Recognized worldwide as a member of the original Star Trek cast, George Takei is best known for his portrayal of "Mr. Sulu" in the acclaimed television and film series. George's acting career has spanned more than five decades between film, television, and theatre.
This Monday, January 28, George will be a featured speaker at TEDxBroadway, a day-long event beginning where the sold out 2012 TEDxBroadway left off, bringing together some of the most passionate and influential people in academics, entertainment, marketing and media to answer the question: "What’s the best that Broadway can be: on stage, as an important neighborhood in New York City and in terms of its cultural impact on the world?" On January 28, at New World Stages in NYC (340 West 50th Street) hear George, Daryl Roth, Rasputina, David Sabel, Ellen Isaacs, Adam Thurman, Seth Pinsky, Thomas Schumacher, Randi Zuckerberg, Terry Teachout, Christine Jones and Josh Harris all speak about "What's the best that Broadway can be." Tickets are $100 and can be purchased by clicking here!
George is also promoting his new book Oh Myyy! There Goes The Internet and gearing up for the Broadway bow of his new musical Allegiance that just enjoyed a record-breaking run at the Old Globe in San Diego, CA this past September. Allegiance is scheduled to hit Broadway in the fall of 2013.
1. You have had such an illustrious career between film, television, and stage. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I was a performer from as far back as I can remember. My mother used to tell her friends I made my theatrical debut in the maternity ward. When I was a kid, my parents would have guests come over, and this dancing, bouncing, singing show-off kid would come in and say "I learned 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' today, would you like me to do it for you?" I was always a performer. I didn't suddenly become one by an inspiration.
I do, however, have people who inspired me. The first feature film I was cast in was while I was still a student at UCLA in the Theatre Arts Department. I was in cast in the movie Ice Palace, based upon Edna Ferber's epic novel about Alaska, and the stars were Richard Burton (the great Shakespearean star from England) and Robert Ryan (the rugged broad-boned frontiersman). Richard Burton was a true inspiration, especially after I met him. I had already been inspired by him from his other movies and his Shakespearean background. When I met him, we were on location, two weeks on location in Alaska and then two months back at the studio. For a young kid, a student no less, to be thrown into that kind of situation, was a heady experience. To get to work with this legendary Shakespearean actor from England was an incredible thrill. He had that aristocratic speech and that carriage, in the way he carried himself, but he was very down to earth. I began by calling him Mr. Burton, but he insisted that I call him Richard. It was awkward for me to call him Richard and I slipped a few times and called him Mr. Burton, after he asked me to call him Richard. I was playing a character named "Wang" in the movie, a fish cannery worker in Alaska, and Richard said to me (George takes on an aristocratic accent), "If you insist on calling me Mr. Burton, I shall call you Mr. Wang. But call me Richard and I shall call you George." I finally got to calling him Richard. I was full of awe and filled with questions about his career, background, advice, and guidance. He loved talking about himself and giving advice, so we were perfectly matched. We ended up becoming great friends during filming. It was a wonderful beginning.
It's very humbling to me because there are some people who don't know who Richard Burton is today. That is a testament to the passage of time. I guess it's like when my dad, who was a big movie buff, would talk about the silent movie stars; I'd only know some of them. There's no continuity with history. I think that's why it's so important that there are people who know history, so we can all know how this society of ours came about and on whose shoulders we stand, and enjoy whatever we have to enjoy or whatever mess they created that we have to clean up.
Dr. Martin Luther King inspired me too. Growing up during the civil rights movement, I was cast in a civil rights play and we got to perform it for Dr. King, which then allowed us to meet him one on one. Collin Powel is also an inspiration to me, even though he's a Republican and I'm a Democrat. I think he represents the best of Republican thinking. I have many political figures that inspire me.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I did the reading of 8 by Dustin Lance Black out in LA last year and got to work with Brad Pitt and George Clooney. That wet my appetite to want to work with them more. I would love to work with people like that. I've also had the chance to work with Christopher Plummer when he did Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I always saw him as this Godlike figure. I had seen many of his stage productions, particularly when he did his one-man performance of Barrymore, where he played John Barrymore, and he was bigger than life. When we worked together, he became a real person for me, but there is an aura about him. He's very friendly and accessible, yet there is this dignity and sense of self-worth around him. I would love to work with him again.
