GSFN Show SE: Boldly talking with George Takei
Hi, Skip Rice here from the Gay Sci-Fi Nerds Podcast Show. In this very special edition, my co-host and partner, Drew Curry had the honour of talking and flirting with the wonderful George Takei, who was promoting the release of three Star Trek DVD & Blu-ray box sets.
George Takei indulged us with stories of his childhood, about being a gay actor, getting married to Brad Altman and Proposition 8.
George Takei also talked about his work in sci-fi including his voice part in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Hiro’s father Kaito Nakamura in Heroes and of course as the Starship Enterprise’s helmsman Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek.
Of course no interview by Drew would be complete without the odd tongue firmly in cheek probing as we find out who had better six packs and who’s waistline was as artificial as his hair!
Finally, if you haven’t done so already, check out the Gay Sci-Fi Nerds competitions page where you can win a copy of all three box sets mentioned above at gayscifinerds.co.uk/competitions/. That’s Star Trek: Alternate Realities on DVD, and on Blu-ray, Star Trek The Original Series season 1 and Star Trek The motion pictures 1-6. A complete transcript of the interview can be found on the website and for those of you who have mp3 players, it can also be found as lyrics.
We hope you enjoy this special edition of the Gay Sci-Fi Nerds Podcast Show and once again we’d like to thank George Takei and Brad Altman
George Takei: Hello, Good evening I should say!
Drew Curry: Is that George?
Takei: This is George.
Curry: Good Lord, ha ha. Hi!
Takei: We are starting on religion already?
Curry: Ha ha!
Takei: You’re working very late.
Curry: For Devon it’s very late.
Takei: I guess sci-fi nerds come into the light at night.
Curry: They do! George Takai – George, thanks. Do I call you George Takai Altman?
Takei: That’s Takei, although I don’t object to miss pronunciation because there is a word in Japanese pronounced Takai, spelt ‘T A K A I’, that translates in English as ‘Expensive’, so if you insist on calling me Takai I’ll be happy to accommodate you with a bill.
Curry: Haa Haa! Do you know what I have found out, if you type Takei in to Word, it qualifies it as a word, but if you put Shatner in it rejects it!
Takei: HAH HAH (very big laugh) – A wise computer you have.
Curry: Well listen, welcome to gayscifinerds.com
Takei: Thank you very much.
Curry: This has got to be the best coincidence ever because obviously we’re a science fiction fan site, and we’re really really gay, and you’ve portrayed some of the most iconic characters in sci-fi and you’re really really gay too!
Takei: (Laughs) Well that’s the sum of all the things we are.
Curry: Well only some of them, I am sure that you’ve got lots more facets than that.
Takei: Well yes I fancy my self as having more facets than that.
Curry: And I fancy that more people fancy you too!
Takei: (Laughs) These compliments… (garbled).
Curry: We haven’t got cheesy enough yet, just let me continue. I‘ve got a confession to make to you, you are the first TV and movie star that I have ever interviewed so…
Takei: Oh, really!
Curry: …In that respect, George, I’m a virgin.
Curry: Would you do me the honour that you’ll be gentle with me?
Takei: I’ll be very gentle with you, real gentle.
Curry: Ah, OK. We’ve been allowed to talk to you because Paramount Home Entertainment have asked you to promote a new DVD box set called Star Trek: Alternate Realities.
Takei: Yes. Well and the six Star Trek films and the first season of the original Star Trek.
Curry: I think my research falls short, but thank you for informing me of the things I should have known!
Takei: Well now you know! And the remarkable thing about the first season is that the special effects have been re-mastered and it is amazing! I guess you haven’t seen much yet?
Curry: Well actually certainly seen the Mirror Mirror episode, on the first of the Alternate Realities.
Takei: Do you the re-mastered versions?
Curry: The guys at Shine have sent us all the re-mastered stuff so that we can review them on the site.
Takei: Oh Good, You know I’m a conservationist and a trustee of a museum, so at the museum we like to have the original artefact or object as it was, we don’t like to have replicas of historic artefacts, and the wonderful thing of the first season collection is that you have both. It’s the best of two possible worlds. You have the original special effects, which today look like charmingly antique, rather quaint. You also have the re-mastered version where the Enterprise really looks like it is moving in high precision as you imagine and those planets have a lot more detail as I’m sure you’ve seen. You have both the advantages of the progress we have made in special effects technology and the originals of 40 plus years ago. So that’s a wonderful collection.
Curry: I am gonna enjoy looking at that and I am sure science fiction and Star Trek collectors who need to complete an already full set or for those people who are new to it, perhaps who are more like my self, all of this adds so much more depth.
