Japanese American Nikkei

George Takei

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Although primarily known for playing Hikaru Sulu in the television series Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) and the first six features, George Takei has had a varied career acting in television, feature films, live theater and radio. He also is a successful writer and community activist.

George Takei was born Hosato Takei on April 20, 1937, in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California. His mother, Fumiko Emily (Nakamura), was born in Sacramento, to Japanese parents, and his father, Takekuma Norman Takei, worked in real estate and was born in Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, George and his family were relocated from Los Angeles to the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas, and later, as the war was ending they were moved to a camp at Tule Lake in Northern California. Takei’s first-hand knowledge of the unjust internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans in World War II, poignantly chronicled in his autobiography, created a lifelong interest in politics and community affairs.

After graduating from Los Angeles High School in 1956, George studied architecture at UC Berkeley. An ad in a Japanese community paper led to a summer job on the MGM lot dubbing eight characters from Japanese into English for Rodan (1956) (aka “Rodan”). With the acting bug kindled in him, he transferred to UCLA as a theater arts major. Contacting an agent he had met at MGM led to Takei’s appearance as an embittered soldier in postwar Japan in the Playhouse 90 (1956) production “Made in Japan” even before starting classes at UCLA. Being spotted in a UCLA theater production by a Warner Bros. casting director led to George’s feature film debut in Ice Palace (1960), various roles in Hawaiian Eye (1959) and other feature work. In June 1960, he completed his degree at UCLA and studied that summer at the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-Upon-Avon in England.

After starting a Master’s degree program at UCLA, George was cast in the socially relevant stage musical production, “Fly Blackbird!” but was replaced when the show moved to New York. He took odd jobs until returning to his role at the end of the run. Getting little work in Manhattan, George returned to Los Angeles to continue his studies at UCLA, once again appearing in television series and feature films. He earned his Master’s degree in 1964. Wanting a multi-racial crew, Gene Roddenberry cast him in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) pilot. Mr. Sulu remained as a regular character when the series went into production. In the hiatus after the end of shooting the first season, he worked on The Green Berets (1968), playing a South Vietnamese Special Forces officer.

After Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) was cancelled, Takei did guest stints in several television series, voiced Sulu for the animated Star Trek series and regularly appeared at Star Trek conventions. He also produced and hosted a public affairs show, “Expression East/West” aired in Los Angeles from 1971 to 1973. In 1973, he ran for the Los Angeles City Council. Although he lost by a small margin, Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, where he served until 1984 and contributed to plans for the subway. During this period, he co-wrote a sci-fi novel, “Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe”. He campaigned to get more respect for his character in the Star Trek features, resulting in Sulu finally obtaining the rank of captain in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), a role reprised in the Star Trek: Voyager (1995) episode “Flashback”.

George has run several marathons and was in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Torch Relay. He gained a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame in 1986 and left his signature and hand print in cement at the Chinese Theater in 1991. His 1994 autobiography, “To the Stars”, was well-received by more than just Star Trek fans. He remains active as a stage, television and film actor and as an advocate for the interests of Japanese-Americans.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Brian Greenhalgh

Spouse (1)

Brad Takei (14 September 2008 – present)

Trade Mark (3)

Deep smooth voice
Catchphrase: “Oh my!”
Unique clipped manner of speaking

Trivia (42)

