Out actor George Takei is setting the record straight about previous comments he made criticizing director Justin Lin and writer Simon Pegg‘s decision to make the big-screen version of his Star Trek character gay in the latest installment of the popular film franchise, Star Trek Beyond.
In a lengthy message posted to Facebook Wednesday, the 79-year-old actor claimed that headlines stemming from his conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, where he first made the comments, have been misleading. “Apparently, controversy makes for better sales!” he wrote on Facebook.
“Let me be clear: I am not disappointed that there is a gay character in Star Trek,” Takei explained. “On the contrary, as I made clear, I am delighted that the Star Trek franchise has addressed this issue, which is truly one of diversity. It is thrilling to know that future generations will not see LGBTs go wholly unrepresented in the Trek universe.”
He also wished the best to John Cho – who plays Hikaru Sulu in the rebooted films – and congratulated Pegg on his “daring and groundbreaking storytelling.”
“I am eternally grateful to have been part of this incredible and continuing family,” he said. “I do fully understand and appreciate what they are doing – as ever, boldly going where no one has gone before. Star Trek will live long and prosper.”
Previously, the actor had called the news “really unfortunate,” saying that the outing would have been a “twisting” of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for the character in the popular ’60s television series.
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Takei clarified those statements, explaining that when he was approached about the concept by Cho, he had suggested that a new gay character be created instead.
“I hoped instead that Gene Roddenberry’s original characters and their backgrounds would be respected,” he wrote. “How exciting it would be instead if a new hero might be created, whose story could be fleshed out from scratch, rather than reinvented. To me, this would have been even more impactful.”
He continued: “And while I am flattered that the character of Sulu apparently was selected as an homage to me, this was never about me or what I wanted. It was about being true to Gene’s vision and storytelling,” he explained.
He went on to say that Roddenberry had long ago wanted to include gay characters in the socially minded science-fiction series, and that he “felt constrained by the sensitivities of the time.”
“Some fifty years ago, even TV’s first interracial kiss, between Kirk and Uhura, caused our ratings to plummet as the show was censored across much of the South for that scene,” Takei detailed. “Gene made a conscious decision to make the main characters heterosexual, and worked within those parameters to tell incredible stories that still challenged many cultural values of the time. So the lack of gay characters was not some oversight by him; it was a conscious decision with which he grappled.”
The original Star Trek series was cancelled in 1969, after three seasons and 79 episodes.
Since coming out in 2005, Takei has been an outspoken member of the community and LGBTQ activist.
Pegg, who also stars in the movie, had previously written Takei, praising him for his advocacy work and his pride in the franchise. He recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he stands by his decision and “respectfully disagrees with [Takei]”.
Cho also said he supported the character’s new sexual orientation, telling Australia’s Herald Sun that “[This] is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicize one’s personal orientations.”
Star Trek Beyond hits theaters July 22.