All the recent press about the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the iconic Spock of Star Trek, caused me to research the biography of William Shatner. We all associate him primarily with the role of Captain James T. Kirk. While that seems like a phenomenal success story, it wasn’t quite like that.
Shatner landed the role for the first three seasons of the Star Trek series and held it from 1966 to 1969. The original run received only modest ratings, partly because NBC really didn’t take the show seriously and placed it on Friday night at 10:00 pm, when young people are out on dates, rather than watching network TV. After poor ratings, NBC canceled the show after three seasons.
Shatner, however, was typecast and could not find work as an actor. After he was famous as Captain Kirk, his first wife divorced him in 1969, he lost his home and had very little money or acting prospects. During that time, he lived out of a camper on a pickup truck in Los Angeles.
Just like the story of Sylvester Stallone, who pulled himself out of rags by believing in Rocky, or Schwarzenegger, who started as a bricklayer in Los Angeles in 1968, the story of William Shatner is about how persistence and perseverance against all odds is what drives eventual success.
There are very few “overnight successes.”