Science fiction loving country music fans will enjoy a unique night of entertainment when William Shatner and longtime friend Brad Paisley take the stage Feb. 12 at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium for a conversation and Q&A with the audience following a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Well known to legions of fans for his enduring role as the Starship Enterprise’s Captain James T. Kirk, Shatner is looking forward to visiting Music City.
“We play the movie The Wrath of Khan, which is arguably the most popular of the Star Trek movies that our team did,” Shatner tells Sounds Like Nashville of the 1982 classic. “The picture is enhanced—big picture and big sound—and my old buddy Brad has agreed to come on stage with me and field questions from the audience. We’ll laugh and have a good time.”
Though the 88-year-old actor and country music hitmaker might seem unlikely pals, Shatner says their friendship dates back to nearly 20 years. “We were both at a country music radio station. He was promoting, I guess, an album and I was promoting something or other and the host of the show introduced us,” Shatner recalls. “We got together after that and then our families became close. We’ve visited with each other over the years many, many times. Show biz acquaintances come and go, but Brad and his family have been a constant in my life, in my family’s life. We’ve been at each other’s side many, many times.”
Paisley’s wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and sons were backstage supporting their friend last winter when Shatner made his Grand Ole Opry debut following the release of Why Not Me, a country album he recorded with Alabama’s Jeff Cook. “The boys are coming to the War Memorial,” Shatner says of Paisley’s son Huck and Jasper. “I remember when they were born. I knew Brad before he got married and then the boys were born and then they started growing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at the Opry. They must be adolescents already.”
Shatner has been visiting other cities, screening the film and hosting the Q&A with local celebrities in each town. “It seems to work best where we get a local personality, radio or TV join me on stage,” says Shatner, who has a 10-day tour of Europe coming up where he’ll be hosting such events.
“The questions range from personal questions to questions about Star Trek and mostly we just have a good time,” he says of the interaction with fans. “It’s ad-lib and spontaneous. It’s usually amusing and the movie itself is moving. They certainly will laugh what Brad and I are going to do, but they may have a few tears shed over the emotion of the film.”
Shatner says he really enjoys the interaction with the live audience and the spontaneous nature of the event. “It’s totally not arranged,” he says. “It’s made up on the moment so what happens, happens. There’s a lovely danger about it, doing it in front of an audience for over an hour and not knowing what the next thing will be. There is an excitement.”
Though known primarily as an actor, Shatner is also a music lover with several albums under his belt and is excited about his next project. “I’ve finished the blues album,” he says. “In fact Brad Paisley will [play] guitar on ‘Sweet Home Chicago.’ I’ve got my 13 songs laid down. It’s all done and it will be out there in the summer.”
Shatner has also been working on a new series called “The UneXplained.” “They ordered eight hours and as soon as they saw two, they ordered 20 hours more, so that 20 hour group will debut Feb. 29th at 9 o’clock on the History Channel,” he says. “So essentially the first season will be 28 hours, which is unheard of and we’re looking forward to them renewing for a second year.”
Over the course of his lengthy career, Shatner has been involved is numerous film and television projects and is a well-known philanthropist, but Star Trek occupies a unique place on the American cultural landscape. When asked why it’s had such enduring popularity, he laughs gently and responds, “Nobody has the exact answer, otherwise they would it reproduce elsewhere. It’s a combination obviously of the intrigue of a science fiction story and a cast they’ve learned to love. There is an aspect because the story exists in the future that there is the possibility that we’ll survive all this trouble coming down the road and be better for it, so there is a moment of hope.”