George Hosato Takei Altman (born April 20, 1937) is an American actor of Japanese descent, best known for his role in the television series Star Trek, in which he played Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise. He is an outspoken proponent of gay rights and active in state and local politics as well as continuing his acting career. He has won several awards and accolades in his work on human rights and Japanese-American relations, including his work with the Japanese American National Museum.
In 1942, the Takei family was originally housed in the horse stables of Santa Anita Park before being sent to the Rohwer War Relocation Center for internment in Arkansas. The family was later transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California. Despite this experience, the family developed a renewed dedication and remained involved in the American democratic process. He and his family returned to Los Angeles at the end of World War II. He attended Mount Vernon Junior High School, where he served as student body president, and Los Angeles High School. He enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley where he studied architecture. Later he attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where he received a bachelor of arts in theater in 1960 and a master of arts in theater in 1964. He attended the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-Upon-Avon in England, and Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. In Hollywood, he studied acting at the Desilu Workshop. Takei is fluent in English and Japanese.
Takei began his career in Hollywood in the late 1950s, at a time when Asian faces were rarely seen on television and movie screens. His first role was providing voiceover for several characters in the English dub of Japanese monster films such as Godzilla Raids Again and Rodan, followed by an appearance in the Emmy award winning television series Playhouse 90. Takei subsequently appeared alongside such actors as Richard Burton in Ice Palace, Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity, Alec Guinness in A Majority of One, James Caan in Red Line 7000 and Cary Grant in Walk Don't Run. He played Captain Nim, an ARVN LLDB (Luc Luong Dac Biet- Special Forces) officer alongside John Wayne's character in the 1968 Vietnam War era film, The Green Berets. He starred in The Encounter, a controversial episode of the Emmy Award winning television show The Twilight Zone.
He had an uncredited role in the 1963 film PT-109 as the helmsman who steers the Japanese destroyer over John F. Kennedy's PT-109. He appeared in Walk Don't Run (1966) with Cary Grant and Samantha Eggar and he starred in an episode of Mission: Impossible during that show's first season in 1966. He also appeared in two Jerry Lewis comedies, The Big Mouth and Which Way to the Front?
In 1965, producer Gene Roddenberry cast him as Mr. Sulu in the second Star Trek pilot and eventually the Star Trek television series. While working on the show he appeared as Captain Nim in The Green Berets. It was intended that Sulu's role be expanded in the second season, but due to Takei's part in Green Berets, he only appeared in half the season, with his role being filled by Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov. When Takei returned, the two had to share a dressing room and a single episode script. Takei admitted in an interview that he initially felt threatened by Walter's presence, but later grew to be friends with him as the image of the officers sharing the ship's helm panel side-by-side became iconic.
Takei has since appeared in numerous TV and film productions, including the first six Star Trek motion pictures, and today he is a regular on the sci-fi convention circuit throughout the world. He has also acted and provided voice acting for several science fiction computer games, including Freelancer and numerous Star Trek games. In 1996, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Star Trek, he reprised his role as Captain Hikaru Sulu on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, appearing as a memory of Lt. Tuvok, who served on the USS Excelsior under Sulu, during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Takei is one of a number of Star Trek supporting cast members whose difficulties with William Shatner have become public. However, in an interview in the 2004 DVD set for the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series, Takei said of Shatner: "He's just a wonderful actor who created a singular character. No one could have done Kirk the way Bill did. His energy and his determination, that's Bill. And that's also Captain Kirk." He appeared alongside Shatner on the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner in which the two mocked each other in good humor and embraced, Takei noting that he was "honored" to be there "despite our past tensions".
In a radio interview on The Adam Carolla Show on June 19, 2008, Takei implied that part of his problems with Shatner began when he came out of the closet for the first time and his sexuality was accepted by almost everyone on the cast and crew of Star Trek except Shatner. Shatner was a guest on the same radio show some weeks earlier and expressed complete bewilderment as to why George Takei has such difficulties with him. According to Shatner, he has asked Takei repeatedly over the years to discuss his differences with him, but has been repeatedly rebuffed.
