LOS ANGELES - After almost 60 years playing iconic characters ranging from Star Trek's captain James T Kirk, crusading cop TJ Hooker to Boston Legal's zany Denny Crane, William Shatner has switched seats, moving from interviewee to interviewer with his new TV talk show Raw Nerve.
The publicity blurb for the show trumpets: "In each episode Shatner will attempt to probe his guest's most sensitive subjects and touch upon a Raw Nerve".
It poses an obvious question.
What is Shatner's raw nerve?
What topic would make him wince in his seat?
You don't have to be a Trekkie fluent in Klingon to be aware of the public stoush Shatner has engaged in with Hollywood golden boy, JJ Abrams, the director of the new Star Trek film, which after another bumper weekend has earned US$260 million ($427.2 million) worldwide since landing in theatres two weeks ago.
Abrams cast the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, in the blockbuster.
Shatner was snubbed.
Abrams claimed Shatner "was making it very clear that he wanted the movie to focus on him significantly" and "didn't want to do a cameo".
Shatner responded by releasing a short video on YouTube where he looks into the camera and says: "JJ, nobody ever came to me and said 'We have a cameo'. Maybe you wrote it, but it never presented itself to me'."
So, you would think Shatner's raw nerve is Abrams?
The mere mention of Abrams would surely draw venom from the 78-year-old Shatner's lips.
Shatner is nothing but warm with his words about Abrams and the new Star Trek movie.
"No, I haven't seen the movie yet," Shatner gently responds during a phone interview.
"I'm looking forward to it.
"I hear it is wonderful and it has received some wonderful reviews."
With the success of Abrams' first effort, there is talk of a Star Trek sequel.
Shatner says he is open to being cast in the sequel.
"I would be delighted to be in it," Shatner responds.
Shatner is also open to inviting Abrams on Raw Nerve, but don't expect Shatner to use his talk show to attack Abrams. Again, he wants to take the friendly route.
"I would love to," Shatner says when asked if he would invite Abrams to be a guest on the talk show.
"That, in itself, is a great suggestion.
"Everybody that we think of has to be okayed by the network and so I am going to take that name right now when we close up the phone and suggest it, because I think he'd (Abrams) jump at it."
Shatner is a veteran of the TV talk show circuit, but as a guest.
While promoting his Star Trek projects and other films and TV series, Shatner has been probed by Oprah Winfrey, Johnny Carson, Larry King, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien.
Shatner said talk show hosts usually go for the sensational, obvious questions. That is not where he goes on Raw Nerve.
Actors Jon Voight, Tim Allen, Kelsey Grammer, Fran Drescher and porn star Jenna Jameson were some of the first guests invited on the show and he took a unique approach.
"I didn't want to touch the porn stuff," Shatner says of his interview with Jameson.
"That's where everybody goes.
"I didn't want to go there because she would be defensive about it.
"Her armour would come up immediately, so I studiously avoided anything to do with porno.
"I went to her childhood, love, her husband, (mixed martial arts champion) Tito Ortiz.
"It was more to do with her being a woman."
Another guest was his good friend and Star Trek icon, Nimoy.
Despite a relationship stretching more than four decades, when Nimoy appeared on Shatner's talk show couch they both learned things about each other.
"There was a delightful story Leonard ended up telling that he hadn't thought of since it happened," Shatner said.
"It was the story of his grandfather, who was a leather worker, and how every time Leonard came home from an acting job his grandfather would sit next to him and run his hands over the inside and outside of his shoes.
"He would measure how Leonard was doing by the condition of his shoes.
"Is that wild?
"What a raw nerve.
"It was gorgeous.
"I have known Leonard for so long and not only did I not know the story, he didn't know the story."
If Abrams does accept an invitation to appear on Raw Nerve, Shatner says he would like to explore the director's early years, rather than the controversy over their Star Trek stoush.
"He is a bit of an intellectual. A bit of a geek," Shatner said of Abrams.
"He's not a physically strong guy, but yet his strength in making movies is action films.
"Where does this sense of action and force come from a guy whose basic nature is not that.
"That might be a question that could take us into his childhood and his lack of physicality, which may have led him into being ostracised one way or the other."
Boston Legal was recently axed and Shatner said Raw Nerve and other projects were keeping him busy. He hopes to juggle his schedule so he can accept an invitation to travel down under to perform at a comedy festival.
There are no plans to retire.
His new job as TV talk show host has him excited about the future, whether reprising Capt Kirk in Star Trek is in it or not.
"What more enjoyment could you get than talking to someone interesting and having a good laugh and good time with it?" Shatner said.
"You can't have more fun than that."
- AAPBy Peter Mitchell