George Takei reacts to gay Sulu news: “I think it’s really unfortunate…”

George Takei on Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry: “He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality,” recalls Takei, now 79. “But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope — and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air.” 

The Hollwyood Reporter (by Seth Abramovitch):

Star Trek has lived long and prospered for studio home Paramount, spawning six TV series and 13 feature films. True to its title, the latest big-screen outing, Star Trek Beyond, has gone where none have gone before: Star John Cho — who assumes the Sulu mantle for the third time in the reboots — has told Australia’s Herald Sun that the character is revealed to be gay.

The idea came from Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the new films and penned the Beyond screenplay, and director Justin Lin, both of whom wanted to pay homage to Takei’s legacy as both a sci-fi icon and beloved LGBT activist.

And so a scene was written into the new film, very matter-of-fact, in which Sulu is pictured with a male spouse raising their infant child. Pegg and Lin assumed, reasonably, that Takei would be overjoyed at the development — a manifestation of that conversation with Roddenberry in his swimming pool so many years ago.

Except Takei wasn’t overjoyed. He had never asked for Sulu to be gay. In fact, he’d much prefer that he stay straight. “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”

Takei explains that Roddenberry was exhaustive in conceiving his Star Trek characters. (The name Sulu, for example, was based on the Sulu Sea off the coast of the Philippines, so as to render his Asian nationality indeterminate.) And Roddenberry had always envisioned Sulu as heterosexual.

Proving that is not so simple a matter, however. Sulu never had an onscreen love interest duringStar Trek‘s initial three-season run. He did mention a daughter, Demora, who appeared in 1994’s Star Trek Generations, the seventh film in the series (she was played by Jacqueline Kim).

But the only reference to how Demora was conceived appears in a secondary canonical source: the 1995 Star Trek novel The Captain’s Daughter. “It was, to put it crudely, a one-night stand with a glamazon,” Takei explains. “A very athletic, powerful and stunningly gorgeous woman. That’s Demora’s mother.”

Takei first learned of Sulu’s recent same-sex leanings last year, when Cho called him to reveal the big news. Takei tried to convince him to make a new character gay instead. “I told him, ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.’” (Takei had enough negative experiences inside the Hollywood closet, he says, and strongly feels a character who came of age in the 23rd century would never find his way inside one.)

His timeline logic, however, is enough to befuddle even the most diehard of Trek enthusiasts, as the rebooted trilogy takes place before the action of the original series. In other words, assuming canon orthodoxy, this storyline suggest Sulu would have had to have first been gay and married, only to then go into the closet years later.

Not long after Cho’s bombshell call came another, this one from Lin, again informing him that Sulu was indeed to be gay in Star Trek Beyond. Takei remained steadfastly opposed to the decision.

I said, ‘This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry, the man whose vision it was carried us through half a century. Honor him and create a new character. I urged them. He left me feeling that that was going to happen,” Takei says.

After that, all was quiet from Beyond until a few months ago, when Takei received an email from Pegg “praising me for my advocacy for the LGBT movement and for my pride in Star Trek,” he says. “And I thought to myself, ‘How wonderful! It’s a fan letter from Simon Pegg. Justin had talked to him!’” Takei was certain the creative team had rethought their decision to make Sulu gay.

That is until one month ago, when he received an email from Cho informing him that the actor was about to embark on an international media tour for Beyond. Cho said it was bound to come out that his character was gay, and “what should he do?” A disappointed Takei told Cho to go about his promotional duties, but that he was “not going to change” his mind on the matter.

I really tried to work with these people when at long last the issue of gay equality was going to be addressed,” Takei says. “I thought after that conversation with Justin that was going to happen. Months later, when I got that email from Simon Pegg, I was kind of confused. He thinks I’m a great guy? Wonderful. But what was the point of that letter? I interpreted that as my words having been heard.”

Takei for his part is hoping to take Sulu in new directions as well, potentially on CBS’ upcomingStar Trek series, slated to premiere in January and co-run by Alex Kurtzman and Bryan Fuller, who is openly gay.

 

Sulu will be married and gay in ‘Star Trek Beyond’

NBC News:

Star Trek Beyond,” the latest of the “Star Trek” movies, will show Hikaru Sulu with a husband and a daughter, according to a report by Australia-based Herald Sun newspaper.

John Cho, who plays Sulu in the rebooted “Star Trek” movies, told the newspaper that that the decision to reveal Sulu as gay was made by film writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin.

