George Takei is a vocal and respected advocate for the LGBT community, but in an interview with THR, the actor who brought Hikaru Sulu to life for the first time nearly 50 years ago said the announcement that the character would come out as gay in Star Trek Beyond is unfortunate.
Takei had approached creator Gene Roddenberry about exploring the topic of homosexuality on the show in a private conversation. The actor was still closeted at the time.
He [Roddenberry] was a strong supporter of LGBT equality. But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope — and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air.
The show was cancelled the next year.
Takei had been approached about the change to the character for the upcoming film and felt it would’ve been better had the character remained straight.
I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.
When he first learned of the planned change from current Sulu actor John Cho, he told him:
Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.
Takei feels that a character who came of age in the 23rd century wouldn’t have found himself in the closet in the first place. He also spoke to director Justin Lin about the idea:
I said, ‘This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry, the man whose vision it was carried us through half a century. Honor him and create a new character.’ I urged them. He left me feeling that that was going to happen.
For his part, Takei doesn’t feel quite done with the Sulu character yet. With the possible upcoming CBS Star Trek TV series from Alex Kurtzman and Brian Fuller, the actor is hoping that an ancient, wise Admiral Sulu may appear.