I want to work with people who have contributed to making this business as well as this art, because it is both, and you have to be savvy enough in order to get to the point where you can really be an artist. In this generation, George Clooney is more than an artist. He initiates productions, he's a producer and so he has that kind of vision, as does Brad Pitt. Christopher Plummer does too, though he's seen as an artist more, but he takes that artistry and just by his choosing to do something, he makes things happen.
3. You are going to be speaking at TEDxBroadway this Monday, January 28. What made you want to take part in this conference? Well they asked me. The more they explained to me what their vision is, the more I became interested. When one thinks of Broadway, the common thought is great American Theatre. TEDxBroadway's approach about what makes Broadway the best it can be is more than just the business that goes on in that geographic area. It's that geographic area as part of an urban center, Manhattan, and how it's shaped by, but it also can shape the course of that center. Urban planning is one of my interests.
4. What are you looking forward to most about attending TEDxBroadway yourself? To hear some of the cutting edge vision of the art of theatre, as well as the business of theatre is going to be an exciting opportunity to devour those ideas and have time to digest them as well as getting to talk to those people who are sharing those ideas.
5. What do you hope audiences come away with after hearing your specific talk? Broadway isn't perfect yet. I'm going to examine how new shows and musicals (particularly) are marketed compared to how movies are marketed by Hollywood and fully utilizing the communication medium of our time, social media. Broadway hasn't quite entered the 21st century. I'm forever identified with "boldly going where no one has gone before," that vision of our future. I'm going to persuade Broadway to fully utilize social media. Some of these new shows have to be running a long time before the general public becomes aware of it.
Hollywood builds excitement and anticipation long before it's released. I think Broadway needs to do that more because it's an investment of a lot of money as well as talent, time and energy. So many plays close early because they can't find their audience. It's so much better to invest a little energy and imagination in finding the audience before you open so they are there to sustain you until you find your audience.
Me: Some of the shows are starting to embrace social media. Once did a great campaign before it got to Broadway.
George: Yes they did. Allegiance, which is coming to Broadway next fall, used social media extensively for our run at The Old Globe in San Diego before we opened. We had an enthusiastic audience ready and waiting for us. When we opened, we opened to practically sold-out houses and after we opened, they became genuine sold-out houses, so much so, we had to turn people away. They extended our run by a week. We broke all attendance and box office records. That's what we intend to do with Broadway as well.
6. Speaking of Allegiance, what excites you about the show coming to Broadway? That I'm going to be making my Broadway debut! Right after I got my BA in Theatre (I have my Master's in Theatre as well), I lucked out and got cast in a civil rights musical in which the character was patterned after me. I was an activist in the civil rights movement, and the character was named "George." I played "George" in Fly Blackbird in Los Angeles for a year and producers from New York bought the rights to present it Off-Broadway. They told us if we came to New York and auditioned, we would be considered at the top of the list. Confident that we'd have almost a guarantee, more than a dozen of us flew to New York in the cold early December and and we auditioned at the Mark Hellinger Theatre (which is now a church). This was my first trip to the Big Apple. It was thrilling to audition for it, followed by the agony of waiting for two whole days, until the word came down that only one of us from Los Angeles was cast. And I wasn't the one. It was devastating. This was in December and it was cold, yet a magical place being right before the holidays, but that moment really made this a cold, heartless city. Ever since then, I've been determined to get on Broadway and next fall I will be.
7. Let's go back a little bit. How did Allegiance come to be? Allegiance was born in Broadway theatre. Brad, my husband, and I went to the theatre one night and the house only had a sprinkle of people. Two guys came and sat in front of us. I was talking with Brad and one guy recognized my voice and turned around and said, "You're George Takei aren't you?" That was Jay Kuo, our composer/lyricist and Lorenzo Thione, our book writer and producer. We chatted for a while and then the play began. At intermission we chatted some more. The play ended and we went back home thinking they are obviously passionate theatregoers. The next night we went to see the Tony Award winning musical In The Heights, we took our seats and as we were doing so, there were two arms waving at us and it was Lorenzo and Jay. We waved back, the show began, and near the end of the first act the father sings "Inutil," (meaning useless). He wants to do so much for his daughter, who's a bright girl who wants to go to college, but he can't. For some odd reason that triggered in me my memory of my father in the internment camp and his anguish as he's faced with the loyalty questionnaire, which he explained to me when I was a teenager. That father's love for his daughter and his sense of hopelessness to really help her reminded me of my father. I don't sniffle; I ball (George demonstrates his crying). Tears were cascading down my cheek and of course intermission comes and the house lights come on and Jay and Lorenzo, with their smiling faces, come over to chat with us. Jay sees me wiping the tears off my face and I told him why and that was a brief intermission conversation. After the show we went out for drinks and we talked about my family background and decided to have dinner together and that is how Allegiance was born. Jay's music is transporting. Lea Salonga, as Broadway already knows, is glorious, and Telly Leung is well known amongst Broadway people, but this show is going to make him a star.