Takei is also one of six actors (the other actors being Jonathan Frakes, Kate Mulgrew, Michael Dorn, Avery Brooks and Majel Barrett) to lend his voice to Star Trek: Captain's Chair, reprising his role of Captain Hikaru Sulu when users visit the bridge of the original Enterprise in Star Trek: Captain's Chair.
After Star Trek
In 1972, Takei was an alternate delegate from California to the Democratic National Convention. The following year, he ran for City Council of Los Angeles, finishing second, losing by just 1,647 votes. During the campaign, Takei's bid for the city councilman's seat caused one local station to stop running the repeats of the original Star Trek series until after the election and KNBC-TV to substitute the premiere episode of the Star Trek animated series scheduled by the network with another in which his character did not appear, in attempts to avoid violating the FCC's equal-time rule. The other candidates in the race complained that Takei's distinctive and powerful voice alone, even without his image, on television every week created an unfair advantage.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley later appointed Takei to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, making him part of the team that initiated and planned the Los Angeles subway system. Takei was called away from the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1978 to cast the tie-breaking vote for the creation of the Los Angeles subway system. He served eleven years on the board.
In 1986, Takei starred in "The Wish Child", a second season episode of MacGyver.
In 1987, Takei guest starred in "By Hooker By Crook", a third season episode of Miami Vice. He played sushi-eating drug lord Kenneth Tagaru, whose office was filled with large fish tanks stocked with koi. This episode is noteworthy for the love scene between Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, as well as the shoot-out finale where Tagaru is killed and several fish tanks are shot open, spilling out hundreds of gallons of water and dozens of fish.
In the 1990s and early part of the twenty-first century he had guest star appearances on some science fiction television series. He played himself in a 3rd Rock from the Sun episode about a science fiction convention, and an episode of Malcolm in the Middle. In 1998, he was the voice of First Ancestor Fa in Disney's Chinese-themed Mulan animated feature. He also played the villainous Mr. Fixx in the premiere episode of the acclaimed DC Animated Universe animated series, Batman Beyond. Takei has also done a voice appearance in the Spider-Man Animated series in 1994 as a monk.
In the NBC TV series Brotherly Love, Joey goes to a sci-fi/comics convention and runs into a man dressed in a Star Trek original series uniform, who claims he is a fan of Star Trek, and of Takei himself. The man is played by Takei.
In 1993, Takei reprised his role again in the Star Trek video game Star Trek: Judgment Rites.
In 1994, Takei published his autobiography, "To the Stars." At one point he had hoped to do a movie or telefilm based on chapters dealing with the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, of which he had personal experience.
He provided the voice of his own head in a jar in the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". In an episode of Scrubs aired May 4, 2004 entitled "My Best Friend's Wedding" Takei appeared as a clergyman who looked like Mr. Sulu. He also provided the voice for The Warden on the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Imprisoned." He also guest starred on an episode of Will & Grace as himself, after he came out for the first time on television.
In 2002, Takei guest starred on the comedy show Son of the Beach as a grandfather telling a bedtime story to his grandson.
In 2003, Takei voiced the part of Lord Hakira, a Japanese themed lord, in Microsoft and Digital Anvils space based video game 'Freelancer'
Takei appeared on the NBC show, Thank God You're Here, an improvised comedy program, in the episode originally airing on April 18, 2007. Takei walked onto the set, and after a few seconds when none of the other actors uttered the standard first line ("Thank God you're here!"), Takei began the scene with "Thank God I'm here!"
In an episode of the TV series Psych, Takei guest-starred as a mildly exaggerated version of himself at a sci-fi convention, and the two main characters pose as his personal assistants in order to solve a murder mystery at the convention later becoming his personal assistants for the length of the convention.
In August 2006, Takei was a guest on the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner. He sat on the dais, and was one of the many people who took part in the roasting, in which he took the time to verbally poke fun at Shatner.
In January 2007, Takei began appearing on Heroes, as a successful business man and also the father of one of the main characters Hiro Nakamura, who also happens to be an obsessive fan of Star Trek. In the first episode Takei is portrayed, Distractions, the license plate of the limo he arrives in is NCC-1701, another reference to the Star Trek series. He has appeared in seasons one, two, three and four.
