously doing.

Yeah, well, I suppose. That's why, I guess, I'm writing the book. You've got to take the skills that you own, and bring them to bear, and then use social media, which is something that people over 55 find difficult to do. So there's practical advice.

Congratulations on the Priceline.com news, too: since your "character" was brought back to life in the commercials a year ago, the company's stock is up more than 70 percent.

Yes, thank you. I had everything to do with it. [Laughs] But it's a great company, it's making a lot of money, and I'm glad I'm riding that wave. I'm the Laird Hamilton of travel websites.

"The Captains Close Up" is now available on DVD from Entertainment One.

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