During World War II, Takei lived with his family in several government internment camps for people of Japanese ancestry. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the applicable Executive Order No. 9066, on February 19th 1942. In December 1944, President Roosevelt suspended Executive Order 9066. Incarcerees were released, often to resettlement facilities and temporary housing, and the camps were shut down by 1946. Ironically, George shares a birthday with Adolf Hitler; he was born on Hitler’s 48th birthday so he was still alive.
Attended and graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles. His major was Theater Arts and his minor was Latin American Studies. His father said that both of those areas of study meant that he would be supporting George for the rest of his life.
In 1996, he became the first original Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) series actor to go to a South American convention, in São Paulo, Brazil.
When he met with Gene Roddenberry about a role on Star Trek: The Original Series (1966), Roddenberry called him Takei (pronouncing it “Ta-KAI”), which translates from the Japanese as “expensive” or “tall” (his name is actually pronounced “Ta-KAY”, which rhymes with “okay”). This is how Roddenberry remembered his name.
Has initially declined to appear in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), but William Shatner personally called him and persuaded him to star in the film.
Among his first acting jobs was as a voice artist. Although he was only a teenager, he dubbed English dialog for adult characters in Japanese films being released in the United States.
Has initially objected to the scene in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) where the tall Starfleet guard calls him “tiny”. When the scene was screened for audiences, the audiences cheered Sulu (Takei) when he defeated the tall guard, and Takei later apologized to writer Harve Bennett for it.
Has stated that his favourite Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) episode is Star Trek: The Original Series: The Naked Time (1966).
Is a favorite of the Howard Stern audience.
His family was incarcerated at an internment camp in Arkansas when he was 4 to 8 years old. He learned to recite the Pledge of Allegiance while surrounded by guard towers and barbed-wire fences.
Along with Robert Duncan McNeill and Robert Picardo, he is one of only three “Star Trek” regulars to wear all three uniform colours. He wore a blue (medical/science) uniform in the second Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) pilot, Star Trek: The Original Series: Where No Man Has Gone Before (1966), the gold (command) uniform in every subsequent episode of the series in which he appeared and the red (security) uniform in Star Trek: The Original Series: Mirror, Mirror (1967).
Has appeared in episodes of three different series with Walter Koenig: Star Trek: The Original Series (1966), Diagnosis Murder (1993) and Futurama (1999).
Has appeared in episodes of three different series with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Nichelle Nichols: Star Trek: The Original Series (1966), Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973) and Futurama (1999).
Has appeared in episodes of three different series with Grace Lee Whitney: Star Trek: The Original Series (1966), Star Trek: Voyager (1995) and Diagnosis Murder (1993).
Has been a jogger for many years, and runs marathons. In the Los Angeles Marathon, his best time, as of 1989, was 3 hours and 40 minutes.
Reprised his role as Hikaru Sulu for the 2006 Internet-only series Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II (2004), after the suggestion of co-star Walter Koenig.
For the television special “The Star Trek Saga: From One Generation to the Next” (1988), George Takei explains how he once rode a Los Angeles plane with Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) star Patrick Stewart. They talked immediately after recognizing one another, but there were complications during final approach, unknown to either actor until landing. He joked to the pilots that the helmsman of the original Enterprise and captain of the Enterprise-D could have offered assistance.
An asteroid between Mars and Jupiter (discovered on April 13, 1994) has been renamed 7307 Takei in his honor.
His character Kaito Nakamura’s last name is his mother’s maiden name.
His father was an Anglophile, and named him George Takei after King George VI of the United Kingdom, whose coronation took place on May 12, 1937.
Son of Takekuma Norman Takei, who worked in real estate, and his wife Fumiko Emily Nakamura.
He and his partner, Brad Takei, had been together more than 21 years before they were married on September 14, 2008. After the California Supreme Court struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in May, Takei and Altman were among the first gay couples to get a marriage license.
Has been an Associate Fellow of Pierson College at Yale University since 1979.
The youngest cast member of the original Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) series.
Speaks Japanese and Spanish fluently.
Is an avid Anglophile and loves traveling to Britain.
Is named after King George VI of the United Kingdom.
His best man at his wedding was Walter Koenig.
Is a huge fan of Anime.
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6681 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on October 30, 1986.
Has played the same character (Hikaru Sulu) on three different series: Star Trek: The Original Series (1966), Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973) and Star Trek: Voyager (1995).
Has made guest appearances on both Hawaii Five-O (1968) and Hawaii Five-0 (2010).
At the University of California, Los Angeles, he and classmate Francis Ford Coppola made a student film together called “Christopher”.
Best known by the public (and by many sci-fi fans) for his role as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on the original Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) series.
Appeared at Nippon2007, the first World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Japan (Yokohama). Along with promoting his own recent projects, he co-hosted the 2007 Hugo Awards. [August 2007]
Has appeared as a contestant on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! (2002). [November 2008]
He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette by Emperor Akihito in 2004.
He appeared on stage in a two-hander called “Undertow” at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (1988).
During World War II, Takei lived with his family in several government internment camps for people of Japanese ancestry. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the applicable Executive Order No. 9066, on February 19th 1942. In December 1944, President Roosevelt suspended Executive Order 9066. Incarcerees were released, often to resettlement facilities and temporary housing, and the camps were shut down by 1946.
Along with Clive Revill, Jason Wingreen, Deep Roy and Felix Silla, he is one of only five actors to appear in both the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” series. In 2008 appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars as General Lok Durd.
Sometimes mangled, his surname is pronounced “Takay”.
One day younger than Elinor Donahue who starred with him in Star Trek: The Original Series: Metamorphosis (1967).

