george Takei remembers his lowest point very well. It arrived on November 11, 2017. The Star Trek the actor was in Tokyo, Japan for a gala screening of Allegiance, his passion project on Broadway about the Japanese internment, when his phone started to vibrate like crazy.
“It was right after our screening and we were partying, and then… we heard,” he recalls to The Daily Beast. “It was horrible.”
The Hollywood Reporter had just published a revealing account in which a former model accused the Star Trek actor and drug and sexual assault activist on him in 1981. Unlike other #MeToo stories, however, the play didn’t contain much in terms of verification or corroboration – just a lonely allegation from 36 years, supported by some of the friends of the accuser. Takei, who had been openly against the alleged sexual abuse of teenager Anthony Rapp by actor Kevin Spacey, vehemently denied the accusation, saying the alleged incidents “just did not happen” and “are so antithetical to my values and my practices. “
Fuel was added to the stake when, the next day, the president’s eldest child (and unbelievably online) Donald Trump Jr., tweeted that Takei “should never speak out on victims again,” unleashing a torrent of abuse on the aged actor in his right-wing troll army. Things got worse when, on December 9, Don Jr. tweeted to Takei, “I guess you have a little more free time to read #fakenews now that it’s a little harder to get kids to use alcohol to abuse them ??? You know it with all the extra control.
“We know the source,” Takei says, reflecting on the terrible episode with Don Jr. “You know, social media brings out the worst in people. I don’t have time to deal with it because it’s irrelevant. They wallow in evil, as well as in lies. These are malicious lies – not just lies, but there to hurt and damage. I just ignore it. So I don’t know that many people from the “cancellation culture”. “
This whole ordeal has been particularly rich considering the way Don Jr. reacted when his father was filmed bragging about assaulting women and accused of sexual harassment or assault by 23 women. He has been one of the most vocal critics of the so-called “cancellation culture”. When the Observer released a detailed dismantling of the allegation against Takei, with Takei’s accuser claiming he fabricated parts of the story, downplaying the whole encounter as “one big party story”, and ultimately pulling back on it. Allegation, no apology came from Don Jr. or anyone on the right who had tried so forcefully to “undo” Takei, so to speak.
When I bring up the hypocrisy of it all, Takei channels her branding mind, embarking on a fun story about her time on The celebrity apprentice.
“I was fired by the future president!” he’s laughing.
“I still maintain that we were the real elegant and classy windows but [Ivanka] chose the sink approach all but the kitchen. So I know what their judgment is, what their taste is and what their bias is.“
Takei was eliminated after a task that saw teams create a pair of themed display cases at Lord & Taylor for Ivanka Trump’s (flammable) clothing and accessories line. The judges were Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric Trump and their father.
“We were in two groups – men and women – and I was the team leader. Each team had two Lord & Taylor windows on 5th Avenue to decorate, and we had all of these goods that needed to be displayed, ”he recalls. “Arsenio Hall was part of my team and he came up with the idea of having twin models, where one would walk into one room and wear stylish evening clothes, then walk out, and the other walk into the other in casual afternoon clothes. It was chic, it was imaginative, it was creative, it was beautiful. The female team, the two windows had everything except the kitchen sink – hats, shoes, dresses. They were 34th Street and we were Madison Avenue. Ivanka was a judge. She favored women. I still maintain that we were the real sleek and chic windows, but she took the everything but the kitchen sink approach. So I know what their judgment is, what their taste is and what their bias is.
“And,” he adds, “coming particularly from this gang, I born Pay attention. “
The official “occasion” for our discussion is Takei’s latest project: to tell two sci-fi stories by award-winning Hugo author Ken Liu on the audiobook platform Serial Box—Saboteur and Summer reading. According to Takei, the escape fare can serve as a tonic to our current Trumpian hell landscape.
“It appears to be apocalyptic, but apocalyptic will pass and come to another future,” Takei says. “In our day we have a writer like Ken Liu. English is not his mother tongue, yet he is able to use his imagination and knowledge of technology to take us to another time.
For those who are feeling desperate right now, Takei warns that matters to have been worse in this country. And he should know.
