Zachary Quinto hopes George Takei changes his mind about Sulu being gay

Australian outlet Pedestrian.TV asked Star Trek: Beyond star and openly gay actor Zachary Quinto (Spock) to respond to George Takei’s negative take on the fact that the character he played in the original TV series, Sulu, was going to be made gay in the upcoming prequel. As you may recall, Takei said that while he was “delighted that there’s a gay character” that he found it to be a “twisting of [creator] Gene [Rodenberry's] creation, to which he put in so much thought.” and that he thought it was “really unfortunate.” Takei had explained to both John Cho, who plays him in the reboot, and director Justin Lin why he didn’t want Sulu to be gay and how it was unrealistic for the character that he be closeted throughout his life essentially. They went ahead with that direction for the character despite Takei’s objections.

So Quinto has a response for Takei and while the headlines make it seem like he’s going hard against Takei’s statement, in the actual video he’s more measured and makes it about the broader point on inclusion.

As a member of the LGBT community myself I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed. I think any member of the LGBT community that takes issue with the normalized and positive portrayal of members of our community in Hollywood and in mainstream blockbuster cinema… I get it that he has his own personal journey and his own personal relationship with this character but, you know, as we’ve established in the first Star Trek Film in 2009 we’ve created an alternate universe and my hope is that eventually George can be strengthened by the enormously positive response especially from young people who are heartened by and inspired by this really tasteful and beautiful portrayal of something that I think is gaining acceptance and inclusion in our societies across the world and should be.

[From Video on Facebook]

So Quinto kind of gets why Takei would object to his character having an entirely different backstory but doesn’t think it matters in the long run, which kind of goes to show how Takei got ignored in the first place. Of course it’s nice to have a gay character in Star Trek but I think they should have listened to Takei and respected his wishes instead of assuming they were doing homage to him. Takei made it clear ahead of time that wasn’t the case and it’s like they expected him to come around, that’s basically what Quino is saying. Also, I tried to go to George Takei’s twitter account to see if he’s responded to Quinto and I just got lost in all the excellent links he shares. (I searched on “Zachary” and “Quinto” on his account and there’s nothing recent.)

While searching on Twitter I found that Simon Pegg issued a lengthy response to Takei as well. Pegg defended their decision to make Sulu gay and wrote that they never suggest in the film that Sulu was ever closeted, that it’s an “alternate timeline” with “alternate details” and that “We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character’, rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?” Ok, so when Takei said he objected to his character being gay because it wasn’t right for Sulu, did they consider making a different core character gay, like Scotty?

Here’s the video and check out John Cho’s body language:

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53 Responses to “Zachary Quinto hopes George Takei changes his mind about Sulu being gay”

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  1. lilacflowers says:

    I also asked why, if Pegg wanted to make a character gay, why he didn’t choose Scotty instead of changing the straight character who was played by and most associated with a gay actor. It sends a message that gay actors can only play gay characters and I don’t think that is what they intended.

    • lisa2 says:

      I just SMH.. Scotty wasn’t gay either.. I support the need to have characters in movies that are gay, straight, bi.. but why is the new thing to change established straight characters into gay characters. I remember there was some talk at one point to make James Bond bi.. even in the Super Hero world they are trying to do this. Just create characters that are gay. And the argument that developing a new character who is gay will make them defined by their sexuality seems silly.. because by making Sulu gay they have done just that. Because they are inventing him a new backstory and that story now in this alternative universe one of a gay man. I think Zachary was behind this new direction. And he and Simon were working or collaborating on how to move the characters in this alternative universe.

      I just don’t think it was necessary. And they did this in both TV Shows. making the characters live different lives based on different realities.

    • Neelyo says:

      I agree.

    • Brittney B. says:

      That’s one of my biggest problems with it. Why did they have to pick the only character played by a then-closeted gay man? It drives home the notion that gay actors can’t believably play straight characters, and it’s especially troubling to imply Sulu was closeted too. Now that the actor is out, the character comes out too?! (I know they’re saying its non-canon, but come on.)

      Not to mention he’s an Asian man. Hollywood already pigeonholes Asian men as lacking sex appeal/masculinity, and while being gay has **absolutely nothing** to do with either of those traits, it sounds like this depiction sterilizes his sexuality. No sex scenes, and perpetuating the idea that attractions aren’t shared between women and Asian men. But this might be me letting stereotypes have too much power… I just know Asian men have a huge visibility problem right now (and for all of Hollywood history). Who knows, maybe this will help that.

      But after Quinto’s comments about promiscuous gay men spreading HIV, I wouldn’t turn to him for comments about positive gay representation in the media…

      • lisa2 says:

        But you see that they didn’t change Kirk did they. He is the exact same in all universes.. Sexual.. chasing ass.. Interesting huh.. but all the other characters around him are reinvented.. Let’s see what would happen if Kirk was Gay or Bi.. now that is how you do alternative universes.

      • Kitten says:

        I didn’t think his original comment warranted the outrage and slut-shaming accusations that were thrown at him, personally.

        But he’s since clarified his original comments several times.

      • Wren says:

        Yeah, it really seems more than a coincidence that they decided to make gay the only character played by a gay man. Kirk is the same womanizer, and Scotty still loves engines and the ship more than any flesh and blood person. They did give Spock and Uhura a “thing” but otherwise there would have been absolutely no love line in the movie and we can’t have that now can we?

        It just seems tacked on and odd. Why not a new character that just so happens to be gay? How would that be worse than redefining a current character as gay?

      • Brittney B. says:

        @Kitten I read his clarifications, but I still think he’s pretty out-of-touch about many things. I don’t hate him or want his career to end because of it… but I also think about past comments when I hear new ones. It informs the way he thinks and reacts.

      • Alexis says:

        @Wren – Spock/Uhura was actually intended by Roddenberry for the original series, but they scrapped it to focus more on the Spock/Kirk bromanace. Also, there’s the whole race thing which made it a hard sell for Roddenberry at that time. So even that particular variation from TOS is seen as a kind of homage because it was part of the creator’s vision.

        That being said, I was fine with them making Sulu queer as I don’t think it fundamentally changes the character. Now, with Takei’s input, not liking it as much. It’s insensitive to throw aside the input of the actor who brought the character to life, and for what?

  2. Birdix says:

    It’s unfortunate they ignored Takei. I wonder if they realized what a huge social media impact he has. And honk for John Cho (who looks nothing like Takei, weird casting, but almost saved Flash Forward).

    • detritus says:

      I love me some Cho. More Cho please.

      Takei, though, I feel for him.

      It’s lovely that Pegg and friends wanted to have an openly out LGBT character, but why Sulu?
      Reasoning: alternate universes and no one ever met Sulu’s wife. Ok, it can only be historical reasons OR alternative timelines though, not both. If it is ‘alternate timelines’ then ANYONE could be gay, so back to square one, why Sulu.

      Basically, it seems like Pegg and friends got drunk one day and decided it would be a super awesome homage to Takei and they’d get their social justice quota in for the year and everyone would be director heroes!

      Except it’s straight up lazy and Takei was rightfully annoyed. Pegg et all now have their knickers in a knot because Takei isn’t loving what was supposed to be such a grand gesture, but it seems they care more for the gesture than the meaning behind it. Roddenbury was decades ago, but still respected Takei’s wishes about his sexuality in the public sphere and on screen. Pegg has no excuse.

  3. Izzy says:

    In other words, they’re ignoring almost everything else about canon, why not this as well? I’m a longtime Trek fan, but even though I don’t go nuts every time they change a detail from original canon, their responses here seem like a giant F-U to the entire original fanbase. Which… doesn’t seem like the smartest move.

  4. Neelyo says:

    Quinto rubs me the wrong way. So pretentious.

