April 20 marks the 85th birthday of the beloved George Takei.
Actor, activist, influencer; these are just some of the roles Takei has had throughout his nearly 70-year career. He began by doing voiceover work for the English version of the Japanese monster movie Rodan in 1956. This in turn got him more voice work which eventually led to small parts on tv shows such as Perry Mason and The Twilight Zone and in films like The Ice Palace and Hell to Eternity. His big break, of course, came in 1966 when he was cast as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek. What his casting did for Asian representation on television at this time in American history cannot be overstated or properly expressed.
George would continue in the role of Lt. Sulu through the end of the 60’s when the series was cancelled; but he would pick the role up again in the animated version of the show in the 70’s and throughout the 80’s and 90’s in the Star Trek movies. During that time, he managed to make guest appearances on several other tv shows such as Miami Vice and Murder She Wrote. In the aftermath of Star Trek, he returned to voice acting but also has never strayed far from the public eye making notable appearances in a milieu of films and tv shows.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Takei officially came out of the closet, prompted by then governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of same sex marriage legislation. Fans and costars are quick to note, however, that Takei was never really ‘in the closet’. His sexuality was an open secret within the Star Trek community, and he was an active member of several LGBT organizations. Once legalized, Takei was quick to marry longtime partner Brad Altman in 2008.
The next big milestone for George comes in 2012 when he starred in the San Diego production of the musical Allegiance. The show, written by Jay Kuo, was inspired by Takei’s personal experience of his family being forcibly removed from their Los Angeles home and placed in a Japanese interment camp during WWII. The musical moved to Broadway for a brief run in 2015-2016 and ran again in Los Angeles in 2018.
Allegiance is an extension of George’s amazing human rights activism and his tireless work on US-Japanese relations. In 2004 the Japanese government awarded him with the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette to honor his work. Asteroid 7307 Takei is named in his honor, commemorating his work with such organizations as The Japanese American Citizens League and the Human Rights Campaign. In 2014 GLAAD awarded him with the Vito Russo Award and the list goes on and on.
These days, George Takei is known for being a juggernaut in the social media realm. With a following of 9.5 million on Facebook, 3.3 million on Twitter and 1.4 million on Instagram, he is a force to be reckoned with. His posts are typically humorous memes or jokes poking at popular culture, but he is also known to use his massive presence to speak out on issues he believes in.
At the age of 85, George shows no signs of slowing down and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Oh myyyyy!!!