“I am 83 years old. I lived many of life, ”he explains. “And what we’re going through now is horrible – I mean, it’s dystopian – but to my parents it was a cataclysmic thing.” I was born just before Pearl Harbor and, overnight, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we Japanese Americans – my mother was born in Sacramento, my father was a San Franciscan – were watched with suspicion, fear. and outright hatred. This hatred was a toxic mixture of war hysteria and racism, and it swept across the country. Every legislative body, from city councils to state legislatures to the United States Congress, has just thundered with lock up the japs! We were innocent and had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, but they classified us as “enemy aliens.” I was not an “enemy alien” – I was a 5 year old kid, born in Los Angeles. “
The Takei family were arrested by the US military – forced from their home in Arcadia, California, and taken to an internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas.
“I was 5 years old and I remember the terror that morning when my father made me and my brother Henry get up very early in the morning, hurriedly dressing us,” Takei recounts. “Suddenly we saw two soldiers coming up our alley. They carried rifles with shiny bayonets on them. They stomped with force, and with their fists started knocking on our door. My father came out of his room, opened the door, and we were ordered out of our home – literally at gunpoint. It was terrorizing. And I experienced that.
Between ICE migrant detention centers imprisoning forcibly separated children, President Trump announcing a “patriotic education” commission and Attorney General William Barr saying COVID-19 lockdowns represented “the biggest intrusion in Civil Liberties’ in America outside of slavery, Takei sees Icing echoed in what he experienced in the 1940s.
“I use the word ‘concentration camp’ because a dictionary definition of ‘concentration camp’ is when a group of people who share something in common – be it race, creed, or orientation – are imprisoned or concentrated all together for political purposes, ”he says of the detention centers for migrants. “This is precisely what happened to Americans of Japanese descent. There were barbed wire, sentry towers, machine guns pointed at us. Then, a year after being jailed, they came down demanding loyalty. Isn’t that scandalous?
Takei remembers the “two critical questions” the US government asked Japanese Americans on their loyalty questionnaire – after taking everything from them, including their bank accounts, homes, businesses and freedom.
Question 27: “Will you bear arms to defend the United States of America?” and question
Question 28: “Are you going to swear your loyalty to the United States of America and renounce your loyalty to the Emperor of Japan?”
“The Emperor of Japan? We are American! Takei exclaimed. “It was offensive for the government to assume that we have an innate racial loyalty to the Emperor,” so Takei’s parents refused, and the family was later labeled “disloyal” and sent to a more “notorious internment camp.” , The Tule Lake War Relocation. Central in rural California.
While Takei marvels at the strength of his parents’ refusal to stoop, he also has endless admiration for the thousands of brave men and women who answered ‘yes’, swallowed their pride, and enlisted. in the US military to help them win the world war. II.
“The men were sent to the battlefields of Europe and used as cannon fodder, wave after wave being mowed down. And yet they fought with incredible courage and heroism, ”Takei says. “This unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, suffered the highest combat casualties of any unit during WWII, and when the war ended it came back as the most decorated unit of all. . They were greeted again on the White House lawn by President Harry Truman who said: ‘You not only fought the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you won.’ ‘
Their value, of course, contrasts sharply with that of the current president, who dodged the Vietnamese project with his supposed bone spurs.
“Bone spurs!” laughs Takei. “I didn’t know what a bone spur was until he claimed it!”
The great thing about Takei’s story, it seems, is that they never lose faith – or give up the fight.
“Our internment was successful and my dad taught me what it meant and what we should do,” Takei tells me of Zoom.
He became a successful actor, in large part due to his iconic role as USS Hikaru Sulu, coxswain. Company on the television series Star Trek (and in subsequent films), a cultural icon (via her reality TV appearances and massive social media presence), and a staunch social justice activist, first earning a handshake from Martin Luther King Jr. as a student campaigning for African American rights. at UCLA, then joining a group of Hollywood activists, Entertainment Industry for Peace and Justice, where he worked alongside Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland to organize rallies for various causes.
“With Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, it’s horrible,” Takei says of the police brutalizing black bodies. “That the president can summon soldiers, equipment and mounted police to the streets?”
There’s also the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of 210,000 Americans (and more). Takei – along with her longtime partner Brad – kept her spirits up with daily walks through Hancock Park in Los Angeles and watching food cravings The Tudors (he is a huge anglophile and was named after King George VI).
Towards the end of our interview, he returns to this dark period – the allegation, the tweets, the harassment – offering it as an example for a light at the end of the tunnel.
“It was devastating, but we were able to get out of it,” he says. “And we can get out of it too.”
He pauses, before unleashing a big smile. “To use Gene Roddenberry’s wonderful way of greeting: Live long and prosper. But it’s also a nice gesture of social distancing! One good idea at a time and keep you at bay.
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