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Sandie Rinaldo: My most jaw-dropping moments from notable interviews

I will never forget the day I tried to interview William Shatner; tried being the operative word.

It was 29 years ago and the VP of Entertainment suggested Star Trek’s “Captain James T. Kirk" would be a good candidate for my CTV Portrait Series. At the time, Shatner had a show on CTV called TekWar. He was at the top of his game. Needless to say, I was excited about meeting him despite restricted access. I was given only eight minutes to dive in and get the man to divulge deep dark secrets.

Well, no one prepared me for what was to happen; I would come face to face with a force of friction.

Shatner was delayed by traffic. Eight minutes quickly became seven, then six, then five. He brushed past me once he arrived on set and proceeded to launch into a diatribe about an investment he had made in an upstart Canadian tech company. He didn’t give me a chance to ask him anything.

As the minutes ticked down I decided to weigh in with a simple question about growing up in Montreal. He shut me down, didn’t want to talk about himself and abruptly ripped off his microphone and stormed out.

One of Captain Kirk’s most famous quotes is “To be human is to be complex. You can’t avoid a little ugliness from within and from without.” And boy did William Shatner show me that side.

There were flowers waiting for me when I returned to network headquarters and an amused vice-president who had a meeting with Shatner after the debacle. The larger than life celebrity had told him — “I think I’ve upset your little girl.”

I was not amused.

Twenty-nine years later I decided to boldly go back to where I had gone before. Shatner agreed to an interview for my Sandie Rinaldo 50/50 special — 50 of my favourite interviews in the 50 years I’ve been with CTV News.

In true form Shatner was still irascible, difficult and yet this time also lovable and funny. The banter between us mostly bordered on the absurd. Did I learn anything new about him? Not really. Did I laugh a lot? I sure did. Did he walk out on me? He most definitely did not. An eight-minute interview, the time allotted again this time, morphed into an hour.

Let’s just say, I didn’t have him at hello but I had him at goodbye.

William Shatner wasn’t the only challenge among the hundreds if not thousands of celebrities, authors, politicians, athletes, musicians, comedians and remarkable people I’ve interviewed over the past five decades with cameras rolling.

The late Gordon Lightfoot had avoided the media spotlight for some twenty years allegedly after a print interview with a national magazine went sour.

Surprisingly he agreed to talk to me but then kept changing his mind. Several times we set up cameras at his Rosedale home in Toronto and several times he told us to leave. It took some calm persuasion but once he was comfortable he opened up with a refreshing charm and candour. He shared a bit of the process, how he comes up with the words and lyrics for songs. And now more at ease he was playful in his responses to my questions.

Charming is also how I would describe the late John Candy who, 30 years ago, surprised me with his honesty and humility.

Candy had me in stitches on the Brantford, Ont., set of “Hostage for a Day.” He was making his directorial debut and not only was he genuinely funny, he was one of the nicest people I have ever met.

The bear of a man talked about the trauma of losing his dad when he was young, the parallel not lost on his look-a-like children, Jennifer Candy and Chris Candy, who shared memories of this marvellous man when we sat down this spring to chat in Los Angeles. John Candy died not long after our interview in 1994.

There were tough choices executive producer Rosa Hwang and I had to make narrowing down thousands of interviews to 50. During the hour-long special, we go back in time with Justin Bieber, Clint Eastwood, Christopher Plummer, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Chris Hadfield, Alex Trebek, Celine Dion and Donald Trump, to name a few.

We also meet a 23-year-old Justin Trudeau in cutoff shorts and vest who appeared unexpectedly at his mother’s home in Montreal during the filming of an interview with Margaret. She had remarried and was starting to talk publicly about mental health issues. My follow-up interview with the prime minister a few months ago was a revelation when he let his political guard down and spoke about that day almost three decades ago and what was going through his mind at the time.

There is also my interview with Trevor Greene, who was injured in Afghanistan while serving with Canada’s military. A young villager came up from behind and swung an axe into Trevor’s skull. His wife, Debbie, was told to put him in a home and walk away. You will be amazed by Trevor’s resilience and recovery. This is a love story that will touch your heart.

And you’ll see singer Mariah Carey reclining on a chaise during our interview; heavyweight champion George Chuvalo choking back tears as he speaks about the loss of three sons and his wife, Lynn; rocker John Mellencamp on infidelity and one of my first interviews ever in the late '70s with the legendary Bob Marley. A young and naive Sandie asks cringe-worthy questions. The Sandie of today wants a redo but sadly the giant of reggae is no longer with us.

This is just a sampling of what’s in store on Sandie Rinaldo’s 50/50 Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 10 p.m. EDT on CTV. I guarantee you will laugh, you will cry, and you will be entertained. Top Stories


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