George Takei tells David Tennant about Star Trek “tensions”

The Sulu actor admitted it felt like "William Shatner against the world".

George Takei

George Takei has spoken out about the tension that was present amongst the cast of Star Trek during the show’s original run, confirming that it felt like “William Shatner against the world.”

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Appearing as a guest on David Tennant’s podcast, David Tennant Does A Podcast With…, Takei spoke about the rivalry between Shatner and the rest of the cast, which he claims was fuelled by jealousy over the number of fan letters their co-star Leonard Nimoy was receiving.

Asked about the “tensions” in the group of actors, Takei said, “It got more and more intense. How do I put it? It began from the TV series.

“There was one character whose charisma and whose mystery was like a magnet. It was Spock, the strange alien with pointy ears.

“That intrigued the audience and women thought, ‘I’m the one who can arouse him.’ His fan letters were this many, and Leonard’s were that many, and that created an insecurity.”

However, Takei stated that, despite the relationship between Shatner and the rest of the cast, the other actors and crew all got along well. 

“You know, movie-making, TV-making, theatre-making is all about collaborative teamwork,” he said. “A good actor knows that the scene works when there’s that dynamic going on with the cast. Some actors seem to feel that it’s a one-man show. That’s the source of some tensions.”

Takei also chatted with Tennant about many other aspects of his life and career, touching on the immense success of Star Trek after its initial cancellation, his childhood experiences in a Japanese American internment camp during the Second World War and his experience as a gay man in the TV and movie industry.

He also spoke about why Star Trek was such a landmark show when it first came out in the ’60s, claiming, “The 1960s was a turbulent time in America. We had the Civil Rights Movement coming to a head, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We had the Vietnam War, which was dividing the United States. Then, the Cold War: two great nuclear forces threatening each other with annihilation. None of that was being reflected on entertainment television.

“This powerful media had so much potential, and none of it was being used because it’s essentially an advertising medium. [Gene Rodenberry] tried to figure out a way to make those statements on television, and he came up with the idea of using science fiction as a metaphor, taking the story out of our times but essentially keeping those visions in tact and dealing with the Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam War or the Cold War.”

Takei was the latest big name guest on Tennant’s podcast, following on from the likes of Jon Hamm, Olivia Colman and Michael Sheen – all of whom have previously worked alongside the Scottish actor.

In upcoming episodes, guests are set to include Dame Judi DenchThe Handmaid’s Tale and Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss, comedian and musician Tim Minchin, and Succession star and fellow Scot Brian Cox. 

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