After publicly criticising the decision to make Jon Cho’s Hikaru Sulu gay in summer film Star Trek: Beyond earlier this year, George Takei (who played the original version of the character in the 1960s TV series and subsequent films) has praised upcoming show Star Trek: Discovery for casting Anthony Rapp as a gay Starfleet science officer.
“I’m eager to see him,” said Takei (who is openly gay himself) at the Unforgettable Gala honouring Asians in entertainment on Saturday (via Variety), before explaining his concerns about how the film had interfered with series creator Gene Rodenderry’s 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.
“I wasn’t persuasive and they made Sulu gay. They said it was a tribute to me, so I appreciate that part,” Takei went on.
“But now Gene is really going to be honoured by Star Trek: Discovery is by having that original character, played by a wonderfully talented actor. I think it is the way it should’ve been done.”
Takei, left, and John Cho, right, as Hikaru Sulu
Takei also explained that he had himself approached Rodenderry in the 1960s to include an LGBT storyline, only to be turned down.
“Gene created all of the characters as straight characters,” Takei recalled.
“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. 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 cancelled.’”
“But those days are past,” Takei concluded.
Star Trek: Discovery will be available on Netflix UK in 2017