The Truth About William Shatner's Ex-Wives

The following article contains references to alcoholism and addiction.

William Shatner may have made headlines with his interstellar travel plans in 2021, but there's at least one other way that he takes after his "Star Trek" character, Captain Kirk: the actor has had a lot of women in his life.

Shatner grew up in "a Conservative Jewish home in Canada," as he told J Weekly, where the family "celebrated Passover every year and held a long seder." He was bitten by the acting bug at a young age and began performing with the Montreal's Children Theatre, which allowed him to star in radio shows and plays in their local park. "For five years I saved damsels on Saturday Morning Fairy Tales, even if I wasn't quite certain what a damsel was," the actor wrote in his autobiography, "Up Till Now." "What eight-year-old doesn't want to be Prince Charming? Or Ali Baba? Or Huck Finn?"

After Shatner graduated from college and became a classical Shakespearean actor, the world of show business helped him meet Gloria Rand, the first woman he ever married. Keep reading to find out more about the fascinating lives of William Shatner's four wives.

Gloria Rand was William Shatner's first wife

William Shatner had a lot in common with his first wife, who was also an actor from Canada. He met Gloria Rand on the set of a television play called "Dreams," one of a series of screenplays that Shatner had written himself for CBC, according to his biographer, Michael Seth Starr.

"I wrote a television drama," he recalled in an interview with the Archive of American Television in 1999, "in which I cast the girl that I subsequently married and became the mother of my three children." Rand was a "lovely, doe-like woman," who appeared "on the edge of the pasture of life" and won him over with her "tremulous" manners, Shatner explained. Describing their initial connection, he said that she "struck up [his] fancy," adding, "And we struck up a friendship."

The pair were quickly engaged after only four months, as Starr noted in "Shatner," and got married in 1956 at the Toronto house where Rand's parents lived. The couple, who shared a love of theater, would welcome three daughters: Leslie, Lisabeth, and Melanie.

How Star Trek affected his first marriage

When William Shatner started making a name for himself in 1960s television, however, his marriage to Gloria Rand suffered. "I was becoming a star; she was remaining my wife. And for an actor, the role of a star's wife is not a very pleasant one to play," he noted in his 2008 autobiography, adding that while Rand was still getting jobs as a working actor, her career had definitely floundered compared to her husband's.

"Admittedly, I wasn't good at being married," Shatner went on to write, recalling that when he became the breadwinner, the relationship "became very lopsided." When he found the most iconic role of his career in the science-fiction series "Star Trek," being Captain Kirk took its toll. "I was working so hard to support my family and resented Gloria because I was getting so little joy out of my marriage," he wrote, confessing that she "probably [had] many reasons" to start resenting him, too. "So Gloria stayed home with our girls and it seemed like each week new and beautiful — and seemingly available — women showed up on the set."

As the Toledo Blade reported, Shatner began staying away from home for long periods while he was shooting "Star Trek," with Rand claiming in court that she once didn't see her husband for five months, leaving her feeling "nervous and depressed." After thirteen years of marriage, they were finally divorced in 1969.

Meet wife No. 2: Marcy Lafferty

The next woman to come into William Shatner's life was Marcy Lafferty, who was also an actor. ​She went on to appear alongside her husband in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and the show "TJ Hooker," but they first met on the set of "The Andersonville Trial," a 1970 TV film about a Confederate soldier on trial. 

"I was down on my luck and [director] George [C. Scott] wanted a female — it was an all-male cast — to run lines with the actors," Lafferty later told The Washington Post, recalling how she first spoke to the Canadian actor. "And Bill was the only one who wanted to run lines with me because his part was bigger than Hamlet. And I fell in lust with him." They were married in 1973, and as Shatner recalled in "Up Till Now," she became a "terrific stepmother" to his three daughters. "Marcy was a wonderful person," he noted. "... As an actress, she had talent, she had class and style, but she didn't have luck. And the reality that her career never seemed to take off always bothered her." That professional disappointment was one of the factors that eventually led to them separating and getting a divorce 17 years later.

"I think if a young actor were to ask me for advice about relationships I would probably respond, whatever you do, don't marry an actor," he reflected, jokingly adding: "Of course, Marcy probably would respond exactly the same way."

Horse breeding played a factor in his second divorce

One of the couple's favorite hobbies was breeding and riding prize-winning horses at their Belle Reve Farm in Kentucky, as Marcy Lafferty explained to The Washington Post. "They're like these wonderful divas, I mean they're like Maria Callas and Baryshnikov," she insisted, adding that one of their first notable horses was called Sinatra because he "was as great as Sinatra."