8. What makes now the right time to bring Allegiance to the stage? I've been trying to get the story of the internment camps done for a long time. I think it's shameful that America doesn't know about the imprisonment of innocent people without due process. In our judicial system, the pillar of our judicial system is when one is arrested, they have the right to know why they are being arrested for, then they have the right to challenge that charge, and if they are found guilty, then they are imprisoned. In my case, my family was taken from our homes and brought to the internment camps when I was five just because we looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. There were no charges. It was a big violation of our constitutional rights. Yet Americans don't know about it. So, now is not the time to bring this story to the stage. It should have been known from 1950s on. Because our history books have been quiet about it, no one has taken the initiative to really explore it, but there are some academics who have written some books on it and some documentaries have been made. There have been some attempts in film, but they were bad attempts. For instance, that wonderful novel Snow Falling on Cedars was made into a movie. This girl in the book is an American. She speaks without an accent, she moves like an American, and she was born and raised in America. For the film, they cast an actress from Japan who has that Japanese body gesture and a heavy Japanese accent. To cast a Japanese actress as a Japanese American was very insulting. It showed the director and producer did not understand what the internment was about.
In Allegiance, we tell the story as truthful as we can. The story needs to be known by as many informed and educated Americans as possible. We tell the story of how this unconstitutional act fractured the Japanese American culture and sometimes split families apart. It's one family's story we dramatize and where better to tell this story than on the biggest and most important stage in America...Broadway. That's our goal.
Me: You were four when that happened?
George: I had just turned five. I was four when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Me: At that time, were you aware of what was happening? My memories are a child's memory. I didn't understand what it was all about. I remember seeing the two soldiers with bayonets flashing in the sunlight come up our driveway, stomp on our front porch and bang on the door and order us out. I remember being loaded onto a truck where other Japanese American families had gathered. My father told us we were going on a long vacation to a place called Arkansas. I thought, "A vacation? How great!" Arkansas sounded so exotic. I thought it was going to be wonderful. I know about vacations. Our parents took us to San Diego for vacation and it was a lot of fun. So when we were loaded on the truck, I wondered why all these people were so sad. When we got to the camps, there were sentry towers with machine guns pointed at us and barbed wire fences around us, but to me, I thought it was just all part of the scenery. When I made the midnight trips from our barracks to the latrine, searchlights had followed me. For my parents that was very nerve-racking, but for me, I just thought they were lighting my way. I was five, I didn't know.
More of my fun memories were catching pollywogs in the creek, seeing my first snow, throwing snowballs at my dad and brother, and making snowmen and forts with them. I remember celebrating Christmas in the camps. I knew what Christmas should be like because before the war, my mother would take me to department stores and sit on Santa's lap. So, we were told that Santa was going to visit us in the mess hall, where we had our meals. They decorated the hall with Christmas ornaments and we were to wait for Santa's arrival. He was supposed to get there around 7:30pm or 8pm. He didn't come on time and I remember thinking, "Maybe he couldn't get past the barbed wire fence." Then, suddenly, we heard this great big "Ho, ho, ho" and Santa arrived with this great big bag and I immediately knew he was a fake because I remembered Santa from the department stores. This Santa had a Japanese face and I knew what Santa really looked like. My brother and sister were so excited about Christmas that I didn't want to ruin it for them by telling them that he was a fake so I played along for their sake. Those are the memories I have. They are very different than my parent's memories.
