It's okay to be Takei!
Trilingual civil rights activist and all-around awesome human being who also happened to play Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek: The Original Series
.George Hosato Takei
was born on April 20, 1937, in California. During his childhood, he and his family were sent to World War II internment camps for Japanese Americans. It was a miserable time, but at least George was too young to understand that and was content enough under the circumstances. It was there that young Takei's desire to act was born: the camp would screen Japanese movies for the internees, and there would be a single man off to the side of the projection screen providing an English dubbed voice for all the characters.
Takei wanted to be that guy.
Returning to Los Angeles after this, Takei and his family endured residual hatred for Japanese-Americans that lingered after World War II; they also moved into a primarily Latino neighborhood, where Takei picked up fluency in Spanish. He would go on to minor in Latino studies in college.
In the 1960s he made appearances on shows like Mission: Impossible
and The Twilight Zone
. But it was his groundbreaking role as Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek
that made him a cultural icon, as one of the first and only non-stereotypical Asian characters on mainstream American television. Reportedly every
Asian-American actor wanted the role, since Sulu had no accent, didn't do martial arts, and was not a crude caricature (remember: this was more or less contemporary with the yellowface characters in Breakfast at Tiffany's
and Charlie Chan
However, when Takei took some time off to appear in the John Wayne
film, The Green Berets
, prepared 2nd season Trek
plots that would have featured Sulu were reworked to put the new character, Pavel Chekov, in that spotlight. That was initially a cause for some friction for Takei with the new castmember, Walter Koenig
, but they soon settled their differences and became close friends as their characters became an iconic pair at the helm of the USS Enterprise
Takei campaigned heavily to helm a TOS-era spinoff, Excelsior
(named after Sulu's own Constitution-class starship), but t'was not to be. However, he would go on to portray Sulu in Star Trek: The Animated Series
, in six subsequent Star Trek
movies, and led the Excelsior
into action in Star Trek
's 30th Anniversary special, "Flashback" (Star Trek: Voyager
). He also co-starred in an episode of the fan work Star Trek: New Voyages
After Star Trek
, he ran for City Council in Los Angeles, losing by only about 1500 votes. However, his civic hopes were not in vain, as he would later be appointed to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District.
In the 2000s, Takei gained new fame by appearing regularly on The Howard Stern Show
, giving birth to his own Memetic Mutation
: "Ohhhhhh myyyyyy." He also appeared as Hiro's dad on Heroes
and voiced animated Asian characters such as the Fa ancestor from Mulan
, a Fire nation jailor in Avatar: The Last Airbender
, and Emperor Yoshiro, leader of the Empire of the Rising Sun in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
, where he gave us this lovely bit of Memetic Mutation
. He voiced Separatist general Lok Durd in an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars
, making him one of the first actors to have a role in both of the two largest "Star" franchises. He has played two mentorial roles in the Transformers
franchise, first as Master Yoketron, Prowl's cyber-ninja mentor from Transformers Animated
, and Optimus Prime's mentor, the archivist Alpha Trion in Transformers Prime
. Oh, and he also voiced Galactus
, the Devourer of Worlds himself, in The Super Hero Squad Show
In 2006, he officially came out of the closet as a gay man, although many of his friends and family had long known this. In 2008, he married his partner of twenty years, journalist Brad Altman. Takei continues to be an advocate for civil rights, gay rights and Asian-American issues. In 2012, he starred in the musical Allegiance
, which deals with World War II
internment of Japanese Americans. He has also protested the Race Lifting
of Asian characters in Hollywood adaptations such as The Last Airbender
He has a huge
Facebook following. By March 2012, his page had nearly 1.4 million
followers. The page surpassed 5 million followers late in 2013. He has been a semi-cast member of The Howard Stern Show
since the show's move to satellite in 2005, officially the show's announcer and sits in for week-long stints when he's in New York.
This actor provides examples of the following tropes:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Takei probably laughed the hardest, of anyone, at the gay jokes directed at him during "The Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner"
- Adam Westing: And he'll more or less freely admit to it. Most obvious in his appearance as "himself" on Malcolm in the Middle
- Aroused by Their Voice: Futurama's Star Trek episode invokes this when a sexy voice is required, and he interrupts Nichelle Nichols to speak.
- Badass Baritone
- Badass Grandpa: On an episode of Conan he appeared as part of an infomercial for a service to help people come out to their family. He ended his part saying "And if any of you mother*beep*ers gives him any *beep* I will come back here and *beep*! Your! *beep*! Up!
- Bilingual Bonus: His Catch Phrase Oh myyy... is a homophone of omae, a less-than-friendly way of addressing someone (i.e. "You!") in Japanese.
- Bowties Are Cool: Describes himself as a "bowtie enthusiast" in the Funny or Die video parodying Boys Beware.
