It’s taken a few decades for George Takei (aka Sulu on “Star Trek”) to truly become Takei.
His complicated journey began at a Japanese-American internment camp shortly after the start of World War II. He was a child, and he hasn’t forgotten the terror of being ordered around at gunpoint just because his family looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor.
After the war, he faced a different kind of humiliation, pretending to be heterosexual as he carved a Hollywood career for himself out of forgotten Jerry Lewis comedies, three years of “Star Trek” on television and sharing a key scene with John Wayne in the jingoistic “The Green Berets.”
When the “Star Trek” movies reunited the cast in 1979, Takei became more visible, even landing a script that went beyond the ensemble nature of the series and emphasized Sulu. He became a regular on Howard Stern’s show, where he first denied his homosexuality, then very publicly came out of the closet.
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All this is covered with plentiful film clips and interviews in Jennifer Kroot’s fine new documentary, “To Be Takei,” which is much more than a “Star Trek” footnote or a standard coming-out story. Takei’s Japanese-American roots were visible for years on network television, and eventually so was his sexual orientation.
Kroot, like her genial star, looks for the humor in each situation — especially when Takei and his longtime husband, Brad Altman, are behaving like the old married couple they are. Takei smiles a lot at this point in his career, and no wonder.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org