They had to stop raising them together when the marriage ended, however, which Shatner called a "relatively amicable" divorce in his autobiography. "The failure of our marriage certainly wasn't her fault," the actor clarified, adding that he "certainly" contributed. "Where divorce is concerned, it takes two to tangle. ... The reality of some marriages is that over time a husband and a wife grow apart."

Their 1995 divorce agreement included the beloved horses, which Lafferty later challenged him over. The couple made headlines in 2003 — and again in 2013 — when she accused Shatner of delivering unusable frozen horse sperm, per AP News, although she had been given the right to breed their expensive racehorses.

William Shatner's third wife was Nerine Kidd

Before she became William Shatner's third wife in 1997, Nerine Kidd was an actor and model from Boston. "She was a typical girl from a working-class family who knew nothing about this business," her agent, Janet Chute, later told the Los Angeles Times, recalling how Kidd left home at age 17 to seek fame. "But she was spirited," Chute added. "And in a business where there's a lot of deadheads, she really stood out."

Shatner first caught sight of the young Kidd in Toronto while shooting a project. "Ironically, as it would turn out, we met in the bar of a hotel," he observed in "Up Till Now." "... I was there meeting an old friend of mine, and we were laughing maybe too loudly and I looked over his shoulder and saw her." The actor went on to describe her striking looks, adding that "she had strawberry-blond[e] hair and freckled pale Irish skin, the brightest blue eyes you've ever seen, and a spectacular figure, and, I was to soon find out, street-smart intelligence and a wonderful sense of humor."

He soon began spending time with the model and her friends in Canada, exploring the Ontario Fair and going on a bungee cord jump. "The first days of a relationship are a gift that lives forever in memory," Shatner later wrote. "You always remember the smiles and the laughter and the moments of discovery."

Leonard Nimoy had reservations about their marriage

One of William Shatner's oldest friends — his "Star Trek" co-star Leonard Nimoy — was hesitant about the marriage with Nerine Kidd. As a former addict, he recognized certain warning signs and gave Shatner a call just before their wedding, as the latter actor later told The Sydney Morning Herald. "Bill, you do know that Nerine is an alcoholic," Nimoy reportedly said. When Shatner admitted that was true but insisted that he loved her, his former on-screen partner apparently replied: "Well, Bill, then you are in for a rough ride."

"Looking back, I know Leonard, who was a recovered alcoholic himself, was warning me not to marry her," Shatner added. Once it became clear that he was going to stay with Kidd, however, Nimoy started trying to help her recover. As Shatner recalled in his autobiography, "It was one of the most noble acts of friendship I'd ever experienced, although I'm certain he would insist he did it for Nerine, not for me. He took her to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, he spent time just talking to her, he offered advice and suggestions to me." 

As Nimoy discovered, Kidd's alcohol addiction was even more serious than her husband had known — and eventually, it would have tragic consequences.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Nerine Kidd's tragic death

William Shatner went through a very public tragedy in August 1999, when he discovered his third wife, Nerine Kidd, dead in their swimming pool, with sleeping pills and alcohol in her system. As the Los Angeles Times reported, he had been out dining with on of his daughters when she died and was never considered a suspect, but the actor still spoke to police about the incident and was stalked by paparazzi for months. The official autopsy ruled that Kidd, whose blood-alcohol level had been well over the legal limit, had knocked herself out by hitting her head on the bottom of the pool.

Shatner later admitted in "Up Till Now" that he had never gotten over it. "I don't think you ever really get over an event like that," he mused. "You deal with the grief, then as that passes you absorb the substance and it becomes part of you." The actor revealed that while he had figured out how to keep going without being overwhelmed, certain words or places would still remind him of her. 

"Still, I can never think about Nerine or talk about her without feeling pain, and I live with an appreciation for the woman she was and regret for the person she could have been had she not had this incredible flaw," Shatner continued, defending his third wife's character. "And I will never believe it was her fault."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

William Shatner honored her memory through philanthropy

Nerine Kidd's untimely death led to William Shatner buying a Los Angeles property in 2001 and opening a home for sober living in her memory. "I wanted to salvage some meaning out of all that experience," the actor reportedly said at the time, according to the Deseret News, explaining why he opened The Nerine Shatner Friendly House.