When I became a teenager, I started reading history books and I couldn't reconcile what the books were telling me what happened with my own memories. So, I engaged my father in long conversations about it after dinner. The civil rights movement, which I was very involved in, was happening during my teenage years. I asked my dad, why didn't he protest about what was happening. I had said to him, if it were me, I would have gathered my friends and done just that. My father said to me, "If I had been single at the time, I might have protested, but I was responsible for you, your mother, and your siblings. He asked me, "If I had protested and they shot me, what do you think would have happened to you, your mother, and your siblings?" I got an adult perspective and understanding from my father's side of what was happening.
10. You are known for playing "Mr. Sulu" on Star Trek. Looking back, what was the best part about being on The Enterprise? There were two best parts about being on Star Trek. One was the vision that Gene Roddenberry infused into the show. That vision was to look to the human future as a good one, where we face challenges confident of our ability to solve problems, to be inventive, and overcome whatever challenge we have and to go on to meet new challenges. Gene said the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth and the strength of its starship was to find the strength in our diversity. I was very proud to be part of this vision and to be identified with it. The second best part about being on Star Trek was my colleagues. They have become lifelong friends over the years. When Brad and I got married Walter Koenig ("Pavel Chekov") was our best man. For a woman, the traditional term is "Matron of Honor." We asked Nichelle Nichols ("Uhura") to serve as Matron of Honor, but she didn't like to be called Matron. She said, "If Walt is going to be the best man, why can't I be the 'Best Lady'?" So she was the Best Lady. Leonard Nemoy ("Spock") is a dear friend who has presented me with various awards over the years and has traveled to numerous cities to present them to me. Jimmy Doohan ("Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott") and DeForest Kelley ("Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy") have passed, but Jimmy was my drinking buddy and I learned a lot from him. DeForest was a sweet guy and a very private guy. He didn't attend many of the conventions because crowds terrified him. I feel very blessed to have these friendships.
10a. What did you identify most with about "Mr. Sulu"? I always tried to add more definition and dimension to him, but when you have seven regulars, it's very hard to do. "Sulu" was very disciplined. He was professional, knew his job, was ambitious, and he admired "Captain Kirk," who was his role model. "Sulu" had aspirations. That's what I tried to get in the character. I kept suggesting to Gene and the writers to humanize "Sulu" a bit more, let's give him a family. The only time I got to do this was when I got to take off my shirt and demonstrate my fencing powers.
What I identify with "Mr. Sulu" are his ambition, professionalism, discipline, and being the best helmsman in Starfield (and this at a time when Asians had the stereotype of being terrible drivers, I showed them [laughs]). "Sulu" was the best driver in all of the galaxies [laughs].
10b. What has it been like to have such a legion of fans support you throughout your career? The Star Trek fans are amazing people. They are so dedicated, so tenacious, and so very supportive. The year 2013 is the 47th year of Star Trek. We went on the air for the first time in 1966. We lasted only three seasons, despite the fact we announced at the beginning we were on a five-year mission, more destructive than the Klingons were the executives at NBC [laughs]. Despite that beginning, the people who discovered us, kept supporting us, writing letters, urging TV execs to bring Star Trek back. When we went into syndication, the ratings soared because it was programmed at a much more accessible time. (The third season we were on Friday nights at 10pm, also known as the morgue hour). But when the ratings soared, they considered reviving us as early as 1974. We got the date we were going to start filming, but it wasn't until Star Wars became a smash hit at the box office that Paramount decided to really revive Star Trek as a feature film. Then we had spin-off shows: Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. No other show has enojyed this kind of life. After Gene passed away, J.J. Abrams came on board, and revitalized Star Trek yet again. This May another new Star Trek film is coming out. I'm sure three years from now there will be another Star Trek movie because that will be our 50th Anniversary.
The fans are the ones that created this phenomenon. So I do as many Star Trek conventions as I can because I think it's important to say to them personally, "Thank You for the incredible, amazing life you have given us." Gene Roddenberry created us, but this phenomenon has been created by the fans. We have lived much longer than we ever expected. That Vulcan greeting has come true...we have lived long and prospered.
