Star Trek Legend William Shatner Remembers Leonard Nimoy’s Boston Side
As the world prepares to honor the one year anniversary of Leonard Nimoy’s death on February 27, we spoke with William Shatner about some of his favorite moments with his Star Trek co-star.
Captain Kirk’s beloved Spock will always have a special place in his heart, which is why he recently wrote Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man, a retrospective on his relationship with his lifelong friend. While they didn’t really talk leading up to Nimoy’s passing, Shatner still calls the actor one of his only real friends and will always remember the laughs they shared, as well as Nimoy’s tendency to speak his mind.
“If Boston means speaking your mind and being frank and letting you know how he feels, he was a Bostonian to the core,” Shatner says.
Check out what else Shatner had to say about his friendship with Nimoy, what he’ll miss most about the actor, and more.
What was your first impression of Leonard on the set of Star Trek?
I don’t recall it exactly. I had to have met this tall, saturnine, good looking man who was fooling around with ears and haircuts and eyebrows. But I didn’t know him. It was like two professional actors meeting or two journalists meeting. You’ve read their work, there’s a respect, there’s an acknowledgement. You don’t know each other, but you assume things will work out and be good, which they were. I don’t have a first impression that I remember, but he was an impressive man and subsequently proved to be impressive.
He had roots in Boston, and people from here aren’t afraid to let others know what’s on their minds. Did Leonard have a Boston side? Did he ever show it?
If Boston means speaking your mind and being frank and letting you know how he feels, he was a Bostonian to the core.
Did anything in particular bring out that Boston side in him?
If you were doing something that he thought was incorrect—expressing a thought, an action, any word or action that he thought required some response—he’d be there with a response.
You’ve called Leonard one of your only real friends. How did your relationship with him change how you view other friendships in your life?
Having the depth of that relationship, having a real friend upon whom I called on more than one occasion for help or help me without having to call, I never knew that before. I was always having to do it myself. I was always independent, nobody’s ever given me a helping hand that I didn’t earn. So with Leonard’s generosity, I began to understand and realize that there are people out there whom you can depend on.
As you were going over the memories while writing the book, was there any particular part that was challenging or painful to relive?
Much of it was, recalling the past and how we evolved into being essentially brothers and how he comforted me in times of need because of his experience. The sadness of not being there at his death, those were painful memories and were difficult to deal with. And then the laughter, the joy. What I remembered most of all about Leonard was our laughter. We made each other laugh. I mentioned that to somebody who saw us onstage at a convention or wherever we were, and he said, “I saw you two guys, and there was no question about this kinship and both of you were so funny.” This guy validated the supposition that people were enjoying themselves as much as we were.
You mentioned that you don’t have a first impression of Leonard, but what’s your lasting impression of him? How do you remember your good friend?
A very serious man who reached out so frequently to create and be creative and work at things one would of thought he wouldn’t: his photography, his poetry, his writings. When I did my research on him, I found out these things that I hadn’t known. Where he had worked, what he had done, and things he had performed. I didn’t know about it.
During this process of research and writing, did you ever stop to ask yourself the question of how you would like people to remember you?
I wasn’t able to go to Leonard’s funeral. I had promised the Red Cross, who was making a large fundraiser across the continent, that I would be there because people bought tables and gave money. So I had a Hobson’s choice of canceling that gig and going to Leonard’s funeral or not going to Leonard’s funeral and going to the Red Cross fundraiser. I went to the Red Cross fundraiser, and what I said to them was we can honor Leonard Nimoy’s name right now and we should remember it. But our names, Leonard’s, mine, yours, will be ashes in the flicker of an eyelid in terms of eternity. What won’t be forgotten, but maybe not remembered—hmm, I hadn’t thought of that phrase—are the good deeds that we do. So that means everything good deeds suggest. The helping, the giving, mentoring, all the goodness that is buried in human hearts that sometimes one thinks is never going to appear, but it’s there. It’s in the good deeds that we will be remembered, not by name. That’s how I would like to be remembered.
Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man is available now. William Shatner will also be appearing at Boston Comic Con in August.
This interview has been edited and condensed.