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George Takei on New ‘Star Trek’ Gay Character: ‘It’s the Way It Should’ve Been Done’

Variety logo Variety 12/12/2016 Lawrence Yee

© Provided by Variety George Takei is thrilled that the upcoming series “Star Trek: Discovery” will feature an openly gay character.

“I’m eager to see him,” Takei said of Anthony Rapp, who will portray a gay Starfleet science officer on the upcoming CBS All Access spin-off.

Takei, who is openly gay, talked about LGBT characters in the “Trek” universe at Saturday’s Unforgettable Gala, honoring Asians in entertainment, where he was presented with the ICON Award.

In the latest franchise film, “Star Trek Beyond,” it is revealed that the character he originated — Hikaru Sulu — is gay. Takei had mixed feelings about the announcement because it departed from creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision.

“When I was informed they were making Sulu gay, I said, ‘It’s wonderful that they can deal with the gay issue. But honor Gene. It’s not about me. It’s about Gene’s vision and respect him and respect the characters that he created.'”

“But be as imaginative and creative as Gene was,” Takei advised producers, “Create a new character and make him or her gay with the issues he or she might have to deal with in the 23rd century. That would be exciting. That would be paying tribute.”

Instead, producers chose to make Sulu gay in 2016’s “Star Trek Beyond.”

“I wasn’t persuasive and they made Sulu gay. They said it was a tribute to me, so I appreciate that part,” Takei explained. “But now Gene is really going to be honored by ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ by having that original character, played by a wonderfully talented actor. I think it is the way it should’ve been done.”

Takei explained how he approached Roddenberry to do a gay storyline at the time, but audiences in the 1960s were not prepared for that.

“Gene created all of the characters as straight characters. Because of the times, it could be not be on the air if you have a gay character. In fact, we had one episode where the white captain, Kirk, kissed the black Uhura, and that show was blacked out — literally blacked out — in the Southern areas. Stations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia refused to air it. We hit rock bottom.”

“I was lobbying Gene to do an episode that deals with LGBT issues and equality,” Takei explained. “He said, ‘I’m aware of that and I support that but I’m walking a tightrope. I can’t step a little too far or the show will be canceled.'”

“But those days are past,” Takei said reflectively.

At 79, Takei is looking forward to the future. On Tuesday, cinemas are holding a special screening of his play “Allegiance,” based on his time spent as a child in internment camps. Next year, the veteran actor will star in a revival of Steven Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures” directed by John Doyle.

He’s equally excited for “Discovery,” which will bow next May. “I want to know what they’ll do!” Takei said with anticipation.

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