Saturday, 14 September 2013

STAR TREK LEGEND GEORGE TAKEI ON SOCHI, HOLLYWOOD CLOSET AND WILLIAM SHATNER


George Takei starred as Captain Sulu in the original Star Trek TV series and six movies
Bugs' new interview with George Takei was first published in XTRA. This is the longer version of that interview.

Star Trek legend George Takei has been the ultimate outsider for much of his life. Interned in American “War Relocation Camps” during World War II, Takei later dealt with racism and the Hollywood closet during his Tinseltown years.

Takei is currently advocating for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to be relocated to a country that respects gay civil rights.

George Takei
“I remember the terrible morning when [I was five-years-old in 1942] my parents got my younger brother and baby sister up early, and I saw two soldiers with bayonets on their rifles flashing in the sun, stomp up the porch and knock on the front door,” Takei, now 76, remembers. “They ordered us out of our home. My mother was the last to come out and she was carrying the baby in her right arm and held a huge duffle bag in  her left hand and tears were rolling down her cheeks. I remember that vividly.”

Takei's personal experiences in WWII internment camps would later inspire the 2012 play Allegiance in which Takei also starred.

“I remember the barbwire fences, but I also remember chasing butterflies,” Takei says. “A child is amazingly adaptable. It wasn’t until I became a teenager after the war, talking with my father, that I learnt how degrading and humiliating it really was for my parents.”

By the time Takei got to Hollywood in the 1950s, he was relegated to playing stereotypes. But Takei told his father, “I’m going to change that.” 

Today, Takei chuckles: “Ah, the arrogance of young people.”

When TV executives threatened to cancel the original Star Trek TV series after the second season, Takei — who played Sulu in the series and in six Star Trek movies — says, “My father wrote a letter to NBC that said, ‘I’m George Takei’s father, so I am biased. But I think Star Trek is making an important contribution to diversity. Please renew this show so this message to America can continue.’ I was deeply touched by his letter. My father told me he was proud of me for doing what I set out to do.”

As for coming out, Takei – who knew he was gay in grammar school – admits that, as a teenager, “I wanted to be – in quotes – ‘normal’ and so I played the game. I wanted to be an actor in Hollywood where they find all sorts of reasons to say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not right for the part.’ You’re too fat, you’re too tall. Being gay wasn’t going to help, so I hid that part.

“Today we have a whole different climate with the US president supporting LGBT equality and the U.S. Supreme Court supporting same-sex marriage. There still are closeted matinee idols [who still] have too much of an economic gain as risk. They won’t come out. Like my Star Trek colleagues knew I was gay but remained silent because they didn’t want to be destructive, I’m not going to name any names. It’s up to them to make that decision. They are the ones who have to live their complicated lives in the closet.”

Takei – who knows a thing or two about being an Internet sensation (“I never thought my being on Facebook would become such a big deal!”) – also has a few words about Star Trek pop icon and Montreal native William Shatner using the Internet for Shatner’s own gains.

After Takei wed his partner of 26 years in 2008, Shatner claimed he had not been invited to the wedding. “We sent him an invitation and all my Star Trek colleagues RSVPed except for Bill,” Takei says. “No big deal. The wedding happened and then two months later he goes on YouTube and rants and raves about not being invited. Then my husband [Brad] and I were driving down Sunset Boulevard and there was this big billboard promoting Shatner’s new talk show. To promote it he needed controversy, so that’s why he complained. Whenever Bill needs a little publicity, he revives the wedding-invitation controversy.”

Besides attending comic conventions across North America, Takei is also campaigning to take the Sochi Winter Games out of Russia because it is a dangerous place for LGBT people and their supporters.
“They are literally being killed,” he says. “I think Vancouver would be ideal to host the next winter Olympics.”

Takei is looking forward to Montreal Comiccon, but admits he’s never been to any of that city’s famed gay strip joints before. “Can you give me an address?” he asks.

I give Mr. Takei two, and wish him a good time. “Now with your help, I will!” he laughs. “Merci beaucoup and au revoir!”

George Takei will sign autographs and do photo ops during all 3 days of the 2013 Montreal Comiccon, which runs Sept 13-15 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. There will also be a George Takei Q&A on Sept 15. Advance tickets recommended: www.montrealcomiccon.com

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