    • Naya says:

      I know. I fell out of love with him during one of the media campaigns for the last movie. There was one interview where he was working extra hard to throw in all those obscure dictionary words he clearly memorized the previous night. Even Chris Pine began rolling his eyes.

    • H says:

      I was a huge Quinto fan, then went to NYC to see him in a play. Long story short, play reeked, but stayed afterwards to meet him. It was a very small off-Broadway production so this was possible as I knew someone whose a friend of a friend. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of his now and I roll my eyes everytime he speaks.

      However, Veronica Mars fans will be happy to know that Kristen Bell is a sweetheart. I had no idea who she was, I thought maybe she was a behind the scenes person until my friend told me she was an actress. She’s low-key and friendly, Quinto…high maintenance.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Yeah, I liked him until I met him at a signing. And why didn’t they make Spock realize that he’s gay and break up with Uhura?

  5. Tara says:

    I have been a trekkie (now they say trekker I believe) since my teens. The new universe doesn’t bother me at all. You have Spock for goodness sakes in a passionate sexual relationship with Uhura! Nothing about it has bothered me. This doesn’t either. I speak only as a huge fan, how George feels about it is his business. I have no opinion on the debate between him and Quinto.

    For me the huge problem about seeing this new film is going to be Anton Yelchin. He brought such an incredible energy and awesomeness to what was my least favorite character in the original series. I’m so sad about ridiculously early death.

    • Emma - The JP Lover says:

      @Tara, who wrote: “You have Spock for goodness sakes in a passionate sexual relationship with Uhura!”

      That was Gene Roddenberry’s wish for Spock and Uhura in the original series, but race was still very much a big issue in the 1960′s and the Censors wouldn’t allow it.

      • Tara says:

        I never read that, but even so, it does go against everything we were told about Spock’s sexuality in Amok Time. I can see how you can make it work – it was never said that he couldn’t mate at any other time, and also, he’s half human. And as I said, I don’t have a problem with it, I actually loved it.

  6. Emma - The JP Lover says:

    It’s an alternate time-line. I think Simon Pegg is right that if they had created a new ‘gay’ character the PC police would have been all over it. I don’t think Gene Roddenberry would have had a problem with Sulu being gay. After all, he fought the 1960′s TV Censors (yes, there were Censors who monitored TV shows/scripts for content in the 1960′s) to make Spock and Uhura a couple, to no avail (a relationship between a colored woman and a white man on National TV? Oh the horror!). So instead Roddenberry sneaked the first televised interracial kiss in between Kirk and Uhura during an episode titled “Plato’s Stepchildren” in which the Bridge crew were forced to perform acts against their will.

  7. littlemissnaughty says:

    I’ve never seen even 5 min of Star Trek, on TV or elsewhere. But I don’t understand the problem at all. Is it gratuitous? Well, no. Inclusion never is. Does it seem random? To a fan probably. I don’t understand why anyone, involved in this or not, would care. Does it fundamentally f*ck with the character? As in, was he a womanizer in the original? I can see how Bond suddenly being attracted to men would throw people because he’s known for his womanizing ways. Maybe it would make the character more interesting but I doubt anyone can save Bond at this point.

    As for twisting Roddenberry’s vision or creation or whatever, sure. But isn’t that the point of a re-boot? Why would you bother if you kept everything exactly the way it was?

    • Tara says:

      No he wasn’t a womanizer, Kirk was. Making Kirk gay would be really out there. In TOS Sulu expressed an obvious sexual interest in Uhuru but only under the influence of a virus in The Naked Time, and then I think in an alternative dimension in Mirror, Mirror there was something of that. In the films he was mentioned to be married with children. That would in no way preclude his being gay of course.

      • MrsBPitt says:

        @Tara…and he still could be married with children…married to a man, and they have children.

        I think Pegg did think that Takei would be thrilled with the idea, and that he was paying him a certain homage. It’s nice that he discussed it with GT, but, just because he played the original character, I don’t believe, gives him the right to have the final say on making the character gay or not…

    • Lucrezia says:

      In the original timeline/universe, the character is straight. Not obviously so, he’s definitely not a Bond-type womanizer – he never even had an on-screen love interest – but according to Takei, the creator envisioned the character as straight.

