'Have I Lost My Talent?’ William Shatner Thought He’d Never Have Another TV Career Win When Boston Legal Came Up

William Shatner as Denny Crane in Boston Legal.
(Image credit: Hulu)

William Shatner may be known for Star Trek (and still get questions about reprising Captain Kirk), but he also has quite an impressive TV resume. One of his other most iconic gigs is the ABC's Boston Legal, a famous spinoff of the The Practice. It was on that show that he played the role of Denny Crane, a part he originated on the parent series. Although the legal went on to be a huge hit, Shatner was actually quite worried that it wouldn’t take off. He even pondered whether he'd lost his "talent."

Boston Legal had a relatively successful five-season run and was nominated for multiple Emmys, winning several. Shatner even won for Outstanding Supporting Actor – Drama Series in 2005. Like a lot of actors, though, he was unsure if viewers would take to the series when it first started. At that point in his career, he had done Star Trek, T.J. Hooker, How the West Was Won, Barbary Coast and more. Shatner opened up to The Los Angeles Times about just how worried he was after landing the role of Crane:

I just don’t recognize these miraculous things that happen. Denny Crane, it started off with Kelley writing this character, his having been a great lawyer and now he can’t remember very well — it’s not dissimilar to actors like we were talking about, not going onstage for five years. Fear. ‘Have I lost my talent?’ I kept that in mind all the time.

Of course, there was ultimately no need for the now-92-year-old star to worry. He was able to bring a lot of zest to the lawyer and didn’t seem to make any mistakes while playing him as he feared. I'd imagine that it's probably nerve-wracking starting a new series and not knowing how you’re going to play a character or how long the show might run. And, now, it's hard to imagine Boston Legal being successful without William Shatner as Denny Crane. He also said:

And the other thing that gave me great joy, his constant repetition of his name to me was like lizards flicking their tongue out — we know that their flicking their tongue out is their assessing their surroundings. So it’s a matter of ‘Who’s out there? What’s out there?’ ‘Denny Crane, Denny Crane, Denny Crane’— flicking his tongue out to see what the reaction was. ‘Oh, Denny Crane, you were so wonderful!’ I mean, I’m home. ‘Denny Crane, weren’t you the guy caught up in’ — uh oh, I’d better leave now.

It is pretty remarkable that after all of the worrying that worrying he did, it turned out to have been for nothing. Though I suppose, to be fair, very few people have a true gauge for whether something is going to work. The show could've very well been a flop if something had been changed from a creative standpoint. Thankfully, the show had an A+ ensemble cast that also included James Spader, Julie Bowen, Constance Zimmer, John Larroquette, Taraji P. Henson and more. 

It's been years since William Shatner appeared on The Twilight Zone early in his career, and he's come a long way since then. Today, he's still hitting the jackpot with both film and TV projects, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Whether it’s hosting a TV series like Stars on Mars or booking speaking engagements, he's crushing it. He event lent his voice to Netflix’s Masters of the Universe: Revolution, which dropped earlier this year on the 2024 TV schedule

Considering the continued popularity of Boston Legal (which can be streamed with a Hulu subscription), one might wonder whether a revival could happen. It's hard to say, but I'm sure fans would love it. Regardless of whether that happens though, I'm just pleased that William Shatner's fears didn't come to pass and the public ended up getting a great show.

Megan Behnke
Freelance TV News Writer

Passionate writer. Obsessed with anything and everything entertainment, specifically movies and television. Can get easily attached to fictional characters.