George Takei: ‘We didn’t want a vanity project’

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George Takei at Midtown Comics (Photo ourtesy of Falco Ink)

If you want to make a documentary about George Takei, Star Trek’s Lieutenant Sulu, LGBT activist and meme-maker, it helps to be a Star Trek fan. When he was first approached by “To Be Takei” filmmaker Jennifer Kroot, George Takei and his husband Brad were wary. “We were very skittish at first,” Takei told Kim Masters on The Business, but the couple eventually gave her access to their lives. “We got to realize that she’s kindred we share common values common issues that we’re concerned about and so, because we didn’t want a vanity project, we gave her a carte blanche.”

“The fact that she was a Star Trek fan, I think, was one notch in her favor because people who understand Star Trek are a very special group. They see the metaphors that Gene Roddenberry used to comment on social political environmental issues of the time,” Takei told Masters.

Takei spent part of his childhood in Japanese American internment camps, a story that he turned into a musical with plans to take it to Broadway. (He recounts his past in the documentary.)

When asked why Takei has agreed to appear with those who don’t share his politics, he underlined the importance of trying to reach a new audience with his message of LGBT rights. “To really broaden that support we need to get to what I maintain is the decent fair-minded vast middle, and Howard would give us access to that so that’s why I do shows like ‘The Howard Stern Show’ or ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ with Donald Trump. We are of different political orientation but I think it’s that kind of sharing of differences in a civil way that makes our democracy work. When it gets to be extreme, as is now, then it ceases to be a a good conversation.”

Listen to Takei talk to Kim Masters about Star Trek’s history, his relationship with William Shatner whom he calls Star Trek’s “crazy uncle,” and what it’s like to be a Facebook super star.