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George Takei Says It’s His ‘Responsibility’ to Speak Out About His Family’s Past Internment

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Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic

George Takei‘s own history is a “shameful” part of America’s timeline — and he’s proudly embraced the role of storyteller to ensure that it never happens again.

Takei, who recently penned a powerful essay for the Washington Post about being forced into a Japanese-American internment camp at age 5, says it’s his “responsibility” to speak out about the experience, especially amid concern over President-elect Donald Trump‘s proposed Muslim ban.

“[My family are] Americans and yet, simply because we happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor, they put us in these barbed wire camps in the desert swamp of Arkansas, southern Arkansas,” Takei tells PEOPLE. “And I still remember the barbed wire fences and the tall sentry towers with the machine guns pointed down right at us.”

He adds, “I was a child, so I was innocent to the things that were happening to us. But for my parents, it was a cataclysmic change in their lives. Everything they had worked for, all their lives, in the middle of their life, was taken away from them. And at gunpoint, we were put in these prison camps.”

AP

The 79-year-old addressed the rhetoric from Trump and his growing administration regarding a Muslim-American registry in his essay last week, calling it “dangerous talk” and pointing specifically to comments made by Carl Higbie, co-chair of Great America PAC. Higbie told Megyn Kelly in an interview that the Japanese-American internment camps during WWII set a “precedent” for the proposed national registry — words that Takei finds “enraging.”

Takei says that the response to his essay on the subject has been “overwhelmingly positive,” which he finds heartening. “It puts my faith back in America,” he tells PEOPLE.

He encourages those feeling confused or worried in the wake of Trump’s election to take action, suggesting they, “Get engaged in the democratic process. Cast informed votes. Be actively engaged in political campaigns, and later on, be activists and speak out on concerns from their vantage point.”

“I am an optimist, despite the fact that I grew up in prison behind these barbed wire fences,” he says. “Here I am, today. So I urge these people that are concerned to actively engage and let people know that this kind of thing must not ever happen again.”

RELATED VIDEO: George Takei Remembers the Moment That Changed His Life Forever


The Star Trek alum is doing his own part, by bringing broadway musical Allegiance — which is based on his experiences in the internment camp — to movie theaters across the country. A recording of the production will play in theaters on Dec. 13, with additional interviews with the Broadway cast (including Takei) and crew.

While Takei hopes anyone and everyone will see the show, he particularly hopes American politicians join the audience. He says they’ve invited elected officials “on every level of government” to attend a screening.

“We want these people that are making these policy decisions to know the importance of the role that they play,” he says. “And by this entertaining and engaging musical, which is also informative, we want them to be aware of the mistakes that have been made, which we must avoid at all costs.”

Allegiance hits theaters nationwide and in Canada on Dec. 13. Visit here to find a theater near you.