Born on April 20, 1937, in Los Angeles, California, George Takei overcame the racial barriers of his time to launch a successful acting career. He starred as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu during the three-year television run of Star Trek, and later reprised the role for six movies. Prominently involved with gay rights and Japanese-American groups, Takei has become a highly popular social-media presence.
George Hosato Takei was born on April 20, 1937, in Los Angeles, California. At the age of 5, he and his family were uprooted from their home and forced to live at Japanese internment camps in Arkansas and northern California. They returned to Los Angeles after World War II, and Takei enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley to study architecture.
Stage and Screen
While in college, George Takei responded to a newspaper ad looking for Asian voiceover actors for the English version of the Japanese monster movie Rodan (1956). That led to more voiceover work, as well as small parts in television programs such as Perry Mason and the film Ice Palace (1960). Deciding to focus on acting full time, Takei transferred to the University of California Los Angeles, where he earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in theater.
In 1966, Takei became one of the few Asian Americans to be featured prominently on TV when he starred as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on the science-fiction series Star Trek. He returned after taking time off during the second season to film The Green Berets (1968), but his role as Sulu was temporarily shelved when Star Trek was canceled in 1969.
Takei continued to make regular TV appearances in the 1970s, on such programs as The Six Million Dollar Man and Hawaii Five-O, while providing the voice of Sulu for the Star Trek animated series. Momentum gathered for the making of the movie, and Takei reunited with the rest of his old castmates for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and five sequels over the next dozen years.
The 1990s brought a steady stream of voiceover gigs, with Takei's signature baritone surfacing in the Disney animated feature Mulan (1998) and episodes of The Simpsons. The veteran actor also became a semi-regular guest on the Howard Stern Show, and in 2006, he was named Stern's official announcer following the shock-jock's move to Sirius XM Radio.
Takei was involved in a project close to his heart when he took on a starring role in Allegiance, a production about the World War II internment of Japanese Americans. The play premiered at San Diego's Old Globe Theater in September 2012.
Public Service and Private Revelations
Takei has remained a busy man away from show business. After narrowly losing his bid for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council in 1973, he joined the board of directors for the Southern California Transit District from 1973 to 1984.
Takei served on the board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission for President Bill Clinton, and was conferred with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette by His Majesty the Emperor of Japan in 2004. He is also chairman emeritus of the Japanese American National Museum's board of trustees and serves as chair of the council of governors of East West Players, a renowned Asian-American theater organization.
In 2005, Takei publicly announced his homosexuality to Frontiers magazine. He married his longtime partner, Brad Altman, in September 2008.
In recent years, Takei has earned a following from a new generation of fans with his funny, incisive posts on Facebook. His expansive social-media presence, along with the 2013 release of Star Trek Into Darkness, has helped keep this accomplished actor and activist in the public eye.
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