George Takei became famous for his role in Star Trek as Mr. Sulu, but in the last decade, he’s drawn followers who admire him because of who he is—not just who he has played. The new documentary about his life is called To Be Takei.
He joins Fresh Air to talk about growing up in a Japanese internment camp, avoiding stereotypical roles, and coming out as gay at 68.
Here he explains why he was closeted for most of his life:
The thing that affected me in the early part of my career was … there was a very popular box office movie star — blonde, good-looking, good actor — named Tab Hunter. He was in almost every other movie that came out. He was stunningly good-looking and all-American in looks. And then one of the scandals sheets of that time — sort of like The Inquirertoday — exposed him as gay. And suddenly and abruptly, his career came to a stop.
That was, to me, chilling and stunning. I was a young no-name actor, aspiring to build this career — and I knew that [if] it were known that I was gay, then there would be no point to my pursuing that career. I desperately and passionately wanted a career as an actor, so I chose to be in the closet. I lived a double life. And that means you always have your guard up. And it’s a very, very difficult and challenging way to live a life.
Photo by Kevin Scanlon via LA Weekly
Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1949
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It’s also a pretty impactful reminder that out of over 7 billion people….SIX are not on Earth.
Give ‘em a wave next time you look up.
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