George, good morning. Can you hear us? I can indeed. Good morning. Good morning. I hope you're feeling as good as you look. Well, thank you and apologies for my by slightly unkempt backdrop. This is just all duvets and stuff to try and make the sound.
Oh, yes. Well, this recording studio that I'm in here. Yes. One of those places that look like, well, in fact, there are a lot of comforters and pillows piled up and yes. Yes, I think actors around the world in this time have been I've been plundering cupboards and surrounding himself these things to try and keep working on this. George, I'm so thrilled that you agreed to do this. You are one of the most fascinating people on Earth my entire life you've had.
I hope we can do it all justice. I'm going to give it my best shot anyway. But thanks, David. Let's do it.
David Tennant does a podcast with George Takei. Now, George, I do not expect you to remember this, but we did meet briefly in 1992 when I was really yes, I was in a production of No Cupboard's Fever at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Oh, yes, we saw that. And you came to see it. That's right. Yes. Yes. How did you know we were in the audience? Oh, because the whole place was giddy with the fact that you were in the audience.
That's the thing. You know, Edinburgh was a flutter that you had deigned to visit us and that you were in the audience for our show that night. And when I'm in Edinburgh, I'm all aflutter because I love it's one of my favourite cities in the world.
Yes. You've spent a lot. Yeah. Yeah. I discovered I was about to say I'm a lifelong Anglophile, but I discovered when I did a play at the Edinburgh Festival that I am not an Anglophile in Scotland. No, I am a Brit fire. That's better. Yes, I said Anglophile, you should have seen the Scottish hairs stand on end. Yes.
That would not go down. Well, I'm delighted that you're so fond of Edinburgh because I am to. And that night in 1992 was I mean, nearly 30 years ago now. But it strikes me that 30 years on, you are no less recognisable or any more anonymous now than you were then, or indeed have been that for over 50 years. And I just wonder, I mean, that's a long time to be making people giddy wherever you go.
I just wondered other days when you wish you could switch it off and be a bit more anonymous.
Well, people were giddy back in the 1950s and 60s when I was beginning my career. I think it happened. NIPOST cancellation of Star Trek. Right, because we were very low rated when we were on first run back in 1966, 67 and 68, and we were cancelled in 69. We were cellar dwellers in the ratings. So therefore, when it went into syndication, after we were cancelled, we were very cheap. Rental are very, very low.
And so the syndicators felt that because it's so economical, they put us on five nights a week Monday through Variety. And that is when we found our audience and the ratings soared. And you know, the rest of the story there, we live long and prosper.
I've been trying to think of some a show that has had the impact on the people who were in it, the people around it, and indeed the impact on popular culture that Star Trek has had.
I can give us any equivalent to that, like you say, got cancelled after its third season. It's an extraordinary turn of events.
It really is. But I think at the core, a show had a magnetic quality and that is what Gene Roddenberry infused into the show. I had a conversation with them very early in the game and he told me that he felt that television at that time was being wasted because the 1960s was a turbulent time in America. We had the civil rights movement coming to a head led by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. We had the Vietnam War, which was dividing the United States, half of it pro-war and half of it for peace.
And I was part of the peace movement at that time, too. Then the Cold War, two great nuclear forces threatening each other with nuclear annihilation. And none of that was being reflected on entertainment television. And he felt that this powerful medium had so much potential and none of it was being used because it's essentially an advertising medium. And so he tried to figure out a way to make those statements on television. And he came up with the idea of using science fiction as a metaphor for taking the story out of our times, but essentially keeping those issues in tact and deal with the civil rights movement or the Vietnam War or the Cold War.
The very set up of the show, the Starship Enterprise, where all the story took place, would be a metaphor for Starship Earth and the strength of this starship lay in its diversity. People of this planet all coming together not at war constantly, but coming together and working in concert, dealing with those issues and boldly going where no one had gone before. So we dealt with the civil rights issue where there was an alien that was black on the right side and white on the left side.
But he had. Had an adversary alien who was black on the left side and white on the right side, right. How how ridiculous. And they couldn't get along, you know. Right. Metaphorical use of issues of the time, taking it out of our time and putting it in another context and seeing how ridiculous that was. Yes. And those who got it, got it. And they became the absolutely undying, fervent, loyal, faithful fans generation.