In an interview held decades later with The Guardian, Shatner admitted that he still sometimes felt regret over not saving her. "During that period when we were together, we were so much in love and she was drinking, but I didn't understand addiction," the actor confessed, revealing that his guilt pushed him to philanthropy. "Subsequently, I was able to form a charity called the Nerine Shatner Foundation, which has a house, which is connected to a halfway house and eleven women can live there."

Shatner also spoke about the impact that his foundation has had. "Women come up to me and say: 'You saved my life.' But not me; it was Nerine," he insisted. "She did that."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Inside William Shatner's grief and loneliness

After the death of Nerine Kidd, William Shatner tried to cope through his creative output. On his 2004 album, "Has Been," he included a song that expressed how he felt about Kidd's death, titled "What Have You Done." Its lyrics hint at his guilt and grief, as he claims that "[his] love was supposed to protect her" and "was supposed to heal her," before responding to himself with a repeated phrase: "It didn't."

People also previously reported that he was planning a film screenplay about the experience of mourning called "The Shiva Club," which would be a dark comedy. But behind the inspiration, Shatner was adrift. "Some months after Nerine's death it finally occurred to me that in all probability I would never be married again," he wrote in his autobiography, adding that he was "depress[ed]" by the thought. "While I believed I would never again love someone as deeply as I had loved Nerine, I was just so lonely."

"Thoughts of death and loneliness visited me every night," the actor continued, recalling that his health was also on the decline. "I was angry and remorseful; I was frustrated and even afraid. Ironically, though, it was not death that I feared, I was afraid of life." But Shatner was about to meet somebody important, who would give him a new lease of life.

He found love again with fourth wife Elizabeth Martin

After the death of his third wife, William Shatner didn't think he'd ever find love again, until he read a letter from a professional horse trainer named Elizabeth Martin.

"After Nerine's death I had received hundreds of letters from people offering their condolences or advice or sympathy," he recalled in "Up Till Now," adding that Martin's handwriting caught his eye. They had met before through their shared interest in horses, since she and her husband at the time had occasionally entered their champion steeds in the same competitions as Shatner. "I remembered having thought in passing that she was a beautiful woman, but I don't think we'd ever said more than a few words in passing," he noted.

Martin had suffered her own bereavement since they had last seen each other. "She understood my grief because she had nursed her husband in cancer for a year and a half, who died about two years before Nerine died," Shatner told the Irish Examiner in 2002. After he read her letter, the actor reached out, and they quickly formed an intense connection. "I lucked out," he insisted, calling his fourth wife "a most wonderful, loving person." Shatner added, "I was so lucky in finding somebody."

They even worked together

When Elizabeth Martin married William Shatner, she started exploring different endeavors. "Elizabeth is a strong, independent woman — and a very talented one," the actor wrote in his autobiography. "She was a wonderful trainer, and the energy that once went into that now goes into our life together and her painting. She's discovered her creative talents." Martin even received a co-writer's credit on her husband's song, "Together," on his "Has Been" album, per All Music.

This wasn't the only time they had worked together, since Martin also lent her horse training experience to the "Hollywood Charity Horse Show," an event that Shatner first began in the '80s to raise money for charities that helped children and veterans. According to its website, the show has featured musicians like Sheryl Crow, Ben Folds, Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, Lyle Lovett, Neal McCoy, Willie Nelson, and Brad Paisley over the years. And Martin's professional background made her the perfect co-host after their wedding in 2001.

Inside William Shatner's most recent divorce

William Shatner's fourth marriage also came to an end in March 2020, People reported. Although the couple had a prenup arrangement, their divorce settlement was unusual: Shatner was officially granted the right to all semen from the expensive horses they raised together, but allowed Elizabeth Martin to have "visitation rights" to their animals. She was also permitted to visit their California ranch, in order to "occasionally harvest fruit."

He may have filed for divorce four days following the death of Martin's brother the previous December, but Shatner insisted that there was no bad blood. "Nothing makes me sad at this age. ... It's all good here. It's all good. I wish everyone well," he told the Mirror. The "Star Trek" actor also joked about the idea of being back on the market as a man in his eighties. "A heartthrob at 89," Shatner said with a laugh. "How does it feel to be a heartthrob at 89? Well ... it heightens my blood pressure!"

That wasn't the end of the story, however: In May 2021, he gave an interview to The Guardian, hinting that he might have reunited with Martin. "That's a long story. I don't know if this is an appropriate time to get into the reasoning, but I've done something really nice," Shatner said, confirming that he and his ex-wife spent the COVID-19 lockdown together. The Daily Mail later reported that Martin had joined the actor for his 90th birthday in March 2021, sparking rumors that their marriage wasn't over.