George Hosato Takei is an American actor, director, author, and activist. Takei is best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek series. He also portrayed the character in six Star Trek feature films and in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
Takei's involvement in social media has brought him new fame. His Facebook page currently has over 9.8 million likes since he joined in 2011, and he frequently shares photos with original humorous commentary.
He is proponent of LGBT rights and active in state and local politics in addition to his continued 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.
Takei was born Hosato Takei on April 20, 1937, in Los Angeles, California, to Japanese-American parents, Fumiko Emily (nee Nakamura; born in Sacramento) and Takekuma Norman Takei, born in Yamanashi Perfecture, Japan, who worked in real estate. His father was an Anglophile, and named him George after King George VI of the United Kingdom, whose coronation took place in 1937, shortly after Takei's birth. In 1942, the Takei family was forced to live in the converted horse stables of Santa Anita Park before being sent to the Rohwer War Relocation Center for internment in Rohwer, Arkansas. The family was later transformed to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California.
At the end of World War II, Takei and his family returned to Los Angeles. He attended Mount Vernon Junior High School, where he served as student body president, and Los Angeles High School. He was a member of Boy Scout Troop 379 of the Koyasan Buddhist Temple. Upon graduation from high school, Takei enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley where he studied architecture. Later he attended the University of California, 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 began his career in Hollywood in the late 1950's, providing voiceover for characters in the English dub of the Japanese monster films Godzilla Raids Again a.k.a. Gigantis the Fire Monster, for the latter of which he recalled, "There was one word that we had tremendous difficult getting the meaning of and finding an English word that fit the lip movement. The Japanese word was 'bakayaro', which means 'stupid fool'." The director, Takei said, had him use the phrase "banana oil." He went on to appear in the anthology television series Playhouse 90 and the Perry Mason episode The Case of the Blushing Pearls. He originated the role of George in the musical Fly Blackbird!, but when the show travel from Los Angeles to Broadway the west coast actors were forced to audition and the role went to William Sugihara instead. Eventually Sugihara had to give up the role and Takei closed out the show's final months.
Takei subsequently appeared alongside such actors as Frank Sinatra in Never So Few (uncredited), Richard Burton in Ice Palace, Jeffery 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 featured in a lead role in "The Encounter" (1964), an episode of The Twilight Zone in which he played the guilt-ridden son of a traitor who signaled Japanese pilots during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
He had an uncredited role in the film PT-109 (1963) as the helmsman who steers the Japanese destroyer over John F. Kennedy's Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109. He guest-starred in an episode of Mission: Impossible (1966) during the show's first season and co-starred with Martin Landau. He also appeared in two Jerry Lewis comedies, The Big Mouth and Which Way to the Front? In 1969 Takei narrated the award winning documentary The Japanese Sword as the Soul of the Samurai.
In 1965, producer Gene Roddenberry cast him as Lt. Sulu in the second Star Trek pilot and eventually the Star Trek television series. It was intended that Sulu's role be expanded in the second season, but Takei's role as Captain Nim, a South Vietnamese Army officer, alongside John Wayne's character in The Green Berets, meant that he only appeared in half the season. Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov substituted for him in the other episodes. When Takei returned, the two men had to share a dressing room and a single episode script. Takei admitted in an interview that he initially felt threatened by Koenig'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, reprising as the voice of Sulu in Star Trek: The Animated Series from 1973 to 1974, including the first six Star Trek motion pictures, and today he is a regular on the science fiction 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, 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 2006 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."
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 the computer game. In the summer of 2007, Takei reprised his role of Sulu in the fan-made internet based series Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II episode "World Enough and Time."
After Star Trek
In 1972, Takei was an alternate delegate from California to the Democratic National Convention. The following year he ran for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, finishing second to five candidates in the special election and losing by 1,647 votes; the winner received 42% of the votes cast and Takei received 33%. During the campaign, Takei bid for the city council 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 infiltrated 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 on the board from 1973 to 1984.
