You probably associate "Star Trek" star George Takei with funny Facebook posts and clever, well-informed commentary. Only lately has the former Sulu taken on a more serious role on the world stage: he's personally waging a war with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to get the 2014 Sochi Winter Games out of Russia, due to their "egregious" homophobic policies.
Openly gay himself, Takei has emerged in recent years as a staunch advocate for gay marriage and equal civil rights across the board. While he's currently slated to attend Toronto's Fan Expo to reminisce about his days on "Star Trek," Takei is also using the opportunity to spread the word about his mission.
HuffPost TV spoke with Takei about the situation in Russia, how he plans to achieve his goal(s) and yes, believe it or not, how "Star Trek" fits into the whole picture.
First off, let's give credit where credit is due -- you're one of the only people that makes social media bearable. Is that all you?
George Takei: [Laughs] Well, thank you! The content and commentary are mine, as I plainly label. The blogs are mine, too. My most recent one has certainly stirred up a lot of excitement and interest.
It sure has. Especially here on HuffPost!
Yes, thank you over there for keeping the momentum going on that. The Winter Olympics must be taken out of Russia.
How much of an impact do you think you can realistically have on Russia hosting the Olympics?
We have over 160,000 signators to the petition. The IOC is having their meeting from Sept. 8 - 10 to elect their new president. When a change like this is being made, it's an opportune time to present this petition. Already, the furor that's been generated by the media focused on the oppressive policies of Russia is making the IOC think very deeply.
The Russians are taunting the IOC with the homophobic laws that they pass. They give license to the thugs and the hooligans -- you know how they've been carrying on. This is the time for Russians to rethink. One of the senior members of the IOC, from Norway, has already spoken to the press saying that the Winter Olympics must be taken out of Sochi. He hasn't backed the idea of moving it to Vancouver yet, but that's the obvious venue that's the most prepared. Adjustments will have to be made, and if it's not in time for the Games and the will is there, you postpone it for a year.
I'd imagine housing is one of the problems.
Oh, yes. You have a lot of condominiums that have been bought as investments and aren't occupied. Or people who might use their condominiums but they live elsewhere, and they don't use them regularly. If there's the will to solve problems, it can be done. We must not give this international platform to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. We have to learn from history. Back in 1936, the Olympics were staged in Berlin. Three years before that, Hitler came to power and he passed a seemingly innocuous law that stated that Jewish college professors would not be given tenure. That was the beginning, and then the Olympics were held, and he revelled in that international stage he was offered. His power grew, and his stature was raised. You know where he went from there.
The Olympics certainly can provide a lot of power to the host country.
We have to remember that Putin was a member of the KGB. He has already demonstrated that kind of macho, dictatorial attitude. Russia has breached their pledge to uphold the Olympic charter. This is a great opportunity for the IOC to say we cannot, given the situation that exists currently, allow the Olympics to take place in Russia.
Russia is a huge player, both on the world stage and obviously in the Olympic Games themselves -- the country usually places in the top 5 medal winners at every Games. How realistic do you think it is to say that we're actually moving the Olympics to another country?
We will give it all the power that we can give. If it remains in Russia, then the next phase of our efforts should be to disqualify Russian athletes from participation. They've breached the Olympic charter. The humiliation ... they'd be holding it in Russia, and the Russian athletes can't participate because of their egregious homophobic policies.
Switching gears here, at least in Canada we're more free to choose. And you'll be coming up to Toronto for Fan Expo!
Yes! Zachary Quinto, my friend from "Heroes," will be there too, to support the new "Star Trek" movies. He's openly gay. An openly gay actor playing Spock now. How the world has changed. [Laughs]
I spoke with John Cho [who plays Sulu in the new "Star Trek" movies] a few months ago, and he said you were a mentor for him.
I've known him for a long time. I'm a chairman on the Board of Governors for the East-West Players, the longest-running Asian-American theater company in America. I've known him ever since he dipped his toe into acting, which was about 15 years ago. It's great to see how he's grown, and even nicer to see him step into my shoes.
He loved watching you on TV as a child -- seeing an Asian-American on-screen playing an intellectual, interesting character.
Well, I'm a great fan of John as Sulu too. I told him, when we had lunch before he started work on his first "Star Trek" film, that it won't be long before I'm known as the old guy who played John Cho's part. [Laughs]
So you enjoy watching the new films, then. It's pleasurable for you?
J.J. Abrams is a terrific action-adventure director and filmmaker. It's thrilling to see all of that. I know we can't do it. Imagine Bill Shatner running down the corridor like Chris Pine. It wouldn't be a pretty sight. [Laughs]
If they ever asked you to take part in the next "Star Trek" movie, would you be interested in a cameo?
I've dropped hints to J.J., as a matter of fact. [Laughs] I'm totally shameless. Leonard [Nimoy] has done two cameos already, so ... the precedent has been set. I've been a captain when Spock has only been the First Officer.
You should do it.
I think it would be interesting if they made me up as an alien, and I could only be recognized by my voice. Wouldn't that be fun?
Maybe you can shed some light -- what is it about "Star Trek" that makes it live on forever in popular culture?
At the core of "Star Trek" is Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future. So much of science-fiction is about a dystopian society with human civilization having crumbled. He had an affirmative, shining, positive view of the future. He said the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth. The strength of the starship is in its diversity. Everyone contributing their best, their vantage points and their unique experiences. Working as a team to face a common challenge. We can prevail if we have confidence in our problem-solving capabilities, in our inventive genius and our innovative qualities. I think it's that that inspires every generation. We're on the third generation now. The first generation is now bringing their grandchildren to Comic-Con and Fan Expo. I think it's that core view of our human future that attracts every generation.
Meet George Takei at Fan Expo on August 23 - 25 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.