Takei made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in a mock public service announcement to show his disappointment over basketball star Tim Hardaway's homophobic remarks. Takei, speaking for the gay community, explained "We don't hate you. As a matter of fact, we like you. We like you very much." Takei then compliments Hardaway's calves and shaved head, letting his hand linger over the crotch of Hardaway's image. Takei ends by letting it be known that one day, when Hardaway least expects it, Takei will have sex with him.
Takei appeared regularly on the Howard Stern Radio Show, making quarterly week-long appearances and is credited as the show's announcer. Running themes involving Takei are plays on his deep voice, prank phone calls made with clips of his laughter, and jokes about Takei's sexuality. Takei has been welcomed to the show by its fans and he has won a loyal following with his good-natured participation in the show and his openness and candor.
It is urban legend that visitors to the Memphis International Airport can hear Takei's unmistakable voice over the intercom system. Ruth Greene, an administrator at the airport, verifies this urban legend as false.
Takei played the role of a ninja trainer in the 2008 film Ninja Cheerleaders.
Takei appeared on the first episode of Secret Talents of the Stars, singing country music but was not selected to proceed to the next stage. However the point became moot as the series was abruptly cancelled after the opening episode.
In 2008, Takei appeared as himself in The Great Buck Howard.
In April 2009, he voiced a fictitious version of himself in the NASA animated short "Robot Astronomy Talk Show: Gravity and the Great Attractor", part of the web-series IRrelevant Astronomy produced by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Later that year, he voiced another fictitious version of himself in a downloadable add-on available for the Playstation Network's Pain.
In 2009, Takei voiced an Old Man Samurai in Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword.
In 2009, Takei and his husband Brad Altman appeared in a documentary short titled George & Brad in Bed that profiled their relationship. He also voiced several additional characters in other animated shows and films including Samurai Jack, Kim Possible, Jackie Chan Adventures, The X's, The Super Hero Squad Show, Mulan II, Transformers: Animated, Adventure Time with Finn and Jake, and El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera.
Meanwhile, Takei guest starred in The Suite Life on Deck in the episode "Starship Tipton", a Star Trek parody, as Rome Tipton, London Tipton's descendant. He mentions "Oh my, how many times must I go through this?", a reference to his career in Star Trek.
Also in 2010, Takei played himself in an episode of the Starz! Original comedy Party Down, in which he is stalked by an obsessive fan at a gay wedding and eventually suffers an allergic reaction after ingesting shellfish.
The Howard Stern Show
Takei's first appearance on The Howard Stern Show was in late 1990 and was featured in The History of Howard Stern, a radio show documenting the life and career of Howard Stern. On September 27, 1994, Takei would appear via satellite feed to promote his book To The Stars.... Clips of Takei from his audio book and television interviews would later be played on the show, with prank calls and comedy bits being made using them.
On January 9, 2006 it was announced that Takei would be the new announcer for the show when it show moved to SIRIUS XM Radio. Takei sat in the studio for the first week of broadcasts, and to this day sits in for a week of shows every few months.
In June 2006, Takei accepted a Freedom of Speech Award on behalf of Stern, with the award being presented by Talkers Magazine. Takei was in the studio again for two days in late September 2006 where he discussed his participation in an episode of Star Trek: New Voyages as well as his participation in the film The Great Buck Howard. In a visit in December 2007, Stern stated that Takei was the only cast member who got universally positive feedback from audience e-mails; even listeners who claim to dislike Star Trek enjoy Takei's contributions. The show staff has stated that they like his upfront sense of humor and his willingness to talk about almost any issue openly and freely, particularly now that the show is uncensored on SIRIUS XM.
Takei has developed a friendly relationship with Stern cast member Artie Lange, whom Takei affectionately calls his "cuddly muffin." The two have become friends despite Lange's notorious penchant for his supposedly "homophobic" humor. Lange revealed on the air that George sent him a "lovely card" praising his guest performance on a 2007 episode of Entourage, in which Takei expressed the desire to one day act alongside Lange, and that the two talk at least once a week by telephone.
I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!