In 979, Takei with Robert Asprin co-wrote the science-fiction novel Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe.
In 1980, Takei began a campaign for California State Assemblyman (District 46) from the greater Los Angeles area. However, he chose to withdraw after his opponent challenged the airing of episodes of Star Trek on local television under the Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine "equal time" regulations, saying also that "this is the wrong time to interrupt my career as an actor and author." He also appeared as a sadistic Japanese POW camp commander in the WW2 film Return from the River Kwai (1989).
Takei starred as a Japanese officer in the 1990 Australian film Blood Oath, based on the real-life trial of Japanese soldiers for war crimes committed against Allied prisoners of war on the island of Ambon, in the Dutch East Indies. 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.
In May 2004, Takei appeared on Scrubs as a priest in episode 22 of season 3, "My Best Friend's Wedding."
Takei provided the voice for a ruthless and cowardly Fire Nation warden in season 1 episode 6 "Imprisoned" of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which aired in March 2005.
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 Kaito Nakamura, a successful Japanese businessman and father to one of the main characters, time/space-travelling 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-1710, another reference to the Star Trek Series. NCC-1710 was the registry number of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek series. Also, in "Run", Hiro is called "Sulu" by a feisty vixen named Hope. Nakamura is also George's mother's maiden name. He appeared in all four seasons.
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 he appeared on the 8th season of the reality TV series I'm a Celebrity. . . Get Me Out of Here! on British television. 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 2008, he got a role in the real-time strategy game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 as the Emperor Yoshiro of The Rising Sun.
In 2009, Takei appeared in an episode of Star Wars: The Cone Wars as the Neimoidian general, Lok Drud. This was the first time in which a leading actor from Star Trek worked in a Star Wars production.
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.
In 2009, Takei and his husband Brad Altman appeared in a documentary short titled George & Brad in Bed that profiled their relationship.
In 2009, Takei was a guest on the NPR's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!.
In 2010, Takei recorded a series of public service announcements for the Social Security Administration to help promote applying online for benefits.
In 2011, he appeared with husband Brad Altman in All Star Mr & Mrs, a show on ITV in Britain presented by Phillip Schofielf and Fern Britton.
Takei was also one of the celebrities in the 12th season of The Apprentice. He was fired in the third episode, which aired on March 4, 2012.
Takei marked the 70th anniversary of the internment of Americans of Japanese descent, including himself as a child, by asking his readers to contact the U.S. Congress to block S. 1253, the National Defense Authorization Act, that "would authorize a similar sweeping authority, granted to the President, to order the detention - without charge or trial - of any person even suspected of being associated with a 'terrorist organization'."
Takei was featured with Martin Sheen and Jamie Lee Curtis in a performance of Dustin Lance Black's play, 8 - a staged reenactment of the federal trial that overturned California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage - as William Tam. The production was held at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre and broadcast on YouTube to raise money for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
In 2012, Takei starred in the musical Allegiance, which Takei described as his legacy project. The show is based on Takei's own experiences and research into the Japanese American internment of World War II and premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park in San Diego, California. Allegiance debuted on Broadway on November 8, 2015, to mixed reviews, The Guardian said it was "unexceptional though often affecting"; Deadline called it "a triumph of a rare sort, shedding light in a dark corner of our history with uncommon generosity of spirit." The New York Times praised the "well-intentioned and polished" play for tracking a difficult subject while trying at the same time to entertain it's audience, but said Allegiance "struggles to balance both ambitions, and does't always find an equilibrium." The Associated Press said Allegiance tries to tackle internment camps, discrimination and war, "but does so unsuccessfully in a bombastic and generic Broadway musical." Variety wrote, "In their sincere efforts to 'humanize' their complex historical material, the creatives have oversimplified and reduced it to generic themes." Thr Hollywood Reporter said "the powerful sentiments involved are too often flattened by the pedestrian lyrics and unmemorable melodies of Jay Kuo's score.' USA Today called Allegiance "as corny as Kansas in August and as obvious as Lady Gaga on a red carpet. But darned if it won't get a grip on your heartstrings.