Now, I think we're into the third or fourth generation of Star Trek fans. Undoubtedly. Yes. It's so lovely that it did indeed have that concept of exclusivity and diversity and clearly a lesson from the 60s that we're still learning. When you look back at the industry that you started out and as an actor in the 50s, does it look very different to the industry that you're in now?
It is a different world, totally different. My parents tried to advise me against going into the business, right. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Right. Movie studios all around. You know, my father would take us on Sunday drives and I'd see the gate of Paramount Studios and say, Daddy, daddy parked the car. I want to peer into the studio from those graded the gates. So, you know, I grew up with the movie studios in my hometown, and that was a burning passion.
My father was in real estate and I think he wanted me to be an architect because on those Sunday drives, he usually would take me to one of the great grand construction projects and tell me that this is where a great luxury hotel is going to be built. And sure enough, that's where the Beverly Hilton is, right. I got the hint and I began my college studies as an architecture student. I think deep down inside you wanted to put out a sign that read Takei and Son Real Estate Development, and I would design the buildings and he would develop them.
Were there any precedents around you?
Did you know any actors? Did you or was this just just an idea that came to you? Only my high school actor friends.
Right. Same aspiring people. But the thing is, you know, Daddy did know best because I was seen in the production of Bertolt Brecht, a good woman as Setswana and this casting director of integrity, I maintain. And he was casting an epic movie on Alaska. And there was a role for a Chinese immigrant working in a fish cannery. And that casting director plucked me out of a good woman and said to one and put me into this movie working with Richard Burton.
All my scenes were with this great Shakespearean actor from England. And I was a theater student. He loved talking about himself, about working with Sir Laurence Olivier or Zhongxue Good how he prepared for Hamlet. It was a heady, heady entry into moviemaking. Wow.
Wow. All of which comes just to set this in a bit of context, of course, after what was the most extraordinary childhood that you had, which when I was reading about it, I could scarcely believe happened within living memory. You were four years old. World War two was happening, and you were taken with your parents and your two younger siblings, Henry and Nancy Ricoh. And you were put in an internment camp for Japanese Americans to set out World War Two at that age.
Where were you of what was happening?
I was four when Pearl Harbor happened, and I vaguely remember excitement on the part of my parents. They were visiting a friend and we left hurriedly. And the next memory I have was I turned five years old on April 20th, 1942. And it was a few weeks after that in May when my parents got us up the kids and dressed as hurriedly and my brother and I were told to wait in the living room. My baby sister was a baby and she was in the crib in my parents' bedroom.
And so my brother and I were in the living room just gazing out the front window. And suddenly we saw two soldiers marching up our driveway. They carried rifles with shiny bayonets on them. They stopped at the porch and with their fists began pounding on the door. We were petrified, the whole house seemed to tremble. My father came rushing out of the bedroom and answered the door and literally at gunpoint, we were ordered out of our home. My father gave my brother and me small packages to carry, and he lifted two heavy suitcases and we followed him out and we stood on the driveway waiting for our mother to come out.
And when she came out, she was carrying our baby sister on one arm and a huge duffel bag on the other. And tears were streaming down both her cheeks. The terror of that morning is is seared into my memory after Pearl Harbor was bombed. The United States was swept up with war hysteria initially, young Japanese Americans, like all young Americans, rushed to the recruitment centers to volunteer to serve in the U.S. military. This was an act of patriotism which was answered with a slap on the face.
They were denied military service and. Categorized as enemy aliens, I was not an alien. I was born in Laos and my mother was born in Sacramento, California. My father was that was San Francisco. And I was not an enemy. I was a five year old kid. And yet we were all categorized as enemy aliens. And on February 19th, which is a day that the Japanese Americans remember will never forget it as a day of remembrance.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order nine 066, which ordered all Japanese Americans on the West Coast approximately 120000 of us, and that included orphans. They raided orphanages. You know, I mean, what a threat to national security are parentless babies. They raided orphanages and made an orphanage and one of the internment camps called Manzanar. We were taken from our home first to the horse stables of Santa Anita racetrack, and we were assigned a horse doll to sleep in because the camps were still being built.
