William Shatner & Terry Bradshaw
It’s Never Too Late
by Jay S. Jacobs
Better Late Than Never has one of the crazier television premises to come along in a while. Take four pop culture living legends – two from television and two from athletics: William Shatner, a/k/a Captain Kirk of Star Trek, Henry Winkler better known as the Fonz, four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Terry Bradshaw and former two-time heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman – and dump them far outside of their comfort zone.
Why not, the producers (which included Winkler) thought, drop them off in the middle of Asia for a month, with only their wits, their camera crew, and a younger sidekick in the form of comedian Jeff Dye, to keep them safe? Put them in lots of crazy situations and let the hijinx occur. Oh, sure, this leads to inevitable reality TV staples like making them eat gross stuff, including steak seasoned with dirt and chicken vagina, but the natural gravitas and strong personalities of the stars often make things extremely funny and often surprisingly introspective.
The mini-series (the first season has only four shows) has become a surprise summer hit, and in the days leading up to season finale, we were able to take part in a conference call with co-stars William Shatner and Terry Bradshaw.
We’re right on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek today. Reflect back when you were a young captain, what did you think the odds were that that show would still be famous now? Also what did you think the odds were that 50 years later you’d be doing a TV show where you climb 800 steps?
William Shatner: Well, I think the same odds that Terry and I will be icons 50 years from now based on Better Late Than Never. After four shows you know it’s a phenomenon and it’s going to last another 50 years. Those would be the odds. We were doing a middling successful TV show for three years. It was canceled and everybody thought that’s it. On to the next thing. Then slowly it snowballed. Even while it was rolling down the hill, gathering speed and momentum, nobody fully realized it. Every one of the [Star Trek] movies that I made, six or seven movies, they would burn the sets to have room for some other show, because they figured that was the last movie.
The 800 steps, did you really walk up them?
William Shatner: Terry carried me over the 799th. He staggered up there and said, “I’ll help you buddy.” I just depended on him.
Could you reflect on the success of this show? Did you know going into it you had something special?
William Shatner: Terry?
Terry Bradshaw: I had no idea that this show would be successful. I’ve been a part of… I don’t know… four, five, pilots that never made it. Yet we got a chance to actually shoot this show. While we were doing it, I was so hot and miserable and hurting, that I never gave any thought that this thing would just be more than what it was; four shows, six shows. Then you sit around and you go, well will it be picked up? Who knows that? You just move on. I know it was fun. I wanted to continue because it was so much fun. But I’m not privy and savvy enough to know what America is going to want to watch. That’s what’s kind of cool about this show.
William Shatner: I agree with that. You just don’t know what America is going to watch. It’s a great phrase. We were staggering around in the monsoon season in East Asia. Tripping over each other’s feet. Eating each other’s worms and octopus. Unshaven, unkempt and miserable at times. Joyous at others. We were just fending for ourselves, trying to help each other with no thought of how this is going to sell. The fact that it is as successful as it is comes as a surprise, certainly to me.
Going into a potential second season, how different will it be knowing what you’re dealing with now, versus going into unknown territory the first time?
Terry Bradshaw: Can I answer? As a matter of fact, Bill, I talked to Jeff Dye this morning before I left Dallas. I said – and I don’t know that we have the second season – but if we do, now that I know Bill, George, Henry and Jeff and the producers and the folks at NBC and I understand now what they’re cutting this thing up to be, the second season will be more exciting for me. I walked into the unknown and I’ve got to tell you, it was so humid and so miserable. (laughs) All I would want is to make sure we don’t go south again or go to Asia.
William Shatner: Into the snow, we’ve got to go into the snow.
Terry Bradshaw: My God! Yes, I was miserable, just miserable.
William Shatner: It was miserable. I haven’t watched any of the shows, so I really don’t know what they’re doing. People have commented and I’ve listened to their comments. But the danger is now that we know what works and what doesn’t work, we’re liable to go and do what we think is working. Without the knowledge of what the reason that the stuff works is, because we didn’t know whether it would work or not. Is that obtuse reasoning?
Terry Bradshaw: I don’t think on a show like this though Bill, I mean, they could have said look, here’s what we want and our stumbling, bumbling personalities all came together as we tried to figure out what they want. That will be the same thing here. You can’t contrive this stuff. You can’t make up the dialogue. You just do it. Therefore I think it will be funny. If you haven’t watched any of it, I mean, it’s funny. Seriously funny. It is funny. It reaches my people. And my people, as you well know, talk like I do. It reaches them, they love it.
