Born to Takekuma Norman Takei and Fumiko Emily Takei
in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles,
George was the eldest of three children. A
year after his birth, brother Henry came along,
followed by sister Nancy Reiko Takei, two
years later. Following the Japanese bombing
of Pearl Harbor -- precipitating U.S. involvement
in World War II -- the Takei (pronounced Tah-'KAY,
not Tah-'KI) family, along with other
Japanese-Americans living in the western
United States, were relocated to Japanese
interment facilities. He would spend the next
few years in various Japanese interment camps
around the United States.
After high school, George Takei enrolled at
the University of California at Berkeley to
study architecture. He had acted in grammar
school skits, and junior high school drama
clubs, but it wasn't until his college years
that he was truly bitten by the acting bug.
It wasn't long before he gave up his study
of architecture at Berkeley, and transferred
to UCLA to focus his studies on drama. He
was still in college when he began winning
television and feature film roles. Takei
graduated with a BA in theater, June 9th, 1960,
and would later receive his master's degree
in theater in 1964.
The role that would dominate his life, came
courtesy of producer Gene Roddenberry. Though
the television series Star Trek remained on
the air for just three years (1966-69), the
show developed a massive cult following when
it was rerun in syndication. In 1973, this led
to an animated cartoon series, Star Trek
(a.k.a. Star Trek: The Animated Series), for
which the original Star Trek actors provided
the voices. Later, a series of successful Star Trek
motion pictures was produced.
George Takei made the news in October of 2005,
when it was reported he came out as a homosexual.
In point of fact, he had been "out" for quite
some time. Many devoted Star Trek fans had
known he was gay, as did most friends and many
of his co-workers. But it came as news to the
general public, and was touted in headlines
around the world. It was a stage role in Equus
that helped inspire him to publicly discuss his
sexuality. "The world has changed from when I
was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay,"
the Star Trek actor said. "The issue of
gay marriage is now a political issue. That
would have been unthinkable when I was young."
Takei served as national spokesperson for the
Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Project, a
program designed to help gay, lesbian, bisexual
and transgender people come out and live openly.
Since publicly addressing his homosexuality,
he has been an eloquent speaker on the subject
of tolerance and gay rights.
He was also heavily involved in civic affairs,
and even ran for public office in Los Angeles.
George ran for a spot on the Los Angeles City
Council in 1973, losing by a very small margin.
Mayor Tom Bradley appointed Takei to serve on
the board of directors of the Southern California
Rapid Transit District (RTD) during the period
they would vote to create the Los Angeles subway
system. He continued to serve on the board for
eleven years (1973-84), and eventually saw his
dream come to fruition, when the subway system
was actually built.
He had the following to say about his Star Trek
co-stars: "Leonard Nimoy and I are political
compatriots and we found ourselves working
together for the same candidates in the same
issues. Jimmy Doohan, another Canadian from
Vancouver, is my favorite drinking buddy.
Nichelle, because I put together a lot of
fundraising dinners. Nichelle, is someone I
can always call on to be our headline entertainer.
She's very generous with her talent. Walter
Koenig is a good buddy, as I said. He's the
one that I keep in closest touch with."
Regarding his, and some other Star Trek cast
members' dislike of William Shatner, he said: "But
like any large, extensive family, there is
that "Uncle Jack" that you can't stand and
we do have "Uncle Jack" in "Uncle Bill." But
he is a member of the family and you develop
some kind of way of working and living with
each other for the three months that you're
together making the film. Although I must
say, he does make it very difficult." As the
40th anniversary of the cult series approached
in 2006, an anticipated reunion of the surviving
cast members was said to be out of the question.
Continuing animosity between the supporting
cast, and William Shatner, was reportedly the
reason. Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura
on the show, confirmed that Shatner was "an
insensitive, hurtful egotist." Even after
appearing on Comedy Central's 2006 Roast of
William Shatner, George reported the bitterness
remained. "Well, Bill is a complicated, fascinating
and charismatic guy, but he also has his blind
spot: He just doesn't seem to see how obsessively
self-involved he is," the actor explained.
"When we do conventions together, I keep
thinking to myself, 'Why are you so rude to
the fans?' He can be so charming and gracious,
but I see it's patently put on when he wants
something from you."
In 2007, an asteroid located between Mars and
Jupiter was named in George Takei's honor.
Two Japanese astronomers had discovered the
asteroid, which was known as 1994 GT9, back
in 1994. Dr. Tom Burbine, astronomer at
Mt. Holyoke College, proposed the name change
in recognition of Takei's humanitarian work
and social activism. The International Astronomical
Union's Committee for Small Body Nomenclature
approved the change, officially renaming the
asteroid 7307 Takei.
When the California Supreme Court struck down
a ban on same-sex marriage in 2008, George and
his long-term life partner, Brad Altman, were
among the first gay couples to obtain a
marriage license. Three months later, they
were married at the Japanese American National
Museum in downtown Los Angeles. The couple,
who had been together more than two decades,
exchanged vows they had written themselves,
before a Buddhist priest in a multicultural
ceremony. His Star Trek castmates -- Walter Koenig,
who played Chekhov, and Nichelle Nichols who
portrayed Uhura -- both participated in the
September 14, 2008 ceremony.
Selected film credits:
George Takei appeared alongside some of the
biggest names in entertainment, including
Richard Burton in the movie Ice Palace (1960),
Alec Guinness in A Majority of One (1962),
Cary Grant in Walk Don't Run (1966), and
John Wayne in The Green Berets (1968).
Other film credits include, Red Line 7000 (1965), Which Way
to the Front? (1970), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979),
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The
Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986),
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), Star Trek VI: The
Undiscovered Country (1991), Mulan (1998), Mulan II
(2004), and Larry Crowne (2011).
Selected TV guest appearances:
Takei's impressive list of television guest
appearances stretches back to the 1950s, and
includes, Playhouse 90, Perry Mason, Hawaiian Eye,
The Twilight Zone, The Wackiest Ship in the Army,
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, I Spy, My
Three Sons, Mission: Impossible, Felony Squad,
It Takes a Thief, O'Hara, U.S. Treasury,
The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Kung Fu,
The Six Million Dollar Man, Hawaii Five-O,
Chico and the Man, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Vega$,
Trapper John, M.D., Matt Houston, MacGyver,
Murder, She Wrote, Miami Vice, The Simpsons,
Star Trek: Voyager, 3rd Rock from the Sun,
Early Edition, Diagnosis Murder, Grosse Pointe,
Scrubs, Freddie, Heroes, Secret Talents of the Stars,
Cory in the House, Star Wars: The Clone Wars,
The Suite Life on Deck, Glenn Martin, DDS,
The Big Bang Theory, Supah Ninjas and Celebrity Apprentice.
In addition to his acting, Takei was involved in
real estate development, enjoyed jogging/running,
architecture, and historic preservation. He also
completed several marathons and had the honor
of carrying the Olympic Flame in the 1984 Los Angeles
Olympic Torch Relay. His husband, Brad Altman,
was also an avid runner.