Right. Can you imagine from a two bedroom home on Garnet Street in Los Angeles, California, to a horse stall? All five of us. I mean, for me as a five year old kid, I thought it was fun to sleep with a horse is sleep right. But for my parents, it was a degrading, humiliating, enraging thing. But they had guns pointed at them. They were forced. And we were there for a few months.
And when the construction was finished, we were packed into rail cars with armed soldiers at both ends of each car. And we were transported two thirds of the way across the country to the swamplands of Arkansas. There were 10 camps altogether, all in the most desolate, forlorn places in the country. Americans, citizens, innocent, had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. And I as a child, I still remember.
The barbed wire fence that confined this tall sentry towers with machine guns pointed at us when I made the night runs from our barrack to the latrine, searchlights followed me. But the five year old me, I thought it was nice that they lit the way for me to pee. I mean, so my vantage point was totally different from that of my parents. I mean, for them it was I mean, such. Injustice, such degradation, and I remember when we were out of the camps and I was a teenager, I wanted to know more about it and I had many after dinner conversations with my father and I said, Daddy, why did you go?
Why didn't you resist? Look at the African-Americans there demonstrating. He said, yes, you know that you're right. But they were pointing those guns at me. I had your mother to think about, I had you. Your brother, your sister to think about if something happened to me. What do you think will happen to all of you? And I understood my father's horrible dilemma, but the government was relentless in their insanity. A year into imprisonment, the government realized that there was a wartime manpower shortage.
And here were all these young people that they could have had, but they had imprisoned as enemy aliens, how to draft enemy aliens out of a barbed wire prison camp and use them as U.S. soldiers. They had to have some rational reason, despite the irrationality of the whole thing. They came down with what they call the loyalty questionnaire. Most there were about 30 questions, most of the questions were pretty innocuous, what kind of work did you do?
How long have you been doing? What was your training? What's your education? But there were two questions that were absolutely mindless. And turn all 10 camps into turmoil. Question twenty seven asked, will you bear arms to defend the United States of America? For my parents, they were essentially asking them to abandon their children and their arms to defend the nation that's imprisoning their children. It was crazy. My parents answered no to that question. Question 28, the next question was even more insidious.
It was one sentence, but with two conflicting ideas. It asked, Will you swear your loyalty to the United States of America and forswear your loyalty to the emperor of Japan, the emperor of Japan? We're Americans. We didn't have a loyalty to the emperor. And for them to presume, just because we looked this way, that we had an inborn racial loyalty to the emperor was outrageously insulting. Or very imbecilic on the part of the government. How dare you assume that we have an existing loyalty to the emperor?
So if you answered no meaning, I don't have a loyalty to the emperor to forswear that no apply to the first part of a very same sentence if you answered yes. Meaning I do swear my loyalty to the United States. That meant that you were confessing that you had been loyal to the emperor and now we're prepared to forswear that and we pledge your loyalty to the United States. My parents said this is enough. We're not going to take this outrage.
And they answered no to those two key questions. And because of that, they were classified as disloyal. Disloyal because they were standing on principle and what it said was these are stupid questions, they have no understanding of what they're asking. This is outrageous. But because they were categorized now as disloyal enemy aliens, we had to be moved to a high security segregation camp, which was in northern California right by the Oregon border, a camp called to make a lovely name for an ugly, ugly place.
It had three layers of barbed wire fence and would you believe a half a dozen tanks patrolling the perimeter? I mean, talk about overreaction. Those are expensive vehicles. They belong on a battlefield not being wasted and, well, essentially goading people that they outraged with their stupidity. And, you know, it was really a horrible camp. So there are still Americans today that really don't know that shameful history of the United States. And it's been my mission in life to raise this awareness.
And I have a book out now, a graphic memoir. I wrote an autobiography which was published in 1992, which sold very well. But this graphic memoir, which is written like a comic book, is essentially about my childhood in prison. And we also developed a Broadway musical called Allegiance. In this musical, we first examine allegiance to a country, but also allegiance to family and ultimately allegiance to. Yourself and we played on Broadway from 1990, and still I'm an old stirrer, I can't help but say 19 billion.
Yes, it was 2015 and 2016 on Broadway, but it's about the internment of Japanese Americans. When we told friends that were preparing a musical, you know, they were Japanese Americans. They would say a musical. Yes. I mean, you're going to have singers and dancers. And I said, yes, we will. And they'll say it's a drama. It's a drama. And I said, yes, but we also want to show the resilience, the fortitude and the strength of the Japanese American community to endure this kind of outrage and all these different venues.
