CHARACTERS | EPISODES | MULTIMEDIA | LCPD ACADEMY | LINKS | SEARCH 



DISPATCHER

PRESSROOM
Hugh Farrington Interview:
Pete O'Brien Speaks!
[TJ-Hooker.com EXCLUSIVE!]
Philip Weyland,
William Shatner's Stand-In
[TJ-Hooker.com EXCLUSIVE!]
Officer Down!
A Perspective on T.J. Hooker
New Statesman review
TV Guide:
Robert MacKenzie Review
TV Guide:
Heather Locklear Interview
TV Guide:
James Darren Interview
TV Guide:
William Shatner Interview
A Star Trek Fan's Notes On
T.J. Hooker
Adrian Zmed:
Capturing Criminals and Fans
Herd: "You'll never get
ME on the beat"
VARIETY review: "Blood Sport"
NYTimes review: Premiere
VARIETY review: Premiere
TV Guide Fall Preview

BRITISH ANNUAL

COLLECTIBLES

FAN FICTION

ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

DOWNLOADS


T.J. HOOKER PRESSROOM : TV GUIDE INTERVIEW -
WILLIAM SHATNER

A STAR'S TREK: SPACEMAN TO LAWMAN
In fine physical shape, the former Captain Kirk is now playing a rough-and-tumble cop – and doing a lot of his own stunts

by Edwin Kiester Jr.
August 14, 1982
TV GUIDE


The tousle-haired man with the very familiar face is leaning at a 45-degree angle in the jail holding tank, hands supporting him on the shelf before the jailer's mesh screen, legs spread wide on the concrete floor. Two uniformed sergeants are watching as Capt. Abel Armas of the North Hollywood Area police station searches the "prisoner."

"What happens if I resist at this point?" the "prisoner" says. "How do you handle that?" As Captain Armas pats the man's shirt pockets and sleeves, he begins to thresh with broad shoulders and thick chest.

"We have certain things we do," the captain understates, quickly hooking a strategic knee around the man's leg in a way that makes him wince. "But by this time most of them cooperate. They may get a little loud, but they can see there's no way out."

"His whole life is flashing before his eyes," one sergeant puts in.

"Yeah," the prisoner says dryly. "Especially when he gets that knee between the legs."

"Now I'm taking everything out of your pockets," Captain Armas continues. "And your watch. I'll put them here on the counter and the desk officer will give you a receipt. And take your name and address."

"I don't have to ask his name," the desk officer grins. "To me, he'll never be anybody but Captain James T. Kirk."

William Shatner, the man who guided the starship Enterprise to worlds where no man had gone before, straightens up with a resigned smile. He is spending the day at the North Hollywood station, trying to absorb atmosphere for his new starring role in ABC's Saturday-night police series T.J. Hooker, but he keeps being whisked back to the outer=space world of Star Trek, the trendy series he last made 13 years before. "Hey, you guys!" the desk officer shouts to the prisoners, "you're getting to meet Captain Kirk!" "Yeah," Shatner says. "Maybe you'll want to come back and visit more often."

Of course, as Shatner says, "being Captain Kirk isn't such bad stuff, especially this year." The theatrical film "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" broke all first-weekend box-office records when it opened in June; and Shatner has been critically praised, especially for the climactic scene with Leonard (Mr. Spock) Nimoy. The first film reuniting the Enterprise crew earned a cool $175 million, and plans are already being drawn for a third chapter. The original TV program is still in syndication, showing all over the world. For the starship, the sky seems to be the limit.

But you've got to come down to earth some time, and, according to some people, Captain Kirk's new departure is just that–a comedown. Leonard Nimoy, for instance, is careful to distinguish between Shatner's new show and what it might become: "If I know Bill, you'll see a lot of character development," he says. "He's too full of ideas, too full of energy, to be satisfied with just another chase-and-gun show." Hooker's executive producers are Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, originators of such dramatic gems as Charlie's Angels, and the show depicts the adventures of a tough law-and-order cop who gives crooks no quarter and mighty few dimes. Each hour has, by specific formula, at least two "action pieces" of squealing tires or dark-alley chases, but not much to rival "Hamlet." Still, a trial run last spring won T.J. Hooker a spot in the Nielsen top 30, and it is one of ABC's bright hopes for fall.