In 2013, Takei was a guest judge in the TBS reality show King of the Nerds, in which he is one of three judges of the Cosplay Competition.
Beginning September 17, 2013, Takei hosted Takei's Take, a web series reviewing consumer technology in a manner for viewers over 50 years in age. The series is produced by AARP.
Takei made an appearance in issue no. 5 of Kevin Keller where the titular character cites George Takei as one of his heroes. Upon reading about Kevin with his partner, Takei decided to travel to Riverdale and surprise Kevin. Takei also wrote the forward for the second volume of the Kevin Keller comics.
Takei appeared in the viral video for Bonnie McKee's song "American Girl" lip syncing the lyrics to her song.
Starting in 2013 Takei became spokesperson for Rooms To Go, an American furniture retailer. He was seen in a series of television commercials where he used his famous "Oh Myyy!" tag line.
In January 2014, Jennifer Kroot's documentary film, about Takei, To Be Takei, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. He also participated in Do I Sound Gay?, a documentary film by David Thrope about stereotypes of gay men's speech patterns.
In 2015, Takei provides the voice for the space alien Spectryx, who only sees in infrared, in Disney Junior's series Miles from Tomorrowland.
The Howard Stern Show
Takei first appeared on The Howard Stern Show on November 12, 1990 to promote New York play he was taking part in. He appeared via a satellite feed on September 27, 1994 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 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 audiences 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 developed a friendly relationship with former Stern cast member Artie Lange, whom Takei affectionately calls his "cuddly muffin." They became friends despite Lange's penchant for homophobic humor. Lange revealed on the air that Takei 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.
Personal life and activism
In October 2005, Takei revealed in an issue of Frontiers magazine that he is gay and has been in a committed relationship with his partner, Brad Altman, for 18 years; the move was promoted by then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of same-sex marriage legislation. 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 Star Trek fans since the 1970's, and Takei did not conceal his active membership in LGBT organizations, including Frontrunners, where he developed public friendships with openly gay couples such as Kevin and Don Norte. In an on-air telephone interview with Howard Stern, in December 2005, Takei explained, "[We (gay 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 18-year relationship with Altman, Frontrunners, and Star Trek, encouraging others to share their own personal stories. In the wake of the 2007 controversy over former NBA player Tim Hardaway, who had stated "I hate gay people", Takei recorded a mock public service announcement which began as a serious message of tolerance, then turned the tables on Hardaway by proclaiming that while he may hate gay people, gay people love him and other "sweaty basketball players", and promising Hardaway that "I will have sex with you." 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 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 and serves as a member of it's board of trustees. Walter Koenig was his best man, and Nichelle Nichols, eschewing the title "matron of honor", was "best woma." Reverend William Briones of the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple of Los Angeles presided.
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.
In February 2010, Takei and Altman became the second same-sex couple to appear on British game show All Star Mr & Mrs, losing to rugby star Phil Vickery and wife Kate.
In November 2010, Takei released another PSA blasting Clint McCance, who was at the time the vice president of the school board for the Midland School District in southern Independence County, Arkansas. In the video, Takei repeatedly calls McCance "a douchebag". Takei's video was made as a response to McCance making blatantly homophobic remarks, stating that he "enjoys the fact that [gay people] give each other AIDS and die." McCance went on to encourage gay people to commit suicide, and stated that he would disown his children if they were gay. Clint McCance has since resigned from his job at the Middle school board. Takei has been praised for his response to McCance and garnered much media attention with his most recent PSA.
Takei serves as chair of the Council of Governors of East West Players, considered the foremost Asian Pacific American theater in the United States.
In May 2011, in response to a Tennessee Legislature bill that prohibited school teachers or students from using any language that alludes to the existence of homosexuality (the "Don't Say Gay" bill), Takei released another PSA in which he offered up his name, suggesting that people could just substitute that for 'gay'. For example, they could support Takei Marriage or watch Takei Pride Parades; or even use slurs like That's so Takei.