- Camp Gay: When he's Adam Westing. He will also not hesitate to discuss his love of musical theater, acknowledging it as being fitting with the stereotype.
- Catch Phrase: "Ohhhhh my."
- Cool Old Guy
- Dirty Old Man: He plays it for laughs, of course.
- Everybody Knew Already: While the general public may have not known until he came out, George's sexuality was an open secret among Trekkers since the seventies. His husband Brad was usually by his side at cons, and he would answer "yes" if asked directly by fans.
- Exact Words/Loophole Abuse: When Tennessee tried to say "Don't say gay", George told LGBT Tennesseans "It's okay to be Takei!".
- Enemy Mine: States that Star Trek and Star Wars fans should unite against a greater threat.
- Follow the Leader: After hearing about Gilbert Gottfried's "audio book" of Fifty Shades of Grey, Takei decided to do one of his own - only to be surprised that the narrator is a woman, after having gotten very-much into one of the sex scenes.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Invoked by Takei by lending his name as an Unusual Euphemism to teachers in Tennessee to get around the state's "Don't Say Gay" bill. (Which, since it was his own name he used as a substitute, certainly didn't hurt from a self-promotion standpoint.)
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Walter Koenig, even asking Walter to be his Best Man.
- Informed Ability: At first. His famous "shirtless fencer" scene from Star Trek was originally meant to be done with a Japanese sword, but Takei (in addition to wanting to avoid Asian stereotypes) was a big fan of old swashbuckling films of the Errol Flynn type, so he told them he was a skilled fencer to get to use a fencing sword instead. After it was agreed, he immediately took up a fencing class to pull off a good showing.
- It Is Pronounced Tro-PAY: It's "Ta-kay" not "Ta-kai" as he delighted in pointing out to William Shatner during the latter's roast.
My name is George Ta-kay
. Not Ta-kai
, as you've insisted on pronouncing it for the last forty years! Remember: Ta-kaaayyyyy.
Like in ''toupeť''
- In an earlier interview, Takei noted that 'takai' is the Japanese word for 'expensive' and that he was trying to convince his agent to promote a name change.
- Lust Object: During a bit on Stern, fell completely in lust with skateboarder/Mixed Martial Artist/radio show host Jason Ellis when he ended up naked in the studio, to the point of not being able to talk at first, and then not being able to shut up about him.
- Memetic Molester: Jokes being one, at least in regard to self-admitted homophobic people such as Tim Hardaway.
George Takei: One day, when you least expect it, I will have sex with you!
- Missing Episode: Takei's The Twilight Zone episode "The Encounter" was one of five episodes not syndicated until the early 90s.
- Mood Whiplash: Takei's Twitter account alternates between social activism and gleefully Dirty Old Man jokes. Which arguably makes it funnier to follow.
- Sometimes he hits both nails on the head:
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: Done for laughs in any show where he is Adam Westing. Fortunately, he's not like that in real life.
- Not What It Sounds Like: Takei, upon hearing he would have a Shirtless Scene in the Star Trek episode "The Naked Time," immediately started working out.
"During the next few days, people walking past my dressing room may have wondered what sort of nefarious activity might be going on inside that was making the portable structure rock with such sensuous rhythm. Whatever wild imaginings they might have had, the truth was that I was pumping up the pectorals for my shirtless fencing scenes with a conscientious push-ups regimen."
- Older Than They Look: Takei is 77, but could easily pass for late 40s.
- One of Us: Of course he was on Star Trek, but he also makes posts like these. He's also a fan of anime, such as AKIRA.
- Patrick Stewart Speech: He often delivers these.
- Pungeon Master: His Facebook page, which usually contains at least one Pun per post, and expects Lame Pun Reaction.
- Sophisticated as Hell: In his most famous anti-bullying video:
"No person, let alone an elected school official, whatever their personal or religious beliefs, should ever wish death upon another human being. You apologized for your 'poor choice in words', but you are always going to be a total douchebag."
- Straight Gay: When not Adam Westing or playing his part on The Howard Stern Show.
- Too Soon: A sad accidental example on his Facebook page. He posted a photo of the Enterprise crashed in the sand with the caption "Go home, Sulu; You're Drunk." Unfortunately, this happened around the same day as a plane crash in San Francisco left two dead and many injured. Takei either didn't hear about the tragedy or didn't put the two together in his mind, but took the post down as soon as he realized it.
- For those who don't know, Starfleet is headquartered in San Francisco. Given that Takei's page presumably has a disproportionate number of Star Trek fans, a lot of people probably made that connection.
- Troll: He loves making homophobic people look silly, such as in this awesome series of pictures.
- Word of Gay: Inverted. After he came out of the closet, many people assumed that Takei's character Sulu must also be gay. But Takei himself has insisted in interviews that Sulu was/is/will be straight.