How I Almost Missed My Flight Just To Ask William Shatner Two Questions
William Shatner is in rare form and visibly having some fun by turning the tables on the lengthy queue of press interviewers while promoting his upcoming DC animated feature “Batman Vs Two Face.”
It was day four of a long and robust convention weekend. Perhaps partly due to the construction on one of the annexes of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the halls felt substantially tighter than previous years as the hordes of colorful cosplayers, fans, exhibitors and celebrities brushed shoulders during the New York Comic Con 2017 event.
On that rainy Sunday morning however, I woke up with a bit more purpose than the previous days of the convention. Not that it wasn’t amazing getting to meet the likes of DC Boss Geoff Johns, Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense”), Jeffrey Donovan (“Burn Notice”) or even the Captain America foe Crossbones actor Frank Grillo, but this was going to be something completely different… This would be the day I get to interview a childhood hero, a legendary actor with a very signature staccato vocal pacing. This would be the day I get to interview William Shatner.
The only problem is my interview ends at 11:15 and my flight’s boarding ends at 12:45… and I’m on the other side of town.
– 9:45 AM –
I frantically check into the press table with all my travel gear in-tow and, despite thinking I would be one of the 1st in line, I’m quickly greeted by the fact that several people are already checked in and in queue ahead of me. I pensively re-examine my flight time as I’m reminded that catching my flight, which departs promptly at 1 PM from Laguardia, is quickly fleeting from the realm of possibility.
I did do my research, and knew if I could culminate my interview with Shatner by 11 AM there was a good chance that I could make the ride to the airport, clear the TSA checks and make it to my gate before the 12:45 cutoff. Technically, Laguardia instructs passengers to arrive 2 hours prior to flight time for all domestic travel. Still I was banking on 1 hour being ample.
After mentioning my situation to some local residents and getting their far from confident “oh…” or “good luck buddy” the possibility of catching my flight become all the more bleak. Still, I was going to meet Shatner and the pure adulation was enough for me to subsist on. For the moment, anyway.
By this point I had accumulated a thick layer of perspiration that was beginning to soak through my embodied FilmFad polo shirt from my expeditious jog to the convention center while wearing all my luggage… and, you know… the nervousness that comes as a prelude to meeting a world-renowned and iconic actor.
– 10:15 AM –
I had worked my way up towards the front of the scribble, as a line would be too tidy a descriptor for this askew press-filled sprawl. All of my gear was out and ready to go, the thought being if I was all setup I could grab the best spot and perhaps be the first in line to speak with Shatner. Time however was quickly fleeting and we still were not even in the press room.
When the press gatekeepers finally called for us to make way to the makeshift room tucked deep in the bowels of the Javits center, it was as if an overtaxed levy had snapped as a flood of press indiscriminately poured through the halls in a mad dash for the press room. I managed to navigate my way through the melee un-maimed and ahead of much of the crowd. I haphazardly tossed my travel gear onto the nearest table and quickly cemented my position towards what I thought to be the front of the line. I look at my phone and the time reads 10:25 AM as a bead of sweat drips from my brow and splashes onto my phone screen. Still no Shatner. At this point I was growing increasingly worried that he may not show up at all due to some unforeseen travel delay or conflicting obligation. Still, I tried not to let the negativity consume me.
– 10:30 AM –
After a solid 5 minutes, which felt like hours, the press room door swung open and from it spewed a gaggle of bald headed and black suit-clad security personnel – all looking like they were screen ready to audition for the next installment of “Men In Black.” The press room, which was constructed much like a temporary cubicle, was showing definite signs of wear from 3 very full days of heavy use. After a beat, the talent slowly began to emerge from the temporary partition doorway which this time seemed almost on the verge of collapse as it teetered to and fro.
First came “Batman Vs Two Face” Supervising Producer/Co-Writer James Tucker, followed by Producer/Co-Writer Michael Jelenic, Director Rick Morales and the Boy Wonder himself, Burt Ward… which is a whole other story. Then just as suddenly as it began, the flood of talent dried to a halt. The door closed and my heart dropped. Had I just waited all this time to meet Shatner only for him to not show? But before I could further scold myself for my poor decision making, which would result in me missing my flight, the door swung open once more.
