×

George Takei on New ‘Star Trek’ Gay Character: ‘It’s the Way It Should’ve Been Done’

George Takei is thrilled that the upcoming series “Star Trek: Discovery” will feature an openly gay character.

“I’m eager to see him,” Takei said of Anthony Rapp, who will portray a gay Starfleet science officer on the upcoming CBS All Access spin-off.

Takei, who is openly gay, spoke with Variety exclusively about LGBT characters in the “Trek” universe at Saturday’s Unforgettable Gala, honoring Asians in entertainment, where he was presented with the ICON Award.

In the latest franchise film, “Star Trek Beyond,” it is revealed that the character he originated — Hikaru Sulu — is gay. Takei had mixed feelings about the announcement because it departed from creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision.

“When I was informed they were making Sulu gay, I said, ‘It’s wonderful that they can deal with the gay issue. But honor Gene. It’s not about me. It’s about Gene’s vision and respect him and respect the characters that he created.'”

“But be as imaginative and creative as Gene was,” Takei advised producers, “Create a new character and make him or her gay with the issues he or she might have to deal with in the 23rd century. That would be exciting. That would be paying tribute.”

Instead, producers chose to make Sulu gay in 2016’s “Star Trek Beyond.”

“I wasn’t persuasive and they made Sulu gay. They said it was a tribute to me, so I appreciate that part,” Takei explained. “But now Gene is really going to be honored by ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ by having that original character, played by a wonderfully talented actor. I think it is the way it should’ve been done.”

Takei explained how he approached Roddenberry to do a gay storyline at the time, but audiences in the 1960s were not prepared for that.

“Gene created all of the characters as straight characters. Because of the times, it could be not be on the air if you have a gay character. In fact, we had one episode where the white captain, Kirk, kissed the black Uhura, and that show was blacked out — literally blacked out — in the Southern areas. Stations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia refused to air it. We hit rock bottom.”

“I was lobbying Gene to do an episode that deals with LGBT issues and equality,” Takei explained. “He said, ‘I’m aware of that and I support that but I’m walking a tightrope. I can’t step a little too far or the show will be canceled.'”

“But those days are past,” Takei said reflectively.

At 79, Takei is looking forward to the future. On Tuesday, cinemas are holding a special screening of his play “Allegiance,” based on his time spent as a child in internment camps. Next year, the veteran actor will star in a revival of Steven Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures” directed by John Doyle.

He’s equally excited for “Discovery,” which will bow next May. “I want to know what they’ll do!” Takei said with anticipation.

Star Trek Actors: Then and Now

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Recalls Husband Blake Edwards' Battle With Depression

    The line to see Julie Andrews at the 92nd Street Y wrapped around the square of a sprawling New York City block. Seventy years since the start of her career, 60 since she asked “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” as Lerner and Loewe’s first Eliza and 50 since she sang “The Sound of Music” before the [...]

  • Bombshell Charlize Theron Megyn Kelly

    'Bombshell': Why Charlize Theron Was Terrified of Playing Megyn Kelly

    Charlize Theron is getting some of the best buzz of her career for channeling Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” but the Oscar-winning actress admits she almost turned down the role. “I was shit scared,” Theron said during a question-and-answer session following a Manhattan screening of “Bombshell” on Sunday. Partly, she was worried about portraying someone who [...]

  • Natalie Portman Benjamin Millipied LA Dance

    Natalie Portman, Benjamin Millepied Help Raise Over $1 Million For L.A. Dance Project

    Natalie Portman may be joining Chris Hemsworth in Marvel’s “Thor 4: Love and Thunder,” but as the petite, Dior-clad actress struck a range of poses on the carpet inside downtown Los Angeles gallery space Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel on Saturday night, it was impossible to imagine her wielding an enormous hammer. But then, the Oscar [...]

  • Taron Egerton Elton John Rocketman Live

    Elton John and Taron Egerton Duet at 'Rocketman' Awards Season Event at the Greek Theatre

    “Rocketman” has officially launched into awards season. Paramount hosted a screening of the film with a live-performance of the score by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and a headlining performance by Elton John and the film’s star Taron Egerton. John and Egerton — who is in contention for best actor for his portrayal of the singer [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content