William Shatner on Being Canadian

What the famous Canadian actor -- and, according to our reader poll, potential monarch -- has to say about his homeland

kirk july22 p.jpg

Reuters

When TheAtlantic.com readers voted Canadian-born actor and celebrity William Shatner as the undisputed "King of Canada" earlier this month, we knew we had to reach out directly to the monarch-to-be to see if he would offer us some wisdom about the country he might one day rule. To our surprise and delight, he agreed to (sort of) answer ten questions about his (former) home and native land. Here they are:

1. When the Atlantic.com asked readers to vote for a Canadian-born King or Queen of Canada, you won in a rout, beating out some of the country's most prominent and powerful people. Why do you think you are and remain so popular in Canada and so distinctively pegged as "Canadian" so many decades after you moved from Montreal to begin your acting career?

SHATNER: I have worked for years on my "out," "about," and "house," to no avail. I think that makes me a popular Canadian.

2. My father, who was born in Montreal in 1928, remembered singing "God Save the King in elementary school during the 1930s. What memories of the British King or Queen do you have from your days in Canada? What reflections can you offer contemporary readers about the way Canadians back then felt about the monarchy?

SHATNER: I remember when the King and Queen visited Canada in the 1940s, or was it the late 30s, and running from one vantage point to the other to catch a glimpse.

3. How closely today do you follow the work and workings of the British monarchy? Have you ever met Queen Elizabeth II or otherwise had any dealings with Buckingham Palace or any of the "lesser" royals? Did you watch the wedding of William and Kate?

SHATNER: I tried to follow the work and workings of the British monarchy but since they seem not to be able to follow it, how can I possibly? Yes, I did watch the wedding of William and Kate, with an element of longing for her sister.

4. What ties do you still feel to Canada all these years later? Do you still follow Canadian politics? Canadian sports? Do you have any regular contact in your travels with Canadian artists or others?

SHATNER: I feel a strong tie to Canada, in fact it's striped with a light blue and white color.

5. A perspective question: How have all these years living in the United States changed your view of Canada? Do you like the country of your birth more or less with the passage of time?

SHATNER: I think Canada is in danger of being overrun by people from all over the world who think it's the best country on the face of the Earth.

6. What is your single most vivid memory of your life in Canada -- looking here in particular for a purely "Canadian" moment you might have experienced. What was it like growing up William Shatner in Montreal in those days?

SHATNER: I played football on my high school team and we won once city championship after another.

7. When the topic of Canada comes up in conversation now for you, how do you react? Do you find yourself explaining or defending its personality and institutions? Do you get nostalgic? Or do you clam up and let the moment pass?

SHATNER: When the conversation turns to Canada I stand on a chair and frequently salute. It's my way of showing my Canadian enthusiasm.

8. If you were to become King of Canada, what are the first five commands you would issue to your Canadian subjects and why?

SHATNER: Off with his head, and his, and his, and his, and his.

9. If you yourself would have voted in our contest, for whom would you have voted and why?

SHATNER: I certainly would have voted for myself. I do believe I am more majestic than say Martin Short.

10. Identify for us a few differences you perceive between Americans and Canadians

SHATNER: The money is green in America, the people are polite in Canada, the traffic is terrible in Los Angeles and a breeze in rush hour in Toronto.

I am very grateful to Shatner and his staff for having fun with us. And whether or not he ultimately becomes King there, I hope one day to interview him more seriously about Canada, his experiences growing up in Montreal, and anything else (but California traffic) he wants to talk about.

Presented by

Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, and Commentary Editor at The Marshall Project

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