William Shatner: Hell, I talk like you do and I’m from Montreal.
Terry Bradshaw: I know.
William Shatner: It sounds wonderful. Keeping that spontaneous approach is critical. That’s what we would aim for. Yes, exactly.
I’m from Pennsylvania so I have to say go Steelers.
Terry Bradshaw: Yes, or Eagles. Or Eagles.
True. I know you guys really obviously didn’t go to the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone) but did you really believe that you did? How did you react when you found out it was all fake?
Terry Bradshaw: Nobody told me it was fake. (laughs)
William Shatner: Nobody told me it was fake.
Terry Bradshaw: I’m telling you, I was not comfortable in a lot of things we did, but that DMZ deal… yes, I mean, you see it. I’m tall. I’m staring this thing down and I’m going, really? I mean, really? I mean I was a little bit nervous about it and then you know obviously Jeff sticks that thing. It’s funny. It’s stupid funny.
William Shatner: When we got there, I thought that was the place. It looks very much like it. When this North Korean officer was talking to us, I was looking at his uniform. It was quite warm. It was like the braid was unbraiding, and the elbows. I thought, wow, it is really a poverty-stricken nation. Then when it was revealed as a joke, I was put out. I sat down. I thought, “I don’t want to be part of this.”
Terry Bradshaw: Well, I was mad because I really wanted that story to be real.
William Shatner: Yes, we were both upset. We were both upset that it wasn’t real.
Terry Bradshaw: Exactly. When the guy on the other side, the North Vietnamese guy says, what? Go Pittsburgh or…
William Shatner: The fact that some people knew it was real and some of us didn’t, that stuck at me too. I mean, what is the policy? Is the policy to look like an idiot in front of everybody else or to be in on the know? Those are editorial decisions that had to be made like working it out. Did Shatner and Bradshaw not know and we tell everybody else?
Terry Bradshaw: I told you, I didn’t know. When the parking lot was empty I thought man alive, are we that stupid that we’re the only idiots that are going to park? Then we parked God knows, out in the middle of nowhere.
William Shatner: Exactly.
Terry Bradshaw: We got closer and I’m like, really, are we stupid here? We’re going to go up to this? It looks just I suppose like the DMZ. I mean, I had no idea.
William Shatner: It was very much like it and the geographical conditions… well it was only about 20 miles away so the geography was very similar.
Terry Bradshaw: How about the jets? Do you remember the jets coming over Bill?
William Shatner: And the jets coming over.
Terry Bradshaw: Exactly. Nuts. Anyway, it got me.
William Shatner: Got me!
Terry Bradshaw: Yes, the guy spoke better English than I did though.
We only got to see tiny bits of your trip. Was there anything in particular that like you would have liked to have been left in the show that they had to take out?
William Shatner: Well, I haven’t seen the show so Terry, do you have an opinion on that?
Terry Bradshaw: Yes, I think that… (dog starts barking in the background)
William Shatner: Is that your agent barking?
Terry Bradshaw: No, no, no, I’m in the corner. I’m in a cafeteria somewhere. I thought that the editing was phenomenal. I have not given any thought to: well where is this scene or that scene? I thought right now that there is going with one more show. There’s nothing Bill that you would say well, I wish they would have added this or added that. I haven’t seen that yet. I’ll have a better understanding or a better answer for you after seeing the next one.
William Shatner: And I have no opinion on that.
Terry Bradshaw: Yes, exactly. Why don’t you watch it? You didn’t watch it Bill?
William Shatner: Well, I don’t watch it Terry because I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way – it always is – the edit is always somewhat of a disappointment. I just find it better not to look at what I’m doing.
Terry Bradshaw: Really? I’m like that about a lot of things, but I actually wanted to see how they cut this thing up. It was just… God, you’d laugh your butt off. It is seriously funny. It is…
William Shatner: I’ll look at it some time.
Terry Bradshaw: Yes.
William Shatner: Is it as painful to watch? Is it as painful to watch film on you as a football player? Or do you…
Terry Bradshaw: No, no, because I had to watch that.
William Shatner: You’re okay with that?
Terry Bradshaw: Yes, I had to watch that so I could make the corrections and stuff.
William Shatner: Right. When you look at the football film, do you say, oh gee, I wish I put my foot there or backed up maybe a step there?
Terry Bradshaw: Exactly. Why did I make that call? Why did I go to that guy? Why did I make an audible here.
William Shatner: Right, right.
