Much has been written and said about George Takei and his groundbreaking role on “Star Trek.” As most fans know, Gene Roddenberry intended Mr. Sulu’s presence on the Enterprise to represent the people of Asia. In a way, this was Roddenberry’s first attempt at making the Vulcan mantra, IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations), a real thing here on Earth.
The character Mr. Sulu appeared in all three years of “The Original Series” and both seasons of “The Animated Series.” Thanks to this part, Takei landed many other roles and became a star outside of “Star Trek.” He’s appeared in many films, television shows and has one of the most popular voices on social media. He’s also become an established author whose work has been adapted for use on Broadway.
Sometimes it may seem difficult to separate the man (Takei) from the character (Hikaru Sulu), but that became a bit easier when John Cho took over the role in the J.J. Abrams-directed “Star Trek” (2009) film.
Cho was ‘Scared’ to be Sulu
Cho admitted that he was “kind of scared” when taking over the role of Sulu.
“George meant so much to me as a kid growing up,” Cho said during a television interview in 2009. “In the ’80s, there were just very few Asians on television. And George was this beacon… shining from the television. And it was a real honor to step into that legacy — but it was nerve-racking.”
During the interview, Cho said that he and Takei met over lunch to discuss the role. Cho noted that Takei was very “fatherly.”
Sulu made Gay for ‘Star Trek Beyond’
Takei said that he was happy with the choice of Cho to play Sulu.
“Sulu’s in good hands,” Takei said back in 2007. “John Cho is an exciting actor. I’ve seen Cho in many productions at East West Players, and he always brings a vigorous sense of individuality to his roles. Under the leadership of J.J. Abrams, the ‘Star Trek’ franchise is being infused with new energy, and I hope John Cho plays a critical part for many years — and films — to come.”
Takei did object later to when Sulu was made a gay character for “Star Trek Beyond.” Takei himself came out as gay in 2005, was not pleased with this decision.
“Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought,” Takei told the HuffPost. “I think it’s really unfortunate.”
Cho moved forward with the role and appeared in “Beyond” with his partner and a female child.
“Seeing George Takei on television was very meaningful to me, and I hope there’s a similar effect for gay kids watching,” Cho told Variety when promoting “Beyond” in 2016.
The child in “Beyond” was supposed to be Demora Sulu, a character created for “Star Trek 7,” which is widely known as “Star Trek: Generations.”
Why Takei Passed on ‘Generations’
While Demora Sulu (actress Jacqueline Kim) was well-received as a character among Trek fans, she was not supposed to be on the bridge of the Enterprise-B. It was supposed to be her father, Hikaru. The writers of “Generations” wanted Takei to come back one more time as Sulu for “Generations,” but he decided not to.
According to an interview with StarTrek.com, Takei said that he had been trying to get some sort of family life for Sulu. He wanted Sulu to be more than just a one-dimensional character.
“I suggested a lot of ideas to develop Sulu that never really happened,” said Takei. “It was only after I turned down a role in (Generations) that they gave all my lines to a relative that I had lobbied for, my daughter.”
“When the series ended, and the films began, I was lobbying for parents, brothers, sisters, lovers, maybe a wife, all of that, but none of it ever happened,” said Takei. “I wanted to see Sulu more dimension-ed, but that’s not news, I’m sure.”
Part of the reason he declined on returning for “Generations” was that Sulu had been promoted to captain of the Excelsior in “Star Trek IV” and was off having his own adventures (which are available as audiobooks and almost were made into a spinoff series).
To return to the Enterprise-B as a helmsman would have meant a demotion. Sulu had been in line to be a captain since “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Thanks to a deleted scene, fans now know that he was supposed to be going to the Excelsior for his own command, even back then.
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