George Takei, a ‘Star Trek’ veteran who can arguably reach more earthlings with his astonishing social media following than even his former Enterprise home, is furious with Donald Trump, but hopeful that the Republican presidential candidate has finally blown it.
“He pays zero income tax, and most politicians would be terrified to have that exposed,” he tells HuffPostUK, after using words like “venal” and “self-serving” to describe his former boss on the US version of ‘The Apprentice’.
“But he thinks it’s smart. His support is coming from the people who are unemployed or under-employed who have little education and low income, and yet they pay taxes. You reach people where their gut is… how come so-called billionaire Donald Trump didn’t pay a single tax? I think that’ll be it.”
Tireless LGBT activist George remembers meeting Trump during a series of ‘Celebrity Apprentice USA’ and inviting him to lunch to talk about marriage equality in New York, back in 2008.
“I told him he’s a businessman, on that level alone, marriage equality in NYC would be profitable… ‘If people can get married, they’ll come to New York to get married, stay at your hotel, eat in your restaurant’… He said, ‘Yeah, but I believe in traditional marriage.’ I thought, three times married? How traditional? Finally, we agreed to disagree.
“I really didn’t know his full political mentality and it is chilling, he utters the kind of sounds my parents heard, all those hateful words.”
George has detailed his childhood in a US prison camp after the war in his bestselling memoir, and it is clear his father’s lessons during that time are never far away.
“He suffered the most,” remembers George. “But he understood, we have to be engaged in the political process because America’s ideals are good, but people can be fallible, people who do great things can be fallible, all the way back to our founding fathers.”
Since coming out over a decade ago, George has never been afraid to speak out on all sorts of issues, even when his voice goes against the herd. This summer, he surprised many ‘Star Trek’ fans with his opposition to his old character Sulu being revealed as gay in ‘Star Trek Beyond’ written by Simon Pegg, the latest in JJ Abrams’ record-breaking series.
For George, this decision doesn’t honour Gene Roddenberry’s vision, something he holds dearly, and follows a strange breakfast meeting with JJ when he thought he might be offered a cameo. Instead, JJ wished to consult with him, it transpired, over whether it was acceptable to cast an American-Asian actor in George’s old role, not Japanese-American like George himself.
He remembers: “I realised then that he didn’t understand ‘Star Trek’ and the character of Sulu. I had to explain to him that we all represented different parts of this starship called Earth, my character was to represent Asia, not Japan. I may be Japanese, but Sulu was to represent all of Asia, hence the name.”
It’s clear George feels very strongly about this. I ask if this is an example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions by those running the new series?
He smiles beatifically. “It’s the exhibition of non-knowledge of ‘Star Trek’.”
I wonder if all of the show’s original cast members feel as protective of Gene Roddenberry’s vision as George – William Shatner, for instance?
George smiles again. “I think William Shatner is very protective of William Shatner.”
Smooth! I’d forgotten about their froideur, following George’s description of William Shatner in his memoir. According to the former, however, all is smooth between these two veterans of the Bridge.
“I didn’t bad-mouth or anything, I just described the situation, just the history, and when I see Bill at conventions, we chat, he knows what I’ve done, and what he’s done, it’s factual, so we check in on each other, there’s no acrimony. We share a common life experience.”
And what an experience it is, as George agrees.
“Without ‘Star Trek’, I would be a different me - particularly something as big as ‘Star Trek’, it has a shaping and forming power. I know my voice wouldn’t have the amplification – having access to a radio microphone or the doors of congress – and greater power.
“Because ‘Star Trek’ has given me this amplification, I can contribute so much to making sure this is a democracy, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously.”
Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection is out now on Blu-ray.