Curry: We saw you, I looked at this just before coming on the telephone, in the episode Mirror Mirror…
Takei: Oh yes.
Curry: As like, “psycho” Sulu, with the big scar running down your face.
Takei: That was great fun. You know the wonderful thing about doing a sci-fi series is it’s like being an actor in a repertory company where you play many different characters in many different plays and because of the sci-fi nature of Star trek we get to play the negative reflection of the characters we know and love. And so you saw an evil, violent and rapacious. And you saw where he tried to rape that vicious looking Uhura and poor dumb twit, she rejected him.
Curry: You looked so much hotter than Shatner!
Takei: (Laughs) I WAS, and certainly today I’d be even more so. Bill has grown!
Curry: Even Nichelle Nicholls had better abs then than I think Shatner did, what do you think?
Takei: Well his abs were held in by a .. a, I’m trying to find a metaphor for a corset.
Curry: I’m saying the same trapeze that held his hair in!
Takei: His waistline was as artificial as his hair!
Curry: George according to Wikipedia, one of your favourite episodes was the ‘Naked Time’.
Takei: Mmm, it was.
Curry: Is that because you looked so Buff!
Takei: No because, for one thing I got unchained from that damn console. Some people thought I didn’t have legs. All I did was shoot-up from that console. And another thing here I was a grown adult and I got to re-live one of my childhood fantasies. I saw Errol Flynn in the Adventures of Robin Hood, and I was swept away by that and my mother made me a Robin Hood costume, my back yard became Sherwood Forest, all of my neighbourhood friends became my merry men and I became Robin Hood. With the Naked Time I was able to re-live that myself. Yes I happened to be buff, but being a swashbuckler was a joy re-lived.
Curry: I am so glad you had artistic reasons, but also from my point view it was wonderful to see you half naked AND waiving that big sword about!
Takei: Ahhh! You rascal you!
Curry: I know! Actually you mentioned your mother there, you recently played Kaito Nakamaura on the TV Show Heroes. How did the name Nakamura come about to be selected?
Takei: Oh, well that was already a part of the show. You know when Heroes first came on, I guess it was about 3, 4 years ago I saw the bill boards but I didn’t watch the first shows. Then I started getting emails from Star Trek fans that there’s a Japanese character on this new series called Heroes and he’s a Star Trek fan. And so I thought I better check this and I started watching and the show was intriguing and I got hooked on it. And, shortly after becoming hooked on the show my agent called to say that the people at Universal are interested in having me over and they want to talk to me about Heroes. And they said it was the role of Hero Nakamura’s father and I was you know, very excited about that because I had been watching the show. I was an avid fan of that show and I thought the actor playing Hero Nakamura was a cute charming man. It turned out, usually when I get cast they know who I am and what I can do and they just send me the script. This time they wanted to meet me, so I went there. Before that they sent me this clip they wanted me to look at and read to them which was something I hadn’t done in years. So I waited for the script and they emailed it over, and I looked at it, and it’s all written in English. I’d watched the show enough to know they talk in Japanese. So I called my agent and said, you know this is in English, don’t they want me to audition in Japanese? And he said yes, they want you to translate the script as you speak Japanese. As a child I had to go to Japanese language school complaining and fussing very Saturday. But, because of that and Summer school in Japan, I am fluent in Japanese and so I was able to translate it. When I went there they had a battery of about a dozen people in the room. So I read to them, and it turned out they had been auditioning many Japanese-American actors but they didn’t speak Japanese. So they thought I didn’t speak Japanese well and they wanted to test my Japanese so that I could speak Japanese. I passed the test with flying colours.
Curry: That’s fantastic, but what I was aiming at I understood that your mum’s.
Takei: Her maiden name was Nakamura – yes, but – no, it was not at my suggestion. The character of Nakamura already existed, Hero Nakamura. Nakamura, incidentally is a very common Japanese surname, like Smith or Jones. Takei not (common), my surname and my fathers, I thought that was a rather unusual Japanese surname. I never came across the name Takei other than my relatives. But my mother was always the one that always used to claim she has samurai blood on her side of the family. Every Japanese-American just about claims that, so I said “Yeah, Yeah I’m sure Mom”. My father was a very solid father, but went I went to Japan and visited my father’s ancestral village and talked to some of my father’s side of the family I discovered that indeed on my father’s side we do have samurai blood and not only samurai blood but a legendary samurai!
Curry: The comparisons with Heroes gets closer and closer in some respects.
Takei: Yes it does! Ha.
Curry: It must make you very proud to know that.
