Tonight, CBS premieres Bleep My Dad Says, the first show in the history of television to be based on a Twitter account. We’ve already gotten Justin Halpern, the creator of that Twitter account, to weigh in on the unlikely sitcom. Now it’s time for William Shatner — who plays the fictional Halpern’s father — to talk Shit. Vulture spoke with Shatner a few months back during the midst of production about cast changes, Immanuel Kant, and his famous pronunciation of the word “sabotage.”
You just reshot the pilot. What was the reasoning behind that decision?
The reason we reshot the pilot was because the young actor [Ryan Devlin] that was playing my son, for one reason or another … I’m not really too converse in the reasons why … was replaced. It’s not uncommon, and a young actor by the name of Jonathan Sadowski has taken his role, so we had to reshoot what we shot with the other actor. In the process, we’re all finding — writers, producers, and the actors — all finding how to tell this story, in a hysterically funny way, with reality there. As we reshot the pilot, we had discovered the things that we needed to have done. And we did those as the result of having the ability to reshoot.
What is it that Sadowski brings to the show that the original actor wasn’t providing?
I felt very bad for the young man that was being replaced. I have seen it happen in other shows, and it is a very, very painful thing for everybody involved, because we’re all very much aware of how ephemeral everything is, how delicate everything is. We all felt badly for him … There was talk about the fact that he’s very young, and this was a very experienced company of comedic players, and perhaps he needs a little more seasoning. He’s very good. He’s going to be a success. But not on this particular show.
You’re not actually doing an impersonation of Justin Halpern’s father, but have you incorporated any of his mannerisms or anything like that into your character?
No, I can only do my own. Mannerisms.
Is there anything else that you base the character on?
This is a very fun show, we tell a lot of jokes, but embedded in many ways is this relationship between me and my son. And I have three daughters and I’m very much aware of what the father figure means to children … approval, that sort of thing. My fatherly obligations are very much in my own mind, and so the writing of this relationship has a great deal of meaning for me.
There was some controversy over the name of the show as it is, but you wanted to go farther and just call it Shit My Dad Says.
What I’m focusing on is that this isn’t Defecation My Father Says! This is, you know, stuff. In the vernacular, it’s shit. ‘I got to get my shit together,’ and like that. So Shit My Dad Says, it’s fine.
Are you proud to be on the first TV show based on a Twitter?
I’ve got a sign, a sandwich board, that I walk up and down Ventura Boulevard with, saying how proud I am.
Do you think this will open the floodgates for TV shows based on Twitter? Or was this a one-off thing?
I think that every would-be writer or commentator is hitting Twitter for their own purposes. It was a strange occurrence and I can’t explain it, and anyone who can explain it, has to do so to me, why Justin Halpern’s Twitters became so popular. And then I certainly see why Warner Bros. and CBS wanted to make a series — it’s essentially a relationship show. But then Halpern wrote a book based on it, it is or was a best-seller. And there’s some magic somewhere along. Everything that Bleep My Dad Says has touched has turned to commercial gold. Why, I don’t know. And nobody does, really. And there’s a look of bewilderment on everybody’s face. And that’s showbiz.
Moving on to your own Twitter — you told Esquire that you have a Twitter valet. What do you look for in hiring a Twitter valet?
Um, well, first of all, they have to be bright, and they have to have fingertips that are an extension of the keyboard. And they have to have an imagination.
You also sign all your tweets with “my best, Bill.” Are you trying to class up the form?
[Laughs.] That’s as good an explanation as I’ve heard. I sign everything “my best” because first of all it’s a way of personalizing it, but also somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m trying my best. This is my best.
You recently tweeted, “Immanuel Kant is fascinating. I was able to apply in a practical fashion yesterday, the esoteric concepts of Kant philosophy.” Care to explain what that situation was?
Noooo. No. It was a thing that was going on and I conducted myself according to the principles of Kant. And I made some moral choices. And I also respected the rational beings that I was addressing.
Got it. We also have some questions from our commenters for you, if that’s all right. First up is Fernoftheholy, who asks: “Will there be an episode of Raw Nerve where you interview yourself? That’d be a helluva show!!”
[Laughs.] Well in a way, the way that I’m able to talk to the people on Raw Nerve is to by example reveal my vulnerability. And it puts us on the same level, as opposed to the shows where the interviewers have an agenda. I don’t have an agenda. My agenda is just to seek a moment in their life or in their soul. And I want to share something of mine.
Yammer asks: “How did you get into the whole horse mogul thing?”
I bought one horse. And that was like eating one potato chip.
Roperunner asks: “Would you rather be remembered as Captain Kirk, or for your stint as poet slash singer? (I’ll remember you for both.)”
I don’t know how to answer that. As long as I could be an echo in your mind …
One last thing — when the Star Trek remake came out, there were reports of contentiousness between you and director J.J. Abrams over not being cast in the movie. Are you guys all squared away now?
Well, he’s so busy with his new series that I can’t get him on the phone anymore. And I’m busy with my series, he can’t get me on the phone anymore. But we’re going to meet for sushi one of these days.
Would you lobby for a role in the Star Trek sequel?
He can have a role on my series. Up to now he hasn’t turned it down.
There was a video online that suggested the use of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” during a scene in Star Trek was a reference to a famous video of you pronouncing the word “sabotage” in a unique way on the set of the original Star Trek. Have you heard of this?
I have. Some mean-spirited guy in the middle of rehearsals releases a tape that should never have seen the light of day. That is really beyond the pale. I don’t know who that guy was, but that’s terrible. But what you’re calling unique is not unique. It’s probably a Canadianism. And I would imagine most Canadians would pronounce that word the way I did. And I don’t even remember the way I pronounced it.