Pegg released a statement Friday after George Takei, the openly gay actor who first played the iconic character on television in the 1960s, criticized Cho’s recent reveal that Sulu will be in a same-sex relationship in Star Trek Beyond.
“I have huge love and respect for George Takei, his heart, courage and humor are an inspiration,” Pegg, 46, wrote in the statement, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “However, with regards to his thoughts on our Sulu, I must respectfully disagree with him.”
Pegg, who plays Scotty in the current film franchise and co-wrote Star Trek Beyond, continued: “[Takei] is right, it is unfortunate, it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now.”
He explained why he and director Justin Lin thought it was necessary to portray an existing character as gay rather than to introduce a new gay character.
“He or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character,’ rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?” Pegg wrote, explaining that the audience already had a “pre-existing opinion” of Sulu as a “human being.”
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He added, “The audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It just hasn’t come up before.”
Pegg explained his theory that the current Sulu exists in an “alternate timeline” than that of the ’60s TV series, and finished: “I like this idea because it suggests that in a hypothetical multiverse, across an infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere. Whatever dimension we inhabit, we all just want to be loved by those we love (and I love George Takei). I can’t speak for every reality but that must surely be true of this one. Live long and prosper.”
After Cho’s reveal earlier this week, Takei, 79, told the Hollywood Reporter that the announcement was “really unfortunate” and would have gone against Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for the character.
“I’m delighted there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought,” Takei said. “I told [Cho], ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.’ ”
Star Trek Beyond hits theaters on July 22.