Takei: I was able to bring some of my… DNA the role.
Curry: Your provenance is real! You’ve been pretty open about your life, as far as I can tell from the research from very early on for instance colleagues on the set of Star Trek knew about your sexuality. What sort of effect did your openness have on your career?
Takei: Well you know I haven’t always been that (open), you can imagine that for actors starting out when you loose parts because of really fake excuses; too young, too old, too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short. You know, I didn’t want them to have another reason to eliminate me and so I was very closeted, living a double life. I dated girls as well as going to gay bars and those things that you do, so I was living a double life you might say. Once I became serious with Brad, at the end of a weeks filming we have wrap parties where we have beer, the chips, pizzas and people bring their girlfriends and their wives or the girls bring their boyfriends and so I brought Brad with me and introduced him as my friend and people didn’t really (muffled). But then I brought Brad a second time, a third time and film people are sophisticated people so they ‘got it’. They are also very cool so the word gay never came up but they all knew. I knew that Walter knew when in the morning we used to gather around the coffee urn and sip coffee and chit chat and gossip. I was standing talking there with Walter, Walter Koenig and Walter make these strange gestures for me to turn around, like jerking his head, and making those gestures.
Curry: Very subtle.
Takei: Yes! And I turned around looked …and there was this gorgeous, drop dead gorgeous young man, an extra, wearing that tight Star Trek uniform. A well buff body, my heart stopped but at the same time I knew that Walter knew! There were these unspoken ways of communicating. Eventually you start talking about who you really are and they were all very cool about it. And, as you know, last year we got married and Walter was our best man.
Curry: It’s just marvellous marvellous, you two guys, Walter and you look so youthful, Nichelle as well, just terrific looking at your web site to see how well you look. You got married before Proposition became a bloody reality.
Takei: Proposition 8.
Curry: Yeah, um sorry! Proposition 8. How will that affect your legal standing as a married couple?
Takei: Proposition 8 is not retroactive, so our marriage is valid. The other states where they have marriage equality such as Massachusetts, now Vermont, Connecticut and now Iowa in the mid west our marriages are valid there, but it’s only in those states. The Proposition 8 has now been challenged and it’s now being considered by our California Supreme Court. It is the Supreme Court that made our marriage possible. They ruled in May 2008 that there is fundamental constitutional right for marriage equality in that Supreme Court so I am optimistic and hopeful that they will rule again in the right way. However the lawyers for Proposition 8 have argued that the voters will have to be respected so it is a very complicated legal argument that the Supreme Court is weighing. I can’t imagine them amending the constitution of our state once the declare that they ruled it is a fundamental right according to our constitution that gays and lesbians have marriage equality. So we’re hopeful that the ruling should come down in a couple of months and we’re keeping our fingers crossed. We were at a rally in Sacramento, which is the capital of our state and I together with Brad, we spoke on the importance of continuing the campaign to educate in our state of California.
Curry: From our perspective here in Europe you, and Brad obviously, are cutting edge politically, your very important to the gay community and your going to hate me but you remind me of a suffragette like Sylvia Pankhurst!
Curry: But in the nicest possible sense.
Takei: Well you know, I have been active in many civil rights issues here in the United States primarily because as a child I was incarcerated with my family in American interment camps, it’s something that Europeans are not familiar with. But when Pearl Harbour was bombed this nation was swept up in war hysteria. Simply because we are Americans.
Curry: You were born in California.
Takei: Yes the capital, my mother was born in capital city of our state, Sacramento. My father was a San Franciscan and I was born here in Los Angeles so you know were a third generation Californian and third generation Americans.
Curry: And a respectable real estate business going on and everything.
Takei: That’s right and the hysteria drove this country blind. And so with no charges, no trial, no due process Japanese-Americans on the west coast of the United Sates were summarily rounded up and put in interment camps in some of the most hellish places in this country; the blistering hot desert of Arizona, the sultry suffocating swamps of Arkansas and cold windswept high planes of Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and I was four years old at the time but I still remember the day when American Soldiers with bayoneted rifles came stomping up the front door of our Los Angeles home to order us out.
Curry: It sound like something out of a Solzhenitsyn novel.
Takei: It does, doesn’t it! Or what happened in Germany. I remember the barbed wire fences, the sentry tower and machine guns pointing at us. So because of that background and you know my father used to tell us that the American democracy is a great thing but its weakness and its strength is that fact that it is true people’s democracy. It can be as great as the people can be as fallible as people are. That’s why as children, me and my brother and my sister, that we had to be actively engaged in the process holding democracy’s feet in line. So I was actively involved in the civil rights campaign for African-Americans in the 60’s and 70’s and I was involved in the movement to get a formal Presidential apology for the Japanese-American community for the incarceration and Ronald Regan did formally apologise
Takei: And pledge a 20,000 dollar token redress for the incarceration. So I’ve been active in civil rights issues so our activism in gay rights issues is a continuation of my political activism.
