George Takei Questioned Gene Roddenberry About LGBT Representation In ‘Star Trek’

Star Trek was designed as a Utopian vision of the future, where diversity and equality were widespread. George Takei played Lieutenant Sulu on the original series, a character meant to represent a pan-Asian ethnicity. It would be years before Takei came out to the public as a gay man, but he recently told Big Think he once asked Roddenberry about the potential to include LGBT issues on Star Trek.

As Entertainment Weekly summarized, Roddenberry was open to the issue but thought it would bring too much controversy to an already controversial show. A 1968 kiss between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols did not air in some Southern states. Roddenberry told Takei he just wanted to deal with as many civil rights issues as possible and still remain on the air.

“[The episode with the interracial kiss] was the lowest-rated episode that we had. And [Roddenberry] said, ‘I’m treading a fine tight wire here. I’m dealing with issues of the time. I’m dealing with the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and I need to be able to make that statement by staying on the air.’ He said, ‘If I dealt with [the LGBT] issue I wouldn’t be able to deal with any issue because I would be canceled.”

Since his time on Star Trek, which included not only the original series but the film franchise that followed, Takei has become a social media personality and civil rights activist. He uses his voice to speak out about LGBT issues, as well as the history of the Japanese-American community, of which he is a part. During World War II, Takei and his family were interned for four years in California and Arkansas.

That history was the genesis of an upcoming Broadway musical, Allegiance. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Takei initially upped his then-fledgling social media presence in order to find an audience for Allegiance. The show’s conception happened as far back as 2008. The show ran successfully in San Diego in 2012, but it took years for a slot on Broadway to open up.

Due in part to support from fans on social media, Allegiance finally found a Broadway home. Rehearsals begin this month. Tickets went on sale last May and the Broadway debut is set for this fall.

[Main image: Brad Takei (left) and George Takei (right) in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2015. Photo by Olivier Douliery / Getty Images News]