George Takei’s story, as delightfully and sharply recounted in Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber’s TO BE TAKEI, is one of not just struggling to overcome prejudice and societal expectations, but also to prevail with wicked wit and unswerving optimism. In that sense, Takei’s story is quintessentially American, or at least the ideal of what it means to be American, celebrating individualism and the right of every person to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Hes become, in the words of Jennifer Kroot, The most accepted outsider ever.
Talking with Weber and Kroot on August 13, 2014 about their documentary was an adventure in itself, and with so much to cover from what it was like to conduct an interview with Sen. Daniel Inouye in the presence of six armed Secret Service agents, to Kroots appearance on the Howard Stern show (it was like being abducted by aliens), which was the only way she could get an interview for the film with the King of All Media. In fact, the filmmakers found out early that they were going to be a part of the film, if only because their subjects, Takei and his then-boyfriend, now husband, Brad Altman Takei, were given to talking directly to them while being filmed.
Light-hearted at times, the documentary also delves into Takei’s personal experiences as an internee, and his subsequent personal mission to speak out about the internment of Japanese-American during World War II, a mission that was integral to obtaining reparations and an apology from the government. Kroot and Weber talk about visiting one of those camps with George, and why this was a chance to see George at his most unguarded. We also talked about the Shatner factor, their own degrees of Trek fandom, and what it was like to have George insist on making them lunch.
TO BE TAKEI introduces the world to the man behind Star Trek’s Mr Sulu, a man who endured internment as a Japanese-American during World War II, the stereotypes inherent as a Japanese-American actor in less enlightened times, and living as a closeted gay man in order to maintain a viable acting career as the times became more enlightened, but not enlightened enough. Using a piquantly non-Click chronological timeline, insights and commentary from family, friends, and fellow Trek stars, it captures the wit, the drive, and the dignity of a man who has lived a monumental life that reflects the times in which he lived, and his tireless work for human rights that the times spurred him to undertake. We also get a look at the musical ALLEGIANCE, inspired by Takeis experiences as an internee.
Kroots previous work includes the vibrant SIRENS OF THE 23rd CENTURY and IT CAME FROM KUCHAR, about the iconic filmmakers who influenced several generations of filmmakers. Webers previous work includes THE COCKETTES and WE WERE HERE, and most recently editing THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: WHEN SATAN CAME TO EDEN