A Broadway musical, a autobiography, and now this graphic memoir to tell the story. And I thank you for providing me with this opportunity to share this very shameful history of the United States of America. It's incredibly shameful and a terrible injustice that was done to your family. And I, as the father of young children, I can only imagine that the terror that must have. Presented your parents with to be to be removed because all your assets were stolen as well by the.
Absolutely, they froze our bank accounts. Yeah. And so my father couldn't do business. He couldn't make the mortgage payment. Our home was lost everything. They stripped clean, everything that they built up for the first half of their lives taken away from them. And when we were finally released after the end of the war, they gave each one of us twenty five dollars and a one way ticket to wherever you wanted to go. And my parent decided to go back to Los Angeles and our first home was on Skid Row in downtown L.A. So the terror and the horror and the anguish wasn't over just because the war was over and we were released.
And I remember that part more vividly than and more truly than the imprisonment itself. You know, I really do think I was blessed to have a father like my father when I became an inquisitive pre-teen and teenager. He spent hours with me. I'm sure I did. I made it very unpleasant for him. We got into some heated in fact, there's one conversation which still haunts me. I said, Daddy, you led us like sheep to slaughter into into those camps.
And suddenly the give and take of the conversation stopped. And he was silent. And I immediately knew that I had hit a nerve and I felt terribly. And he looked up at me and said, he said, well, maybe you're right, and he got up, went into the bedroom and closed the door. I was devastated, this man that I love, who suffered so profoundly, so deeply, I had hurt him and I wanted to go and knock on that door and apologize.
But it was awkward. It was awful. And so I thought, well, I'll apologize tomorrow morning when things are more settled and. Then tomorrow morning, it was even more awkward. And I never did apologize and it haunts me, but despite those. Very painful conversations, he's still, you know, talk to me about the internment and explained to me that our democracy is a participatory democracy and we have a responsibility to participate in our democracy. He said the easiest form of government is a dictatorship because.
They do it for you and to you, the hardest form of government is a people's democracy because we have to take on that responsibility. You know, I had these conversations after the conversation with my father, even in high school, and I kept challenging him. You know, look at the African-Americans. They're protesting, and yet they're not going anywhere. They're participating in a participatory democracy. And he said, let me show you how it's got to work.
And one Sunday afternoon, he drove me downtown to the Adlai Stevenson for president campaign headquarters. I listened to Governor Stevenson speeches on the radio and he was moving and powerful. And he took me to that headquarter and put me in that environment with other people passionately, passionately dedicated to getting this great governor of Illinois, elected president. And I understood what he was talking about. We have to participate. And from that point on, I became active in electoral politics and the mayor of Los Angeles and I, we got Mayor Bradley elected and appointed me to serve on the Southern California Rapid Transit District.
And my father said that's also part of participating, not just voting and not just campaigning and not just fundraising, but also to serve in appointive positions on boards and commissions. And that's the way to do it. And so, you know, he guided me through this process. And so via electoral politics, I became active in social justice issues. I did a civil rights musical, which became a big hit in Los Angeles, ran for 11 months.
And that's a big hit in Los Angeles. Yeah. And we were invited to sing at every civil rights rally. And at one of the biggest rallies that was held in L.A., our keynote speaker was Dr. Martin Luther King. Wow. And we marched into that arena together with them and we sang Our Hearts Out. And the greatest thrill was being invited to meet Dr. King himself in his dressing room after the rally downstairs. And this hand of mine actually shook Dr.
King's hands and shared a few words with him.
And I tell people for about three days, this hand did not get washed over that it must be terribly exciting then when as as a young actor, you go and meet Gene Roddenberry. He talks about this show, which, yes, it's a sci fi show and it's an entertainment show. But but part of his reason for doing it was to show a world where we would all live as one. And that would be, you know, racism would be a thing of the past, because correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm imagining the kind of parts that were available to a young Japanese American actor in the 50s where relatively limited in Hollywood.
Would that be exactly what they were before Star Trek? What sort of rules were you encountering? Well, I.
