Shatner is one of the most prolific artists of the day, conquering the worlds of acting, writing, and recording. He has meanwhile established himself as a cultural icon. His passion for work, however, has come at a certain cost. Growing up, he didn’t understand that making friendships was an essential and natural part of adolescence. His friendship with Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy changed all that. Lasting for 50 years, the “brotherly love” between the two is memorialized in Shatner’s newest book, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Relationship with a Remarkable Man.
I always knew that it was difficult to make friends. And, of course, you define the meaning of friends. I had to struggle a lot in under school, in the schools before college. I had a lot of stuff I had to deal with externally, fights and stuff like that, to protect myself. And then when I got older I had so many things to do. I was an actor at an early age and I was always dashing off to be a member of the football team or be an actor or whatever I was doing, I was busy. So that making friends was a skill I didn’t realize — I didn’t know you make friends. Like have you ever wondered what an opera singer goes through to have that divine voice? It’s a skill that’s learned. You exercise that muscle the way a bodybuilder builds their biceps. You can learn to sing, maybe not as great as one of those gifted naturals, but you can, if you spent 10 years, learn to sing. You can learn to do anything. And if you’re taught at an early enough age character manifestations like making friends. The ability to make a friend. Here’s what you do.
You’ve got to be nice; you’ve got to do this; it takes time; you’ve got to have commonality; you’ve got to have mutual interests; you have to have laughter; you can’t be sarcastic; you can’t be mean. All those things that a child needs to learn, I may not have had that in a large degree. I don’t know, but I think it was because I was very busy. I made a friend with Leonard that I’ve often asked people who I’m talking to or being interviewed by, “Do you have a friend?” “Do you have a friend?” And they have to puzzle about it. And I think that’s what marriage is, you make a friend and now it’s memorialized in writing, but there’s an element of passion there that I think takes it somewhere else than the friendship I’m talking about. That’s a very difficult thing to do, to have the brotherly love that I’m talking about, but it’s possible and that’s what Leonard might have taught me.