Curry: And in association with that you got honours from the Japanese community.
Takei: From Japan? The Emperor in Japan honoured me with Order of the Rising Sun with gold rays and rosettes at the Imperial Palace. I suppose it is something like getting a Knighthood from the Queen!
Curry: It’s extraordinary! George I am worried that my time will be up and that you will disappear in a Puff of Ether!
Takei: Well it’s the age of static on the electronic codes!
Curry: I’ve got lots of camp questions.
Curry: That you worked with Richard Burton, Cary Grant, John Wayne – just for instance. I know that your too much of a gentleman to kiss and tell but did you ever go to a Burt Lancaster party, what about Rock Hudson?
Takei: I have never been to a Rock Hudson party or a Burt Lancaster party.
Curry: Oh I knew you would say that. OK, before you were married, before you were married, who did you get to canoodle?
Takei & Curry: (Laughs)
Curry: Your not going to answer that are you!
Takei: (Laughs), Well my husband is right here in this room! I love that charming British word though, ‘canoodle’. We don’t use it over here and I know what that means I’m one of the Anglophile Americans and I find that word charming!
Curry: Your first name is from your dad who was apparently and Anglophile as well?
Takei: Yes. Yes. You have done your homework haven’t you!
Takei: I am named after George the 6th.
Curry: Our podcast is gayscifinerds.com and unfortunately we’re the geeky end of the thing! So Yeah! You’ve had a voice role as Lok Durd in Star Wars: the Clone Wars.
Takei: I did, yes.
Curry: Is it true that that this makes you the only Star Trek character or actor who’s been in both franchises?
Takei: I wasn’t aware of that, but that’s how they’re promoting it and I’m sure they did their research so I suppose I am.
Curry: The question – if you weren’t aware of it – ‘Did you have any concerns about transitioning to the Dark Side’ – well obviously you didn’t.
Takei: No! Because as you know in Mirror Mirror we went to the Dark side didn’t we?
Curry: Yeah, absolutely! In fact, I was fantasising about asking you questions about ‘do you think Sulu – not you – would ever get round to doing Captain Kirk?’
Takei: (Long pause)
Curry: Big Silence.
Takei: Good question, I never thought of it, you know when I personalised Sulu I did personalise him as having enormous admiration for Captain Kirk and he was his role model.
Curry: If that was his antithesis, he would end up hating him.
Takei: Well also Sulu is straight, George Takei is NOT!
Curry: And we’re so glad!
Takei: I am too, I am happy being me. Believe me I appreciate the support I have been getting from the GLBT community, because for an actor we are so vulnerable in the public eye, it’s good to know we have the support and backing and the strength that you give us. It’s much appreciated.
Curry: You know, the bizarre things like ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ ..
Curry: You seem, I don’t know if its about strong lead women. Did Martina Navratilova have better muscles than Will Shatner or what!
Takei: Oh My Lord Yes! Oh She’s an Amazon, Oh she’s fantastic and she’s a much nicer person!
Curry: I’ve run out of script! I’m off piste, I don’t know where I’m going with this any more! I want to say thank you so very much!
Curry: For being on the phone and talking to gayscifinerds.com.
Takei: Oh, it’s my pleasure and I will look you up on your site and see what goes on gayscifinerds.co.uk.
Curry: We have 100s of thousands of downloads to the pod cast, and 52% of those are in California.
Takei: Oh, really?
Curry: We only get about 11 downloads in Texas.
Takei: How Interesting.
Takei & Curry: (Laughs)
Curry: Bizarre isn’t it!
Takei: Well there are a lot of gay Texans too, and alas because of the climate there they have to be very surreptitious about their lives.
Curry: Well my partner is called Skip Rice so together we’re called Curry and Rice the gay sci-fi nerds.
Takei: That’s a delicious combination, I love that.
Curry: Well George & Brad I’m very grateful. Extremely grateful for the time you’ve spent.
Takei: Well it’s a pleasure talking with you and I will look you up and see what you’re all up too if that’s fine.
Curry: Yeah, check out the special we make from this and if you wish to e-mail us or something, we’d be so very pleased to put it on the site. Thank you.
Takei: I’ll look forward to it. I enjoyed chatting with you.
Curry: God bless and goodbye!
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