George Takei talks about being involved with this popular show and how it relates to playing Lt. Sulu on Star Trek
When you enter one of TVs biggest shows you're gonna instantly have people wanting to talk to you. When you enter a show like Heroes you can be sure that interest in you and your character is going be at a fever pitch. We recently had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call with George Takei, who plays the role of Kaito Nakamura on the show. As the father of Hiro (played by the hugely popular Masi Oka), this was a great chance to get inside of the head of Takei who is no stranger to being on a beloved show. He played Lt. Sulu in the original Star Trek series.
Is it safe to say you're not playing one of TV's more loveable dads on Heroes?
George Takei: Well, it's hard to make any judgments, yet. As I said to some reporter... I am making discoveries with each script. I thought he was just a very concerned father... but I'm discovering there's other dimensions to him which makes the character even more ambiguous. I'm like these fans on the internet. I'm learning more with each episode myself.
How did you get the role as Hiro's dad?
George Takei: It was a surprise call. I had been viewing the show because shortly after it came on the air, I got emails from fans telling me that there's a Japanese character who's a Star Trek fan. So I've been watching, but I never expected to be working on it. One day my agent called and said that there's interest in me for Heroes, but they want you to audition. I said, "Okay, sure, fine." So they emailed the script to me and I looked at it and I called my agent and said, "Sure, this looks like a piece of cake." He said, "They want you to translate it into Japanese and audition in Japanese." I said, "I do speak Japanese, it's a little bit of extra work, but let me take it on."
So I translated that and went and auditioned and they were very happy with it. It turns out they wanted to make sure my command of Japanese was credible. I do speak Japanese fluently. When I auditioned they believed that I could speak Japanese and that's how it all came about.
Can you talk at all about Hiro and Kaito's relationship?
George Takei: Well, everything in life has consequences. One of the most consequential acts is creating another human life. Kaito Nakamura is a father and with it comes consequences. I'm discovering that there's a whole different kind of consequence with my particular son. What's intriguing about Heroes is it examines those consequences of life.
Did you see this role on Heroes as way of honoring your legacy of Lt. Sulu but also setting yourself apart from it?
George Takei: Well, it's kind of a completion of the circle isn't it? Here's this character who is a Star Trek fan... and here I am playing his father. There is a wonderful circle here that could turn into another interesting kind of spiral. Heroes is very much like Star Trek in many ways. It's more fantastical but it's contemporary. So I told Masi... when he told me he was a Star Trek fan, I told him, "Actually, you guys of the 21st Century are the progenitors of the characters on Star Trek, because we come two centuries after you guys." There again is the whole idea of paternity continuing on.
Does the character of Kaito allow you to have any moments of levity?
George Takei: There's just a hint of the humor... more in the ironic sense, I guess, in Kaito Nakamura that I've detected in the scripts so far. I'd like to see more of that developed, but the keepers of my destiny are the writers. They dole out to me who I am and why I do what I do and what my intentions are.
Does your character get to interact with any of the other cast members?
George Takei: Oh yes, and that's part of the surprise. I've been reading the back and forth on the internet amongst Heroes fans and they like to be surprised. We on the West Coast, we get time delay... we don't like our East Coast friends to phone us and tell us how it turned out. I think it's the same with Heroes fans. They enjoy the suspense and they really revel in the surprise. When they learned that I was cast a couple of months ago, they were expecting that last shot in last week's episode. Some of the surprise element there was lost, so I won't reveal too much so that the fans can enjoy their anguished tension.
What got you into Science Fiction?
George Takei: Well, it was employment that drew me into sci-fi. (Laughs) When you're an actor you go where the work is. I was fortunate enough to get an interview with a man named Gene Roddenberry back in 1965. He cast me in Star Trek, even before that I did do an episode of The Twilight Zone.
How far do you think TV has come in having multiracial casts on TV? For example, Star Trek had that and Heroes seems to be carrying that on?
George Takei: I am absolutely astounded and fascinated and enormously proud of the fact that here is an enormously popular show, that plays entire sequences in Japanese; a foreign language with English subtitles. To play to the mass television audience with sequences like this, I think is a real advance and compliment to the audience; it's sophistication and global nature of the audience.
Are we going to meet a Mrs. Nakamura on Heroes?
George Takei: Well, that's a very good question. I hope so, I hope she hasn't died or that I'm not divorced. I know just what the writers let me in on. The audiences likes surprises so... but I'm not ruining any surprises when I say Kaito has siblings and very accomplished siblings.
Have you watched the re-imagined versions of Battlestar Galactica at all?
George Takei: No, I haven't so I really can't comment on that.
Heroes airs Mondays at 9pm on NBC.
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