11. You are also very big in social media with Facebook and Twitter, which tie into your new book Oh Myyy! There Goes The Internet. What made you want to start using this media format? How do you feel social media has enhanced the entertainment industry? Brad and I have invested in other plays that just didn't market their show like a movie does before it opens. So, with the birth of Allegiance, I thought, let's show Broadway how it should be done. That's what initiated my use with Facebook and Twitter and once again, those wonderful Star Trek fans took to my pages. Since they were my core base, I started talking about Star Trek and making some funny commentaries about Science (geeks and nerds are into all that) and I got a lot of "Likes" and "Shares" on the funny commentaries. I started to see a trend and I started to put funny pictures up and that got a huge amount of "Likes" and "Shares." Then I started posting those funny pictures regularly and my audience grew and grew. This made me feel comfortable enough to start talking about LGBT equality. Then my audience grew some more with a whole new group of people, with some overlap (a lot of geeks and nerds are gay and they talked to their gay non-geek/nerd friends and they started following me). Then I started talking about the internment of Japanese Americans and some of the geeks and nerds came on board and they talked to their Japanese American friends and that audience grew. It's astounding how there is that growth and that reach.
The other part of social media is all these fans talk amongst themselves. Then they come to me as friends and they bring their friends along and the growth is exponential. Now I can talk about internment and some of them will go off to do their own research, but that can then move into talking about this new musical Allegiance, from the story to the glorious music. We are trying to secure our box office success from the beginning and then once they are inside the theatre, I know we will have artistic success.
12. I admire that you advocate for many causes that are close to you, especially the LGBT community. In 2005, you officially came out of the closet to the public. What made then the right time for you to do this? The press always calls your "official coming out" when you talk to the press, but actually, I've been out long before, but quietly. The process is ongoing...first to your family, then to your close friends, then if you feel confident enough, to a larger circle of friends. I was out to most of my professional colleagues, but silently. You work with some people for weeks on end and Friday night you have the wrap party with the pizza and beer and people bring their husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, and I might come with a guy friend. The second time there is another guy friend and the third time another guy friend and basically they think "Oh George...hmmm," but it's not spoken about. Then I started bringing the same guy and they are like mhmmm. The first time I realized my coworkers knew about me was when I went to the set one morning to get my make-up done and I was hanging around the coffee urn, chit-chatting with Walter Koenig and all of a sudden he starts making the head gesture for me to turn around, to look where the extras were gathering. I turned around and right behind me was this stunningly good looking guy wearing that tight Starfleet uniform, with a fantastic build, flashing blue eyes and jet black hair. I drank that in and I turned back around to Walter grinning and Walter winks at me and that's when I knew he knew and I appreciated it. It was never spoken about becuase they were sophisticated people and they knew in Hollywood if word got out, your career would be over. Walter just wanted to let me know that he knew and that was alright with me.
12a. How did it feel to come out to the press? How do you feel it has enhanced your life? Well, it was anger that made me talk. In 2005, something historic happened in California. A few states had marriage equality, which came through the judicial route. Never, in any of the states that had marriage equality did it come through the Legislative route. For the first time, both houses of the California Legislative, the Senate and the Assembly, passed the same-sex marriage bill. All that was required for that to become the rule of the state was the signature of our governor, who happened to be, Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he ran for office, he campaigned to the LGBT community, "I'm from Hollywood, I've worked with gays and lesbians, and some of them are my best friends." The feeling was he was going to be supportive. I thought he was going to sign the bill, but he was a Republican, and he played to his Republican base, and vetoed the bill. That night I was watching TV and I saw all these young people pouring out onto Sana Monica Blvd and expressing their anger. I shared their anger with them, but I was at home with Brad, comfortably watching it on TV. I knew at that moment that I had to speak out. For me to do that, my voice had to be authentic. I spoke to just one journalist and that made it easier for me. That was deemed as my coming out, but it was Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto that made me decide to publicly talk to the press for the first me.
Me: I think it's great that you did because I feel it helps a lot of young people who are struggling with coming out. They see someone who's successful and has so much going for him and who happens to be gay. It shows them that they can have a real complete life. You and Brad have been together for 25 years now and it really shows them you can have everything everyone else has and it just happens to be two guys.
