George Hosato Takei (born April 20, 1937) is an American actor of Japanese descent best known for his role in the TV series Star Trek, in which he played the helmsman Mr. Sulu on the USS Enterprise (later Captain Sulu of the USS Excelsior). Most recently, he played Hiro Nakamura's father Kaito Nakamura on the NBC television show Heroes.
In 1942, the Takei family was sent to the Rohwer War Relocation Center for internment in Arkansas. The family was later transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California. Despite this experience, the family developed a renewed dedication and remained involved in the American democratic process. He and his family returned to Los Angeles at the end of World War II. He attended Mount Vernon Junior High School, where he served as student body president, and Los Angeles High School. He enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley where he studied architecture. Later he attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where he received a bachelor of arts in theater in 1960 and a master of arts in theater in 1964. He attended the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-Upon-Avon in England, and Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. In Hollywood, he studied acting at the Desilu Workshop, Takei is fluent in English, Japanese, and Spanish.
Takei has since appeared in numerous TV and film productions, including the first six Star Trek motion pictures, and today is a regular on the sci-fi convention circuit throughout the world. He has also acted and provided voice acting for several science fiction computer games, including Freelancer and numerous Star Trek games. In 1996, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Star Trek, he reprised his role as Captain Hikaru Sulu on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, appearing as a memory of Lt. Tuvok, who served on the USS Excelsior under Sulu, during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Takei is one of a number of Star Trek supporting cast members who had publicized difficulties with William Shatner. However, in an interview in the 2004 DVD set for the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series, Takei appears to have settled things with Shatner. He says, "He's just a wonderful actor who created a singular character. No one could have done Kirk the way Bill did. His energy and his determination, that's Bill. And that's also Captain Kirk." He appeared alongside Shatner on the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner in which the two mocked each other in good humor and embraced, Takei noting that he was "honored" to be there "despite our past tensions". However, Takei ended his remarks with an angry glare at Shatner and a heartfelt "Bill... f--- you, and the horse you rode in on."
In a radio interview on The Adam Carolla Show on June 19, 2008, Takei made implications to the effect that part of his problems with Shatner began when, as Takei started coming out of the closet for the first time, his sexuality was accepted by almost everyone on the cast and crew of Star Trek -except Shatner himself. (Shatner was a guest on the same radio show some weeks prior, and for his part expressed complete bewilderment as to why George Takei expressed such difficulties with him; according to him, he has asked Takei repeatedly over the years to discuss his differences with him, but has been repeatedly rebuffed.)
In the summer of 2007, Takei reprised his role of Sulu in the fan-made Internet based series Star Trek: New Voyages.
Mayor Bradley later appointed Takei to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, making him part of the team that initiated and planned the Los Angeles subway system. Takei was called away from the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1978 to cast the tie-breaking vote for the creation of the Los Angeles subway system. He served eleven years on the board.
In 1979, Takei with Robert Asprin co-wrote the science-fiction novel Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe.
In 1986 Takei starred in "The Wish Child", a second season episode of MacGyver.
In the 1990s and early part of the twenty-first century he had guest star appearances on some science fiction television series. He played himself in a 3rd Rock from the Sun episode about a science fiction convention, and an episode of Malcolm in the Middle. In 1998, he was the voice of First Ancestor Fa in Disney's Chinese-themed Mulan animated feature. He also played the villainous Mr. Fixx in the premiere episode of the acclaimed DC Animated Universe animated series, Batman Beyond.
In the NBC TV series Brotherly Love, Joey goes to a sci-fi/comics convention and runs into a man dressed in a Star Trek original series uniform, who claims he is a fan of Star Trek, and of Takei himself. The man is played by Takei.
In 1994, Takei published his autobiography, "To the Stars." At one point he had hoped to do a movie or telefilm based on chapters dealing with the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, of which he had personal experience.
Takei made a guest appearance as himself on 3rd Rock From the Sun as a guest speaker at a sci-fi convention, which the Solomon family thought was a sanctuary for aliens.
Takei appeared as Warlord Shank on the show Space Cases. He also provided the voice of his own head in a jar in the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". In an episode of Scrubs aired May 4, 2004 entitled "My Best Friend's Wedding" Takei appeared as a clergyman who looked like Mr. Sulu. He also provided the voice for The Warden on the "Avatar: The Last Airbender" episode "Imprisoned." He also guest starred on an episode of Will & Grace as himself, after he came out for the first time on television.
Takei appeared on the NBC show, Thank God You're Here, an improvised comedy program, in the episode originally airing on April 18, 2007. Takei walked onto the set, and after a few seconds when none of the other actors uttered the standard first line ("Thank God you're here!"), Takei began the scene with "Thank God I'm here!"
In March 2006, Takei played himself again in an episode of Will & Grace entitled "Buy, Buy Baby" during the show's eighth, and final, season.
In an episode of the TV series Psych, Takei guest-starred as a mildly exaggerated version of himself at a sci-fi convention, and the two main characters pose as his personal assistants in order to solve a murder mystery at the convention later becoming his personal assistants for the length of the convention.
In August 2006, Takei was a guest on the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner. He sat on the dais, and was one of the many people who took part in the roasting, in which he took the time to verbally poke fun at Shatner. In the same month, he appeared as himself in an episode on the USA Network program Psych.
In January 2007, Takei began appearing on Heroes, playing the father of Hiro Nakamura, a time-bending otaku who also happens to be an obsessive fan of Star Trek, among other things. In the first episode Takei is portrayed, Distractions, the license plate of the limo he arrives in is NCC-1701, another reference to the Star Trek series.
Takei has often appeared on the Howard Stern Radio Show in recent years. He makes quarterly week-long appearances on the show and is credited as the show's announcer. Running themes involving Takei are plays on his deep voice, prank phone calls made with clips of his laughter, and jokes about Takei's sexuality. Takei has been welcomed to the show by its fans and he has won a loyal following with his good-natured participation in the show and his openness and candor.
In 2007, Takei played a role as a waiter on the Disney Channel show Cory in the House. It is urban legend that visitors to the Memphis International Airport can hear Takei's unmistakable voice over the intercom system. Ruth Greene, an administrator at the airport, verifies this urban legend as false.
Takei made a small cameo as himself in the 2008 movie You Don't Mess with the Zohan.
Takei serves as chair of the Council of Governors of East West Players, considered the foremost Asian Pacific American theater in the United States.
Takei appeared on the first episode of Secret Talents of the Stars, singing country music but was not selected to proceed to the next stage. However the point became moot as the series was abruptly cancelled after the opening episode.
Providing a voice to a character in an upcoming episode of Transformers: Animated.
In more recent years Takei, due to his very distinctive voice and enunciation, has been used frequently for soundbites on the The Howard Stern Show. "The Sulu Dance", (to the tune of "The Safety Dance"), made by Kidd Chris, was also played several times on the Stern Show as a tribute to Takei. As a result, he had become something of a cult figure. On January 9, 2006, it was announced that Takei would be the official announcer for The Howard Stern Show on Sirius Radio. He would be live in the studio for the first week and thereafter he would have pre-recordings done for the show, as well as appearing live on the show during occasional visits to New York, as his schedule permits.
Takei returned to the Howard Stern Show on 12 June, 2006, for a week of broadcasts. In June 2006, he accepted a Freedom of Speech award for Stern; the award was presented by Talkers magazine. Takei was in the studio again for two days in late September, 2006, where he discussed his participation in an episode of Star Trek: New Voyages as well as his participation in the film The Great Buck Howard. Takei returned for a week of shows in mid-December 2006, and his life partner Brad Altman made a rare appearance on the "Wrap-Up Show" that followed the regular Stern show on 13 December 2006. In March 2007, he credited Howard for the resurgence in his career. In December 2007, Stern stated that Takei was the only cast member that got universally positive feedback from audience e-mails, even listeners that claim to dislike Star Trek enjoy Takei's contributions. He has made a few appearances with The Killers of Comedy and has appeared alongside Stern cast member Richard Christy (Stuttering John's replacement) at least one Star Trek Convention.
Takei has developed a friendship with Stern cast member Artie Lange, whom Takei affectionately calls his "cuddly muffin," and the two have become friends despite Lange's notorious penchant for gay jokes. They even spent one afternoon after the show touring New York's Guggenheim Museum together. Lange revealed on the air that George sent him a "lovely card" praising his guest performance on a 2007 episode of Entourage, in which Takei expressed the desire to one day act alongside Lange. On 4 December 2007, Takei was tricked into believing that Lange was revealing his homosexuality to him. In a heartfelt speech, in a closed office, Lange shared "past sexual experiences" that has been "weighing heavy on him". Takei believed Lange, consoled him and attempted to help Lange "come out of the closet". The following day, Lange confessed to the prank and apologized to Takei calling him "the nicest human being on the planet earth" and stated that he expected Takei to recognize the trick as a prank for the show and laugh it off, not to be as compassionate and candid as he was. Lange's heartfelt speech to Takei was recorded, and replayed on air. Takei stated he still believed Lange's confession was based on some measure of fact.
During his week-long December 2007 visit to the Stern show, he was asked by staff members Richard Christy and Sal Governale to record gay-themed song parodies of Christmas Carols, which he obliged. Before playing the songs on the air on December 10, 2007, Stern took Christy and Governale aside and yelled at them for not asking for him or producer Gary Dell'Abate's approval before recruiting George for the bit, adding that Takei should "be treated like Tom Cruise".
Takei currently serves as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign "Coming Out Project." In 2006 he embarked on a nationwide "Equality Trek" speaking tour sharing his life as a gay Japanese American, his eighteen year relationship with Altman, Frontrunners, and Star Trek, encouraging others to share their own personal stories. In the wake of the 2007 controversy over ex-NBA player Tim Hardaway's anti-gay statements, Takei recorded a 'Public Service Announcement' which began as a serious message of tolerance, then turned the tables on Hardaway by proclaiming that while he may hate gay people, they love him and other "sweaty basketball players." This was aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Takei also appeared on the Google float at San Francisco Pride 2007.
On May 16, 2008, Takei announced that he and Brad Altman (his partner for the last 21 years), would be getting married. On June 17, shortly after Takei and Altman obtained their marriage license, they spread the news by holding a press conference outside the West Hollywood city auditorium. They were married on September 14, 2008 at the Democracy Forum of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles (George is one of the founders). Walter Koenig was his best man, and Nichelle Nichols was the Matron of Honor. Reverend George Matsubayashi of the Nishi Honganji Buddhist Temple of Los Angeles presided over the ceremony.
Asteroid 7307 Takei is named in his honor. Upon learning of the decision to name the asteroid after him, he said, "I am now a heavenly body. ... I found out about it yesterday. ... I was blown away. It came out of the clear, blue sky—just like an asteroid." Gene Roddenberry and Nichelle Nichols also have asteroids named after them.