Why I'm thankful for George Takei
January 4th, 2012
08:04 AM ET

Why I'm thankful for George Takei

Editor’s note: George Takei, best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in "Star Trek," was gracious enough to speak with Geek Out for nearly an hour and a half. We discovered that he had more than one story to tell. Check back with us next week to see more of Takei's heroism at work.

When you talk to people about George Takei, they often begin with a sigh and follow up with, “I just love George.”

It’s the kind of love that anyone involved in a fanbase or subculture can relate to – supportive, intuitive and unconditional.

When Takei expressed his wish that I'd “live long and prosper” and tossed in a nice “Oh, my!” for good measure during our conversation, I could feel my heart tingle a bit. Takei is so amicable that you immediately feel as though you’re receiving the confidences of an old friend.

But I wanted to know: Why exactly do we love Takei so much? Brokering “Star Peace” after William Shatner and Carrie Fisher began a "Star Trek" vs. "Star Wars" social media feud is just one feather in his cap.

Is he a geek hero? Fan Dorinda Paige says, "Amen to that!”

Paige first encountered Takei on TV reruns of The Original Series and then followed helmsman Sulu in the first six films of the "Trek" franchise. Even in Sulu's early days on the Starship Enterprise, Paige could identify with his character. He piloted a massive starship, but he was considered a supporting character.

“Sulu wasn’t the main focus of any episode really, but he was always that cool guy in the background that you could identify with,” Paige said. “If you aren’t the main one on stage, there is always someone in the background that is important and represents the glue that holds everything together, and he did that for me.”

“She is very discerning and has high standards and good taste,” Takei told me, laughing. “But she has also got to have a keen eye and ear, because I didn’t get that many opportunities to shine. I was more one of those art deco reflective globes. You can’t say Sulu is a shining character.”

Paige continued to see “Sulu” everywhere. When he showed up on the TV series “Heroes” as Hiro’s dad, Kaito Nakamura, it was all Paige could do to keep from “squeeing like a fan girl.” The show referenced "Star Trek" on several occasions while Takei was part of the cast, even showing his character’s license plate as “NCC1701,” referring to the Starship Enterprise.

“Heroes” revealed a different side of Takei’s acting range, and what Paige calls a “forceful side to Sulu that we never saw.” She also believes that other actors would have shied away from obvious references to their previous work.

As Trekkers, we love Takei because he returns that affection wholeheartedly, which isn’t always the case when we encounter our favorite member of Starfleet in plainclothes. To find someone who recognizes the importance of what he is associated with, and not only understands but embraces it, is a gift. It is an affirmation that we made the right choice, falling in love with a show or a character.

“I love Shatner and Nimoy, but you get the idea that, at times, they wanted to distance themselves from 'Star Trek,'” Paige said, which ends up a hurtful experience for fans.

“What we want to tell them is, ‘You don’t seem to get that I love you for who you were in this role.’ I think George Takei gets that. He always seems to truly appreciate the fans and their enthusiasm for the show, his role and him, personally.”

Takei doesn’t understand “biting the hand that feeds you.” “'Star Trek' has fed me this wonderful opportunity to do and talk about the issues that I’m passionate about,” he said.

During his time on "Trek," Takei could appreciate show creator Gene Roddenberry’s boldness. No one else was exploring the allegorical implications of the turbulent 1960s on television.

“Gene felt that television was a medium that was being wasted,” Takei said. “It was a time when there was such anger, confrontation and anguish, and he wanted to look on the better angels within us and project that into the future to say that all of these issues we’re struggling with are overcome-able.”

At convention after convention, fans have approached Takei and shared thousands of inspiring stories with him about what Sulu did for them. Takei’s character didn’t fall into a stereotype – he spoke without an accent and didn’t represent “a villain or a servant,” as media had previously treated Asian-Americans. "Trek," and Takei, have taught acceptance where there was none.

“What makes that starship so engaging and powerful is its diversity, finding strength in that diversity and making our collective strength even better,” Takei said.

Trekkers everywhere have connected with Takei’s accepting nature. He isn’t afraid to be enthusiastic and optimistic (“It’s the optimists that get things done”) and although Takei doesn’t identify himself as a geek, he’s completely happy being himself, and encourages others to follow suit.

“I consider myself to be me. I embrace everything! There is no need for us to wear labels -  we are capable of so many things.”

Takei maintains his fanbase by respecting fans' integrity as well as his own.

"Because of someone like George Takei, it’s OK for us nerds, geeks and Trekkers to be out there,” Paige said. That's a good reason to be thankful.

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soundoff (314 Responses)
  1. Alex

    For you that even mention that he is gay, I wish you were in front of me right now because I would punch right in the face

    January 31, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  2. autumn

    Just because a man is gay, does NOT mean he is a child molester. Thats a generalization, just like there was a woman who wrote a book claiming all men are rapists. Also, some women think that all hetero men are going to molest their daughters. Thats BS.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:29 am |
  3. Jessica

    I'm disappointed that this article makes no reference to his current projects! No mention of Allegiance at all? Or the don't say gay say Takei?

