By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
George Takei beamed and waved as he served as the celebrity grand marshal at last Sunday’s 40th annual gay pride parade in Seattle. (Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was the parade’s community grand marshal.) Takei is perhaps most widely known for playing Hikaru Sulu on the original “Star Trek” TV series.
Beyond his acting work, Takei, a Japanese American, is also an activist for gay rights and is vocal about his family’s history of internment.
In honor of his visit to Seattle, we’ve compiled a round-up of eight things you may not know about Takei.
1. His name at birth was Hosato Takei. He was born April 20, 1937 in Los Angeles. His mother was born in Sacramento and his father in the Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan. According to his autobiography, his father gave him the name George, after the United Kingdom’s King George VI.
2. Takei and his family lived in an internment camp for four years in Roher, Ark., and Tule Lake, Calif., when he was between ages 4 and 8. In 2012, Takei and other speakers spoke about internment to the Los Angeles County’s board of supervisors. According to the L.A. County blog, Takei said that in 1942, he and his brother saw “two American soldiers with bayonets flashing on their rifles come marching up our driveway, stomped on our front porch, and banged on our front door. My father answered it, and we were ordered out of our house. And I remember seeing my mother carrying my baby sister and a huge duffel bag … and I saw tears rolling down her cheek.”
3. Takei graduated from UCLA with a bachelor of arts in theater in 1960, and a master of arts in theater in 1964. His first acting role was in 1957, when he answered a newspaper ad seeking voice actors. Takei dubbed the English dialogue for the Japanese film “Rodan.”
4. Takei didn’t come out as gay until 2005, in an issue of Frontiers magazine. Then, he revealed that he had been in an 18-year relationship with partner Brad Altman. “The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay,” he told The Associated Press in 2005. “The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young.” Takei and Altman married in 2008, when Takei was 71 and Altman 54.
5. Takei was cast in “The Green Berets” (1968) and had to miss nine episodes of “Star Trek” due to scheduling conflicts. The character of Pavel Chekov, played by Walter Koenig, was created in Takei’s absence. When Takei came back on the “Star Trek” set, the two shared a dressing room and Takei was reportedly ready to dislike Koenig. However, the two became close friends instead. Koenig was the best man at Takei’s wedding.
6. Takei is one of several cast members who has publicly stated that he had a hard time working with co-star William Shatner (Captain Kirk) on “Star Trek.” The issue was brought up again during the Takei and Altman nuptials in 2008. “When the press asked if Bill was going to be invited to our wedding, we said we had to cull the list down to 200,” Takei told Time magazine in 2008. “So the press went on to assume Bill was not going to be invited. But we wanted to be as inclusive as possible, so we shoehorned him onto our list and he was sent an invitation. But we got no response to the RSVP. So we offered his two seats to someone else. Weeks after, there he was ranting and raving that he wasn’t invited to our wedding. I was just aghast.”
7. Takei is particularly known for his vocal talents. He was nominated for a Grammy, along with “Star Trek” costar Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), for the “Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording” category. He has narrated documentaries, voice-acted on animated series, and guest-narrated with symphony orchestras.
8. Like his father, he is an Anglophile. On his website, he states, “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.” (end)
Takei’s upcoming biographical documentary “To Be Takei” debuts on DirecTV July 3. It will be in theaters later in the summer, starting Aug. 22.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.