Jul 27, 2014
09:02 AMThe Connecticut Story
Sulu of 'Star Trek,' a Gay Rights Activist, Draws a Crowd at Yale
Actor and activist George Takei, right, speaks during a panel discussion following a screening of “To Be Takei,” a documentary on his life, at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University Friday night. At left is Takei’s husband, Brad Altman.
The laughter of George Takei echoed throughout the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University Friday night as he shared stories from the set of “Star Trek” and discussed “To Be Takei,” a documentary on his life.
The night began with a screening of the documentary and followed with a panel discussion featuring Takei, his husband, Brad Altman, film director Jennifer Kroot and producer Gerry Kim.
During the discussion, Takei sat center stage, his signature black New Balance running shoes complementing his gray suit and black slacks, just as his playful bantering balances his trailblazing actions.
“You determine your destiny,” Takei told the audience. “My life today is much better than when I was a child.”
The film examines Takei’s role as Lt. Sulu on “Star Trek” and his more recent gay rights activism. It also depicts his early years in a Japanese-American internment camp. “My parents told us that we were going on a long vacation to a place called Arkansas,” Takei said. “That sounded exotic.”
At the camp, Takei grew accustomed to armed guards following him everywhere, especially at night. “I thought it was kind of nice that they lit the way for me to pee,” he said.
Takei later recognized the harsh reality of his childhood. When the casting call for Sulu was announced, Takei understood the gravity of his audition. “Here was an Asian-American character speaking without an accent, part of the leadership team,” he said. “It was a breakthrough role, for Asians and for me professionally, as well. I desperately wanted it.”
Takei got the part, and “Star Trek” became a television classic, despite initially low ratings.