When Star Trek returns to the small screen next year, the Federation will do so with an intensely diverse cast. Not long ago, CBS confirmed it had cast Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as its supposed lead. The show will also feature a character known as Lieutenant Stamets, a astromycologistand fungal expert who will also be an openly gay lead. Now, George Takei is taking a moment to talk about the upcoming series and is telling fans he’s excited to meet Star Trek: Discovery’s gay character.
Over the weekend, Takei attended the Unforgettable Gala, an event held to honor Asian actors and talent in the entertainment industry. It was there that Takei said he was “eager” to see Anthony Rapp take on Lieutenant Stamets.
It’s not surprising to hear that Takei is excited to see the gay character. The actor, who played Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek: The Original Series, is openly gay himself and a well-known advocate for LGBTQ rights. Takei’s work with Star Trek has given the actor a platform to rally behind social and civil movements, but it has sometimes shined too much attention on the outspoken actor.
Not long ago, Takei found himself in hot water when Star Trek Beyond hit theaters this summer. The actor stunned fans when he criticized the rebooted franchise’s choice to retcon Hikaru Sulu’s sexuality and make him gay. Takei said the decision did not honor 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.'”
Takei said he asked the producers to make a new character who openly flaunted their sexuality. “As imaginative and creative as Gene was,” Takei told film executives, “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.”
“I wasn’t persuasive and they made Sulu gay. They said it was a tribute to me, so I appreciate that part,” Takei continued. “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.”
Of course, Takei is thrilled the series is now able to tackle sexuality head-on with its stories. When the actor was involved with the franchise, social issues were difficult to approach in The Original Series. Takei explained that Gene made all of the characters straight at that time because any gay characters would have gotten the show canceled.
“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…I was lobbying Gene to do an episode that deals with LGBT issues and equality. 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.'”
Clearly, those days have now passed, giving Star Trek: Discovery a sort of freedom which Takei had only dreamt about years ago. Star Trek: Discovery will premiere in May 2017 on CBS. Following that, the series will move to CBS All Access in the United States, and to Netflix and other streaming services globally.
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