The room immediately lit up as this portly and rosy-cheeked cherub sauntered into the press room, bringing with him multiple decades of entertainment value and pop culture accolade. William Shatner was really here, and reality finally dawned upon me. Holy Sh*t! I’m about to interview William Shatner, and he was walking my way. I was gonna be third in line to interview him. It was perfect. I would be in and out within the next 15 minutes and on my merry way to Laguardia with ample time left to catch my flight.
Well, things never work out that well. Just as my nervous tension began to dissipate, the main talent handler steered Shatner to a roundtable and away from the press line. My mind went blank. “[email protected]$K!”
– 10:55 AM –
By now I am perspiring uncontrollably as my anxiety creeps to the verge of attack. I occupy my racing mind with interviews with the other talent, and with a special moment of solace brought by ’66 Batman’s boy wonder Burt Ward, but can barely focus as my mind hyperactively shifts between “Shatner” and “Laguardia.” At this point I am in it for the long haul and starting to come to terms with the fact that I will likely not catch my flight. But, at least Shatner was there and my potential to interview him was real.
In between my brief press line interviews I would glance over to Shatner, in part to gauge his procession through the junket, and also to catch a deeper glimpse of the legend in action.
At one point Shatner was autographing a young boy’s Batman cowl, which I thought to myself was truly heartwarming. I then wondered how the kid got into the press room int the first place and which shameless press-core parent had put his kid up to the distracting task. I remember ranting to myself about the fleeting professionalism of the press attendees who seemed more interested in “selfies” for social media fodder versus actual interviews with the talent. But, I was quickly distracted from my cynicism by Shatner’s presence.
While Shatner’s age was certainly visible, his spirits seemed beyond lifted. He, at times, seemed to be enjoying himself more than anyone else in the room.. adulated press included.
– 11:10 AM –
Shatner had finally made it through the gauntlet of round tables and was heading back towards the queue of patient press for our step and repeat.
Yells the main talent handler as he stoically eyes some press members who he believes to be deviating from protocol. I couldn’t agree with him more. All I wanted at that point was to get the show moving, but I knew it was a matter of moments before my time. Shatner was only one slot away from me and I was literally at the cusp of whether I had enough time to make it to the airport or not. I turn on my camera and start rolling with both video and audio, nervous that I would miss something or forget to hit record once I came face to face with William Shatner. The same face that ruled my childhood (and let’s be honest, much of my adulthood too).
Shatner and the previous press team began saying their thank you’s and suddenly a certain sense of fear and adulation came over me. I clamped down this sense of hurried excitement and let my fear of missing my flight fall away. I was literally going to interview William Shatner within seconds.
Alas, we live in a cruel and unusual world. Just as I go to do my microphone tango with Shatner I feel a firm hand grip my shoulder. Did I break protocol? Did I offend somebody? Did time just run out?
The main handlers voice echoed in my ears, but it took me longer to process as I first see Shatner walk away from me and rejoin the talent.
“Sorry, I have to cut your interview.”
Once the words made their way into my mind I deflated. Was I really going to come so close only to miss the opportunity to interview Shatner, and miss my flight too? It felt like an eternity before the talent handler uttered his next phrase, an agonizing eternity.
“Time for group pictures”
So that’s it, my chance to speak with the legend was just relegated to a group photo opportunity. I thought to myself that it’s still memorable, but I must admit I did feel a bit broken with disappointment in that brief moment. But, just as the universe plays it’s cruel tricks, it also rewards those who patiently wait.
“We have some time, so we can wrap up the remaining interviews.”
It took no time for me to process the main handler’s directions that time, as I, now rejuvenated with new purpose, sprung back to my spot and line and frantically reassembled my interviewing apparatus.
– 11:19 AM –
It was time to interview William Shatner. To preface, we were given very strict criteria as to what we could and COULD NOT ask. Basically the mandate was nothing but “Batman Vs Two Face” questions, with heavy emphasis on the “nothing but.” What do I ask him? I have so many questions ranging from “Twilight Zone” to “Star Trek” to “TJ Hooker.” After a lifetime of fandom and an nerve-wracking hour of anticipation, how can I only ask him about this project? Again, I do the professional thing and stay on topic. But, Shatner does what he wants.
