Silicon 2022

George Takei


George Takei was born Hosato Takei on April 20, 1937 in Los Angeles, California. His mother was born in Sacramento to Japanese parents & his father was born in Japan. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he & his family were relocated from Los Angeles to the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas. Later, they were moved to a camp at Tule Lake in Northern California. His first-hand knowledge of the unjust internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans in World War II, poignantly chronicled in his autobiography, created a lifelong interest in politics & community affairs.

After graduating from Los Angeles High School in 1956, he studied architecture at UC Berkeley. An ad in a Japanese community paper led to a summer job on the MGM lot where he dubbed 8 characters from Japanese into English for Rodan (1956). Bitten by the acting bug, he transferred to UCLA as a theater arts major. Contacting an agent he had met at MGM led to his appearance as an embittered soldier in postwar Japan in the Playhouse 90 (1956) production. Being spotted in a UCLA theater production by a Warner Bros. casting director led to his feature film debut in Ice Palace (1960), various roles in Hawaiian Eye (1959) &other feature work. In June 1960, he completed his degree at UCLA and studied at the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-Upon-Avon in England that summer.

After starting a master’s degree program at UCLA, he was cast in the socially relevant stage musical production Fly Blackbird! but was replaced when the show moved to New York. He took odd jobs until returning to his role at the end of the run. Getting little work in Manhattan, he returned to Los Angeles to continue his studies, once again appearing in TV & films. He earned his master’s in 1964. Wanting a multi-racial crew, Gene Roddenberry cast him in Where No Man Has Gone Before, the second Star Trek (1966) pilot. Mr. Sulu remained a regular character when the series went into production. In the hiatus after the end of shooting the first season, he worked on The Green Berets (1968), playing a South Vietnamese Special Forces officer.

After Star Trek (1966) was canceled, he did guest stints in several TV shows, voiced Sulu for the animated Star Trek series & regularly appeared at Star Trek conventions. He also produced & hosted a public affairs show Expression East/West, which aired in Los Angeles from 1971-1973. That year, he ran for the L.A. City Council. Although he lost by a small margin, Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, where he served until 1984 & contributed to plans for the subway. During this period, he co-wrote a sci-fi novel Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe. He campaigned to get more respect for his character in the Star Trek features, resulting in Sulu finally obtaining the rank of captain in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), a role reprised in the Star Trek: Voyager (1995) episode Flashback.

He has run several marathons and was in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Torch Relay. He received a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame in 1986. He also left his signature & hand print in cement at the Chinese Theater in 1991. His 1994 autobiography, To the Stars, was well-received. He remains active as a stage, TV & film actor as well as as an advocate for the interests of Japanese Americans.