04-20 Happy birthday to George Takei, born April 20, 1937.
George Hosato Takei (pronounced “Ta-Kay”) is a Japanese-American actor best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek franchise.
He debuted as Sulu in the second pilot of the original series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, with his character making the transition from the physics department to the helm by the next episode, “The Corbomite Maneuver”. In total, he appeared in 51 of the 79 original series episodes.
He later voiced Sulu in the animated series and displayed his vocal talents playing other guest characters. He then reprised the role in the first six Star Trek motion pictures, and “Flashback”, an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
He has both narrated and recorded dialogue as Sulu in numerous audio novels and interactive games. Due to the fact that Sulu did not appear in the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” (he was filming The Green Berets at the time), Takei was the only Original Series star not to appear in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 30th anniversary episode “Trials and Tribble-ations”. He did, however, appear as Captain Sulu in Star Trek: Voyager’s 30th anniversary episode, “Flashback”.
Takei played Sulu in an episode of the fan films Star Trek: New Voyages entitled “World Enough and Time”, which premiered in 2007 and featured fellow Trek performers Grace Lee Whitney, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, James Cawley, Jeffery Quinn, and John Carrigan.
Takei began his career in Hollywood in the late 1950s, providing voiceover for characters in the English dub of the Japanese monster films Godzilla Raids Again a.k.a. Gigantis the Fire Monster. He went on to appear in the anthology television series Playhouse 90 and the Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Blushing Pearls”. He guest starred in the third season fifth episode of Hawaiian Eye “Thomas Jefferson Chu.” He originated the role of George in the musical Fly Blackbird!, but when the show traveled from Los Angeles to Broadway the west coast actors were forced to audition and the role went to William Sugihara instead. Eventually Sugihara had to give up the role and Takei closed out the show’s final months.
Takei subsequently appeared alongside such actors as Frank Sinatra in Never So Few (uncredited), Richard Burton in Ice Palace, Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity, Alec Guinness in A Majority of One, James Caan in Red Line 7000 and Cary Grant in Walk, Don’t Run. He featured in a lead role in “The Encounter” (1964), an episode of The Twilight Zone in which he played the guilt-ridden son of a traitor who signaled Japanese pilots during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
He had an uncredited role in the film PT-109 (1963) as the helmsman who steers the Japanese destroyer over John F. Kennedy‘s Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109. He guest-starred in an episode of Mission: Impossible (1966) during that show’s first season. He also appeared in two Jerry Lewis comedies, The Big Mouth and Which Way to the Front? In 1969 Takei narrated the award winning documentary The Japanese Sword as the Soul of the Samurai.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley appointed Takei to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, making him part of the team that initiated and planned the Los Angeles subway system. Takei was called away from the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1978 to cast the tie-breaking vote for the creation of the Los Angeles subway system. He served on the board from 1973 to 1984.
In 1979, Takei with Robert Asprin co-wrote the science-fiction novel Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe.
He appeared as a sadistic Japanese POW camp commander in the WW2 film Return from the River Kwai (1989).
Takei starred as a Japanese officer in the 1990 Australian film Blood Oath, based on the real-life trial of Japanese soldiers for war crimes committed against Allied prisoners of war on the island of Ambon, in the Dutch East Indies. In 1994, Takei published his autobiography, To the Stars.
In May 2004, Takei appeared on Scrubs as a priest in episode 22 of season 3, “My Best Friend’s Wedding”.
Takei provided the voice for a ruthless and cowardly Fire Nation warden in season 1 episode 6 “Imprisoned” of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which aired in March 2005.
Takei took a minor role in the 2006 low-budget sci-fi movie A.I. Assault (renamed “Shockwave” for subsequent home release), playing airline pilot Major Lane.
In January 2007, Takei began appearing on Heroes, as Kaito Nakamura, a successful Japanese businessman and father to one of the main characters, time/space-travelling Hiro Nakamura, who also happens to be an obsessive fan of Star Trek. In the first episode Takei is portrayed, “Distractions”, the license plate of the limo he arrives in is NCC-1701, another reference to the Star Trek series. Also, in “Run!“, Hiro is called “Sulu” by a feisty vixen named Hope. Nakamura is also George’s mother’s maiden name. He appeared in all four seasons.
Takei appeared on the first episode of Secret Talents of the Stars, singing country music but was not selected to proceed to the next stage. However the point became moot as the series was abruptly cancelled after the opening episode.
In 2008, he got a role in the real-time strategy game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 as the Emperor Yoshiro of The Rising Sun.
In 2009, Takei appeared in an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as the Neimoidian general, Lok Durd.
In 2010, Takei recorded a series of public service announcements for the Social Security Administration to help promote applying online for benefits.
In 2012, Takei starred in the musical Allegiance.
In 2013, Takei was a guest judge in the TBS reality show King of the Nerds, in which he is one of three judges of the Cosplay Competition.
Starting in 2013, Takei became spokesperson for Rooms To Go, an American furniture retailer. He was seen in a series of television commercials where he used his famous “Oh Myyy!” tag line.
In January 2014, Jennifer Kroot’s documentary film about Takei, To Be Takei, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. He also participated in Do I Sound Gay?, a documentary film by David Thorpe about stereotypes of gay men’s speech patterns.
In early 2017 Takei was featured in television commercials promoting the restaurant Pizza Hut.
He has also appeared many times on the Howard Stern Show.
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