      I agree it seems like a minor change, but when you know the details, I can definitely understand why Takei is complaining.

      Takei is taking offense because (to him) the change makes it seem like the original character was closeted. (That’s not necessarily the case, since it’s an alternate timeline. But it’s the way Takei is interpreting things.) Since Takei is himself gay, and spent most of his career closeted, it’s a touchy subject.

      What makes it even more complicated is that when the news first came out, the new actor (Cho) said the change was a homage to Takei. Now Takei has come out saying he’d heard about the plan to make Sulu gay, and had asked them not to do it.

      IMO, if you are going to blur the lines between a character and the actor who played them, you should make sure the actor is okay with it. If you’re going to ignore their request and push ahead anyway, it’s incredibly rude to promote it as a “homage”. It’s not honouring someone if you go ahead and do something they asked you not to do. That’s my main complaint. If they’d spun it differently, and pretended it was pure coincidence that it’s the Sulu character who is gay now, I’d probably have raised an eye-brow, but let it go. The way it’s been done seems completely tone deaf.

      What really tops it all off, is that Sulu’s sexuality is intentionally presented in the new film as non-political. It’s supposed to be a casual “oh Sulu happens to have a hubby” moment, rather than a big coming-out scene. It’s down-played to indicate it’s an advanced culture where homophobia isn’t a thing any more. In contrast, the way it’s being handled by the actors and writers is incredibly political. You’ve got Cho presenting it as a homage, Takei saying it implies the character was closeted, Pegg saying it had to be an existing character because a new one would come off as a token defined by their sexuality, Quinto hoping that Takei will eventually change his mind. None of them are wrong, exactly, they just have different views, but it comes off as a mess. They should have sorted this shit out quietly, behind the scenes, and presented a unified front.

  8. NewWester says:

    When you look back at the original Star Trek, the personal lives of the characters was not mentioned all that often( exception being Spock and his family) . It seemed that for the most part the crew of the Enteprise was married to their job and the starship.
    Frankly, if I had to pick one character on Star Trek that was gay, I would have thought Chekov( sp)

    • lisa2 says:

      NO to that… because at the beginning of Star Trek when Checkov was introduced you got several episodes of him chasing women.

      and Star Trek actually did do stories about the character’s backgrounds. We got little glimpses in all of all of them; in stories and even conversations. They did stories of Scotties first love. Even Sulu was a woman’s man in some episodes.

    • Londerland says:

      Even Chekov got more action than Sulu – at least twice, both with women in the original series. (Spectre Of The Gun, The Way To Eden oh god what have I done with my life?!)

      But even having had heterosexual relationships doesn’t exclude the possibility of a gay relationship in the future. That’s confusing me about all this. Sulu could be bisexual. Any of them could. Tastes can change; plenty of people are never closeted, they just realise later on that they prefer same-sex relationships. Bisexuality isn’t a myth.

      • MrsBPitt says:

        Londerland….good point!

      • Emma - The JP Lover says:

        @Londerland, who wrote: “Sulu could be bisexual. Any of them could. Tastes can change; plenty of people are never closeted, they just realise later on that they prefer same-sex relationships. Bisexuality isn’t a myth.”

        I love this, because I’ve always thought of Kirk–in both the original series and the reboot–as bisexual. He just had/has that male magnetism that is equally attractive/over powering for men as well as women. LOL! And now you know my favorite ‘Trek’ fanfiction. Can you guess which pairing and menage et trois? :)

      • I Choose Me says:

        All great points.