Takei appeared on the 2008 season of the UK version of reality TV series I'm a Celebrity... Get Me out of Here! He lived in the Australian bush for 21 days and nights, doing tasks along with fellow campers in order to gain better meals and survive eviction from the show. His politeness and calmness made him popular with the other campers. Out of 15 participants the British public voted him into 3rd place behind 2nd placed Martina Navratilova and winner Joe Swash.
In October 2005, Takei revealed in an issue of Frontiers magazine that he is gay and had been in a committed relationship with his partner, Brad Altman, for eighteen years. He said, "It's not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through. It's more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen." Nevertheless, Takei's sexuality had been an open secret among Star Trek fans since the 1970s, and Takei did not conceal his active membership in LGBT organizations including Frontrunners where he developed public friendships with fellow Frontrunners Kevin Norte and his partner Don Norte prior to coming out in 2005. In an on-air telephone interview with Howard Stern, in December 2005, Takei explained, "[LGBT people] are masculine, we are feminine, we are caring, we are abusive. We are just like straight people, in terms of our outward appearance and our behavior. The only difference is that we are oriented to people of our own gender." Takei also described Altman as "a saint" for helping to take care of Takei's terminally ill mother.
Takei currently serves as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign "Coming Out Project." In 2006 he embarked on a nationwide "Equality Trek" speaking tour sharing his life as a gay Japanese American, his eighteen year relationship with Altman, Frontrunners, and Star Trek, encouraging others to share their own personal stories. In the wake of the 2007 controversy over ex-NBA player Tim Hardaway's anti-gay statements, Takei recorded a public service announcement (PSA) which began as a serious message of tolerance, then turned the tables on Hardaway by proclaiming that while he may hate gay people, they love him and other "sweaty basketball players." This was aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Takei also appeared on the Google float at San Francisco Pride 2007.
On May 16, 2008, Takei announced that he and Brad Altman would be getting married. They were the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in West Hollywood. On June 17, shortly after Takei and Altman obtained their marriage license, they spread the news by holding a press conference outside the West Hollywood city auditorium. They were married on September 14, 2008 at the Democracy Forum of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, of which Takei is one of the founders. Walter Koenig was his best man, and Nichelle Nichols was the matron of honor. Reverend William Briones of the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple of Los Angeles presided. William Shatner has stated that he was not invited to the wedding. Takei claims Shatner was invited, but did not RSVP. Takei's friend, author Peter David, corroborated Takei's account, relating a conversation he had with the couple the previous July in which both Takei and Altman stated their intention to invite Shatner. During the December 26, 2009 episode of the NPR program Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, Takei repeated his assertion that Shatner had been invited and did not respond to the invitation.
Takei's marriage is one of thousands of same-sex marriages that took place at a time when same-sex marriage was legal in California. The California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, did not affect Takei's marriage and other same-sex marriages entered into before its passing.
Takei and Altman appeared in a celebrity edition of The Newlywed Game TV show, which the GSN cable network aired October 13, 2009. They were the first same-sex couple to be featured on the show. Takei and Altman won the game, winning $10,000 for their charity, the Japanese American National Museum.
Awards and recognition
In 2004, the government of Japan conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, which represents the fourth highest of eight classes associated with the award. This decoration was presented in acknowledgment of his contributions to U.S.-Japanese relations.
- (7307) Takei = 1994 GT9 Discovered 1994 Apr. 13 by Y. Shimizu and T. Urata at Nachi-Katsuura. George Takei (b. 1937) is an actor best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek television series. He also has a lengthy record of public service through his involvement with organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League and the Human Rights Campaign. The name was suggested by T. H. Burbine.
Upon learning of the decision to name the asteroid after him, he said, "I am now a heavenly body. ... I found out about it yesterday. ... I was blown away. It came out of the clear, blue sky—just like an asteroid."
- Philip Gambone, Travels in a Gay Nation: Portraits of LGBTQ Americans (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010), 263-70
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- George Takei's official website
- Template:Title without disambig at the Internet Movie Database
- George Takei Interview at the Archive of American Television portal
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- George Takei at TV.com
- George Takei at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- George Takei biography at StarTrek.com