Star Trek star and beloved LGBT advocate George Takei brought his grace and humor to 92Y September 20. The 78-year-old social media titan sat down with Jujamcyn Theaters president Jordan Roth to discuss his very personal new Broadway musical, allegiancebway, as well as his inspiring life. Here are five things we learned:
1. Takei thought speaking out about social issues would kill his career. When Arnold Schwarzenegger denounced gay marriage rights during his tenure as California governor, Takei felt he needed to take a public stance, although doing so would probably mean the end of his career. Nearly 9 million Facebook fans later, we know that Takei’s decision had the opposite effect.
2. He uses humor to get people to listen. “If you get too finger-wagging, you turn people off,” Takei said about speaking publicly about important issues. “What you want them to do is stop, listen, and consider your point of view. You disarm them with humor.”
3. He tried to get Gene Roddenberry to tackle gay issues on Star Trek. A close friend of the sci-fi series’ creator, Takei (while still closeted) talked with Roddenberry about writing a gay plot line into the progressive show. At the time, Roddenberry was dealing with blowback from a controversial episode in which Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) shared an interracial kiss. Takei said that while Roddenberry was open to the idea, he felt it was more important to keep Star Trek on the air, which would mean avoiding the issue.
4. Allegiance is an apology to his father. The new Broadway musical borrows heavily from Takei’s childhood, in which he and his parents were forced to move from their Los Angeles home to a Japanese-American internment camp in Arkansas. Years later, Takei said he arrogantly criticized his father one night, telling him that he led their family to the camp “like sheep to slaughter.” When his father calmly retreated to his bedroom, Takei promised himself that he would apologize the next day, but never mustered the courage. He never did apologize to his father, and he tearfully explained to the audience that he feels he can do that now with this theatrical piece.
5. Leonard Nimoy’s spirit will be with him at the theater. The late actor who portrayed Spock in the classic sci-fi series was a dear friend of Takei’s and came to see the out-of-town run of Allegiance in San Diego in 2012. Nimoy promised him he would be there to support him on Broadway, but passed away last February. Takei regards Nimoy’s death as a significant source of “hurt and disappointment” in his life, but said that when he opens on Broadway, “he’ll be there, together with my parents.”