Personal Quotes (28)

[on William Shatner]: He’s just a wonderful actor who created a singular character. No one could have done Kirk the way Bill did. His energy and his determination, that’s Bill. And that’s also Captain Kirk.
(2005) The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay. The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young.
[during a 2006 interview with Scott Simon on National Public Radio] I went to school in a black tar-paper barrack [as a child in internment camps] and began the day seeing the barbed-wire fence, and thank god those barbed-wire fences are now long gone for Japanese Americans. But I still see an invisible, legalistic barbed-wire that keeps me, my partner of 19 years, Brad Altman, and another group of Americans separated from a normal life. That’s what I’ve been advocating on the Human Rights Campaign Equality Tour–I call it the “Equality Trek”.
[on the Occupy Wall Street movement] The struggle is not only social, economic and political – it is *structural*. No matter what side you are on, it is worth listening to what they have to say.
John D.F. Black who wrote Star Trek: The Original Series: The Naked Time (1966) came to me and said he was thinking of having Sulu use a Samurai sword. I told him, “It certainly is ethnically appropriate because I am of Japanese ancestry but what about a rapier? I was born in this country and when I was a kid I didn’t play Samurai. I played Robin Hood.” He asked me if I know how to fence to which I replied, “Of course.” That night I grabbed the phonebook and was furiously trying to find fencing schools so I could learn at least the basics.
I’ve run the marathon several times, so I definitely don’t look like the Great Ancestor!
My memories of camp – I was four years old to eight years old – they’re fond memories.
Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) is a show that had a vision about a future that was positive.
Plays close, movies wrap and television series eventually get cancelled, and we were cancelled in three seasons.
Yes, I remember the barbed wire and the guard towers and the machine guns, but they became part of my normal landscape. What would be abnormal in normal times became my normality in camp.
To do theater, you need to block off a hunk of time.
And it seems to me important for a country, for a nation to certainly know about its glorious achievements but also to know where its ideals failed, in order to keep that from happening again.
As you know, when Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) was canceled after the second season, it was the activism of the fans that revived it for a third season.
But when we came out of camp, that’s when I first realized that being in camp, that being Japanese-American, was something shameful.
Every time we had a hot war going on in Asia, it was difficult for Asian Americans here.
I marched back then – I was in a civil-rights musical, “Fly Blackbird”, and we met Martin Luther King.
I spent my boyhood behind the barbed wire fences of American internment camps and that part of my life is something that I wanted to share with more people.
I thought this convention phenomenon [Star Trek] was very flattering, but that’s about the extent of it.
I’m a civic busybody and I’ve been blessed with an active career.
Then that did very well at the box office, so before you knew it, we were in a string of feature motion pictures. Then they announced that they were going to do some spin-offs of us.
This is supposed to be a participatory democracy and if we’re not in there participating then the people that will manipulate and exploit the system will step in there.
Well, it gives, certainly to my father, who is the one that suffered the most in our family, an understanding of how the ideals of a country are only as good as the people who give it flesh and blood.
Well, the whole history of Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) is the market demand.
You know, I grew up in two American internment camps, and at that time, I was very young.
I’m an Anglophile. I visit England regularly, sometimes three or four times a year, at least once a year.
[on the dark elements inhabiting the Internet] They’re meddlesome, bothersome and irritating. But that’s part of the society – the human animal. Yes, there are people who want to criticize just for the purpose of being mean, and they have problems. But if you start responding to them, it becomes raw meat to them. I find ignoring them is the best tactic. But sometimes, I learn something from the thoughtful, legitimate critiques and negative comments. You have to keep an open mind and a discriminating mind: to know what to read and be impressed by, and what to ignore.
[on Leonard Nimoy] The word extraordinary is often overused, but I think it’s really appropriate for Leonard. He was an extraordinarily talented man, but he was also a very decent human being. His talent embraced directing as well as acting and photography. He was a very sensitive man. And we feel his passing very much. He had been ill for a long, long time, and we miss him very much.
[on Galaxy Quest (1999)] I think it’s a chillingly realistic documentary. [laughs] The details in it, I recognized every one of them. It is a powerful piece of documentary filmmaking. And I do believe that when we get kidnapped by aliens, it’s going to be genuine, true Star Trek fans who will save the day. I was rolling in the aisles. And Tim Allen had that Shatner-esque swagger down pat. And I roared when the shirt came off, and Sigourney [Weaver] roll her eyes and says, “There goes that shirt again.” How often did we hear that on the set? [laughs]
Kumiko Nakamura & the Comic Book Guy
Pat Morita