I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicize one’s personal orientations,” he told the newspaper.

He also told the Herald Sun that the decision was a nod to George Takei, who played Sulu in the original 1966 “Star Trek” television series. Takei and his now-husband, Brad Altman, have been together for 29 years.

Sulu will be the first LGBTQ main character in the franchise, which is known for breaking boundaries. The original TV series famously featured American television’s first interracial on-screen kiss in 1968, only a year after anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

NetDragon’s ‘Star Trek’-inspired Chinese headquarters

Chinese game developers NetDragon might be in the running for coolest office space in the world with their recently completed headquarters building. Commissioned by executive Lui Deijian, television network CBS gave official permission for the building to be modeled after the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E, which many will recognize from the classic television series Star Trek.

The 260-meter-length structure took four years to complete, at a price of 600 million yuan ($98 million USD), and is said to be the only licensed Star Trek building in the world.

A ‘Star Trek’ U.S.S. Enterprise sushi set that comes with Warp Trail Chopsticks

Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set

ThinkGeek has released a Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set that looks just like the iconic Starship U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 from Star Trek: The Original Series. It comes with a wooden base, the saucer of the ship opens up into a soy sauce dish, and the blue warp trails pull off to be used as chopsticks.

It is available to purchase online.

Uhura has a secret. It’s nothing bad, but it’s just nothing she’s shared with her crewmembers. Uhura loves Argoan sushi. Now, the food synthesizers can make an almost acceptable version, but nothing beats the real thing. And when Uhura can get 100% real Argoan sushi, she has a whole ritual involving how to eat it. And she always, ALWAYS, uses the Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set she was given for her first anniversary onboard.

And now you can have a Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set of your very own. Set it on your table, and it looks like a mid-warp U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 on a wooden base. The Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set is just the thing to elevate sushi… into the final frontier!

Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set

photos via ThinkGeek

George Takei to star in Broadway musical about interned Japanese-Americans

NY Times: 

Allegiance,” a musical about Japanese-Americans in United States internment camps during World War II, will begin performances on Broadway in October at a Shubert Theater to be announced later, the show’s producers said Thursday. The musical, which will cost a relatively hefty $13 million to mount, will star George Takei, who is best known as Mr. Sulu in the original “Star Trek” television series, and whose personal experiences in internment camps in Arkansas and California inspired “Allegiance.”

Mr. Takei, in a telephone interview, described the show as “very, very personal” and a tribute to his parents as well as the tens of thousands of people of Japanese ancestry – the majority of whom were American citizens – who were forcibly relocated to camps from 1942 to 1946 under an order by President Roosevelt. Mr. Takei said that he had invested a “substantial” amount of his own money in the musical, and that it features characters drawn from his family and life, including a grandfather character that Mr. Takei will portray in his Broadway debut.

I consider this my legacy project,” said Mr. Takei, who is 77 and spent about four years of his childhood in two camps. “This is the first time that this dark chapter of American history will be done on the Broadway stage.”

Mindful that theatergoers often skip Broadway musicals that are tagged (however unfairly) as ruminations on history, like “The Scottsboro Boys” and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Mr. Takei highlighted the romantic subplots and centrality of baseball in “Allegiance,” as well as the overarching theme of family unity.

The show’s backdrop is the imprisonment of innocent Americans simply because we looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor, but the story is universal – people falling in love, getting married, having a family,” Mr. Takei said. “The musical will find an audience because whether you are white, black, Latino, young or old, people can identify with the idea of family and the stresses put on a family, which in this case were enormous.”

Allegiance” had its world premiere in 2012 at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, receiving mixed reviews but drawing large and ethnically diverse audiences. Since then, Mr. Takei said, some scenes and dialogue have been tweaked but the show is essentially the same. The Old Globe cast included the Tony Award winner Lea Salonga (“Miss Saigon”) and Telly Leung (the 2011 Broadway revival of “Godspell”). Mr. Takei said Ms. Salonga and Mr. Leung were in negotiations to do “Allegiance” on Broadway but no casting beyond his was confirmed at this point.

The musical’s producers, Lorenzo Thione and Andrew Treagus, have been waiting for an available Broadway theater for about two years, but other shows – some more evidently commercial than “Allegiance,” and some flops – landed them first. “Allegiance” will arrive during a period of increasingly steady opportunities for Asian-American theater actors in New York: a Broadway revival of “The King & I” is set to open this spring, while the hit London revival of “Miss Saigon” looks likely to arrive on Broadway at some point, though probably not before the 2016-17 theater season.