Terry Bradshaw: Oh that’s a stupid pass. It’s part of getting better the next time. This show is an entertainment show. I was actually telling Dye, I said, when watching it you don’t necessarily watch yourself, which is such a selfish thing and a very vain thing to do. You watch the whole show. You just take in the show and that, to me, was just funny.
William Shatner: Well, that’s successful.
Terry Bradshaw: Listen, the octopus thing was hysterical. Do you remember when I…
William Shatner: Well, they tell me…
Terry Bradshaw: Oh, it was funny man.
William Shatner: … that I started to laugh. I remember. I remember the laugh because you did it so well. This octopus came out of your nose. I’m still thinking about it.
Terry Bradshaw: I know, no you did. You were just hanging out trying not to bust up. It was… God…
William Shatner: That was funny.
Terry Bradshaw: Next.
Was there one particular moment from the trip that you both will cherish specifically? Something that you went through that you didn’t expect?
William Shatner: It was filled with unexpected things; both known and unknown. Probably the best of the moments were between human beings. Five people who had no knowledge of each other, maybe some cursory knowledge, which maybe have been curse words, some little tiny bits and pieces here and there, but no depth. Then we spend a month in each other’s company and had some really meaningful talks. It was very interesting from that point of view, getting to know these marvelous people at the top of their business.
Terry Bradshaw: There’s two things that I really enjoyed. I enjoyed getting dressed and doing makeup with everybody in the morning. There was more joking going around, more slapstick comedy. It was really seriously funny and I enjoyed that part a lot because it’s like we’re all getting dressed together to go to work. I enjoyed that everybody’s loose and cracking jokes. Bill touched on the talking part. Bill do you recall, we had several talks?
William Shatner: You and I? Absolutely.
Terry Bradshaw: Yes, the one at the cave.
William Shatner: The monks.
Terry Bradshaw: The temple cave with the monks and everything.
William Shatner: Yes.
Terry Bradshaw: I enjoyed that. One thing about Bill, I accused him of studying the night before so he knew everything that was going on the next day. I said, how can anybody know this much about monks or Thailand? (They both laugh.) I mean, my man is seriously educated. I tried to pigeonhole him. I tried to catch him, but he always had an answer. Me being uneducated about this stuff, it sounded good to me, you know? Bill and I had some really, really good talks. He made a lot of sense about where we were and how this all got started. I enjoyed that. I especially enjoyed getting dressed, doing the makeup and having fun with everybody. That to me was a blast.
William Shatner: And you look good in lipstick.
Terry Bradshaw: I do. You know what, I do. Now, you didn’t watch this thing but I actually turned to my wife and I said, I look like I’m retaining a little fluid.
William Shatner: You had to specify what fluid.
Terry Bradshaw: Oh my God, man I looked like a big old blimp in this thing.
William Shatner: That’s one of the reasons I’m not watching it, because we had all of that salty food. There was a lot of water. I’d like to think of it as water retention.
Terry Bradshaw: Yes, that’s what I’m going with. As a matter of fact, I still have it.
William Shatner: Oh man. It’s awful.
You guys have had so many life changing experiences on your show Better Late Than Never, but if there is another thing you can check off your bucket list, what would it be?
William Shatner: Well, my bucket list was to catch a pass from Terry.
Terry Bradshaw: Did that.
William Shatner: And get in the ring with George Foreman.
Terry Bradshaw: And you did that.
William Shatner: And to have Henry make me laugh. He told me a great joke, so I laughed hard. The next bucket list is, well, I wrote Terry saying, “Imagine us, you and I Terry, with a cigar in one hand and a Cuba Libre in the other.” That’s going to be part of my bucket list.
Terry Bradshaw: Yes. I had never thought about a bucket list. This wasn’t on my bucket list but now I guess I could say that I’ve done a movie, I’ve done a TV show, I’ve done a pregame football show, I played football, I’ve sung, I’ve danced, I’ve done Vegas. What’s next? I haven’t skydived and I’m not going to. Bucket list? Bill and I both are horse competitors. Oh Bill, you’ll love this, Tammy won the world in the age mare at the Palomino World Show this year. How about that?
William Shatner: Oh, that’s fantastic.
Terry Bradshaw: That’s her first world title.
William Shatner: That’s wonderful Terry.
Terry Bradshaw: Yes. My bucket list is way over full. I would just like to continue. My wife goes “swim with the sharks.” She knows I’m petrified of the ocean. I’m not swimming with sharks. No way is that going to happen. I just think I would just like to keep raising really good horses and have world champions that I’ve raised. At this stage of my life that’s it.
