As stated in several previous posts, much of Shatner’s early work in Canada would in for what he termed “juvenile” roles. When he was doing repertory theater, Shatner himself explained that he often would play “a young guy…with an innocent smile big enough to reach the back rows.” As the golden age of television proceeded there were more and more of these “young man” roles coming available to be truly played by young men…with radio it’s easier to hide your true age. With TV, next to impossible.
With the dearth of young professional actors in Canada, it’s easy to see just how desirable Shatner’s skillset and (most importantly) experience would be to executives and casting directors in the newly burgeoning television division of the CBC. In the mid-1950’s Shatner estimated that there were no more than two dozen full-time professional actors in Toronto. Of those, probably a significant portion were older and some were of course women. So there was a pretty small pool from which to cast those “young man” roles and Shatner must have been at the top of the list for just about all of them. His resume was excellent: he had been working for several years in repertory theater, the TV work he had gotten and his ability to memorize scripts were already earning him a good professional reputation and, of course, he was part of the troupe at the prestigious Stratford Shakespeare Festival. And so as Shatner acknowledges, his start in the business owes an enormous debt to these “juvenile” roles. Even the roles he played at Stratford were quite often these earnest young men usually trying to woo the girl.
Although performing in these types of roles was invaluable in getting Shatner a foothold in the industry, steady work and experience, he obviously wanted to advance beyond them and become a serious stage actor. Moving to New York was one of the first steps towards this goal, and starring roles like the one he received in “All Summer Long” show that directors and producers were beginning to see and cast him as different and more mature characters. But Shatner wasn’t quite done with the earnest young men just yet.