I was lucky. Yes. Most of the rules were stereotypes, either the servant or the buffoon, the comic character or the villain, very often the villain. But because I got known as a trained actor, UCLA's Theater Arts Department and my first gig was a major feature film starring Richard Burton and Robert Reich. And I had something of a mentor in the casting director from Warner Brothers who saw me at UCLA, Hoyt Bowers. I owe a great deal to him because he was spreading the word on my behalf.
It always helps to have someone in the industry, a casting director, saying good things about you, right? Right. Yes. Yes.
Well, you do get the part of Mr. Sulu and it is life changing, presumably. But I guess you didn't necessarily know that at the time or did you? Did it feel like when you got that part in that pilot, did you think this will change my life? This is this is where all pivots.
I understood that it was an incredible break for me because here was a show with that concept that we talked about, and here was a character who was a part of the leadership team, a crack helmsmen, the best helmsman in Starfleet. And at that time, there was a stereotype of Asian drivers being not very good drivers. I was the best driver in the galaxy. Right. And, you know, it was stereotype shattering. And speaking English without an accident, accident, without an accent, there might have been accidents without an accident, and I knew that this was going to be a breakthrough and a series regular where my face would be seen week after week after week and after we were canceled daily Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, you know, so I had no idea what was going to be such a career defining opportunity, but I knew it was a breakthrough part for me, but also the philosophy of Gene Roddenberry on Starfleet.
There was this acronym, Edik IDC, which stood for infinite diversity in infinite combinations. And that was so important for America because that is our strength, our diversity. And here we were having the civil rights struggle and and we're still having it today. Black lives matter, you know, but it dealt with our diversity being the strength of our starship or our planet. And to recognize that to take the best of that diversity and to be able to see that challenge from so many different perspectives, that is what makes us creative problem solvers.
And what did that mean for your parents seeing you, you know, having had this awful injustice in your childhood and that extraordinary journey, they must have gone on to build their life back up. And then for their son to go, I'm going to go off and become an actor, which must have felt insecure and sort of not what it hoped for, but to then see you being, you know, absolutely OK. And being on a network television show, was that did they acknowledge that that was an exciting moment.
My mother became my best publicist, really, when I was to be on the air. She was on the phone with her list like Amanda in The Glass Menagerie, selling magazine subscriptions. She was on the phone calling all her friends, telling them that her son, George, was going to be on at 8:00. Don't miss Channel four. And my father was just beaming. He was so happy in so many ways. That was for me fulfilling to see my father be so happy and to reveal my checkered past.
I did run for public office for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, and my father was so proud of my running actively running for a public office. And I'm so glad that I was able to. And he suffered so much and I was able to give him that joy of seeing his son, not only on television, but. Ten years after we were canceled because of that incredible popularity, by being on daily, Paramount decided to go with a feature film or Star Trek.
And in 1978, he became very ill. He was in and out of the hospital. And I really wish that he could have been able to see the feature film. But he was in his hospital bed in 79 and he knew that the film would be opening very soon. But he never lived to see Star Trek the motion picture. But he passed knowing and I'm sure he was so happy with. Yeah, and so then, yes, 10 years after the show was canceled, you make a motion picture, it's a huge hit.
You make another five over the years, actually six.
Oh yes, I did. Five as well. They kept giving us advances in rank. You know, I was LT and then I became a lieutenant colonel, like lieutenant commander and so forth. But I was still at that same damn corners of pushing and pushing that same button, saying Icer Warp three. And, you know, my father told me to be an activist, to participate, and I did that with my career as well. I said to Gene Roddenberry, this is supposed to be a meritocracy and I'm supposed to be the best helmsman in Starfleet.
How come I'm staying at the same console year after year? Yes, with all these advances. But advances started coming in the film. And finally on the sixth, sixth film, I was no longer lieutenant commander. I was the captain of the Starship Excelsior. Yes. A brand new ship, much bigger than the Enterprise, much more powerful than the Enterprise. And there's that brand new, wise, calm, collected captain, Captain Sulu of the Excelsior.
I know you've been very candid over the years that although it was a wonderful time, there were tensions within your group of actors there.
It got more and more intense. So, Dennis, how do I put it? It began from the TV series. There was one character whose charisma and whose mystery was like a magnet. It was Spock, right. The strange alien with pointy ears. And that intrigued the audience and women thought. I'm the one who can rouse him and his fan letter count soared, but the titular star was his NIB's captain, James T. Kirk.