Possibly as a carryover from the Enterprise bridge, Shatner still exudes an air of authority, so it's difficult to argue with him when he defends Hooker's dramatic possibilities. He is also too experienced an actor to let you see all his personal feelings. "I think we'll be able to tell some fine stories about the human condition and still keep it on the level of action and adventure," he says.

Actually, according to Shatner, Hooker isn't the show he signed on to do in the first place. Originally, it was to be The Protectors, and he was to play a ramrod sergeant at a police academy whose eight cadets were to carry the burden of the action as they spun out individual stories. "Dallas with cops," supervising producer Rick Husky called it. However, tests showed the audiences liked the Hooker character but not the format, so the academy was pushed into the background, the cadets dismissed and the show transformed into a one-man action-adventure renamed for its central character.

The further irony is that he took the role to advance his dramatic career. "My managers and I decided that I had been waiting for fine screen opportunities for many years, but what I was being offered was the next level down," Shatner says. "So, since I wasn't making the kind of films I wanted, it seemed a good idea to take this offer to play a tough, conservative cop–the very antithesis of what people recognize me for–in conjunction with other things. That way I could abruptly break an image and not kill myself doing it. It seemed like a great strategy until they said, 'Hey, you're doing so well, we're going to change the show to T.J. Hooker, and have you do more.' Well, if you name a show for a character, the implication is that if you tune in, you'll see that character. Being the center of the show won't leave much time for other things."

"..if you name a show for a character, the implication is that if you tune in, you'll see that character. Being the center of the show won't leave much time for other things."

Shatner has hardly been idle in the past. His is a distinguished stage, screen and television career spanning nearly three decades. Born in Montreal and still a Canadian citizen, he appeared with the Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival, then went to New York in the heyday of live television drama. He has played on Broadway in "The World of Suzie Wong" and "A Shot in the Dark" and in films like "Judgment at Nuremberg" and "The Brothers Karamazov." Star Trek came along in the '60s and lasted three years, achieving its cult following after it had gone out of production. Since then, Shatner has appeared on the outdoors series The American Sportsman and the short-lived Barbary Coast series, produced and directed "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on stage, and produced and toured in a one-man show. "Bill," says Leonard Nimoy, "is a bundle of energy, a blur of motion."

You'll certainly see plenty of motion in Hooker. "Spectacular stuff with a soupçon of danger," Shatner says, and then, tongue only partly in cheek, goes on to argue that Hooker isn't that much different from "Hamlet," after all. "At first I was secretly glad that, because we're an 8 o'clock show, we couldn't have too much firing of guns and suggestions of violence. But when I saw the first shows I recognized the necessity for physical action. Action is a very important aspect in all drama–Shakespeare did it with sword fights. You need some leavening between something that keeps the adrenaline flowing and something that expands the mind."

Shatner promises to be right in the middle of the action himself. "I don't like to have them cut from my face to a shot of a guy hanging on the top of the bus, and have the smart viewers say, 'Aha, here comes the stunt guy,'" he says. To get ready for the role, he works out daily in the gym of his hilltop San Fernando Valley home, where he lives with actress wife Marcy Lafferty, and he runs 3 to 5 miles each morning. He is also a skier, scuba diver, archer, karate expert and tennis player. Although he has renounced hunting, he tells you with mixed pride and sadness about the 9-foot kodiak bear he shot with a bow and arrow and whose pelt now covers the floor of his studio.

* * *

Maybe it's the same search for action that brings him to the North Hollywood police station. Shatner is teamed for the day with Sgt. George McCormick, a decorated veteran of 18 years on the Los Angeles force, and he comes armed with questions. As the car pulls away from the station, he asks the first.

