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tv   Talk to Al Jazeera  Al Jazeera  November 3, 2013 10:30pm-11:01pm EST

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. [ ♪ music ] >> he's the man who brought a generation to warp speed. take is best known for playing lieutenant sulu he has a decades long career in film, radio it and theatre. he wrote and starred in a musical about japanese-american internment in world war ii. something he has knowledge of. he was sent to a camp at the cage of five. he's a successful writer and outspoken activist for gay
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writes. and take -- take is a leader in the media revolution. >> george, welcome to al jazeera, it's good to have you on the program. >> it's good to be here. >> i saw your were in washington talking to politicians. you obviously have as much of a passion for politics as you do for star trek. >> i'm a passionate guy and we live in a world where there's so many things we can be passionate about - positively or enraged. >> talk about your political activism. where does it come from? >> my life has been shaped by childhood incarsies. >> the japanese concentration.
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>> japanese-american. when you say japanese, you think you were captured by the japanese. we were american citizens, mother born in sack ra mmento, father a san francisco. we were american citizens, because we looked like the people that bombed pearl harbour, president roosevelt signed executive order 9066 ordering japanese americans on the west coast to be rounded up and put in 10 barbed wire prisons. >> howl were you? >> i was five years owl. >> did you know what was happening? >> i didn't understand a thing. my parents were tense. there was one morning that i remember. they got us - my siblings and me - my younger brother and baby sister up, got us dressed.
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my brother and i were in the living room. i saw two soldiers march up the driveway, bayonne et cetera up the rifle and saw it flashing. stomped up the porch, banged on the door. my father answered it and they ordered us out of our home. >> when you got older, what did your parents tell you about what had happened? >> i initiated that. i started as a teenager reading history and civics books and i didn't find anything about what i knew to be my childhood imprisonment. after dinner i engaged my father in long and sometimes intense heated conversations about our incarceration. what i remember from those conversations is my father saying that our democracy is a people's democracy, and it can
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be as great as a people can be, but it's as fallible as people are. >> going forward to washington d.c. you speak to the national press club. you go to one of the monument and someone asks about the government shutdown and you say, "the politicians are whackos." >> i visited those monuments many times. there's one that i had not visited - the newest one, the martin luter king junior memorial. first thing in the morning, before i spoke to the national press club, we went to the dr king memorial. i thought of his, "i have a dream" speech, and it was given on the steps of the lincoln memorial. we went there and saw president lincoln there. when we looked across the mall to the far end, i saw it has the
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national nut house, just the day before the government had been opened. >> the national nut house would be the capital, the house of representatives and the senate. >> yes. >> tell me about that. >> you use the word whacko. >> no, i think you used that word. >> i used that word in the speech. the tea party people are crazy. i mean, they are luna ticks. they closed down the government, throw people out of their jobs, hundreds of thousands of people and say that they are doing to ultimately in the interests of creating jobs. madness. and, you know, my life has been shaped by that kind of situation - madness, craziness by our democracy and shining ideals of our dem okay wassy mem wrorial esed by the --
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memorialized by the monuments at the other end of the mall. incarcerations of japanese-americans was crazy. they didn't incars rate the japanese-americans in hawaii. that's the place that was bombed. the japanese population was 45% of the island of hawaii. if they extracted those japanese-americans, the economy would have collapsed. but on the mainland we were thinly spread out up and down the west coast. >> so you experienced discrimination early, but you experienced discrimination later in life as well; correct. >> i did. and that discrimination - i was able to kind of avoid my face, my asian face was a give away. from the time i was about nine or 10, i knew i was different in ways other than just my face.