His fan letters were this many, right? And Leonard's was that many. And that created a tension. Right. That insecurity on every opportunity, you know, he thinks is an assault on his start. Right. Was it William Shatner versus the rest of the world? Yes, yes. Yes. Right. But the rest of you were a very tight team. Yes.
We're I mean, you know, it's a movie making TV making theater is all a collaborative teamwork. A good actor knows that a scene works when there's that dynamic going on with the cast involved. There are some actors that seem to feel that it's a one man show. Right. And so that's the source of some tensions, right? Sure. Hey, Georgia, hi, David. I am a big fan of a podcast called Love It or Leave It.
OK, tell me more.
Well, it's hosted by Jon Lovett. He's a former Obama speechwriter and is a positive America co-host. And each week he's joined by all kinds of wonderful guests to break down the week's news. It's funny. It's clever. He's funny. He's clever. You learn stuff, you laugh.
New episodes of Love It or Leave It come out every Saturday morning on Crooked Media. Subscribe now on Apple, podcasts, stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. You really don't want to be without this in your ears. You've also been. A pioneering activist and spokesman, an ambassador for gay rights. I wonder if being an out gay man. Presumably, that's not something you could have considered at the start of your career, when did you realize you were gay?
You know, there is no one point. I knew from childhood that I looked different, and for that we were punished. We were put into imprisonment. When I was about nine or 10, I had the growing realization that I'm different in ways other than just my face, right. The other boys in junior high school, middle school, they call it now, would get all excited. There was a girl named Monica who was prematurely blossoming out and full of Womanist, and they would say, wow, Monica is hot.
She's getting breasts I the Monica's nice. What what are they getting so excited about? But all the other guys felt that way. All my friends and I didn't. And I didn't like to be different because we were punished for being different, looking different scene, and my difference was in the way I felt. When I saw Bobby, he has such a cute smile and they didn't think so.
And so I you know, there's no one point when you make that realization I was different and we were punished for it, but I'm different in other ways and I didn't like being different. I started I was an actor from a very early age. And then I but, you know, you feel very alone. I thought I was the only one who had those feelings. But then as you grow older, you meet other guys who tell me about this place where other guys like us gather.
We have to go in through the alleyway and on the street side, it's all painted black. A gay bar and I heard that's what they're called. But then one of the older guys told me. Even in a gay bar, you have to be careful because the police raided them. And they would arrest everybody, march you all out and put you in a paddy wagon and drive you down to the police station and fingerprint you, and then they'll take a picture of you and put your name on a list.
If any of that was released, that would be devastating. You might lose your job, and certainly I as an actor, you know, that kind of people weren't hired by producers and so. I lived a double life, I was closeted. And I have many relationships with guys. And then I joined a gay running club because I I love running it's meditation, and in that running club we had the best runner. And so I went up to him and asked him to train me for my first marathon.
He trained me and got to know him well. And he's been with me for the last 34 years.
Oh, what a lovely city. Legalized it. Oh, yes. You got married in 2008, right? Eight. Yeah. And you were the first same sex couple to apply for a marriage license in West Hollywood. You made a very a very public event, didn't you? Did you feel a responsibility because you were a public figure to make sure the world knew what you were doing? It was before that that I came out, sure, because being closeted and being a civic activist, social activist.
Is. A torturous activity, there are these. Bold, courageous, self sacrificing young LGBT people. Who sacrificed everything? I was clinging on to my career, they had given that up. Some even their families, and they were there fighting for my equality. And I was together with Brad by then, and it was torturous. And then the AIDS plague hits and friends suddenly get sick and rapidly start losing weight. I mean, their skin and bone.
I went to visit one of them in the hospital. There was a group of nurses in the hallway just chitchatting and I went in there, he is in the fetal position and trembling and no cover. And so I went out there and said, you've got to do your job. They were completely ignoring him. I said, give me a blanket. I will take it into him. It was the same thing as our imprisonment. The rest of America thought nothing of our.
Well, there were people bless their hearts, but here even Reagan was ignoring the AIDS issue and I saw the connection, how inhuman and how cruel government and the government's influence on society or the society's influence on on politicians can do such cruel injustices to suffering people. And yet I was closeted because I wanted my career, and it wasn't until 2005 when. The California state legislature, the people's representatives, passed the marriage equality bill. It was a landmark event.
