George Takei may be best known for his role as Mr. Sulu on Star Trek. But there’s far more to Takei than helming the USS Enterprise. Here are 16 facts about the beloved actor and human rights activist.
1. George Takei has an asteroid named after him.
In 2007, the asteroid formerly known as “1994 GT9” got a star makeover with its new name: 7307 Takei. Occupying a spot between Mars and Jupiter, 7307 Takei joins asteroids named for fellow Star Trek legends Gene Roddenberry (4659 Roddenberry) and Nichelle Nichols (68410 Nichols). Upon learning of the honor, Takei told the Associated Press, “I am now a heavenly body.”
2. He and his family were forced into incarceration camps during World War II.
In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order that resulted in the incarceration of roughly 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent. They were forced to live in a network of 10 camps located in remote areas. George Takei and his family were incarcerated when George was about 5 years old.
His 1994 autobiography, To the Stars, opens with a remembrance of his childhood years spent with his family in incarceration camps in Arkansas and California. Takei wrote about his mother’s attitude during the train journey to the first camp:
“[We] all faced an unknown future, but the reality before us had to be dealt with. She was determined to make her own certainty out of our collective uncertainty. As certain as the rice balls she had wrapped in seaweed and packed in her hand luggage to supplement the cold train box lunches. She was not going to yield to the monotony that others accepted as inevitable. She had stuffed into her limited luggage space special treats for the children; a few lollipops, packages of animal crackers, and Cracker Jack boxes that contained little surprise toys. She packed story books for Daddy to read to us. Boredom was a foe she was determined to fight.”
And she didn’t just pack snacks—she smuggled in a portable sewing machine to make new clothes as the kids grew. Decades later, Takei and his husband Brad Altman brought “Mama” into their home and cared for her in her final years.
3. George Takei played the father of Heroes hero “Hiro.”
On the TV series Heroes, Takei played Kaito Nakamura, the father of the time- and space-bending Hiro Nakamura. Takei’s character rolls up in a limo bearing the license plate NCC-1701 (the registry number of the original USS Enterprise). Nakamura happens to be the maiden name of Takei’s mother, Fumiko Emily Nakamura. (It’s unclear whether this is just a coincidence; Nakamura is a common Japanese surname.)
4. He and his brother are named after kings.
George Takei was born on April 20, 1937. His parents settled on the name George in honor of King George VI of England, whose coronation was just weeks away. (Takei’s middle name is Hosato, meaning “village of the bountiful harvest” in Japanese). When George’s brother was born a year later, he was named Henry after King Henry VIII. Their sister was born two years later, and was given the name Nancy, after a family friend, with the middle name Reiko, Japanese for “gracious child.”
5. He had a Star Trek-influenced wedding.
After California overturned its ban on same-sex marriage in May 2008, Takei and his now-husband Brad Altman, a media producer, promptly applied for a marriage license and were married on September 14 of that year. Takei posted their vows online, along with photos of the ceremony. Walter Keonig, the actor who played Chekhov on Star Trek, was their best man, and Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura, was the matron of honor.
Altman told Larry King in 2009, “I’m not a spokesperson for any cause. I just know that George and I love each other, George is the love of my life, and I think everybody should be allowed to get married.”
6. Takei speaks about the injustice of Japanese American incarceration during the Second World War.
Takei has written extensively about his family’s experience in the camps, most recently creating the musical Allegiance that explores this dark chapter in American history. He also co-founded the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
In 2004, the Japanese government awarded Takei the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette to honor his lifelong work promoting U.S.-Japan relations. He wrote on his website, “Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be flying to Tokyo to be granted a decoration by the emperor of Japan in the Imperial Palace for activities I enjoyed and found personally engaging.”
