George Takei – Japanese American Activist

George Takei, (born April 20, 1937) is an American actor, author, and activist. He is best known for his role as Hikaru Suluhelmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek. He also portrayed the character in six Star Trek feature films and one episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

As of April 2018, his Facebook page has attracted over 10 million followers since he joined in 2011, and the account frequently shares photos with original humorous commentary. Takei is a proponent of LGBT rights and is active in state and local politics. He has won several awards and accolades in his work on human rights and Japan–United States relations, including his work with the Japanese American National Museum.

Takei’s work on the 2012 Broadway show Allegiance, as well as his own internment in two US-run internment camps during World War II, has given him a platform to speak out against the stance on illegal immigration.

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, the 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. 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. The name was suggested by T. H. Burbine.

In November 2007, Takei was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the San Diego Asian Film Festival.

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 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 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 Doctorate of Humane Letters for his contributions. In 2019 he was awarded the Inkpot Award.

George Hosato Takei was born in Los Angeles, California, to Japanese-American parents. Takei is a Buddhist. His father practiced Zen Buddhism and his mother practiced Shin Buddhism. 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 internment camp was in swamplands and surrounded by barbed wire fences. The family was later transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California for internment.

Takei had several relatives living in Japan during World War II. Among them, he had an aunt and infant cousin who lived in Hiroshima and who were both killed during the atomic bombing that destroyed the city. In Takei’s own words, “My aunt and baby cousin [were] found burnt in a ditch in Hiroshima.”  At the end of World War II, after leaving Tule internment camp, Takei’s family were left without any bank accounts, home, or family business; this left them unable to find any housing, so they lived on Skid Row, Los Angeles for five years. He attended Mount Vernon Junior High School and served as Boys Division President at 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 transferred to 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 also attended the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon in England, and Sophia University in Tokyo. In Hollywood, he studied acting at the Desilu Workshop.

Career

Star Trek

 

In 1965, producer Gene Roddenberry cast Takei as astrosciences physicist Sulu in the second pilot for the original Star Trek television series. When the series was accepted by NBC, Takei continued in the role of Sulu, who was now the ship’s helmsman.

It was intended that Sulu’s role be expanded in the second season, but Takei’s role in The Green Berets (1968) as Captain Nim, a South Vietnamese Army officer alongside John Wayne‘s character, took him away from Star Trek filming and he only appeared in half the episodes of that 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 television and film productions, reprising his role as Sulu in Star Trek: The Animated Series from 1973 to 1974, and in the first six Star Trek films, the last of which promoted his character to captain of his own starship. Meanwhile, he became 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 played Captain Sulu in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

In 1979, Takei co-wrote the science-fiction novel Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin.

Takei’s autobiography, To the Stars, was published in 1994. 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 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 Thorpe about stereotypes of gay men’s speech patterns.

In 2019, Takei published They Called Us Enemy (TopShelfComix.com), a 208-page graphic autobiography with a particular focus of his family’s time in internment, co-written with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and illustrated by Harmony Becker. The novel received an American Book Award in 2020.

Personal life and activism

In 2014, Takei raised $100,000 for an adult eagle scout to start a web series, titled Camp Abercorn, documenting his experiences 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.”

Marriage

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 a marriage license in West Hollywood. 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 its board of trustees. Walter Koenig was his best man, and Nichelle Nichols, eschewing the title “matron of honor”, was “best woman”. Reverend William Briones of the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple of Los Angeles presided.

Anglophilia

Takei is an avid Anglophile. On his personal website he said: “Those who know me know that I am an inconvertible Anglophile – or more broadly, a Britanophile, which includes my affection for Scotland and Wales as well. I love things British. My car is British. My wardrobe, to a good extent, is British. I even love the food in London – I think British food has shaken its 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.

Net Worth $15 million

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