Takei On Politics, Being Different And Social Activism

By Michelle
October 28, 2005 - 2:43 AM

Actor George Takei (Sulu) talked about his role in Equus, his political activism and his decision to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality, saying, "This is who I am. And by gum, I'm not going to let it be a constraint!"

Speaking to Los Angeles' Frontiers, the actor said that his resentment about California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to veto a bill that would have permitted gay marriages in the state were part of his impetus for coming out as a gay man. He said, "This is something that I've mused on for a long time. I've been thinking on sharing it with the media, but the media is an ungovernable creature."

The actor, who has long been an advocate for civil rights and the progressive development of Los Angeles, explained that he felt like a victim of segregation and decided that he could play a role in ending "some of those constraints that we have to struggle with...the segregationist mentality is so strong, but it's as destructive as racial segregation was in the South, or incarceration on the basis of looking like the enemy, as in the case of Japanese-Americans during the second World War" - an experience with which Takei is intimately familiar, having been sent along with his family to an internment camp.

"It's that same mentality, and in order to be vocal on those issues, I think I need to address those issues as who I am," he added.

Takei likened the shame he was made to feel about being gay to the effects of the oppression he experienced as a Japanese-American during World War II. "I remember the barbed wire and the guard towers and the machine guns, but they became part of my normal landscape," he recalled. "When we came out of camp, that's when I first realized that being in camp, that being Japanese-American, was something shameful...I just swallowed the pain."

He grew up feeling ashamed of his ethnic heritage, "and then when you get this realization that you have a different focus in life, you know, that other boys are interesting to you...you start kind of hiding that as well." As he grew older, he understood that feeling shame was neither right nor inevitable, so he started going to gay events and gatherings, "and you start realizing that this is 'normal.' For me."

Takei met his partner, Brad Altman, in a gay running group, and said that while his mother came to understand and accept his orientation, his siblings have not been nearly so supportive. "Brad's my partner, weíve been together for 18 years. So, Iíve been 'open,' but I have not talked to the press," he said. "It's not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through...it's more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor."

The play Equus, which Takei is performing with the East West Players (story), resonates for the actor because of these life experiences. The play is about a teenage patient and a psychiatrist who struggles with ideas about normality and obsession. "I first saw it in London at the National Theatre and I was blown away," Takei revealed. "It was my Star Trek colleague Leonard Nimoy who played Dysart on Broadway."

Dysart has "a lot of demons that heís fighting. Itís been festering in him for a long time. And then this boy explodes on him...that burning passion, and focused on creating his own worship, thatís been missing in [Dysart]." The character complains about his "eternal timidity" yet ultimately develops a greater understanding of himself.

Equus runs through November 20th at the David Henry Hwang Theater. The full interview with Takei is at Frontiers.

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