William Shatner: And avoid kicking the bucket.
Terry Bradshaw: (laughs) Oh. Well, you know that was part of our bet on this show was which country will Bill pass away on? I said Thailand.
William Shatner: (laughs hard) Making bets as to where I would die.
Terry Bradshaw: I thought that would be a ratings grabber right there.
William Shatner: I fooled them all. I’m waiting for a pickup. I’m waiting for the second season and we’ll call it, Where Am I Going to Die? (They both laugh more.)
Terry Bradshaw: I mean, seriously, if you think about it, if this thing does a second season and Bill is 85 now, if they don’t put us back in the heat in the tropics I think he’s going to be all right. We’ve got to go cold because old people like cold weather. I think. I mean eventually it’s going to happen, right? It’s going to happen.
William Shatner: Well, it’s got to put the blood closer to the heart where it belongs.
Terry Bradshaw: See there? See there, there he goes being all smart. He said it puts the blood closer to the heart. My wife just said it freezes up your joints. I know at our age I know there’s a joint that’s frozen pretty good.
William Shatner: I was going to go there but yours was better. (They both laugh again.)
Terry Bradshaw: Oh my God.
If you could turn back time and teach yourself something you’ve learned from your time in Asia or maybe while working on Better Late Than Never as a whole, what would it be?
William Shatner: Well, I would go to a Pittsburgh game with Terry playing.
Terry Bradshaw: And I would never go to Asia. (They both laugh.)
William Shatner: And therefore this conversation would never have taken place.
Terry Bradshaw: Exactly.
I saw Henry Winkler saying you learn a lot about yourself when you travel and you step outside of your comfort zone. What did you both learn from the trip?
Terry Bradshaw: Bill?
William Shatner: Well, I’m pretty much a loner. Very few people get into my life. These guys and the people traveling with them, these guys got into my life. It got personal and loving and genuine and warm. I admired the experience of the togetherness. I’m sitting at a desk, and in front of me is a piece of paper. I’ve been trying to write a song about space and entanglement. Entanglement is a word that’s being used now as the building blocks of nature, but entanglement also refers to how we’re all connected. The five of us got connected on this trip to one degree or another. It was quite an experience.
Terry Bradshaw: You can’t spend 34 days together and not work through [things]. If there are issues, you work through them, because it’s important that you get along. That experience, that anticipation, that anxiety attack that I had prior to leaving Los Angeles together, I’ve got to tell you, was immediately taken away. I found out that superstars, Winkler and William Shatner, are real people and I was so thankful for that. Then I knew that this was going to be good. This was going to be good. It was going to be comfortable. What I also found out, and I’m really proud of, is that as hot and humid as it was is that I could literally live the life like an actor. Putting in such extremely long hours, going and showering, going to bed without eating and getting up and starting over. I found out that I have patience and I have a durability about me at the age of 67 when we shot this that I was kind of impressed with myself. (laughs)
William Shatner: Well that’s great. It’s staggering to hear you say that because the rest of us looking at you, this phenomenal athlete who was at the top of his game during those years, better than anyone, maybe the greatest that ever lived, is the epitome of endurance and strength and courage and durability. That’s amazing.
If there is a second season, if you had a choice, is there some place in particular that you would suggest for the show?
William Shatner: Terry?
Terry Bradshaw: Some place cool.
William Shatner: Or air conditioned.
Terry Bradshaw: Right. I’ve heard worse cities passed out. But, I’ve never been to Paris. I’ve never been to Madrid. I think those cities would be fascinating for me. Obviously Cuba would be a place that would really be cool. There’s just a lot. I’ve never been to Niagara Falls so… (laughs)
William Shatner: No kidding? You’re a tourist. I want to go to China. I want to go to India.
Terry Bradshaw: Let me know how it is. (They both laugh.) You really would want to? I wouldn’t mind going, but I’d like to go at a little different time of the year. God dang it was…
William Shatner: Oh no. No, no, we have to go when it’s cool. No, it was our death almost. You could see the air in the monsoon season. No, but Northern India and China in its complexity and…
Terry Bradshaw: Australia. I’ve never been there, I’d like that. I’d like to go to Russia.
William Shatner: Russia would be great.
Terry Bradshaw: Yes. I’d like to do all of this before we all can’t walk and talk and see unless…
William Shatner: And I’m very close to that.
Terry Bradshaw: Unless they do the show out of a wheelchair. Then we’re good, we’ve got ten more years. (They both laugh.)
William Shatner: And then retitle it, Too Late!
