Entertainment TEDx

George Takei’s TEDx Talk: On “Star Trek,” musicals and Japanese American internment

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

George Takei, best known as Captain Sulu of Star Trek, says it’s been his “lifelong dream” to make it to Broadway. He came close in 1960 when he was invited to audition for a show. But he did not get the part.

“It was a body blow,” says Takei. “Suddenly, New York turned into a cold, heartless city.”

But now, at age 75, Takei is ready to try again. At TEDxBroadway, Takei tells us why he wrote a musical called Allegiance with composer Jay Kuo and writer Lorenzo Thione. The play speaks to an often-forgotten part of American history: Japanese American internment during World War II. It’s a story Takei knows very well.

“I was 5 years old when my parents got us up early one morning and hurriedly dressed us,” says Takei in this heartfelt talk. “My brother and I were in the living room, looking out the front window. I saw two soldiers with bayonets on their rifles come marching up the driveway. They stomped up the front porch and they banged on the door … We were ordered out of our home.”

Takei’s family spent four years in a prison camp in Arkansas. “Our only crime was looking like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor,” he says. “I remember the sentry tower with machine guns pointed down at us. I remember the searchlight that followed me when I made night runs to the latrine. As a 5-year-old kid, I thought it was kind of nice that they lit the way for me to pee.”

In this talk, Takei shares the profound impact the experience had on his family with humor and tenderness. And he talks about how he built interest in an unlikely musical about a subject he calls a “dark and shameful chapter of American history.” When Allegiance opened at the Globe Theater in San Diego in late 2012, it broke all box office records for the theater.

Maybe he’ll get that chance on Broadway soon.

George-Takei-slides

On the left, an unidentified boy in Salinas, California, sits amid his family’s packed belongings. Photo: Russell Lee/Library of Congress. On the right, George Takei on Broadway.

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George Takei as Captain Sulu.