George Takei, better known as Mr. Sulu from the hit TV series (and subsequent six movies) Star Trek, has made it official in a new interview with Los Angeles based Frontiers magazine.
“Brad’s my partner, we’ve been together for 18 years,” Takei tells Frontiers. “I’ve been ‘open,’ but I have not talked to the press.”
Now that Takei has decided to go public, the critically acclaimed film, stage and television actor joins a short list of openly gay Asian Americans in entertainment – most notably, Law and Order star BD Wong and comic Alec Mapa (UPN’s Half Half).
The 68-year-old actor was born in Los Angeles but spent much of his childhood in Japanese internment camps in Arkansas and Northern California.
Currently, Takei is starring in a production of the critically acclaimed, Tony Award winning Equus for the East/West Players, a Los Angeles based Asian-American theatre company. Equus opened to rave reviews Wednesday night and tells the story of a 17-year old boy in therapy to uncover why he senselessly blinded six horses with a steel spike. Takei takes the lead as psychiatrist Martin Dysart.
After high-school, Takei went to U.C. Berkeley to major in architecture. But a summer job at MGM doing Japanese to English translation for a cartoon series inspired Takei to switch from architecture to acting, and from Berkeley to UCLA.
He honed his skills on the stage, lading roles in theatre, feature films and, eventually, Star Trek.
“I’ve been enormously lucky (in my career)” Takei told a Montreal radio station in 1994, according to the Associated Press. “Certainly the capper on the string of luck was meeting Gene Roddenberry and to be cast in the role of Sulu, which was a breakthrough role for an Asian-American actor. I think Sulu played a very important role in balancing the perception of Asians by the North American public.”
Since his career-defining role as Sulu in the ’60s, Takei has continued to perform in theater, film and television. With more than 30 feature films and guest appearances on numerous television shows to his credit, Takei has appeared on General Hospital and Scrubs and provided voiceover work for Mulan and its sequel.
The actor received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1986, and published a well-reviewed autobiography in 1994 called To the Stars.
Takei said he knew he was attracted to other men from a young age and quickly discerned that this wasn’t “normal”.
He said he struggled with “feeling ashamed because you’re Japanese-American, and feeling like you’re different because of your (homosexuality),” according to the Frontiers article. “And then (as you grow older), with reading, and talking to other people, your understanding of the situation starts to grow. “And you think, ‘It’s wrong, this [shame] is not right.’ And you start sharing it with more people, and you find other friends and organizations.”
Takei said eventually, he came to “…realize, ‘this is who I am. And by gum, I’m not going to let it be a constraint!’ In the same way that I’m not going to let the fact that I am a Japanese-American, who was unjustly incarcerated and grew up with that, be a constraint.”
It was through one of those organizations, the L.A. Front Runners (a gay runners club) that Takei met his partner Brad. A runner since his junior-high days (Takei has run in six marathons), he saw an ad for the club and decided to try it out.
He and Brad began to train together, and then, “we discovered that we had common interests in the theatre – he was a journalist – we’d go to plays together and, you know, things happen,” he said.
Takei’s been open about his sexuality to his family for several years. While one sibling still has a problem with him being gay, Takei said his mother seems to have made her peace with it.
“My mother, initially, had some adjustments to make, but she got to like Brad very much,” he said in the Frontiers interview. “She got Alzheimer’s, and it got very difficult for her, so we moved her in with us. Brad was wonderful. He was a saint.”
Takei said that by coming out, he hopes his story will help to improve the self-image and visibility of gay Asian-Americans.