No other state legislature had passed such a bill. It needed one more signature, that of the governor of the state who happened to be a movie star. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Schwarzenegger. And when he campaigned for the governor's office, he campaigned by saying, I'm from Hollywood. I've worked with gays and lesbians. Some of my best friends are gays and lesbians. I mean, that prevaricating your campaign rhetoric. And I thought surely he would sign in having campaigned like that.
But his base is the right wing Republican Party. And when the bill landed on his desk, he vetoed it. And that got us, Brad and I so enraged. I said, let's let's do it. And I spoke to the press as a gay man and blasted Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto. And from that point on, I've been out and loud and active as a lobbying for gay equality.
Did that feel like a reliberation when you managed to finally make that?
I mean, it must have been scary, you know, but well, the thing that I feared the most that I would lose my career didn't happen. In fact, the very opposite happen. I got casted more guest shots on television, not as a character, well as a character, because it wasn't really me. But the character was named George Takei. And he was gay. Right. A gay Takei character on 3rd Rock from the Sun Will and Grace or the Big Bang Theory.
Right. It was liberating, but the climate was set by those heroic people, the LGBT people that were out there campaigning when everything was against us.
There can't be a country in the world where people don't know Mr. Sulu and don't know you. And you've used that celebrity for your activism as well, haven't you? You're not you've not been queasy about stating your political stance. And some actors are only some actors think twice about that because they're worried they'll alienate part of their audience or something. Was that something that ever gave you a cause for concern?
You know, here again, I go by my father's philosophy. We are Americans. We participate in a participatory democracy and that carries over into every aspect of our lives. Participating in social justice campaign is that much more vitally important for me with my background. Those of us who were incarcerated in those camps go to what we call annual pilgrimages. But this year, because of this quarantine, everything is turn as you as we our conversations are, then it's virtual and they ask me to speak.
At this year's virtual pilgrimage, I wrote what you might call a poem. May I read it?
Yes. I go on pilgrimages to mourn. I mourn for those good people who died behind barbed wire due to natural causes, cancer, stroke, diabetes, I go also to mourn for those who died behind barbed wire fence due to unnatural causes, who died of soul crushing despair of the heart fever of angst stifled. And of suffocation under the agonizing weight of oppression. I go to mourn the death behind barbed wire of the ideals of a land of democracy.
The rule of law. Of due process and the pledge did liberty and justice for all. I go on pilgrimages to remember the struggle since to reinstate those noble ideals and I go on pilgrimages to hope that this young generation of Americans continue the struggle because there is fight still to be fought to make those ideals shine strong and true and righteous. I go on pilgrimages to mourn. And remember. And to hope. Thank you, that's beautiful. You've lived through such vast societal changes and you've lived through such a range of experiences in terms of your own liberty and identification, you have an objective view of the world that I think your extraordinary life is replicated by very few people.
I wonder if you. Look to the future with optimism or with dread. I think the United States, after every cataclysmic event, have not only to survive and and go past it, but to be an even better America if we set our minds to it as a society, as a planet, we can do it. And I'm sure that it's going to be difficult getting over this. There are still people dying in in the thousands in the United States, but we will prevail.
George, I could talk to you, I think, for a week. I can't thank you enough. I really can't thank you enough. What a fool you this has been, don't you? I've enjoyed it very much. What a life you've had. Amazing.
Oh, don't please don't speak in the past. No, no. I love. I love that you're still fighting. I love it.
My grandmother celebrated and she literally celebrated every birthday. She celebrated 104 birthdays. And I'm very competitive. I intend to beat my grandmother. I think you're destined to be your grandmother. I've got the genes. Thank you so much.
My pleasure. Thank you.
Next time, are you sometimes and I don't mean to be indelicate, but are you sometimes guilty of giggling during a performance when that's not entirely what the script requires in discuss?
You sit in this chair. I'm just saying. Well, it might have been reported.
David Tennant does a podcast with his as something else and No Mystery production produced by Zooey Edwards. Additional production from Harriet Wells, Sarah Hamlet, Steve Akerman and George Tenet. The sound engineer was Josh Gibbs. The executive producer is Christina.