Who Is George Takei? A Celebration of AAPI Heritage Month
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month so Comic Years is highlighting some of our favorite actors, actresses, writers, and illustrators from the AAPI community (check out our DC Festival of Heroes review, who is Gene Luen Yang, and an interview with Kelly Marie Tran via Collider). In today’s post, we’re looking at one of the most influential Asian American actors today: who is George Takei?
George Takei was born April 20, 1937 in Los Angeles, California. His father named him after King George VI, whose coronation took place shortly after Takei was born. In 1942, the family was forced to live in the converted horse stables of Santa Anita Park before being sent to an internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas. They were later transferred to another internment camp in northern California, where they were forced to stay until the end of World War II in 1945. Due to the lack of government help post-war, Takei’s family had no bank accounts or housing, so they lived on Skid Row in Los Angeles for five years. He graduated from Los Angeles High School and went to college at UC Berkeley, where he studied architecture. Later, he transferred to UC Los Angeles, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in theater in 1960 and a Master of Arts in theater in 1964.
What Is George Takei Known For?
Image via screengrab
Takei is probably best known as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the TV series Star Trek: The Original Series, which ran from 1966-1969 on NBC. He also lent his voice as Sulu for Star Trek: The Animated Series from 1973 to 1974, and he appeared in the first six Star Trek films.
Star Trek: The Original Series was quite progressive for a 1960s TV series, even by today’s standards (it featured the first interracial kiss for a major TV network). Takei talks about how Gene Roddenberry, creator of the series, told him about his vision for the show:
He had an amazing vision. In listening to him describe my character, I knew this was going to be a breakthrough opportunity, both professionally for me, as well as to help break a lot of the stereotypes that we have in this world and particularly in this business, so I desperately wanted the role.
As the years have passed, Takei has made a variety of guest appearances, both physically and with voice acting, including Mulan, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Big Bang Theory.
On Breaking Stereotypes And The Continued Fight For Social Justice
While many people often think back on their “prime” years, Takei only seems to be getting better and more popular with age. He came out as gay at age 70 and continues to be an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community. He’s talked extensively about how being closeted could’ve affected his career and why he will continue to fight for civil rights:
It was liberating. It was so freeing, but at the same time I was prepared for my career to go on the downward, but the polar opposite happened — it has blossomed. I was invited to do guest appearances … as gay George Takei on Will & Grace or The Big Bang Theory. I got the invitation from Howard Stern to be his official announcer, which my husband and I talked about, too.
I’ve been on speaking tours advocating for equality for the LGBT community. But what we noticed was I was already talking to the converted — either LGBT people or allies — and what we needed to do was reach what I maintain is the decent, fair-minded, vast middle — people who are busy pursuing their lives and don’t stop to think about other issues.
At 74, Takei started his own Facebook account, becoming a social media sensation within hours. Today he has over 9 million followers on Facebook, 3.2 million Twitter followers, and 1.4 million Instagram followers. His signature catchphrase, “Oh Myyy!” has become the title of a book, podcast, and website he created. His posts are rich mixture of adorable, political, and just plain silliness.
Takei has also taken from his experience being in an internment camp and turned them into a commentary on the injustice that the country put the Japanese American community through. From 2015-2016 Takei starred in a Broadway musical called Allegiance, and in 2019, he published a graphic novel titled They Called Us Enemy. Both of these works were set during the Japanese internment of World War II.
Just for fun, here’s another adorable George Takei moment, this time with Stephen Colbert:
Who is George Takei to you? What is your favorite movie or TV show moment with? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
Keilin Huang is a freelance writer that likes the Oxford comma, reading from her neverending pile of books from the library, and Reeses peanut butter cups. She thanks her Dad for introducing her to his Superman comics and probably majored in Journalism because of Lois Lane.