Terry Bradshaw: Too Late. Oh my God. Too Late. That’s good, I like that.
Listening to you guys on this call it’s hard to believe that you weren’t good friends before the series started. You have such crazy chemistry and really good banter. How surprised were you guys by how quickly you clicked? Have you stayed in touch since the season wrapped up?
Terry Bradshaw: Bill?
William Shatner: Well, you know we haven’t. Everybody’s busy and goes on. Terry and I, for example, have a few times communicated by email to say how are you, what are you doing? Terry comes to Los Angeles, and he’ll be doing so more often now that he’s going to be doing color and the Rams have come to Los Angeles, so Terry is going to celebrate that with me before it’s too late. (laughs)
Terry Bradshaw: On Monday night, yeah.
William Shatner: So no, we have communicated very little. But on my part with the anticipation that now we know this show is working, we will spend more time together. As a result, I will appreciate more emphatically the time I will get to spend with Terry and the others. I’m looking forward to spending the time. We ate meals together. We’d meet in the morning, walks and the activities that we had to do.
Terry Bradshaw: You and I worked out just about every day in the gym. Bill’s got a workout habit. I mean, you’ve got to see this guy. It’s pretty impressive. I never saw Henry in there, but he and I were in there. And Jeff Dye never worked out.
William Shatner: No, he’s too thin.
Terry Bradshaw: Yes, yes, exactly either that or he was hung over drinking all of that beer. George did.
William Shatner: Right.
Terry Bradshaw: Bill’s right. When we finished… well, first of all you heard me say that he’s not real sure, or I wasn’t meeting these guys. I was scared perhaps Bill would ask me Star Trek questions to see if I was a fan. So my wife actually Googled all of the information and gave me everything I needed to know.
William Shatner: That’s hysterical, I didn’t know that.
Terry Bradshaw: That’s where I came up with “Beam me up, Scotty.” I didn’t know that, because I didn’t watch the show.
William Shatner: And I had to ask people was it three or five rings?
Terry Bradshaw: Yes. Yes, right. I reminded you of what that was. We built the relationship. You just don’t know when you put five people together, five total strangers, how is it going to be received. What’s the perception through a television? That is exactly what it was. It was chemistry, it worked. It’s like the pregame show at Fox. You don’t know but it works. Our friendship grew and grew and grew to the point where we could insult one another, we could make fun of one another, and we could embrace and hug one another. When Bill did the funny thing about George Foreman on the boat, nobody laughed and he got his feelings hurt. We just told him, oh God that’s terrible. I mean, he was so serious and so were we, that’s terrible. Sit down, that’s not funny. You learn these things about people, but chemistry is just that, it’s chemistry. It either blends and comes together and everybody says, oh look, these guys like one another. Genuinely, if you don’t like one another it will show. That was not the case. We had a blast, an absolute blast and I’ve got all of these new friends. I’ve got all of these new friends.
William Shatner: I agree, I concur.
Terry, the last leg of your adventure includes a celebration of your 67th birthday, so what crazy hijinx can we expect?
Terry Bradshaw: On the 67th birthday? Oh man, I don’t think was anything other than the shock value. I had no idea that they were having a party for me. It’s been a year ago. I don’t think it’s anything too crazy. I can’t remember to be honest with you.
William Shatner: Well, I don’t want to destroy the surprise but we did surprise him and it was heartfelt.
Terry Bradshaw: That’s for sure.
William Shatner: For his birthday, it was a neat occasion to celebrate this great athlete and this wonderful American personality.
Terry Bradshaw: It was totally a surprise. I remember I got a call one day from Jimmy Johnson. He said, “Boy, you and Shatner really have some funny lines.” I said, what do you mean by funny lines? Those aren’t lines, we don’t have lines, that’s just [what was said]. He said, “What do you mean, that’s not written?” I said, no that’s not written, you can’t write this stuff. That’s the beauty part about this. There’s some funny people in this thing man, I mean God dang. Bill you didn’t know this I don’t think, I would come in in the morning and the first thing I would say to Henry Winkler, I’d go “Whoa! Hey!” The third day he stopped me and he said, “Let me just ask you something. Are you making fun of me, or do you really like that?” I said, are you kidding me? I’m wanting you to do it. I absolutely love it. I’m not making fun of you. So then he would go, “Whoa!” I did two “Beam me up, Scotty” and Bill says, “Okay, enough of the ’beam me up.’”
William Shatner: I’d rather go “Whoa!” I’ll do “Whoa!” “Hey!”
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 16, 2016.
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