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the other boys would say things like, "sally's cute." or "monica's hot." i thought sally and monica were nice, but i thought bobby was exciting. and none of the boys thought the way i did. so i knew i was different. and it wasn't the way i was supposed to be. so i was silent about it. i pretended that i was like one of them. you know, when you are young, you have a great need to be part of the gang, to belong. i dated girls, went to the senior prom and i played a part. then, as you grow older, you learn that there are other men that feel the same way. but i'd been acting, pretending and that leads into living a
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double life - gay bars, you know, but all ser ep tishous, secret, hidden. >> you lived a hidden life because you couldn't live an open life. you were afraid of retaliation, afraid of what people would think, what they'd say. >> well, i was pursuing a career as an actor, here i am with an ever present fear of getting exposed, and at the same time pursuing a career in the most publicly exposed business i can go into. and so there was, you know, that constant fear and that aspiration at war with itself. and i was involved in the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement and the vietnam war, and the movement to get redress for the unconstitutional incarceration of japanese
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americans - all these other social and political issues, but i was silent on that. >> and then governor swarsen ager in california forced you to speak up. >> that's correct. at that time massachusetts had marriage equality through the judicial route. in california a precedent-setting thing happened. both house, the senate and the assembly passed the marriage equality bill, and all that was needed was the governor's siing, governor arnold swarzenegger who campaigned by being a friend of the glp community. he made statements like, "i worked with gays and les by --
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less bians, some of my best friendsar gays and les bians", >> but he didn't sign it. >> he's a republican and has a conservative base. playing to that, he vetoed it. i was enraged. i was, together with brad at that time... >> brad is your partner. >> brad is your partner. >> yes. >> and you are married? >> a little after swarzenegger's veto. we saw young people pouring on to santa monica boulevard venting their rage and here we were at home comfortable. we discussed it and i said, "i have to speak out on this. we are so close and that hippo crit swarzenegger vetoed it. for me to speak out my voice needed to be authentic.
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i spoke to the press for the first time. >> did the united states change. >> it's changing rapidly. we are changing. we need to change more. we have some ways to go yet. >> when you came out and you got angry because arnold swarzenegger wouldn't sign the legislation. >> hip okay risy enraged me. >> then you became an advocate for gay rights. >> i did. >> tell me about that. what was the reaction. mr sulu is gay. >> there were a lot of those. >> and he comes out. was the reaction positive, was there negative as well? >> there was negative as well. it was overwhelmingly positive. i went on a nation-wide speaking tour in partnership with the human rights campaign and spoke at universities, corporate meetings, at governmental agencies, and then i lobbied for
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various issues like don't ask, don't tell - in washington, as well as in sacramento, the california state capital. >> you have lived an amazing life. a big part of that is star trek. >> when we come back we'll speak more to george take. >> about that - after this.
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welcome back to "talk to al jazeera." we are talking to george takei, and i want to get into "star trek" a bit. jean rotenbury, the producer - i believe you said he wanted a
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multicultural cast. how did it happen, and how did you get there? >> gene wanted to use "star trek" as a metaphor about so many things about our times then and today. she said the starship "enterprise" was a metaphor for starship earth, and it was about coming together, working as a team. we were all contributing our unique vantage point or history or talent to the workings of that team to meet the common college that we have. so he - it was very intentional to cast the way he did. the captain was a north american, played by a canadian. the european representation was by scotty, scotland, played by an irish canadian - another canned aidan, and -- canadian,
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who efl were representing africa, and i represented asia, and mccoy represented the south of the u.s. >> how did you get the job? >> my agent called. rather in the common normal way in hollywood. i went to a meeting with a man named gene rottenbury - i didn't know him from adam. the operative thing that my agent told me was that it was a potential series, it was a pilot which meant steady employment. i was excited about that. he told me it was a skyify, but i wasn't that. into skify at the time. gene ushered me to a corner and a sofa, not a behind the desk and, you know the applicant there. we had a conversation.
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he told me about the series, the concept. my character would be a part of the leadership team, and the whole vision that he had for the human future. to be cast in that was a thrilling idea. and i recognised that it would be a ground breaking opportunity for me, an asian-american actor. >> you were the first asian-american on national television, is that right? >> no, there were other asians, but they were usually bumbling servants like sammy tong in "bachelor father", or the evil memory, stereotypes and unattractive roles. this was the first one where i would be a regular on a series as a member of the leadership team. >> did you imagine that that program would have such an impact? >> back in 1965, when i was
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cast, i smelt quality with that show. however, television is not known for respecting quality. all the shows that i really loved were cancel. >> so it was over. you continued on in your career, but something was boiling beneath the surface with "star trek," it would re-emerge. >> what happened was after cancellation we went into syndication. the syndicators - local stations, put it on five days a week, monday to friday. that's when we found our audience, and the popularity and the ratings skyrocketed. >> what did "star trek" mean to you, to your life? >> well, i thought gene created an extraordinary show. i mean, it's still vibrant and alive and has a huge, huge following. in three years it will be
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celebrating its 50th anniversary. it was an extraordinary show that you created. had a vision of our future, a positive vision, not a distopian society, but a shining society where we are boldly going where no one has gone before. and i enjoyed being associated with that idea and gene's imagination that would turn - use science fiction as a metaphor for the various social environmental political issues of the time. and the tv series dealt with the issues back in the "60, mid 20th century. somehow those same episodes resonate to our times today. >> i'm told your favourite episode of "star trek" is "the naked time." why is that? >> you know, you get tired
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sitting at the console ag "aye aye sir, warp 3." and occasionally "aye, aye warp 4." finally i got to go away from the console, rip off my shirt. >> there's another side of you, you are going to become the king of social media, back after this.
