'Star Trek' actor John Cho was worried about acceptance of gay revelation

Actor John Cho was worried about original Sulu actor George Takei's reaction

Actor John Cho in a scene from 'Star Trek Beyond.' Youtube.com/Paramount Pictures International

Hollywood actor John Cho, who plays Hikaru Sulu in the rebooted 'Star Trek' film series, said that he was concerned whether the revelation of his character being gay would be accepted.

Montreal Gazette published an article that originally appeared in The Canadian Press newspaper, where John Cho revealed that he was concerned about both original Sulu actor Takei's views as well as the feelings of Asian people in general.

"My concern was actually that he would feel like we were violating his personal life or usurping his personal life, because his character is straight but he's gay," John Cho said, adding "I was concerned that he might feel like we were lifting from his personal life."

In the original 'Star trek' television series by Gene Roddenberry that ran from 1966 to '69, the character of Lt. Sulu, played by George Takei, was a heterosexual man, though Takei himself was homosexual. He came out as a gay man in 2005 and has been a prominent LGBT activist.

The idea to change Sulu's sexual orientation came from screenwriter and actor Simon Pegg, as was informed to Cho by director Justin Lin, famous for directing many 'Fast and Furious' movies. The decision was made to reflect both the diversity in society as well as to honour Take himself. However, the veteran actor did not take it well.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter (THR) in July this year, Takei said he wasn't fond of the decision to change Sulu's sexual identity. "I'm delighted that there's a gay character [in Star Trek]," adding that he feels "it's a twisting of Gene's creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it's really unfortunate." Takei further told THR that Roddenbery had always envisioned Sulu as a heterosexual.

Takei had reportedly asked John Cho to create a new gay character instead of changing Sulu's sexuality when the latter called to share the news about 'Beyond' with him. "I told him, 'Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted,'" Takei told THR.

Simon Pegg, who also plays Scotty in the series, told The Guardian that he respectfully disagrees with Takei. Pegg said "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?"

Cho was also worried that this sudden change of Sulu's sexuality "might be accidentally implying that sexual orientation was a choice." This, Cho adds, would be because "it's the same genetic person but in an alternate timeline, and [Sulu] has different sexual orientations in both, [I] thought that we might be saying the wrong thing about sexual orientation." He was also worried whether Asian viewers might perceive it as some sort of blanket statement.

Regardless of the worries, the scene that shows Sulu reuniting with his male partner and their daughter is a subtle but beautiful moment in the series, right alongside Spock looking at an old photo of the Enterprise crew from the original timeline.

This article was first published on December 5, 2016