Star Trek Beyond producer J.J. Abrams has spoken up in defense of depicting Hikaru Sulu as gay in the upcoming film.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Abrams said it’s “about time” the Star Trek franchise featured a gay character, adding he’s “really proud” of how the filmmakers handled the revelation.
“It is done … in a way that is not in the story of the movie, which is one of my favorite things about it,” he said. “It’s beside the point.”
John Cho, who plays Sulu in Beyond, broke the news last week that his character shown in a same-sex relationship in the movie. He also said the decision was intended as an homage to George Takei, the openly gay actor and LGBT activist who played Sulu in the original Star Trek.
Takei, however, told the Hollywood Reporter he opposed making Sulu gay because he felt it went against Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision. Takei said he would have preferred introducing a new gay character instead, though in a follow-up Facebook post he added, “I do fully understand and appreciate what [the filmmakers] are doing.”
Abrams addressed Takei’s remarks in the HuffPost interview. “I feel that George Takei’s reaction ― I’m sure has more to do with George Takei, and the baggage he brings to the proceedings,” he said. “I think it may be his perception of having played a character a certain way. It might mean something personally to him. I have nothing but respect for the man, but I think it’s a preposterous thing for, of all people, a Star Trek actor — who’s come out himself — to say that Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t have wanted this.”
Other Star Trek Beyond cast and crew members who have defended the new Sulu characterization include Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, and Justin Lin.
This also isn’t he first time Abrams has called for more inclusivity in high-profile Hollywood movies: In February, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens director said he’d like to see gay characters in future installments of that franchise.
Star Trek Beyond opens July 22.