    January 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  4. James Boyd

    You might just spot him in the Green Berets with John Wayne -yeah–

    January 6, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • Crosis101

      If you spot him in the Green Berrets you WILL NOT SPOT HIM ON THE BRIDGE OF THE ENTERPRISE. Since he took a hiatusd from Star Trek to shoot the Green Berrets with John Wayne :->

      January 6, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  5. bob

    You all know he's gay.

    January 5, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Hawk

      And that matters...why?

      January 5, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Robby the Robot

      He's great as the teacher in the movie "Larry Crowne" that came out last summer...go see it...now!

      Beam me up Scotty

      January 6, 2012 at 7:38 am |
      • Carolyn

        Roper November 17, 2009 at 5:58 am · I've been dignigg the Washed Out EP, but I didn't realize they have an album out?! Can you hook me up with some more info, I can't find anything about it.Thanks!

        February 1, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  6. doug

    I enjoy George when he is at his best...on the Howard Stern Show His honesty and genuine sense of humor in this "open and uncensored" forum is refreshing and extremely entertaining. Long live and prosper!!

    January 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Mike

      ... one of his neighbors in Denver is a lengthy black teenager.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:20 am |
      • Fiorela

        GPS has beocme a widely used aid to navigation worldwide, and a useful tool for map-making, land surveying, commerce, scientific uses, tracking and surveillance, and hobbies such as geocaching and waymarking. Also, the precise time reference is used in many applications including the scientific study of earthquakes and as a time synchronization source for cellular network protocols.

        February 1, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  7. K2

    I gained an even greater appreciation after hearing him do week long guest stints on Howard Stern's Sirius Satellite radio show. He has such a pleasant voice and friendly demeanor, I wish he were on the radio every day!!

    January 5, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  8. Bubba

    Sulu was important in one episode where a virus made everyone act out fantasies; he turned out to be an expert fencer and held everyone at bay. Notice the 'new' Star Trek made sure to give him a sword?

    January 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  9. MalclmXcremnt

    Ooooooh Myyyy !!!!

    A ha ha ha ha ha.

    January 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  10. Turner L. Watson

    Wow...I've never read you blog before, but now I'm hooked. I just finished a blog that was inpired by George, and thus stumbled here. So glad. Well done, and I can't wait to read more next week.

    January 5, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  11. Josh

    See George Takei, next on the Celebrity Apprentice.

    Unfortunately, George is too nice of a guy. They will walk all over him in the boardroom, and he will be amongst the first to be fired by Donald.

    January 5, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  12. Beefburger

    Sulu is gay, now so is the new Spock. Maybe "old" Sulu and "new" Spock will take long hot sonic showers together, do they still drop the soap in the future? Oh my! (pukes)

    January 5, 2012 at 4:14 am |
    • Josh

      You may want to turn Star Trek into your favorite type of p0rn. But for me, I'll hope they stick to the "G" script.

      January 5, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  13. Liz the First

    I met George Takei at a Trek convention in Nashville when i was part of a Starfleet shuttle. we made him an honorary member and he was very gracious. i very much appreciate the fact that he appreciates how big a deal it is to be entrusted with the 'life' of a Star Trek character. these are some of the most beloved characters in entertainment history and though they may not be real, the love we fans have for them is. i wish a certain TNG star would have been more appreciative of this fact. if he had, he might not have put us through the hell of thinking his character had died, while almost destroying the franchise in the process. thank you George, for your grace and talent and your respect for the character and the fans who gave you the success you enjoy. and Brent, get a clue!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 4, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Josh

      While Data wasn't suppose to age, the reality was that Brent did. If the TNG movies continued, Data would have to become CGI (like Yoda).

      January 5, 2012 at 7:37 am |
      • Kevin

        His programming allowed him to appear to age. It was established in the show, even if Spiner forgot about that.

        January 5, 2012 at 8:56 am |
      • Chris

        I have watched many interviews with Mr. Spiner, it does appear that he regrets TNG. I get the feeling the thinks it destroyed a promising career. Data is my favorite, Brent is not.

        January 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  14. Tom

    George Takei is awesome. As in, George is even more awesome than William Shatner.

    January 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  15. ErinL

    Takei is a schmuck. I WAS one of his fans, but about 15yrs ago at a convention, I was the last person in line to get an autograph. They cut me off and wouldnt sign the one thing I wanted autographed. Claiming he had to get to the airport, but then stood around for another 20 minutes before they left. Would have take him two seconds to sign his name to the autograph book. That one experience completely turned me off on being a fan of his. I got treated much better by Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and Jimmy Doohan. (Jimmy gave me a hug and was my favorite of all the Star Trek stars I've met. Was last in line to meet him too, and he sat and chatted with me and my friends for at least a half hour) George Takei is rude.

    January 4, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Alan

      Are you Sheldon by any chance?

      January 5, 2012 at 2:22 am |
      • ErinL

        No. Just a person who has had fairly good experiences meeting famous people except for when I met George Takei. He's the lone jerk that I've met so far...

        January 5, 2012 at 3:19 am |
      • j-dub 504

        TAAAKKEEEEIII!!!

        January 5, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • BillS

      If you would have met Charles Bronson, then you'd think George was not all that bad.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  16. Susan

    George Takei is a wonderful human being. I can say that because I saw him once at the New Otani Hotel in LA with his mother. There was just something about the genuine way he treated his mother with respect and kindness and his overall gracious manner to others. I know this sounds lame but this guy is REAL. There is something very genuine about him which is rare these days in human beings.

    January 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  17. toadears

    I really liked his role on Star Trek, but he's getting lots of press now for the most obvious of Hollywood reasons. He is a gay man who is a very strong proponent for gay rights.

    January 4, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • imaguard

      Betty White: "Everyone knows Bill Shatner's nuts......but George has actually seen them!" Her joke, not mine.

      January 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • E

      Its Ok To Be Takei is a great page on facebook. He is a proponent of love and equality, as everyone should be!

      January 4, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  18. GIUK

    Impulse engines ahead one third. Take her out, Mr. Sulu

    January 4, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  19. Barb

    All of you people arguing are idiots.

    January 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Con

      solomon Etana Posted on I am from Ethiopia and I am a graduate of Engineering Geology steudnt(MSc program) and I still look forward to continue my education in similar and related subjects.Would you please forward me important links and the application procedures?thanks in advance

      August 5, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  20. imaguard

    "Hello. I'm George Takei. In Star Trek: the Original Series, I was helmsman of the U.S.S. Enterprise. By Star Trek VI: the Undiscovered Country, I had become Captain of the U.S.S. Excelsior. However, every night when I go home, I'm Admiral of my bathtub."

    January 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Rob Roy

      Rear Admiral.

      January 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
      • Damien Tobin

        Oh my.

        January 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  21. Mark

    Howard Stern is the real reason George Takei is suddenly a big star. Why not mention that in the article?

    January 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Mycenia

      I think crediting Stern for his popularity is a bit shortsighted.

      January 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Craig

      Neat. I didn't realize Howard Stern was still on the air.

      January 4, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
      • chad

        depends on what "air" you are referring to. half a billion dollar contract with sirius 5 years ago, were you sleeping when that news broke?

        January 4, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
      • JeramieH

        No, just didn't care.

        January 5, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Damien Tobin

      It'd be a bit like taking the time to credit the talent scouts that spotted them every time famous people get talked about.

      Stern noticed that a pretty cool cat that people had almost forgotten about, and turned a little more attention on him. Fair enough, but it's not like Stern made Takei into the fun and likable man he is. Stern just spotted something already there.

      January 4, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Aaron

      agreed

      January 5, 2012 at 1:52 am |
  22. BillS

    Don't forget his role in the Green Berets.
    Pretty versatile guy.

    January 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • FunnyMan

      Versitile? I am pretty sure George is a bottom! No matter, we all love George!

      January 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Chaton

      Ok, I will give up 1 wins and still win2.December 29, Papa Johns BowlRUTGERSNC State3.December 30-Holiday BowlOregonOKLAHOMA ST4.December 31-Insight BowlKANSASMinnesota5.January 1-OutBack BowlIowaSOUTH CAROLINA6.January 1 Capital 1 BowlGEORGIAMichigan State7.January 1-Rose BowlUSCPenn State8.January 2-Sugar BowlAlabamaUTAH9.January 5-Tositos Fiesta BowlOhio StTEXAS10.BCS Championship BowlOklahomaFLORIDATie Breaker 1International Bowl Jan 3UCONNBuffaloTie Breaker 2How Many Yards will Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) throw for against Florida? 207Bond, I could not pick beweten Ole Miss and TT, hence it is not in the contest

      October 12, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  23. Randy

    Zulu and the Star Trek cast is a part of my youth back in 1966 when i was 11 years old, i use to watch the show with my brother, i forgot what day it came on every week i think it was a Friday, the original cast will always be special to me, i am a Trekie for life.

    January 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  24. runswithbeer

    hey George.....Thanks....Big fan since day one. beam me up Scotty....

    January 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Jim in Ortonville, MI

      Thank you George for all the wonderful memories. Thank you for all your sacrifices and dedication. Thank you Sulu for all the exciting adventures in space! And especially thank you for being a good sport after 40 years, and thank you to the Rodenberries!

      January 4, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
      • Boogiepop Phantom

        Amen.

        January 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  25. Chocolate Diapers

    How could not mention George's role on the Howard Stern Show, Ashley? That's pretty irresponsible of you. I love George, but his career was revitalized because of Howard Stern. He is at his absolute best when he is with that crew.

    January 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
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