This was posted on Friday, February 10, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
As an Asian-American child growing up in the 1970s, I rarely saw anyone like me on TV. There was Pat Morita as grouchy Arnold, the diner owner on “Happy Days” and re-runs of “Star Trek” featuring George Takei as the staff physicist and swashbuckler-at-heart Sulu.
I’ve been fortunate to have met both. I ran into Morita a decade ago at the Flamingo in Las Vegas where he was hosting a craps tournament and got to tell him what I fan I was. I met Takei briefly a couple of times – at a book signing and at the Television Critics Association in the 2000s. I’ve also interviewed him twice by phone to promote his Dragon*Con appearances. (Read both my 2006 Peach Buzz item and 2008 Q&A here.)
I admired Takei for how serious he took his craft, his ability to laugh at himself (especially on Howard Stern‘s show) and his courage to speak out on issues he cares about.
Yesterday, my wife texted me at about noon that she heard he was speaking at Georgia State University. I dropped everything and drove over there to grab a quick interview. (Thanks, Andrea Jones, a former AJC scribe now working in GSU communications for making it happen.) His speech before several hundred GSU students highlighted his very colorful 79 years to date.
Part of his childhood was spent in internment camps America created to keep up to 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. He was too young to appreciate the humiliation but the adults surely did. He recounted his parent’s struggles to piece their lives together again after they were freed after the government handed them $25 and a one-way ticket to San Francisco. His dad passed away before Ronald Reagan compensated survivors in the 1980s with $20,000 apiece.
He also described his need to stay closeted for most of his life. In a sense, he tied his fake interest in women as training that led him into acting. Despite the obstacles he faced as an Asian American in film and TV in the 1960s, he did quite well for himself and landed that remarkable role in “Star Trek.” Unfortunately, it lasted only three seasons.
He said his career hit a trough before the “Star Trek” films starting in 1979 revived his career. He also recounted meeting his now husband Brad and the gay rights movement, culminating in the Supreme Court decision in 2015 that allowed marriage coast to coast.
Not surprisingly, he did not soft pedal his dislike for Donald Trump as president. He told the audience that he fully expects Trump to either resign, be forced to resign or get impeached.
He also wanted to promote his Broadway musical “Allegiance” about a Japanese-American family’s struggles with internment. You can see it on Sunday, February 19 at 12:55 p.m. at three local theaters: Regal Perimeter Pointe 10 on Mount Vernon Highway, Regal Hollywood 24 in Chamblee of I-85 and AMC Sugarloaf Mills in Lawrenceville. (Tickets available here.)
Afterwards, backstage, I asked Takei a few questions about Trump, given his overtly political advocacy against him. “I never thought he’d be successful,” he said. “I was shell shocked for many many days but now we’ve got to gird our loins and learn to do battle with this dangerous president.”
He has been fervent against Trump’s temporary travel ban of immigrants from seven Muslim-heavy countries. He called it “an outrageous and unthought out and incompetently rolled out executive order.”
It reminded him of what led Franklin Delano Roosevelt down the path of fear and imprisoning so many innocent Americans – including Takei himself. Trump “doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Takei said. “He doesn’t want to know.”
And while Trump has been supportive of the LGBTQ community, Takei isn’t thrilled with the people Trump is surrounding himself with, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence, neither of whom have shown a lot of love to the gay community over the years.
When I tried to get Takei to acknowledge anything positive about Trump, he said bluntly that there is barely a scintilla of light at the end of this dark tunnel. To him, Trump is a threat to America and needs to go.
As a result of his activism, he hasn’t had time to pop into Stern’s radio show although he said he remains friends with him. Watch my seven minutes with him here: