“George Takei has been a leading advocate for LGBT rights since he announced to the world he was a gay man in 2005. Best known for his role playing Starship Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu in the beloved “Star Trek” TV series and through six films, Takei reports he’s more in demand than ever after kicking open the closet door.
Variety spoke with the actor in the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on Friday that legalizes gay marriage nationwide. At the time, Takei, who is married to Brad Altman, said he was “optimistic” the court would endorse same-sex couples’ right to wed. He also talked about his years in the closet and the reaction “Star Trek” fans had to the news he was a gay man.
Were you hesitant to come out of the closet?
George Takei: I was closeted most of my adult life and most of my career, because I wanted to work passionately and I loved acting, and I knew I could’t have that if I was out. When I was a teenager, the biggest heartthrob was Tab Hunter. He was in every movie out of Warner Bros. until he was exposed as gay and his career faded. That was an object lesson. I knew I must protect my sexual orientation.
When I came out, I was 68 and I was totally prepared for my career to recede when I spoke to the press for the first time. What happened after that blew me away. I started getting more offers. My career blossomed. I got more guest shots as gay George Takei than ever, and I got an offer from Howard Stern to be his official announcer.
How did “Star Trek” fans react to the news you were gay?
“Star Trek” fans totally accepted my sexual orientation. There are a great number of LGBT people across “Star Trek” fandom. The show always appealed to people that were different — the geeks and the nerds, and the people who felt they were not quite a part of society, sometimes because they may have been gay or lesbian.
“Star Trek” is about acceptance and the strength of the Starship Enterprise is that it embraces diversity in all its forms…”