In this modern age of technology, George Takei definitely knows how to live long and prosper.
The Star Trek actor and social media maven has teamed up with the AARP for a bi-weekly series on YouTube called Takei’s Take, a smart, funny, irreverent look at what is happening in the world of the Internet and technology and how it infiltrates our lives. EW was on location at YouTube Space LA where the series is filmed to talk to George about the show, how Martin Luther King Jr. played a role in getting him to join Twitter, and why human behavior is the root of all our (tech) problems.
Takei was first approached by AARP to create the series because of his already large social media presence, which includes over 930,000 followers on Twitter and over 5 millions likes on his Facebook page. “I love the idea of sharing technology and what’s trending today with the entire demographic.” Takei told EW. “Obviously I’m of the upper baby boom generation, the AARP generation.” It was that generation of 50+ who were the original Star Trek fans and now it’s their children (and in some cases even their children’s children) who Takei wants to reach. “This is something that should be attractive to all generations.” After launching in September, the series already has over 65,000 subscribers on YouTube and just finished filming the first season.
Though he admits he has help and guidance, Takei is proud to be the older face of technology today and go against negative stereotypes, which as an Asian-American Takei says he has had to deal with his entire life. “Society in general needs to be more enlightened not to buy into stereotypes. Some of these advances are being made by senior citizens. Einstein was a senior! He was the pioneer of the future society that we are building.” But Takei is well aware that there are two sides to everything. “There are some youngsters who are absolutely dysfunctional when it comes to technology. But we shouldn’t stereotype all young people.”
Takei’s journey to the tech world is a long and profound one. Takei grew up in two different Japanese-American Internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both he and his parents were born in California but “because of racism, quite frankly” was sent away at age 5 along with thousands of other Asian-Americans on the West Coast to barbed wired prison camps. “Children are amazingly adaptable. That horrific situation become my normality.” After the war as a teen, Takei couldn’t find any information about the experience he went through in any history books. It was then that his father first taught him about American democracy, which led to volunteering for the Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign. Ever since then, Takei has been very active in the political process, from marching with Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement to a delegate for the 1972 Democratic National Convention as well as being active in the peace movement during the Vietnam war and testifying during congressional hearings about the internment.
After a life of activism, Takei became more aware of the story of his life not being told. He helped found the Japanese American National Museum in Downtown Los Angeles but when a musical about the internment was written, Takei took the opportunity to make sure his voice would be heard and joined Twitter in 2010 to promote the show in hopes that more people would become aware of the history. “That pecuniary motivation to have a hit play was why I started.” Allegiance had a record-breaking world premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego last year and is hoping to move to Broadway soon.
The first episode of Takei’s Take focused on Google Glass. Other topics covered throughout the first season include social media, the dating app Tinder, and wearable technology. Takei has other ideas of topics he’d like to cover, such as air pollution, but he knows that any change has to start with the user first. “Technology and advances are fine within their place, what we have problems with are these uncontrollable, insensible human beings who use technology. It’s the human being that’s so unpredictable and irrational that we’ve got to try and get them more aware and willing to change.”
Besides the series, Takei’s voice can be heard narrating The Missing Scarf, an animated short film on the short list for an Oscar nomination this year and a documentary To Be Takei following his life (alongside husband Brad), which will premiere at Sundance this year. Still, Takei’s favorite part of working on the series is staying connected and engaged with viewers while still having fun. “Humor is what connects people. So, we try to mix that with information that’s gonna be useful or eye opening.”
Watch the trailer for the show below and check out the entire series here.