George: Well, we don't have everything yet, but advances are being made. Four years ago when we elected the first African American president, California had a heartbreak that same night when Prop 8 was passed. That election was bittersweet. It was wonderful. It was historic that an African American won as President of the United States, but on that same ballot was Prop 8 and it passed by a sliver of a margin. Four years later we had four marriage equality bills on the ballot in four different states in that election last November. The amazing thing that happened that election night was not only did Obama, our first African American President get re-elected, but we won all four states, three marriage equality bills and the fourth was stopping the attempt to add to the constitution of Minnesota that marriage equality would be bad. Just earlier this week, for the first time ever the President's inaugural address included the gay community when he said, "It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well." I think great things are going to happen this summer when the Supreme Court hears the two bills: the challenge to Prop 8 and the challenge of DOMA. Prop 8 has already been ruled unconstitutional by the Federal District Court and Circuit Appellate Court. We are sure Prop 8 is going down. I am the optimist; I think we will get rid of DOMA. Amazing things are happening and it is changing and that should give us the confidence to continue to break down all the laws to equality.
13. What was it like when you and Brad were invited onto The Newlywed Game as their first gay couple? That was fun, but what was really a breakthrough was when I served as President Clinton's appointee on the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, and while I was serving on the commission, the Prime Minister of Japan made a state visit to Washington DC. The President and First Lady Clinton hosted a State dinner for the Japanese Prime Minister and we, Brad and I, received an invitation. There we were at this dinner, dressed up amongst all these dignitaries, and when it came our turn to be announced for the welcoming line, they said Mr. George Takei and Mr. Brad Altman. I don't know whether this was a first time or not that at Mr. & Mr. were introduced to the President of the United States, but it was thrilling nonetheless. We hope to be there for another State dinner when the President and the First Gentleman are introduced to us [laughs].
14. There are some celebrities have not been able to handle the success and fame they've had. How have you been able to stay grounded and continued to have such success? I have taken to heart that Star Trek mission statement, "To boldly go where no man has gone before." I like new challenges and new opportunities to contribute to society. When I'm doing advocacy for LGBT equality, generally, when I go on speaking engagements to universities or corporations or government agencies, there are kindred souls there already, whether they are LGBT themselves or friends of LGBT people or those people who are open minded. In order to bring about real change, we need to get to the broad middle that's made up of decent fair-minded people, who in their daily course of working keeps them from thinking about issues other than what their personal issues are. They're decent people, but if they should be confronted with a situation or ballot measure, they are going to be fair about. We've got to get them thinking and find that group of people. Brad is addicted to The Howard Stern Show. I'm not, I wasn't. Brad said a lot Stern's listeners are good people, but some of them say homophobic things. They don't think about the issues because they are not personal to them. We've got to reach those people. Brad urged me to go on Howard Stern, so I "boldly went" and I discovered Howard to be a good guy. He's one of those decent, fair-minded people. His cache is making outrageous statements or doing outrageous things, but he's a keen interviewer. When he smells hyprocrisy or evasion, he hones in on that. If he can't get an honest answer from this way, he'll get it from this side, or this side, or if he still doesn't get the honest answer he's looking for, he'll go this way (as if pointing to someone's behind) [laughs]. He'll "boldly go" wherever to get the truth. Going on his show allowed me to humanize what it means to be gay. I gave a face to what it means to be gay. I reach a whole new audience. Life is more interesting when you make those discoveries with people like Howard. So taking on new adventures keep me grounded.
15. What's the best advice you've ever received? My father gave me a lot of advice, but the best advice he gave me was what made me be an activist and engaged in the political process. When I was a teenager and we had those discussions about the Japanese American internment, he said, "Both the strength and the weakness of American Democracy is in the fact that it is a people's Democracy and it can be as great as the people can be, but it's also as fallible as people are. So our Democracy is dependent on good people and by good people, he meant, people who are informed, rational, who don't panic into hysteria, who are actively engaged in the political process, and be there to keep the ideals of our system on a straight line."
More on George:
George received a star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame in 1986 and he placed his signature and handprint in the forecourt of the landmark Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood in 1991. He has more than 40 feature films and hundreds of television guest-starring roles to his credit.
It began in the summer of 1957, between his freshman and sophomore years at the University of California at Berkeley, when George answered a newspaper advertisement placed by a company casting voices for a motion picture. The film was Rodan, a Japanese science-fiction classic about a prehistoric creature terrorizing a southern Japanese city. In a sound stage on the MGM lot in Culver City, Calif., George dubbed the original Japanese lines into English, creating distinct voices for eight characters.