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o o
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welcome back, we are talking to george takei. how many facebook likes do you have? >> it's over 4.7 million. >> how many twitter followers do you have? >> over 800,000. >> at the tender age of 76 you have become the king of social
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media. how did that happen? >> it's taken a long time, 76 years. >> but, i mean, clearly - when did you get involved in social media? >> about three years ago. again we were talking about combining the various interests. we developed a musical "allegiance" about a subject too many don't know too much about still. and we have invested a lot of funny and talent and energy and time, and we needed to build an audience for it. the best way to get the word out, so to speak, and to educate people was, i thought, social media. i began. but the - my base was sci-fi geeks and nerds and i had to expand that. we tried a lot of different things. it was humour that seemed to attract a lot of people and get
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them to share and engage, so i started making funny comment about sci-fi and science and it expanded and i found that pictures called mims gets more, and a few kiddies gets a lot of likes and shares. so it extended more. we had a large enough audience, so i spoke about lgbt equality. there's a large overlap between sci-fi geeks and nerds and lgbt community. it exploded some more. then i introduced the sorry of the internment. people were shocked. so many people otherwise well informed didn't know about the internment. now i had people educated on the internment, i told them that we have a musical about it and we'd
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open in san diego at the old globe theatre and gave tastes of the songs and snippets of squeeps and developed an -- scenes, and developed an eagerness, a want to see quality, and we were a hit in san diego. >> you're not just on facebook and twitter, but you have a program online called "takei's take". >> yes, i do it in conjunction with aarp, made up of a lot of "star trek" fans. we wanted to make sure the demographics widened. "star trek" children are approaching arp's age.
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they have grandchildren. we play to the large audience. the "star trek" generation, as visionary as they are, are not quite into social media as their grandchildren or children are. my hosting, "takei's take", we can talk about google glass or, as we discovered, online dating is not just something the young people are into, because adrp members are now getting divorced or widowed and longevity has been extended, so they want a life with a partner or a spouse. we tell them about online dating. we are broadening the horizon for a larger demographic of people. >> you are known for a 2-word
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phrase. >> i know which word. >> where did that come from. >>, "oh my." yes, it's a phrase i used all my life. when you see a glorious sunrise, "oh my", or someone makes a mistake that's embarrassing, "oh my", i've used it all my life. i was doing a play in new york. when you do a play you get an assignment to promote the play, get the word out. >> and this one particular morning i had my assign: it was a show called "the howard stern show" on madison avenue. i went to the place at the appointed time. they asked me to wait. i flipped through magazines and they had a disgusting conversation on, and i said to the other guy why can't they get some nice music. that's a horrible thing to have
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in the waiting room. >> he said, "that's the show we are waiting to go on." they came to get me. i was introduced to a lean, tall wild haired guy with glasses. >> howard stern. >> and i said good morning, and he said, "oh, you have a deep voice. anyone with a voice that deep has to have a... "i said, "are we on air?" and he said, "yep." i said, "oh my", and he had it on tape. so from then on, whether i'm there or not. whenever someone says something outrageous he presents a button and i come on and say, "oh my", now it's my signature. >> we wish you the best of luck with all your projects in the future. it's a pleasure to talk to you. thank you very much for talking to us. >> i enjoyed talking to you.
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>> we'll be back next time with "talk to al jazeera." welcome to al jazeera america, i'm jonathan betz, live in new york. secretary of state john kerry is in saudi arabia tonight. he began a 9-day middle east trip - first stop egypt. >> syria's main opposition group is refusing to attend a second round of peace talks in geneva unless certain conditions are met. rebel leaders in the eastern democratic republic of congo are calling for fighters to lay down their guns. tonight we look at so-called blue zones - places where people live longer and healthier lives. [ ♪ music ]