Actor John Cho has some exciting news about his Star Trek character, Hikaru Sulu. In the upcoming installment of the franchise, Star Trek Beyond, Sulu will be revealed as gay. Cho told Australia's Herald Sun on Thursday that this revelation was a direct nod to actor and LGBTQ spokesperson, George Takei, who played the original Sulu in the television version of Star Trek. Considering Takei's influence over the LGBTQ community, this is a hugely powerful tribute.
In the upcoming film, there will be a subtle scene where audiences will get a glimpse of the USS Enterprise crew member Sulu as a father, with his same-sex partner. It goes without saying that having a major Star Trek character out is a huge milestone for the 50-year-old fictional Star Trek universe. And having that character be Sulu? Well, that's even more major, as on the television show, Sulu was never shown with any romantic partners. He did have a daughter named Demora who had a role in the 1994 film, Star Trek Generations.
Regarding the way the character detail is unveiled, Cho told Herald Sun that "I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicize one’s personal orientations." Star Trek has, in fact, been at the helm of breaking new political ground before. In 1968, the show featured the first ever interracial kiss on TV. But it's the ode to Takei that makes this character addition especially important, as the actor has become a prominent LGBTQ rights activist over the years. After coming out in a 2005 issue of the LGBT magazine, Frontiers, Takei seamlessly fashioned himself into icon and activist. Three years after Takei came out, and after California's Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the actor married longtime partner Brad Altman.
During his time on Star Trek, Takei did not reveal his sexual orientation for fear of not being granted roles. As he told News Corp in 2015, “If I wanted to work as an actor I had to keep it a secret." It's amazing to see how far Hollywood, and the Star Trek universe, has come in LGBT representation. Of course, there's still much more work to go, and Takei has spoken out about his activism and how much change still needs to be made in order to truly achieve LGBT equality. Recently, he accepted GLAAD's Vito Russo Award, in which he discussed his journey as a gay actor in the industry. Said Takei, "All I saw of gays and lesbians in movies and televisions or heard on radio were caricatures of people who were mocked and laughed at, or pitied, or hated. The media stripped us of all humanity and made us into pathetic stereotypes."
With today's news about Sulu, Takei's words could not be more powerful. It sounds like we can say with certainty that Star Trek Beyond's characterization of Sulu will not be what Takei grew up watching — and that is huge reason to celebrate.
Images: Paramount Pictures; Giphy