Allegiance,” which has a book by Marc Acito and music and lyrics by Jay Kuo, will be directed by Stafford Arima (Off Broadway’s “Carrie,” “Altar Boyz”). Preview performances are scheduled to begin Oct. 6, with an opening night of Nov. 8.

The musical grew out of a chance encounter several years ago that Mr. Takei and his husband, Brad, had with Mr. Thione and Mr. Kuo at back-to-back theater outings in New York, after which Mr. Takei shared his childhood memories of the camps over dinner.

We talked for a long time about my childhood imprisonment, about my father’s anguish at being challenged over his loyalty to America – my dad was born in San Francisco and played baseball, my mother was born in Sacramento,” Mr. Takei said. “I’m a weeper, and when Jay emailed me a song after that, about my father and the idea of allegiance, I just gushed. I knew I had to do this.”

George Takei’s documentary “To Be Takei” now available for digital download


Angry Asian Man: 

The feature documentary To Be Takei is a fun and insightful look at the life and career of celebrated actor, activist and internet personality George Takei. Or, as I like to call him, Uncle George.

If you missed To Be Takei in theaters or have not yet seen it on DVD, it’s now available as a direct digital download. Want a discount on the download?

The film, directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, chronicles Takei’s seven-decade journey from a World War II internment camp, to the helm of the Starship Enterprise, to the daily news feeds of five million Facebook fans. Join George and his husband Brad on this star’s playful and profound trek for life, liberty, and love.

Here’s the trailer:

To Be Takei is now available as a digital download in both a standard edition ($9.99) and deluxe edition ($19.99) with 80 minutes of bonus scenes (including 15 exclusive scenes featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols and more hilarity with George and Brad Takei) and the film’s soundtrack.

Doug Jung co-writing “Star Trek 3” with Simon Pegg

The Hollywood Reporter:

Star Trek 3 has found a new set of writers.  Doug Jung,   the co-creator of television cop drama Dark Blue, and Simon Pegg, the geek-friendly actor who already plays Scotty in the Star Trek franchise, are co-writing the new installment of Paramount and Skydance’s sci-fi adventure franchise.

A search was necessitated when Roberto Orci, who was writing and slated to direct the sequel, departed the project. Justin Lin is now on board to direct. Paramount and Skydance are still hoping to make their July, 2016 release date.

In addition to Dark Blue, Jung has written for TV shows Banshee and Big Love.

 

“Fast & Furious 6” helmer Justin Lin to direct “Star Trek 3”

Justin Lin Directing Star Trek 3

Variety:

Justin Lin is boarding the USS Enterprise and will direct the third installment in Paramount Pictures’ “Star Trek” franchise.

The hiring of Lin came two weeks after Roberto Orci backed away from the directing gig.

Orci had been hired for the helming job after J.J. Abrams had to exit the sequel due to his commitment to direct Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Abrams directed the first two “Star Trek” reboots in 2009 and 2013.

David Ellison’s Skydance Prods. is producing along with Orci and Abrams. Paramount has not yet set a release date for “Star Trek 3″ but speculation has emerged that the studio will release the film in 2016 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of the original “Star Trek” series on TV.

Patrick McKay and John D. Payne worked on the most recent draft of the script.

Lin directed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth installments of the “Fast and Furious” franchise.

Last year’s “Star Trek Into Darkness” grossed $467 million worldwide, including $229 million domestically.

George Takei: Star treks to the Smithsonian

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Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center:

There are few people in today’s public forum that have made cultural and political impact like that of George Takei. From his iconic role as Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek, to his deep involvement in obtaining a redress of Japanese Americans who were forced into relocation during World War II, to his fervent fight for LGBT rights, George has proven himself to be a force to reckon with. Plus, his cat memes are awesome!!!georgetakei-catGeorge and Brad Takei graced us with their presence at the DC Film Premiere of To Be Takei, a new documentary starring the couple. We also found some time to show him some powerful pieces from the Smithsonian collection (thanks to National Museum of American History curators Noriko Sanefuji and Katherine Ott!) and hung with him backstage. Join our play-by-play!14220415211_4315e6b839_oThe evening kicked off with a special reception to honor our friends and supporters. As you can see, Brad Takei thoroughly enjoyed the regal wallpaper at the VIP room. DSC_003914037268619_c09b92332f_bThe WB Theater was packed for To Be Takei! DSC_0076Our director Konrad Ng, along with Daphne Kwok – AARP Vice President of Multicultural Markets & Engagement for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Audience – introduced George, and then the man of the hour came out to introduce the film. DSC_0115While the film played, we took George and Brad upstairs to view some items selected by NMAH curators, including the Congressional Gold Medal for Nisei World War II veterans. DSC_013914037132770_474163c91e_bIrene Hirano Inouye, President of the U.S.-Japan Council, Daphne Kwok, and Floyd Mori, President of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies joined them while Noriko and Katherine led a conversation around pieces from Japanese American families who were forced to relocate during World War II, as well as items from the National Museum of American History’s LGBT collection. DSC_019914223581844_2690d14479_bPowerful pieces included artifacts from Rohwer Confinement Site, where George was incarcerated as a boy before his family was sent to Tule Lake. 14037187699_3051e269ca_bBackstage, George sat down with Adriel Luis, our Curator of Digital and Emerging Media, to talk about how his career has been driven by a range of influences – from old Samurai films to African American civil rights leaders. 14243958873_12e14dd261_bSenator Mazie Hirono stopped by to say “Hello.” DSC_0011After the film, George and Brad went back to the auditorium to participate in a Q&A moderated by Gautam Raghavan, Public Engagement Advisor for the White House. 14037114548_920ced67ec_b

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We had a spectacular time with George and Brad! Check out a trailer of his film below, and stay tuned for more amazing events!

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Star Trek’s John Cho breaks barriers as romantic lead: ‘I would call this revolutionary’

John Cho and Karen Gillan co-star in this fall's "Selfie," a series based on George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion."

John Cho and Karen Gillan co-star in this fall’s “Selfie,” a series based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.

 

John Cho in a romantic lead?

It’s hard to remember the last time an Asian male played a romantic character in a television series. Unless you count the time George Takei as Sulu in Star Trek groped Uhura. But that’s because he was momentarily insane.

Asians are among the most under-represented minority group on TV and Asian males in romantic leads are practically unheard of.

But Cho now finds himself starring in a modern remake of Pygmalion and the color-blind casting of himself as “Henry” with co-star Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) as Eliza Dooley in ABC’s Selfie for the fall TV season.

I would call this revolutionary. It’s certainly a personal revolution for me,” said the 42-year old actor who says he normally never gets offered such roles. Fans may best know the actor as the current Sulu in the rebooted Star Trek, or as stoner Harold Lee of Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle.

Asians narratively in shows are insignificant. They’re the cop, or the waitress, or whatever it is. You see them in the background. So to be in this position . . . is a bit of a landmark,” says Cho.

Selfie tells the story of Dooley, who seeks the help of Henry, who happens to be a marketing whiz, to remake her Internet brand. In the process, he changes who she is as a person.

Creator Emily Kapnek says producers initially thought along more conventional lines, casting someone who was British in the vein of the original Henry Higgins character.

The casting process was pretty extensive . . . the idea was to find someone several generations older and British,” says Kapnek. “We looked at tons of different actors, and really once we kind of opened our minds and said let’s get off of what we think Henry is supposed to be and just talk about who is, we just need a brilliant actor—and John’s name came up.”

Kapnek said it was ABC who first brought up the idea of color-blind casting.

Once Cho was cast, writers decided not to dwell on the interracial relationship, making it a non-issue in the storyline.

To not even talk about it is a really new and, I think, mature way to look at it,” says Cho.

There aren’t obvious similarities between Cho’s tech-savvy character and the curmudgeonly Henry Higgins who teaches Eliza Doolittle linguistics in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

But Cho says he could relate to the role from his experience as a high school English teacher in California.

His immigrant background (he was born in Seoul, South Korea) also helped him to further appreciate the spirit of Henry Higgins, a character who has spent his life studying the mannerisms and speech of others.

As an immigrant, I learned by watching other people,” says Cho. “When you’re not born in this country, you kind of study how people talk and how they act and you try and break things down.

Unlike Eliza, Cho doesn’t have a lot of choice when he finds himself needing a mentor for his upcoming role. The question is, will his new-found leading man status pave the way for other actors of color?

I sure hope so,” he says.