George's professional acting debut occurred on a 1959 episode of the pioneering live television drama series, Playhouse 90. His motion picture debut was in Ice Palace starring Richard Burton, released by Warner Bros. in 1959. His other films include six Star Trekmotion pictures (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: The Motion Picture), Larry Crowne, The Great Buck Howard, The Red Canvas, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, Ninja Cheerleaders, DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, The Green Berets, Majority of One, New World Order aka Noon Blue Apples, Who Gets the House?, Trekkies, The Best Bad Thing, Patient 14, Chongbal aka Vanished, Live by the Fist, Bug Busters, Kissinger and Nixon, Prisoners of the Sun aka Blood Oath, Return From the River Kwai, Red Line 7000, Never So Few, Walk Don't Run, An American Dream, P.T. 109, Oblivion, The Loudmouth, Which Way to the Front?, Bicycle Built for Three, and Hell to Eternity.
In addition to his role in the original Star Trekseries, other television appearances include Celebrity Apprentice, Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Late Show with David Letterman, Conan,The Wendy Williams Show,True Justice, The Big Bang Theory, Community, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Suite Life on Deck, Party Down, I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Heroes, Secret Talents of the Stars, Wanna Bet?, Thank God You're Here, The Bronx Bunny Show,Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Cory in the House, Psych,Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner, Will & Grace, Malcolm in the Middle, Freddie, Scrubs, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Murder She Wrote, Watching Ellie, Grosse Pointe, Early Edition, Diagnosis Murder, The Young and the Restless, Alienated, In the House, John Woo's Once a Thief, Homeboys in Outer Space, Muppets Tonight,Brotherly Love, Mission: Impossible, Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Miami Vice, I Spy, Son of the Beach, Marcus Welby, M.D., Hawaiian Eye, Hawaii Five-O, Ironside, Kung Fu, Mr. Novak, Mr. Roberts, The Six Million Dollar Man, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, Death Valley Days,Baa Baa Black Sheep, Bracken's World, Combat, Chico and the Man, General Hospital, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, MacGyver, Californians, Chrysler Theatre, U.S. Steel Hour, My Three Sons, and many others.
George is always in demand as a vocal artist. Among his credits is a music industry accolade -- in 1987, George and Leonard Nimoy shared a Grammy Award nomination for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (cassette) in the "Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording" category. George's distinctive voice is heard in The National Parks: America's Best Idea, a six-episode series directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan that aired on PBS in the fall of 2009. George's voice was featured in two episodes of George Lucas' cartoon version of Star Wars: The Clone Wars airing on the Cartoon Network in January 2009 as well as in Walt Disney Pictures' full-length animated features, Mulan and Mulan II, Star Trek audio novel recordings, Fox Television's The Simpsons, Futurama, Adventure Time, and in numerous voice-overs and narrations.
Widely recognized for his vocal talents, George has been a guest narrator with numerous symphony orchestras. In February 2012, George narrated A Survivor from Warsaw with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Philip Mann. He narrated Sci-Fi Spectacular with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in June 2012, Toronto Symphony Orchestra in May 2012, Detroit Symphony Orchestra in March 2012, Kansas City Symphony in January 2012, Naples (Florida) Philharmonic Orchestra in January 2011, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in July 2010, Cleveland Orchestra in August 2009, Ottawa Symphony Orchestra in April 2009, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in January 2009, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in January 2008, and Seattle Symphony in September 2007. All "Sci-Fi" concerts were conducted by Jack Everly. George narrated Look to the Future with the San Francisco Symphony in July 2009. In February 2008, George hosted To Boldly Go with the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Sarah Hatsuko Hicks. In November 2004, George narrated Copeland's Lincoln Portrait with the Honolulu Symphony conducted by Samuel Wong. He has narrated Johan de Meij's Symphony No. 1: The Lord of the Rings with the Springfield, Mass., Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kevin Rhodes as well as with the Long Island Philharmonic, Denver Symphony Orchestra, Orange County California Wind Orchestra, and the Imperial Symphony Orchestra of Lakeland, Florida, all conducted by David Warble.
