George Takei, shown in the original "Star Trek" TV series, will attend the Hawaiian Sci-Fi Convention, along with actors Wil Wheaton, Vaughn Armstrong and Manu Intiraymi.

‘Trek’ actor
transcends role

George Takei uses fame
to promote pet causes

Boldly going where they've been

Hawaiian Sci-Fi Convention 2003 featuring "Star Trek" franchise actors George Takei, Wil Wheaton, Vaughn Armstrong and Manu Intiraymi, visual effects supervisor Chase Masterson, script coordinator Lolita Fatjo and "world-renowned expert" Richard Arnold

Where: Sheraton Moana Surfrider Ballroom, 2365 Kalakaua Ave.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow

Tickets: $20 general admission, $35 preferred seating. Available from Gecko Books and Comics, Cheapo Music or at the door

Note: Guests will be available for autographs and also selling their own merchandise, plus dealers' tables featuring sci-fi memorabilia, and a video-and-slide presentation.

"Mr. Sulu" was waiting for his flight when he spotted a man looking in his direction.

George Takei felt it wasn't odd that he was being noticed -- after all, "Star Trek" was at its peak of television, motion picture and convention popularity, so the actor smiled back. The fan took it as an invitation to approach him.

"Could I have an autograph? I'm a big fan of your show," he told Takei, who was searching for a pen. "I've never missed an episode of 'Quincy.'"

Takei held back a laugh.

"I gave him what he expected," Takei said in a phone interview from his Los Angeles home. "I boldly wrote what I had never written before: Robert Ito, the actor who played the forensic character on 'Quincy,' whom he thought was me."

The encounter was an anomaly for the 63-year-old actor who will forever be associated with the influential TV sci-fi series, which he joined in 1966 as helmsman Hikaru Sulu, as well as the first six "Star Trek" movies.

"(That incident) provided a bit of self-reflection whenever I start to get full of myself," Takei said.

The Los Angeles-born actor is in Honolulu to attend a couple of "Star Trek" events: the Hawaiian Sci-Fi Convention tomorrow at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider Ballroom and, starting Monday, the beginning of a week-long cruise with other cast members for Cruise Trek's Hawaiian Expedition that includes "Star Trek"-themed games, an actors panel and Trek Trivia.

"I could do three or four 'Trek' cruises every summer, but I'm selective, doing the ones that are more fun and take me places I want to go to," Takei said.

But it's not all about play, Takei insists, but also a chance to thank "Star Trek" fans, to whom he's grateful. He dispels the stereotype of the "Trekkie" fanatic.

"Sure, there are people who eat, sleep and live 'Star Trek' and make themselves up as the characters, but there are people who eat, sleep and live baseball and paint their bodies in team colors," he said.

What Takei has discovered in the nearly 40 years since he started on the show is the diversity of fans, which include scientists, teachers and at least one congressman.

"I've had astronauts tell me their first interest in aeronautics was as kids watching 'Star Trek.' During the congressional opening of the 'Star Trek' exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, I had the most unexpected surprise when this respected, professorial, balding man told me what a rabid Trekkie he was, then introduced himself as Sen. Patrick Leahy," he said.

"Not all Trekkies have antennae coming out of their hats."

TAKEI HAS more than 30 feature films and hundreds of television guest-starring roles to his credit. He received a star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame in 1986 and placed his signature and hand-print in the forecourt of the landmark Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood five years later.

In 1987, Takei received a Grammy nomination in the "Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording" category. His distinctive baritone voice has been featured in Walt Disney Pictures' animated feature "Mulan" (and the upcoming "Mulan II"), "Star Trek" audio novel recordings, Fox Television's "The Simpsons" and "Futurama," and other numerous voice-over and narrative projects.

Thanks to that voice, as well as to Takei's father, this former architecture student at the University of California at Berkeley entered show business during his early college years.

"My dad saw a newspaper advertisement about a production that was casting voices for a motion picture," Takei said.

The film was "Rodan," a Japanese science-fiction cult classic about a prehistoric creature terrorizing Tokyo. Takei dubbed the original Japanese lines into English, creating voices for eight characters.

And Takei has flourished professionally ever since.

Has his "Star Trek" persona helped or hurt his career?

"It's a double-edged sword," he said. "I've had some producers say I bring too much identification from 'Star Trek,' and I've gotten theatrical jobs and film roles expressly because of that notoriety."

TAKEI'S LIFE has been nearly an equal mix of show business and civic affairs. Along with actress Beulah Quo, he produced and hosted a public affairs show, "Expression East/West," on KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. He also ran for a L.A. City Council seat (but lost), has sat on the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District and was a driving force behind the Arts in Transit program. Takei also is a former chairman of El Pueblo Park Association and former president of Friends of Little Tokyo Arts, an organization that encourages and supports artists.

He currently serves on the board of governors of East West Players, the nation's foremost Asian-Pacific American theater company.

And, on top of that, Takei is chairman of the board of trustees of the Japanese American National Museum, based in Los Angeles. (The 30-member board will hold its September meeting in Honolulu.)

"The museum tells the story of Japanese Americans, especially their story during World War II," he said. "We emphasize that the internment of Japanese Americans is an American panorama, partly because the real assault was on the U.S. Constitution."

Takei and his family, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans, were interned during the war. He was held at Camp Rohwer in Arkansas and Camp Tule Lake in California.

"Once again, we're hearing those same echoes with the terrorist anxiety in our country and Arab Americans being targeted," he said. "I'm very concerned about any assault on civil liberties."

Takei is deliberate and careful when discussing the current Patriot Act legislation, which he calls "very worrisome."

"Remember that Germany's first concentration camps were not originally created to imprison Jews," he said. "First taken were the Nazis' political opponents, then gypsies, homosexuals, anti-Nazi religious leaders and then the Jews," he said. "Now, in this country, we have Arab immigrant men being detained with no explanation to their families on why or where they have been taken, and they have no access to an attorney."

Takei often uses his "Star Trek" appearances as personal belief forums that are always in context of the TV show's message of ethics and tolerance.

"I once advocated the impeachment of Richard Nixon," Takei said. "It was in the context of the Starship Enterprise having to have a strong leader, and here we have, Starship America, with corrupt leadership."

He praises "Star Trek" fans as being activists.

"The whole 'Star Trek' philosophy is to take charge," Takei said. "Most viewers absorb entertainment and that's it, but our fans take it as stimulus to act on in organizing conventions, art and other issues related to society.

"Boldly going where ... well, everyone knows the rest."

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