      • Val says:

        But in this case it’s in the past though? So while Sulu could be bi or gay, why was it fine when he was young, but then hidden later? (Considering that the new films are prequels)
        Saying “tastes can change” though is slightly problematic, sexuality isn’t considered a taste, really…
        Anyway, I think the main problem isn’t about Sulu being gay, it’s about GT (who is gay)’s character being made gay, after he has come out as gay. Which, yeah, bothers me to be honest…

      • Emma - The JP Lover says:

        @Val, who wrote: “But in this case it’s in the past though? So while Sulu could be bi or gay, why was it fine when he was young, but then hidden later? (Considering that the new films are prequels)”

        The new films ‘are not’ prequels, they are the original series in an alternate timeline. The arrival of Spock and the Romulan Nero from the future via a wormhole (whereupon Nero killed the Captain of the U.S.S. Kelvin and then destroyed the ship) in the first “Star Trek” (2009) reboot film altered the destiny of the crew of the original series. For instance, Commander George Kirk (played in the film by Chris Hemsworth) who lived to a ripe old age in the original series universe, was killed when he stayed behind alone on the bridge of the U.S.S. Kelvin, sacrificing his life so the crew–including his wife and minutes-old son James Tiberius Kirk could escape Nero (he rammed Nero’s ship with the wrecked U.S.S. Kelvin). As a result, many people who lived in the original series universe were never born and lives and family dynamics were altered, etc. … which had a domino effect.

        For example, James T. Kirk in the alternate, reboot universe timeline grew up a precocious, yet delinquent, youth who couldn’t stay out of trouble and has major Daddy issues, and who (apparently) was physically abused by his mother’s boyfriend? husband? In the original series universe, Kirk was a precocious yet well-adjusted person with an ideal family life in Iowa with a mom, dad, and older brother. Likewise, Spock’s mother died in the reboot universe when Nero destroyed Vulcan, yet she lived a long and prosperous life in the original universe.

        So I don’t understand the argument that Sulu couldn’t be gay because he wasn’t portrayed that way in the original series. Sulu in the alternate reboot universe was shaped by different experiences then the Sulu in the original universe.

  9. Murphy says:

    To George this has nothing to do with sexual orientation. It is simply because it goes against Roddenberry’s vision and he has a lot of respect for that.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      Does it though? I know nothing about ST or Roddenberry but a quick Google search tells me he probably would’ve been totally fine with it. When it doubt, Wikipedia that sh*t. There’s an entire entry re the sexuality in the Star Trek universe. Apparently Roddenberry promised a gay character in The Next Generation. One of our fellow Celebitches – many of whom seem quite versed in Star Trek – might be able to shed some light. I mean, there were interspecies relationships, no?

  10. Londerland says:

    I’m a lifelong Trekkie and I’m going back and forth on this. Honestly, Sulu barely had any sexuality (and no visible romance) in the original series, so I don’t see how having him be gay in the new movies means he was ever closeted. We never got to see him with anyone, except maybe that one time Mirror Sulu put the (very rapey) moves on Uhura. Which was another alternate universe anyway…!

    But it’s kind of rude that they’d ignore Takei’s wishes and claim they were paying homage after he asked them not to do this. Really though, if he’s concerned about respecting Gene’s vision, he clearly hasn’t seen the other two movies. Gene’s vision is long absent.

    (And also, any Trek fan is aware that Gene Roddenberry was never the sole architect of the franchise. He was brains behind it but a lot of the good stuff was contributed by other people over the years, so “respecting his vision” isn’t necessarily synonymous with being true to Trek. Gene’s vision included a lot of crazy crap like Counselor Troi being permanently horny and having four breasts. I’m happy to ignore a lot of Gene’s vision. 😄)

    • Wren says:

      It’s like because Takai is gay, Sulu must be gay, which is actually pretty insulting. It’s almost harkening back to the days when it wasn’t considered “believable” for a gay man could play a straight character (and thus many gay actors stayed deep in the closet). Except now it’s presented as an homage or whatever. If they’d picked anyone else, or even (gasp) multiple people, I don’t think it would have been as big a deal.

