George Takei, currently starring in the Broadway musical "Allegiance," inspired by his own family’s struggles as Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II, opened up about the enormous conflict he felt early on in his career being gay but remaining closeted. It wasn’t until 2005 that the legendary actor who played Sulu in the original 1960s’ "Star Trek" series came out.
“My father told me about American democracy,” he said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress. “And he said you have to be actively engaged in the political process to make our democracy work. So I’ve been doing that my entire life. Civil rights movement. The peace movement during the Viet Nam conflict. The movement to get an apology and redress for Japanese-Americans. But I was silent on that one issue that was closest to me.”
Takei said he watched the career of closeted gay Hollywood heartthrob Tab Hunter, whose life was the subject of the recent documentary, "Tab Hunter Confidential," quickly unravel after he was targeted with innuendo by a tabloid in the 1950s. That, he said, instilled him with intense fear as a teenager.
“[It was] most excruciating for me, because I wanted to be an actor,” he said. “And if I wanted that career, I had to be closeted. Because when I was a teenager, there was a heartthrob named Tab Hunter. People today might not recognize that name. He was a blond, stunningly handsome boy next door. All American movie star guy. Every other movie coming from Warner Brothers studio starred Tab Hunter. But Confidential magazine exposed him as gay. And suddenly he faded."
Takei said his father hadn’t been keen on his acting at first, and it took a lot to get his support. So coming out would have added a lot more complications.
“I had convinced my father to let me pursue this career, and I passionately wanted it,” he said. “And here was this conflict in me and I hadn’t shared it with my father. And it was excruciating to always have your guard up. Particularly because being an actor you’re public and visible. I could be seen coming out of a gay bar. Who could have seen me?…So you’re always on guard. You’re always, you know, insecure. And that affected my life very much. And it was such a relief to be out and not be looking over your shoulder, tightly gripped all the time.”
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