Takei is both a Buddhist and an avid Anglophile. On his personal website he had this to say: "Those who know me know that I am an inconvertible Anglophile - or more broadly, a Britanophile, which includes my affection for Scotland and Whales as well. I love things British. My car is British. My wardrobe, to a good extent, is British. I even love food in London - I think British food has shaken it's prevailing perception as indigestible and become quite wonderful. I try to get to Britain for holidays as often as I can. I love things British."
Takei has also gained popularity for his Facebook page where his daily posts of humorous pictures (many of which are related to science fiction, LGBT culture and political satire) have attracted over 9 million followers, some of whom are unfamiliar with Takei or Star Trek. He has been lauded as "the funniest guy on Facebook." In September 2013, Takei used his Facebook page to defend Nina Davuluri, who was targeted by a backlash of racist and xenophobic comments after being named Miss America 2014. He later appeared in a joint ABC interview with Davuluri, in which she revealed that she is a Trekkie. Takei told her, "In Star Trek we have this creed: 'Infinite diversity in infinite combinations'. That's what Starfleet was all about so you're a part of that." Davuluri ended the interview by stating, "I have to say 'Live Long and Prosper'" at which point Takei offered her the Vulcan salute, which she returned. However, Takei also attracted criticism from some people with disabilities in 2014 for posting a meme on Facebook and Twitter which shows a wheelchair-using woman standing up to reach something from the top shelf in a store and is captioned "there has been a miracle on the alcohol isle" [sic]. People with disabilities noted that people need not be paralyzed to need wheelchairs, after which Takei removed the post and later posted on Facebook apologizing for his comments.
Takei achieved the status of a Top 1,000 Amazon.com reviewer for a short time. His humorous faux reviews (sometimes with Star Trek references, and often with asides about his husband) have attracted thousands (in one case over 25,000) of approving votes from other users.
In 2014, Takei raised $100,000 for an adult eagle scout to start a web series, titled Camp Abercorn, documenting his experience in the Boy Scouts of America after he was forced to leave, due to their anti-gay adult policy. Takei stated, "As a former Boy Scout myself, it pains me deeply that the BSA still boots out gay Scouts when they turn 18, This web series will help educate and inform, as well as entertain. That gets a big thumbs up from me. Let's make this happen.
In 2015, after the announcement of the U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, Takei was critical of Clarence Thomas's dissent and called Thomas "a clown in blackface." After defending his comments for over a week Takei eventually apologized for his comments.
On December 8, 2015, following Donald Trump's call to ban all Muslims from traveling to the United States, Takei appeared on MSNBC to denounce him: "It's ironic that he made that comment on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day - the very event that put us in those internment camps," Takei said. "[A congressional commission] found that it was three things that brought that about. One was racial hysteria, second was war hysteria and third was failure of political leadership. Donald Trump is the perfect example of that failure. . . What Donald Trump is talking about is something that's going to make his logo 'America disgraced again.'"
Awards and recognition
In 1986, Takei was "inducted" into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a star at 6681 Hollywood Blvd for his work in television.
In 2004, that government of Japan conferred upon Takei the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, which represents the fourth highest of six classes associated with the award. This decoration was presented in acknowledgment of his contributions to US-Japanese relations.
Asteroid 7307 Takei is named in his honor. The citation from the NASA website reads:
- (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. This 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.
In June 2012, the American Humanist Association gave Takei the LGBT Humanist Award.
In May 2014, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation honored Takei with the GLAAD Vito Russo Award, which is presented to an openly gay LGBT media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality for the LGBT community.
In May 2015, the Japanese American National Museum honored Takei with the 2015 JANM Distinguished Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement and Public Service at the Japanese American National Museum's 2015 Gala Dinner in Los Angeles.
On June 10, 2016, California State University, Los Angeles presented Takei with an honorary decorate of humane letters for all his contributions.