To Be Takei

2015 | Aging/Elders / Arts & Literature / Documentary / Gender / Marriage Equality / Parenting/Family | 90m | USA
Directors: Jennifer M. Kroot

Oh my! This award winning documentary features Star Trek legend, marriage-equality advocate, and spokesperson for racial justice; superstar George Takei. Best known for his groundbreaking role of Hikaru Sulu on a certain epic starship and its multi-ethnic crew, Takei is one of the most visible Asian-American actors of all time, inspiring generations of fans. Following his Star Trek run, George’s baritone voice later earned him work in animated series like The Simpsons, Futurama, and The Super Hero Squad Show. These days, from signings at New York City’s Midtown Comics to ComiCon!, George’s husband, business manager, and co-pilot, Brad, excels at keeping George (and his hordes of fans) organized. 

But Takei’s true legacy may be his off-screen advocacy. When Takei was just a boy, his family was uprooted from their home in Los Angeles and forced into internment camps as part of the mid-20th century U.S. government efforts to subjugate Japanese American citizens based solely on their ethnic heritage. A true elder statesman with a wry sense of humor, his awesome Facebook presence—initiated to help promote his Broadway-bound musical Allegiance, inspired by his life in the internment camps—provides a daily dose of wisdom and wit. At a time when alarming rhetoric about Islamic and Latino Americans dominates the landscape, there is perhaps no better spokesperson for the historical legacy of fear and xenophobia in the U.S. than George Takei. George, and husband Brad, have also been unflappable spokespeople for LGBTQ rights.

The film features unparalleled behind-the-scenes intimacy with the dynamic duo George and Brad, as well as interviews with famous friends from William Shatner to Howard Stern. The ultimate result is the ultimate examination of the vastness of what it means To Be Takei.

Reviews and Awards

★★★ — Video Librarian

Jennifer Kroot’s upbeat docu-portrait takes viewers on an enjoyable ride alongside supporting actor George Takei, aka Lt. Sulu, navigator of the Federation starship Enterprise in the classic 1960s sci-fi series Star Trek. Takei’s off-screen life has warp-speeded him to the forefront of activism; after long being coy about his sexuality, Takei finally declared himself openly gay and in a long-term relationship.

As a Japanese-American boy in the wake of Pearl Harbor, Takei was imprisoned, alongside thousands of other Japanese-Americans citizens, in the notorious U.S. government internment camps of the 1940s. As an Asiatic actor in the Hollywood of yesteryear, he had to take on roles that were often demeaning stereotypes—the capable crew member Sulu being an exception that made him a hero to many ethnic viewers. Kroot presents the multi-faceted, humorous, ever-optimistic Takei as he campaigns for homosexual rights (offering his own name as a euphemism for “gay” in Bible Belt territories), appears regularly on shock-jock Howard Stern’s show, helps launch a stage musical about the internment camps, and gets to “roast” sci-fi icon William Shatner, portrayed unflatteringly in Takei’s published memoirs (Shatner himself claims he barely knows the man). Also featuring Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig, this crowd-pleasing film is recommended. — C. Cassady