Last week, John Cho casually revealed that his character Sulu will be in a same-sex relationship in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. Since then, the news has been met with varying responses, as cast members both past and present have spoken out about the decision.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest critics has been original Sulu actor and longtime gay rights activist George Takei, who called the news “really unfortunate.” Takei argued that although he’s thrilled to see an openly gay character in the Star Trek universe, he doesn’t feel that Sulu being gay matches up with creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision for the character.
Star Trek Beyond co-writer Simon Pegg, who also plays Scotty in the series, released a statement last week saying that he “respectfully disagrees” with Takei, and at the London premiere of Beyond on Tuesday, the cast and crew told the BBC that they’re all in support of Sulu being gay.
“The LGBT community has long advocated for representation in the Star Trek universe,” said Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the movie series and is himself openly gay. “We’ve been really excited by the response, particularly from young people, who have been inspired and motivated by this turn toward progress.”
Multiple cast members said they were surprised by the debate around the Sulu news, and Chris Pine told the BBC, “I’m a little stunned there’s been so much attention given to it.” As for Cho himself, he admitted that he was a little nervous about the revelation, but he’s extremely supportive of the news.
“I was worried because I knew [George] was a gay man who had played a straight character,” Cho added. “I know he felt a fair bit of ownership of that character, and legitimately so. I was also worried that it might be inferred that we were somehow suggesting that sexuality was a choice. But I don’t think anyone has inferred that, and we’re certainly not saying that.”
Director Justin Lin also reiterated that this was a decision the creative team thought long and hard about.
“It was not something that was flippant,” Lin told the BBC. “It was something a lot of thought went into. George is entitled to his opinion, but at the end of the day I’m the gatekeeper for this and I think it’s in the spirit of what Roddenberry wanted.”
Roddenberry himself died in 1991, but his son Rod Roddenberry told the Associated Press that he believes his father would have totally approved a gay character on board the Enterprise.
“I think he would be 100 percent in favor of a gay character in Star Trek,” Roddenberry said Tuesday. “There’s so much going on in the world today. I think he would love any sort of social issue being brought into Star Trek.”
Roddenberry’s original series was hailed as one of the most progressive shows on television in the 1960s, and it famously included the first televised interracial kiss. Still, Rod Roddenberry added, he can understand Takei’s opinion.
“In a way, it’s George’s character,” he told the AP. “I can understand why he feels strongly about it. I don’t see why everyone is bickering about it. It’s about (expletive) time. Let’s just do it.”