Tag Archives: Star Trek

Jew of the Week: William Shatner

William Shatner as Captain Kirk (1966-1969)

William Shatner as Captain Kirk (1966-1969)

William Shatner (b. 1931) was born in Montreal to a Jewish family with Eastern European ancestry. Despite studying economics at McGill University, Shatner was drawn to acting from a young age and was a member of the Montreal Children’s Theatre. After graduating, he became the manager of a theatre company and soon started acting himself in Ottawa’s Canadian National Repertory Theatre and Stratford’s Shakespeare Festival. Meanwhile, he had a few small roles in Canadian films before starring in The Brothers Karamazov in 1958 – his first significant Hollywood role. Over the following few years, Shatner struggled to find more success, and picked up whatever roles he could, appearing on Broadway, in a number of television shows, and various films. In 1966, Shatner was cast as Captain Kirk on the new show Star Trek. In one historic 1968 episode, Kirk kissed Lt. Uhura – the first kiss between a white man and a black woman on American television. Unfortunately, Star Trek was not yet very popular, and the show was cancelled after just three seasons. Shatner had a tough time finding work afterwards, and ended up broke and living from his truck. He took on many small roles through the 70s, appearing in multiple shows and doing all sorts of commercials, from General Motors to Canada’s Loblaws grocery store. By the end of the 1970s, Star Trek had made a comeback and developed a massive cult following. Paramount decided to make a film and cast the original actors in the 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Shatner went on to play Kirk in six more Star Trek films. He soon expanded to directing films, producing music, writing screenplays, and co-writing a series of very popular sci-fi novels. Between 1994 and 2010, Shatner was the CEO of a special effects studio, while also publishing a number of non-fiction books and continuing to play small roles in film and television. All in all, Shatner has appeared in at least 20 films, 30 television shows, and wrote or co-wrote over 40 books. He has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe, and has a star on both Hollywood’s and Canada’s Walk of Fame. He has played for charitable causes on the World Poker Tour, and is an organizer of the Hollywood Charity Horse Show which raises funds for children’s charities. In 2006, he sold his kidney stone for $25,000 and raised an additional $20,000 to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Interestingly, Shatner does not like seeing himself on video, and says he has never watched any of his films or Star Trek episodes!

Words of the Week

God is a circle whose center is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere.
– Empedocles

Jew of the Week: JJ Abrams

JJ Abrams (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore)

JJ Abrams (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Jeffrey Jacob Abrams (b. 1966) was born in New York, and raised in Los Angeles where both of his parents were involved with the film industry. (His father, Gerald W. Abrams, produced over 70 movies and TV shows, and was nominated for two Emmy awards.) Young JJ was inspired by the films of Steven Spielberg, as well as the first Star Wars trilogy. Though he wanted to go straight to film school after high school, his father convinced him to go to college first, saying “it’s more important that you go off and learn what to make movies about than how to make movies.” It was in his last year of college that Abrams co-wrote a screenplay, which was bought by Touchstone Pictures. His next film, Regarding Henry, starred Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson. Abrams was also part of a group developing computer animation technology, and his team was involved with the animation for Shrek. Meanwhile, Abrams worked on the 1998 blockbuster Armageddon, before shifting his focus to television. His first TV series was Felicity, ranked by TIME as one of the best TV shows of all time. In 2001, Abrams co-founded a new production company called Bad Robot. With this new label, he created the TV shows Alias and Lost. Amazingly, not only did he serve as a writer and executive producer, he also composed the opening musical themes for these shows. (In fact, Abrams first work in film was writing the music for the movie Nightbeast, which he did when he was just 16 years old!) Abrams then decided to try his hand at directing films, the first of which was Mission: Impossible III. (Tom Cruise gave Abrams the job after watching Alias.) He then directed the new 2009 Star Trek film, and its 2013 sequel. Just a few months before the sequel came out, it was announced that Abrams would produce and direct a new Star Wars film. Abrams ended up co-writing the screenplay, too. The 7th episode of Star Wars, The Force Awakens, had its Hollywood premiere last night, and has already garnered critical acclaim. It made him the first director to work on both Star Trek and Star Wars films. Abrams has also guest-directed episodes of The Office and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, appeared on Family Guy, and played small roles in three films. Abrams has won multiple awards and has been ranked among the ’50 Smartest People in Hollywood’.

Words of the Week

When two people meet, something good should result for a third.
– Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn