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. Last week, we talked about why "Star Trek" fans are thankful for Takei. This time, Takei gets personal about his acting and activism.
Behind George Takei’s great laugh, warm smile and enticing sense of humor is a childhood filled with memories of imprisonment.
Most fans know him for his work on “Star Trek,” “The Howard Stern Show,” and “Heroes,” or will be reintroduced to him on “Celebrity Apprentice.” They say “Oh, my,” made popular by Howard Stern, rhapsodize about Takei's deep voice, or wear Starfleet uniforms in his honor. But they don’t know the story behind the story.
Before Takei was breaking down racial barriers on TV through “Star Trek” and making “It’s OK to be Takei” a popular slogan for gay rights, he was living through one of America’s greater injustices: the Japanese-American incarceration during World War II.
From ages 4 to 6, Takei and his family lived in two camps, one in Rohwer, Arkansas, and the other in Tule Lake, California, amid choking clouds of dust and behind barbed-wire fences.
When he watches productions of “Fiddler on the Roof,” the scene where Tevye and his family are forced from their home recalls one of his own memories: bayonets flashing as two soldiers ordered the Takei family to an internment camp.
Throughout the experience, Takei’s father would say, “They took my business, our home and our freedom. The one thing I’m not going to give them is my dignity.”
But even during his internment experience, Takei’s ever-present optimism could seek out the bright spots.
“It wasn’t all barbed-wire imprisonment and lousy prison food – the human spirit has to have joy,” Takei said. “Our barrack was across from the mess hall, where they allowed teenagers to put on dances after dinner. I remember hearing ‘Sentimental Journey’ wafting over from the mess halls. They showed ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and I was in the 18th century via the magic of the movies.
“Those were ways of escaping the barbed-wire fences.”
Takei also walked away with a mission from his father: Raise awareness and be engaged in the political arena. Entertainment and film provided Takei’s escape from the harsh realities of his childhood, and a path to make a difference. Takei not only became an actor, but an activist as well.
Since his time on “Star Trek,” Takei has worked on the board of the Japanese American National Museum, was appointed by the Japan-United States Friendship Commission by then-President Bill Clinton, and now serves as a member of the Human Rights Campaign and East West Players, the nation’s premier Asian-American theater.
He also famously created the “It’s OK to be Takei” slogan, lending his name to the cause after the Tennessee Senate banned the use of the word “gay” in schools.
Since coming out in Frontiers magazine in 2005, Takei married his partner of more than 20 years, Brad, in 2008 and regularly combats sexuality stigmas through social media, as well as his work with the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the U.S.
Now, Takei is able to wed his two passions, musical theater and raising awareness, in one project: “Allegiance.” The musical, coming to the Old Globe Theater in San Diego this year, chronicles the experience of a Japanese-American family in an internment camp. It is what Takei refers to as the culmination of his life’s work. It isn’t an Asian-American story, Takei reinforced, but an American story.
Telly Leung, known for his recent role on the TV series “Glee,” plays the younger version of Takei’s character in “Allegiance.” Not unlike Trekkers, he says he has always regarded Takei as a role model. The two have developed a symbiosis, playing the same character at different ages.
“George has always been on my radar, especially when you aspire to be an actor, and as an Asian-American actor, he was one of the pioneers,” Leung said. “He was front and center at the height of ‘Star Trek,’ representing our community on a show that was so groundbreaking. He has embraced all of it and found a way to touch people through advocacy, his humor and all of it. It’s quite inspiring.”
The “Allegiance” cast welcomed the chance to work with Takei on the musical. Not only does he provide poignant insight to the extremely personal storyline, but the cast is in awe of his work in musical theater, plays, films – and of course, television.
Co-star Lea Salonga, famous for playing Kim in “Miss Saigon” and singing for both Mulan and Jasmine in “Mulan” and “Aladdin,” tweeted that she was “acting with Mr. Sulu” as soon as work on “Allegiance” began, according to producer Lorenzo Thione.
“George immediately became ‘grandpa’ for everyone,” Thione said. “At rehearsals, he’s bringing stories and people are just hanging from his lips.”
Even when Takei isn’t working on a passion project like “Allegiance,” cast members see him “fired up” on a regular basis whenever he spots inequality, Leung said. When an essentially white cast for the live-action “Akira” film was announced, Takei immediately began online pressure to stop the “whitewashing of ‘Akira,’” said Jay Kuo, composer for “Allegiance."
Takei credits the fame he gained with “Star Trek” with giving him the opportunity to provide a voice behind issues of race and sexuality. But wit is his ultimate weapon.
“He can really push the envelope!” Kuo said. “America is looking for an elder statesman of comedy. Who do they want to be when they’re 70? They’d love to be George Takei! He’s happily married, has fans all over the world, he laughs and laughs, loves what he does, and is a positive role model.”
“Star Trek” fans have also taken notice of Takei’s campaign for equality, and on more than just the “Star Peace” front.
“He is at the crossroads of pop culture and serious issues,” fan Dorinda Paige said. “Takei does a great job of walking the line and getting your attention, because it’s like a trust thing. He manages to build a relationship with fans like me. I’ve never met him and probably won’t, but because he seems that approachable, I will listen to what he says.”
When Takei hears about prejudice against Asian-Americans or the LGBT community, he takes an attitude familiar to any “Trek” fan.
“Bias against them is really baffling, because we’re talking about members of our own family!” Takei said. “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations – therein lies our strength and therein lies our joy.”
I love this! Thanks for the great reads!
Very good information. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon). I've bookmarked it for later!
George Takei is my favorite facebook poster ever! He has the funniest, most poignant posts. You go George!
Before others can accept a person that person must first accept themselves. I applaud George's courage in doing so and being able to express himself and advocate.
GEO. IS IN TO OTHER GUYS
Thanks to Zachary Quinto, Spock now LOVES Bones.
I met George Takei in Montana, when he met with fans to talk about Star Trek: the motion picture. Montana was not a happenin' state, but he seemed to be glad to be there, and he was the nicest person. I am so happy that he is doing everything in life he wants to do, and that in this day and time he is able to be with the man he loves openly. He deserves every bit of happiness this life has to offer.
Replace any comment with the statement "another gay story" in it with "another black story" and we will be transported back to the sixties. Will people ever change? The main lesson George tries to teach is at the end of this story but basically boils down to," We are all family." Sigh, people will always view the world in divisive terms until they accept this fact of life. Mitakuya Oyasin brothers and sisters!
Maybe we should just ignore those people who say "another gay story". When I met Mr. Takei in 1979, I didn't know or care if he was gay. It wasn't about that. He was an amazingly nice, funny, positive person. People need to stop worrying about what folks do with their nethers and start thinking about how we can make life better for all of us. It seems to me that Mr. Takei has his act together on this idea.
Did you miss David Guetta & Usher performing 'Without You' on the ellen show?? Check it out here! http://shar.es/WE3Wt
Rod C. Venger–the bigot–stereotyping where every bigot has gone before.
Seems like CNN was obsessed with race for a while and now they have a penchant for pro-gay stories. Must be the new flavor of the week.
Gimme a break, please return to the cess pool form from which you came. My racism and bigotry die out with you and yours.
Another George Takei article?? Agenda??
Let's hope so!
Zachary Quinto voice:
"May I ask as to what agenda would you be referring?"
"They showed ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and I was in the 18th century via the magic of the movies."
Well, no. Victor Hugo wrote "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in the 19th century. It takes place sometime in the Middle Ages.
Oh, well, whatever Anna. You got the point.
Is the author SURE it was Arizona? I seem to remember that he and his family were in a camp in Rohwer, Arkansas.
According to wikipedia, it was first Arkansas and then transferred to California.
Give me a few minutes and the Wikipedia entry will say he was originally interned in Never Never Land and then transferred to Mordor.
Those records are available at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Go online for contact information at:
In his blog, he said he was interred in Arkansas, then California. In this case, Wikipedia is correct.
was gracious enough to speak with Geek Out for nearly an hour and a half.
thats because he has loads of time on his hands...
I have no problem closing my eyes and hearing George Takei saying "Oh, my". But did he ever say that line on Star Trek? If not, when when did it become his signature line?
The Howard Stern Show.
Anyone that is going to take time to first buy the client and botehr learning ,then playing the game is likely going to be both a fan of Star Trek AND mmorpg's.The next two groups to check the game out will be fans of either or but not necessarily both genres of fandom.People who are not gamers or Trek fans are not going to botehr with a game that they will have little to no interest in playing, nm spending 50+ on the client(box), i don't care what kind of Trek game is made or how they package it.ANY developer that ends up good and brave enough to contine and follow through with the Trek mmo license if going to have to 1.Find a sane bunch of ADULT Trek fans that are also gamers, but also have full time jobs,families.cats,cars, and most of all LIVES.Those are the people that will be able to give very valuable input to the potential developers of a Trek mmo, not the 24/7 power gamers,die-hard-rabbid- canon cannot be screwed with, EVER! Trek nut,and definitely not the 10-17 year of age FPS teen-child,whose vocabulary consists of cuss words,insults, and little else.A GREAT Trek mmo CAN be made, but it's going to have to have a tight focus, at least in the beginning and based on it's success, have the ability to branch out into bigger directions.If the new developers bite off more than they can chew at once(like i think Perpetual likely did), then they'll likely end up choking(again,very much like Perpetual did)and losing the reigns on the develpment.Whoever does end up in charge of the new Trek MMO team should also be someone that is already well versed in things Trek.Trying to take a 40 year crash course in Trek history and then lead a large team straight into the development of a game based on that crash course(to be blunt and simple)AIN'T GONNA WORK.
Fantastic man, but I will always remember him best from his greatest role – Ricardio the evil talking cartoon heart.
I didn't even know it was him the first time I watched that episode, but now every time I see George Takei's face I can't help but think of Ricardio. God, that's a weird show. I love it, though :)
Run along now, Troll.
I think George Takei is amazing! If you follow him on Facebook or Twitter you'll see just how funny and uplifting he really is. We need more people like George in the world!
Nobody cares what you have to say. Please stop talking.
And yet, here you are.
Mr. Takei is a human being, a warm, generous, kind human being, much unlike shatner. Grow UP and get a life. Mr. Takei has THOUSANDS of Facebook followers. Do YOU? I doubt it.
I'm as hetero as can be (honestly), and I have friended George Takei on facebook because I enjoy his eclectic sense of humor. At least once a week, the stuff he posts brightens my day a little. Thanks, George!
BEN DOVER- Put down the X-box controller and take out the trash just like your mom told you to and then GET A LIFE.
You are free to run in the TNT or I will have a FAST 8. We are still going to be ltimied by the noise restriction, so as long as it is not nitro or alcohol, your welcome to come race. I will be adding classes as I expand this into a series.
OH Boy... another of the daily agenda stories from CNN. Irrelevant hot air
This is the geekout blog, not the news page. If you paid attention to where you are, you wouldn't be so confused all the time.
The greatest thing about Takei is his joy in life. I think he's the most joyful person I've ever come across, and it's infectious. I heard him tell the story of living in the internment camp during a radio interview once, and it was a fascinating story.
Can anyone actually read the quotes from George WITHOUT hearing that voice?
Another gay story? Seriously CNN are you really that obsessed with gays? I swear we get five of these stories trying to victimize gays every day. This site is starting seem as left wing as fox news is right.
You're the one obsessed with gays if you're counting stories. Sounds like you need to do a little soul searching and figure out how to dump your prejudices.
Zoggy has a point. This is getting really extreme now.
Extreme? My goodness. This story is about a man who was a prisoner in an internment camp, grew up to be an actor, and among other things is also gay. If you read it and all you get from it is "GAY!!!" then that is your problem. the rest of us are here to read an interesting interview with a fascinating person.
What's wrong? You afraid that these stories might make you "gay"? It is part of our culture get over it. Or don't read it. plain and simple. I however am hetero, and admire Takei for his voice in the world in accordance to peoples rights.
, but that's a good thing (if everybody areegd, nothing would improve, would it?), and I still think you've made a lot of good points despite what I may think.And Todd, I don't think young people is necessarily the correct term, per se (I've understood the limitations of innovation and revolution in game design since I was maybe 16 or 17 at a guess, I can't be entirely sure, but I've only just turned 20 recently so I probably still fall into the young category). Younger people may like to dream a little more about what can be done, but inexperienced is probably a more accurate term to use, especially when big name franchises like Star Trek are involved. Alot of fans aren't going to be burying themselves in game industry knowledge frequently they don't care about that, they care about the dreams, the experiences, and the feelings they've had when watching the shows or playing past Trek games. Coupled with the fact that quite a number of people watching more than the humanly possible are coming into the higher age ranges (30, 40, 50), it can probably be argued that it's the misunderstandings of what creating games is all about that causes friction.I'm pretty sure throwing explosives on a fire doesn't help that of course, Eric :p lol. But it's fun to watch in that cynical way nobody gets when it's about them. It's just a shame so many people don't realise they're being so cruel and bitey about something that's ultimately kind of trivial I guess. I'm not even that much of a fan of Star Trek (I probably fall somewhere in the category with Todd limited knowledge, but overall enjoyed it as a show), yet I keep wondering where all the ethics went. I'm pretty sure the whole of TNG was about being nice to each other
Not sure just who you're being bigoted towards but I can assume. And if my assumption is correct then you're not only a bigot, but an idiot who never watched the show. Because if you had, tell me, just who was that who invented M5? Genius scientists don't 'work'?
How can they white wash Akira like that? That is disgusting i agree with him
Hey All,I'm currently the Associate Art Director for Star Trek Online.I think that this arcltie had great things to say and I will agree that STO will be one of the hardest MMO’s to create ever. All of the things mentioned are challenges indeed… …as a team we eat those challenges for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. We are game developers and Star Trek fans and those challenges are the things we relish. Those challenges are the reason our jobs are exciting. Those challenges in short, are why we are here. The stance of this team is “Wow. What an awesome challenge. Bring it on. Let’s go”.I’m surrounded by people that still get misty when Spock lectures Kirk about the needs of the many. One of the reasons the Star Trek MMO is going to be the hardest MMO to create is because the expectations of the people on this team are so high. We do not take Star Trek, fun, design, economy, aesthetics or tribbles lightly. Our expectations are among the highest. We will not ship a Star Trek game that is inferior. We will not rest until these questions (and many more) are answered. We’ve polled gamers, we’ve polled Star Trek fans, we’ve polled our forum leaders and fan sites and we’ve gathered a force here that has the ability to answer these questions. I have absolute faith that our team and our designers have made the right choices and will continue to make the right choices. There is a lot going on in the news these days about Perpetual Entertainment. There's talk about Star Trek going “casual” and countless speculation about a lawsuit. I’m an artist so in layman’s terms I’ll just say as a company, when you get bought, a lot of stuff happens.Great points. Relax. We’re on it…)Adam
At least this time they mentioned that George appears regularly on The Howard Stern Show. The last Takei blog here last week completely (and deliberately) ignored that major part of his resurgence of his career.
What an idiot. Hopefully, one day your I.Q. will rise to the double digits. Until then, please return to the Stone Age where you and your opinions belong.
What's you problem. You jealous or something. I bet you wish Kirk would feel on you. You werido.
George Takei brokered the Star Peace, and launched the Great War against the so-called "Twilight Saga."
He has my approval.
I liked george on star trek, but after this article, Im sorely unhappy to see anthoer actor come out of the closet. W T F bye bye george. im glad youre off the air. go retire in *****ville
must be difficult to find happiness in that trailer park.
you are exactly what's wrong with this country.
Do you live under a rock or something? He's been out of the closet for YEARS!
Yes, he obviously lives under a rock. Slimey things usually do.
George Takei is a class act. He's sees the good in everyone, always has a positive outlook on life, and that sense of humor .... oh my! I love the man. Live long and prosper George.
You are just jealous because he was able to marry someone who wasn't a sibling. Newsflash: This is the 21st century. Your ideas and opinions belong in the Middle Ages or even the Stone Age. Please return there so the collective I.Q. of our society will rise. You really are old, out of date, and useless.
Thanks for sharing. Now take your banjo and return to your perch in a tree.
znzowner5291 on December 22, 2010 I have had an Edge for a year and a half now and I love it. The asbkaect is the most comfortable and the heated seats are nice. One thing I wish it has was A/C seats, but it doesn't matter. Great buy and I do give 2 thumbs up to Ford for making the Edge. I will reccommend the Edge for those that do not want a car that is overpowering, but want a crossover or SUV.
you realize he's trolling right guys?
Says who? There are plenty of half-wits out there who believe precisely what he wrote.
In the Kardashian era, thank God for a guy like George Takei. At least there's one celebrity who's talented, accomplished, interesting, working to help others, and just a nice guy.
There can be admirable, sensible, well-balanced and intelligent people even among celebrities. He deserves so much respect in so many ways. Good for him.
Met George very briefly when he was speaking on our campus a couple of years ago. Actually spoke longer with Brad, we had a nice chat. Both are lovely gentlemen.
Great article, and I'm a big fan of George Takei. I do have to offer one correction, though. Lea Salonga was the SINGING voice of Mulan and Aladdin, which isn't the same as having "voiced" those characters. Per IMDB, Ming-Na was the speaking voice of Mulan, while Linda Larkin spoke Jasmine's dialogue.
I like George Takei but perhaps Mr. Takei might give due credit to Gene Roddenberry when he uses his line "Infinite diversity in infinite combinations". The term was meant by GR to instill a belief that tolerance is a virtue. He may also try embracing that philosophy before he goes on another one of those frequent rant/attacks he makes on William Shatner. ymmv
I like Shatner – but Nimoy, Takei, Doohan, Nichols, Kelly, and Koenig have all written in their books that Shatner was a total jerk on the Star Trek set.
Gee, I have a very hard time imagining that. not!
Maybe true that The Shat's ego got in their way but that was over Forty years ago. The others seem to have gotten over it and made nice. All except GTakei. Can't help thinking its more about jealously than something(s) that happened a long time ago on a starship far far away
Oh give it a rest. It wasn't over 40 years ago - they were making movies together into the 90's. They guy has spent a large portion of his career working with that j3rkoff.
Thus spake the Kirk fanboi from the shallow depths of his impotent nerd-rage.
Owen kazembe Posted on I have a Bachelors Degree in Literacy Education and ctluenrry am teaching at a Teachers Training College.Would you assist me in getting a Masters scholarship with full funding in Early Childhood Education and Care?
I don't know if they ever have, but people should see those internment camp sites- the way people can tour Auschwitz- to see the horror of what one group of people did to another and to make sure it doesn't happen again. While many have been very diligent to make sure nobody ever forgets the Holocaust; we have very conveniently forgotten about what we did to our fellow citizens in these camps.
I have read about a dozen full length books on Star Trek, and without a doubt my favorite is "To the Stars," George's autobiography written about 15 years ago. If you want to read any Trekker book, this should be it!
and second on the list is Nimoy's "I am not Spock" from 1975.
You should try then "I am Spock". This is where he came to grips on the fame he got and it allowed him to move forward and embrace both his sides.
Love this article. :)
When the issue of gays adopting comes up and people are against it because they feel somehow that it would eradicate family values, I always think "Are you telling me you wouldn't want to have a kid raised by someone like George Takei?" The world could use more parents who are like George Takei.
Right. The kid would be totally cheated out of growing up with his or her biological mother; how healthy.
How selfish and self-centered can you get?
Uh...dude. You miss the obvious. If a child is up for adoption, they've already been discarded by the biological parents. Your straw man argument and statements don't stand up.
What an imbecile.
George Takei is a class act.
Star Trek wasn't some left-wing, peacenik show. They were civilized but fought when they had to and Kirk once said, 'You're too pure, Crater, you bleed to easily." Meaning Kirk didn't brook bleeding hearts, the safety of the crew took precidence when faced with hostile aliens. Sulu can do his Kum-bai-ya stuff all he wants, but Star Trek was not a pacifist's show.
Richard, George is not engaged in some can't-we-all-just-get-along thing, but with the very real issue of continuing racial strife in this society. We should all notice that he is not some confrontational ego-centered person, but an understanding, tolerant, and compassionate man, which makes him a role model, I should think. Cheers!
hmmm. . .all I can think of is "Kirok" running through the forest, whining, "Miramani!" ;-) Bleeding heart, indeed.
I think the point was more that the crew of the show was racially diverse at a time when that was quite unusual to see on TV. Given that it took place in the future, it was meant to make audiences think about a world where people of all backgrounds working together without prejudice would be the new normal. All of this while the civil rights movement was going on.
PLEASE BOYCOTT A WHITEWASHING OF AKIRA!!!!!!!!! OCCUPY HOLLYWOOD!!!!!
I only met George Takei one time and he was as approachable as anyone could be. He took the time to ask me specifically what I wanted his autograph to say. It was something I will charrish forever. You are a great guy George.
Love your inspiring Facebook posts, George. You have truly made a difference, bringing to life the IDIC philosophy of seeking out our differences and taking pleasure in them and the way they combine to make us better human beings. I admire you so much. Thank you for keeping the wonder in my life.
I have always liked Takei. I never met him but always wanted to.
Met him in person a few times a long time ago, always a pleasant guy and funny
I like and admire George. But does he really remember songs and movies from when he was four to six years old?
I remember TV shows from the late 1950s, when I was that age.
ahmedghunaim on December 2, 2007 Accadia z jst a showy carit has no ptoeriws jst waste ofmoneyGmc z g@y alsoit only produce a showy cars wid no real powerlike H3 it hs no accleration power
I remember seeing Star Wars when I was four. Not the entire movie, but I do remember a few things from it. Mainly, I was afraid of Darth Vader.
What does Star Wars have to do with anything? George Takei played in Star Trek. There is a difference.
Duh, Veritas. . .Since the original question was regarding whether or not a child of that age could remember songs or films, the Star Wars memory was perfectly valid. Sheesh. . .some o' you geeks and your narrow-ass blinders!
"What does Star Wars have to do with anything?"
Nothing unusual about that. I do. Don't you?
I meet him at a Lunch Charity Event... and he was the most pleasent person to talk to...almost like a friend next dorr.
George Takei is a national treasure. Some city somewhere needs to erect a statue in his honor.
If you sell clothes onilne how do you get money? Does the person send you a check or cash? Do you need a credit card to sell things onilne? Can you be a minor? I'm planning on selling my old clothes on myclozet.net. Please don't tell me to donate to charity. I normally do when it comes to clothes but I need money for new clothes and to put in my bank account.
I wish more people could have the compassion and understanding that George does. The would would be a niceer place. It's definitely OK to be Takei!
George... you are class act... in any century. Thanks for everything.
The highlight of your day is reading ANYTHING on Facebook?
You poor soul...get out of the house and live...
He will always be Sulu to me.In the stneveh film we discover that Sulu had a kid.Sulu appeared as a brought-to-life memory of the 23rd Century in an episode involving a flashback to Tuvok's service about the Excelsior in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.Man, it's so easy to think of him as dead now. Mostly that's because he's not making anything of interest to me.Although anyone who really desires to know the bedroom proclivities, especially the specificities, of someone of the vintage that George Takei enjoys .. ew.******************************************************************Yeah, seems quite late for him to come out now but he did what he deemed that he had to do.
Turned a bit part in a cheap sci-fi TV show into a power for good in society. Not bad, George, not bad!
Good for him for being true to himself regardless of what other people think or feel. The only one who needs to be happy with him is himself.
Loved him as Mr. Sulu and greatly admire the work he is doing now. Go George!
Beam him up Scottie!
I am a HUGE fan of this man. He's got a sharp wit, a wicked sense of humor and a knack for puns. Seeing his feed on his Facebook page is a highlight of my day on a regular basis. He is thought provoking and a man of principle. And as a resident of Tennessee, I say that it's OK to be Takei, no matter what my state Senate says. :)
Since it’s a bit late to develop atusim should I now regret not having it because there was an off chance of also having acquired an amazing savant ability?Come on. Really?It's interesting. I put a similar post up on Facebook and it immediately degenerated into a discussion about George W. Bush, after some wise guy asked about whether his brain is capable of amazing things. I think we all have a lot of untapped potential. I think we need to take that potential seriously.
It takes one to know one. When it comes to topics of interest to nerds, geeks, and superfans, we know how true that is. Geek Out! features stories from a nerd's perspective that you can still share with your "normal" friends and family.