"Your eyes are always moving," Shatner says, over the insistent squawks of the police radio. "Are you looking for anything in particular?"

"An experienced officer is always looking," McCormick answers. "But he can't always say what he's looking for. Just some small thing that's out of the ordinary, that's not quite right. My old partner used to say, 'The nose knows.'"

"That's true in the woods," Shatner the former hunter agrees. "You keep scanning the landscape for some small sign, something different that tells you game is here."

"While we're driving, I look at the cars. Maybe you see a broken window. Or an expired plate. OK, maybe the guy forgot to mail in his renewal. Or just maybe it's a stolen plate."

"Twice in four shows last spring," Shatner offers, "I said to my partner, 'I don't like the looks of this. I don't know why. I just don't.'"

"You'll hear that again and again from policemen," McCormick says.

* * *

"You've seen Hooker," Shatner asks. "Do you think it's true to life?" McCormick's answer is probably not what Shatner is looking for.

In Hooker, Shatner teams up with a young girl-chasing rookie, Vince Romano, played by Adrian Zmed. He asks McCormick if veterans and rookies actually work together. "That's how you learn," McCormick replies. "You don't come out of the academy knowing everything. You need an experienced officer to help you until you work your own M.O."

Shatner explains that Hooker was divorced because his wife despaired of his police work. "How does your wife feel?" he asks.

"It's difficult," McCormick says. "The other day, a guy tried to kill one of my officers with a knife. Another officer and I tackled him, and he tried to kill us. Well, I try to shield my wife from those things. You can't just go home and say, 'Guess what happened today. A guy tried to kill me.' But if you keep to yourself, you lose communication."

"What's the most difficult call for a policeman?" Shatner asks.

"Family dispute," McCormick answers without hesitation. "I'd rather respond to a 211–armed robbery in progress. When you roll in a 211, you know what you're getting into. When you walk in on a family dispute, you may find that little Johnny Jones ate tomorrow's dessert and mama is hopping mad. Or you may find that Mr. Jones just beat the hell out of Mrs. Jones and now he's ready to take you on. It's a dynamite situation."

"You've seen Hooker," Shatner asks. "Do you think it's true to life?"

McCormick's answer is probably not what Shatner is looking for. "You guys can cram more police work into an hour than I do in a year," he says. "People say, 'Why can't the real police be like that?' They don't understand that someone's writing a script and there's always action and it'll turn out right. Some days I go all day without a call. Other days, it's call, call, call. One of my ex-partners defined police work best: 'Hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of sheer terror.'"

II don't know if we could ever achieve his kind of realism," Shatner says afterward. "The character has to be idealized. No sane policeman would run down a dark alley alone after a suspect. He'd call for backup, and 20 policemen would run down the alley. But that's not good drama. You need a face-to-face confrontation; the fastest gun in the West."

Then he goes back to his Hooker-as-"Hamlet" routine. "But what I'd like to see us do is more of the personal things the officer was talking about. The families, the personal difficulties. That will give us more the quality of Star Trek, allow us to explore the human equation. We can appeal to a broad audience and it will be interesting for me to play."

Nimoy, who has remained a good friend since Star Trek days, is guarded in his opinions, while praising Shatner personally. "He'll give people a good reason for tuning in. There's just too much going on inside his head." Producer Husky agrees that the show relies on Shatner for its appeal. "Sure, it's a departure for him, but he plays it to the hilt. He's full of ideas and he'll develop that part until you think of him as Hooker, not as Captain Kirk."

Indeed, that process may already have begun. Saying farewell at the end of Shatner's tour, McCormick pulls out a pen and asks for Shatner's autograph. "I have two kids at home," he says, "and they'd never forgive me if I didn't get an autograph after riding all day with T.J. Kirk."






HOME
| CHARACTERS | EPISODES | MULTIMEDIA | LCPD ACADEMY | LINKS | SEARCH