Serving as co-hosts, George and actor-comedian Margaret Cho provide the narration for the 2006 Peabody Award-winning Crossing East, a radio documentary produced by Dmae Roberts divided into eight hour-long installments that trace the history of Asian American immigration to the United States.
In October 2007, an asteroid was named in honor of George. The asteroid's official, scientific name is 7307 Takei. The name was approved by the International Astronomical Union's Committee on Small Body Nomenclature. The asteroid is located between Mars and Jupiter and is approximately 5 miles in diameter.
George is a regular guest on The Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM Radio. George was the announcer and on-air personality during Stern's debut week in January 2006. George has made in-studio appearances on the show in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
George is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Actors' Equity Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Screen Actors Guild, which he joined in January 1959. He is also part of The Equal Employment Opportunities Committees of Actors' Equity Association and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee of Screen Actors Guild, awarded George the 7th annual Ivy Bethune Tri-Union Diversity Award in June 2009.
George's theatrical credits include Shimon Wincelberg's Undertow, winner of the Scotsman First Award at the Edinburgh Festival, andThe Wash, written by Philip Kan Gotanda and presented in New York at the Manhattan Theater Club and in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum. He performed in Frank Chin'sYear of the Dragon at the American Place Theater in New York and in Fly Blackbird! at the Billy Rose Theater in New York and the Metro Theater in Los Angeles. George played in a musical version of Snow White at the Dome Theater in Brighton, England, and was the genie in Aladdin at the Hexagon Theatre in Reading, England. George starred in Peter Shaffer's Equus, directed by Tim Dang, at East West Players in Los Angeles, in 2005. Also in the theatrical arena, George appeared in The Human Race Theatre Company concert production of Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures at the Loft Theatre in Dayton, Ohio, in June 2002. More recently, George played the "Emperor of China" in a holiday pantomime production of Aladdin at The Central Theatre in Chatham, England. In March 2012, George performed in an all-star reading and Los Angeles premiere of 8, a play written by Dustin Lance Black and directed by Rob Reiner, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. The fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights raised $2 million for AFER's fight for the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian Americans.
George and Tony Award winner Lea Salonga just developed the new musical called Allegiance (music and lyrics by Jay Kuo, book by Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione). The musical is an epic story of love, family and heroism during the Japanese American internment. Allegiance's world premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in September 2012 broke box office and attendance records. A Broadway run will take place in the Fall of 2013.
In addition to his acting career, George always has been extremely involved in civic affairs. Along with actress Beulah Quo, George produced and hosted a public affairs show, Expression East/West, which aired on KNBC-TV in Los Angeles from 1971 to 1973. Always a political activist, George ran for the Los Angeles City Council in 1973, losing by a small percentage. At a crossroads, he had to decide whether to pursue a political career or an acting career. He decided on acting, but to remain involved in civic affairs to whatever extent he could. George was appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, serving from 1973 to 1984. George was one of the driving forces behind the Arts in Transit program in which every Metro Rail subway station is given its own distinctive look, thereby fostering neighborhood pride. He also served as a vice president of the American Public Transit Association. In the international arena, George was appointed by President Clinton to the board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, where he served two terms. He is a member of the board of directors of the US-Japan Bridging Foundation. The Government of Japan recognized George's contribution to the Japan-United States relationship by giving him the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette. The decoration was conferred by His Majesty, Emperor Akihito, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in November 2004.
A member of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender political organization, George was a spokesman for HRC's Coming Out Project. In April 2006, he embarked on a nationwide speaking tour called "Equality Trek" in which he talked about his life as a gay Japanese American. Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy presented George with HRC's Equality Award at its San Francisco gala dinner in July 2007. George and his husband, Brad Takei, are residents of Los Angeles. They met while running with the Los Angeles Frontrunners in the early 1980s. Life partners for more than two decades, they were married on September 14, 2008, in the Democracy Forum of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. By a narrow margin, California voters approved Proposition 8 on November 4, 2008, restricting marriages in California to opposite-sex couples. However, the California Supreme Court ruled that approximately 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place during a four-and-one-half month period prior to November 4, 2008, remain legally valid. On October 13, 2009, George and Brad made television history when they became the first gay couple to be invited to appear on The Newlywed Game, the long-running show now airing on GSN cable network. They won the game, earning a $10,000 donation for the Japanese American National Museum.