  11. Nene says:

    I agree with George. If Sulu was originally a straight man, why change the vision of the creator? I’d think it’d be better to have a new character all together, but that’s just me.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    They never showed his wife, though, so I guess he could have a husband and children. And Zachary was the only one on stage who looked even remotely comfortable.

  13. detritus says:

    On a purely objectifying note, I would like a Cho and Urban sandwich please.

  14. detritus says:

    duplicate. I was excited about sandwiches.

  15. Incredulous says:

    I cracked up at John Cho in that interview clip. *death stare off-camera*

    • I Choose Me says:

      Right? Would love to hear his opinion on all this. Let me also add that he is so fine.

  16. KiddVicious says:

    As far as I’m concerned, anything John Cho does is fine with me. A John Cho, Chris Pine sandwich please.

  17. Amanda G says:

    So he’s gay because it’s a different timeline? That’s a great message to send. It’s not a choice! I see George’s side. They did not make Sulu gay because it was the right thing to do, they did it because George is gay. I think there are other ways to honor someone other than using their sexuality.

    • Snarky says:

      Right? This is just the hetrosexual version of mansplaining. I never thought I would not support making a movie character gay, female, or a racial minority, but makin Sulu gay is just.so.patronizing.

  18. Persephone says:

    One of the many problems I have with the new movies is ‘aren’t we clever’ way they went about setting it up as an alternate timeline, it isn’t alternate enough. By including Spock Prime and having the timelines diverge only at the start of the first movie they’ve tied themselves to everything that has happened in that universe up to that point. V’Ger, the whale probe and the Nexus energy ribbon are still on their way. Did Sybok die on Vulcan? What of Q, the Borg and the Dominion? They’re all still out there.

    My problem with making this Sulu gay is that they clearly chose that character because the actor most strongly associated with him is gay. Had they said they looked at the history of the characters and chose Sulu as that character had the least amount of onscreen relationship information that’s one thing but they’ve actually said it’s because of Takei.

    • Emma - The JP Lover says:

      @Persephone, who wrote: “One of the many problems I have with the new movies is ‘aren’t we clever’ way they went about setting it up as an alternate timeline, it isn’t alternate enough. By including Spock Prime and having the timelines diverge only at the start of the first movie they’ve tied themselves to everything that has happened in that universe up to that point. V’Ger, the whale probe and the Nexus energy ribbon are still on their way. Did Sybok die on Vulcan? What of Q, the Borg and the Dominion? They’re all still out there.”

      Here is what people fail to consider with the alternate timeline concept of the reboot “Star Trek.” These people are not going to relive events in the alternate original series universe in the same way. Spock Prime and Nero traveled back 129 years in time to the day Captain James T. Kirk was born (Vulcans have a long life span). But it’s not his traveling back in time that changes things and causes the alternate reality, it’s what happens when he and Nero arrive. Nero arrives through the wormhole first and destroys the U.S.S. Kelvin. It is this act that splinters the timeline and creates an alternate universe from the one Spock Prime and Nero emerge from.

      It is Spock Prime’s universe that has changed because of the ripple caused by the deaths of people on the U.S.S. Kelvin. He meets young Kirk, but this Jim Kirk has a different reality and has traveled a different life path than the Jim Kirk Spock Prime knew. Some of the crew members he knew on the ‘other’ U.S.S. Enterprise may not even exist because of the destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin as well.

      • Persephone says:

        Yes I do understand the concept which is why I was referring to events that are already in play before the destruction of the Kelvin. The SS Botany Bay could be found at a different time by different people because the Eugenics War and Khan were pre timeline split, any changes caused by the destruction of the Kelvin would only alter events after that point.
        They may react differently to some of these things but they still exist in this universe, they can’t just say there is no V’Ger because this is an alternate universe. In the new universe they may never discover the Bajoran wormhole but it’s still there.
        The same writers made Fringe which also had alternate timelines which are formed the same way but they never revealed what the initial change was or how long ago it was so they weren’t tied to any common history like they’ve done in Star Trek.