I could tell his patience for the press had grown thin after an hour of regurgitating repetitious talking points. I could not, however, have been anymore surprised by his demeanor once I finally got to meet him face to face.
Shatner is brutally engaged, and even, “kindly,” verbally dispatched some of the less prepared interviewers. I kept my questions concise as I wanted to maximize Shatner’s response time, to wring out every drop of interaction I could get. Plus I did not want to be taken down like the girl who asked him how to steer away from his “signature speaking style…” I, couldn’t believe, she asked, that!
William Shatner was immensely casual. Stories of his ego or arrogance are certainly overblown or relics of long gone past as, even in this extended press engagement, he gave each person his full attention. I felt terribly embarrassed asking such an accomplished actor such trivial questions, and about an animated project no less. This was William Shatner and I was asking him questions like “What attracted you to this project” and “What is one trait that best defines Two Face.” Now, I’m not sure if it was that he was over the press, he was losing his sanity or he was in full-on “internet troll” mode, but I was not expecting the fascinatingly absurd responses that came out of his mouth.
– 11:24 AM –
It was over. Shatner and I shook hands and I went into autopilot. I quickly tossed my gear haphazardly into my bag and jettisoned myself from the Press Room at mach speed. I flew through the crowd, but oddly stopped long enough for the NYCC handlers to “Tap Out” my press badge. Not sure why I did that given my time crunch and the fact that I was not returning. Perhaps it was me being polite to the people working the door or perhaps it was partially due to the fact that I was doubtful I would catch my flight and would likely return to the convention.
I managed to hail a cab fairly quickly. It must have been serendipitous, but my cabby was the perfect person for my increasingly desperate situation. He offered to open the trunk, instead I declined and crashed into the back seat with all of my travel bags. No sooner than I said “Laguardia, as fast as possible” we were flying through the street of NYC. I’m pretty sure we went the wrong way down a one way street at one point, but hey… time was of the essence.
“I will get you to Laguardia at 12:00”
The cabby confidently reassured me. Still I remember being skeptical as I checked-in for my flight and texted my ETA to my travel companion, who was already at the airport. Nonetheless, I appreciated the cabby’s confidence.
As we tore through the city, I began to realize that I might just be able to pull it off.
– 12:00 PM –
Just as the cabby promised, we coasted up to the passenger drop-off for my terminal as the clock rolled to noon on the dot. I stopped to thank the cabby who sternly turned to me and said,
The abrupt reminder of my time crunch re-lit my impetus to move. I forked over the cash with ample bonus for his extraordinary “SPEED”-like efforts, snatched my belongings and set off towards the door at a decent clip.
As I banked in through the main doors I saw a line at the check in and was so happy that I checked in online (seriously, this was the first time I’ve ever used my phone to check in before a flight). I hit a hard left, right, left through the a human herding device (roped walkway) up to the TSA. (Again this has never happened to me before) I stepped up to the TSA and there was only one person ahead of me. I de-shoe, de-belt, rip out my electronics, and let me tell you I had every bit of it that weekend and pass it through the X-Ray conveyer belt (great band name by the way). I tried not to seem to eager as I crossed through the metal detectors. At this point, I was adulated with the fact that I was gonna pull off the William Shatner interview AND catch my flight. I breezed through, repacked my bags and made way down the corridor to my gate.
As I hurried down the escalator to my gate I could see my friend come into focus. He was oddly grinning as I speed up to the seats and I’m both partly disheveled and winded from the frantic ordeal. I asked him what’s so funny and he pointed to the time.
– 12:35 pM –
I did it. I had interviewed William Shatner and made it to the airport in time to catch my flight. I walked to the concession store next to my gate and bought a drink and a “We Love NYC” shot glass. It had not been 5 minutes that I’d been sitting before the overhead speakers sounded off. It was time to board.
– 12:45 AM –
It wasn’t until I was boarding the plane when it hit me, I had just interviewed William Shatner. It was all a blur. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
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