7. He blames Howard Stern for his signature phrase.
George Takei is indelibly linked with the phrase, Oh myyy! intoned in his rich voice. In Takei’s book Oh Myyy! (There Goes The Internet), Takei credits Howard Stern for associating him with the phrase. Takei wrote:
“Howard also seemed to have fallen in love with me saying ‘Oh my!’ whenever he said or did something outrageous, like when he asked one voluptuous young woman on his show to take her bra off. ‘Oh my!’ What else could I say? It was even more apt when she did. ‘Oh my!’ indeed. Howard, for some unfathomable reason, thought my reflexive ‘Oh my!’ was hilarious. So he played a recording of it over and over again — even when I wasn’t on the show. I thought it was silly, but it was also admittedly quite droll.
I first realized ‘Oh my!’ was becoming personally linked with me when I went on a national book tour for To the Stars. Young men who had patiently stood in line for my autograph would slip the book toward me with roguishly insinuating smiles and ask me to sign it with ‘Oh my!’ I knew right away they were Howard Stern fans and realized then that it had become my signature phrase.”
8. He played a heart on Adventure Time.
Takei voiced the memorable character Ricardio, a “wizard heart” on Adventure Time. Naturally, Ricardio utters Takei’s catchphrase.
9. His favorite Star Trek episode is “The Naked Time.”
For Takei, the choice is obvious: “The Naked Time” is tops. In the episode, crew members lose their inhibitions after being infected by a form of space madness. Naturally, this leads to a shirtless, swashbuckling Sulu having a great time. You can watch “The Naked Time” on Hulu, or just enjoy Takei discussing the episode (and his fencing training) above.
10. He’s a former marathon runner.
Takei doesn’t just fence; he has run a bunch of marathons as well. He earned his best time in 1989, completing the L.A. Marathon in three hours, 40 minutes.
He stopped running marathons just a few years later, but reflected on the experience in 2006, writing:
“It has been 15 years since my last and final marathon. That was the London Marathon back in 1991. Since that punishing run, I have become a steadfast follower of what is called the Law of Nature. It decrees that as time passes, the mind is supposed to grow with insights as the body gives up its strength. It didn’t take my mind to inform my body that the latter is true. I can’t run 26.2 miles anymore. My days of running marathons are over.”
11. He has written epic Amazon product reviews.
In his spare time, Takei has contributed reviews of Amazon products, giving us a glimpse of his apparently hilarious home life. Here’s a snippet from his one-star review of an inflatable unicorn horn for their three alley cats:
“Their easy, idyllic life changed—and ours along with it—when Brad ordered ACCOUTREMONTS INFLATABLE UNICORN HORNS FOR CATS. Surprisingly, our cats didn’t resist and seemed almost *delighted* when we strapped the horns on. Once anointed, they sat straight up, gazing pensively at one another, their eyes aglow with a preternatural light. They tipped their heads to the left and to the right before commencing an eerie combination of mewling and rapid jaw chattering ordinarily reserved for moths spotted in the yard.”
12. Takei broke the Star Trek-Star Wars barrier.
In 2009, Takei voiced a character for the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This marked the first time a Trek series regular had appeared in the Star Wars universe. This unique position led to him to call for “Star Peace” in a YouTube video (above).
He stepped up the Star Peace effort by pulling an April Fools’ prank in 2013, posting a photo of himself as a Jedi (complete with robe and lightsaber) and writing:
“Friends, I am thrilled to announce that I’ll be starring in the Star Wars reboot directed by JJ Abrams. I’ll be playing Master Ceti Maru, a member of the Jedi High Council. The new film, entitled Star Wars: Galactic Empire, is greenlit and will begin filming sometime early next year. It is truly a moment for The Star Alliance. Thanks to all my fans for their decades of support.”
Alas, this was just a joke.
13. He hosted a YouTube series for AARP.
14. He supports “Takei marriage.”
In 2011, after the Tennessee state legislature brought up a bill that would prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality in the classroom, Takei took action. The bill was popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and Takei suggested that instead of saying “gay,” people could simply use the word Takei instead. His his public service announcement explaining the situation is above. The Tennessee bill failed to pass.
15. He’s a captain now.
In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, we learned that Mr. Sulu had become Captain Sulu. Yes, he commanded the USS Excelsior, the first Star Trek ship with a transwarp drive. Here’s to you, Captain Sulu.