For openly gay "Star Trek" icon George Takei, the unexpected rise of Donald Trump to the Presidency has taken on a deeper and more personal meaning. In his youth Takei, who is of Japanese descent, spent several years in an internment camp — during WWII the United States government kept countless Japanese Americans, none of whom had committed any crimes, under lock and key in the aftermath of the bombing of Hawaii's Pearl Harbor by the Japanese government.
During his controversial campaign, Trump spoke of building a wall between the United States and Mexico. The President-elect has also suggested a ban on Muslims entering the country and a possible "Muslim registry". Trump continues to promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants as soon as he takes office.
"I was hoping Trump would moderate his words and behavior with the thought of the Presidency becoming reality but now with his selection of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General I sense something ominous beginning to rise," Takei told SFGN, speaking from his home in Los Angeles. "I’m worried. And he has done little to quell many of his own supporters’ actions, which also has me worried. The sight of neo-nazi’s sieg heiling in victory, just blocks away from the White House, was chilling."
The President-elect has since made a few brief comments in which he denounced hate, but Takei feels that these statements weren't enough. "Trump must do more to distance himself from such hate groups and to moderate his own rhetoric and actions that seem always to divide and point blame rather than bring us together," the actor said.
On December 13 Takei's recent show "Allegiance", was was performed in San Diego and New York, will screen in cinemas nationwide. The show was taped before a live audience. "Allegiance" might resonate even more intensely for audiences who see it today--"Allegiance" is a musical which recalls the Japanese internment camps.
"'Allegiance' follows the story of a Japanese American family caught up in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the internment," Takei explained. "The storyline centers around a brother and a sister who choose fatefully different paths in response to their unjust incarceration. "Allegiance" involves two love stories that blossomed behind those barbed wire fences. The fracturing of the family in "Allegiance" metaphorically represents the rupture of the Japanese American community under the strains of the internment years."
Takei plays dual roles in the show. "In the beginning, I am the older version of Sam Kimura, in the present, looking back on his life," he said. "I am an old veteran with a big chip on my shoulder over what transpired those many decades ago. But once we go back in time, to the story that took place just before, during and just after the war, I play another character, Ojii-chan, which means grandfather in Japanese. Ojii-chan is a jovial old farmer who helps anchor the Kimura family in their Japanese culture and traditions."
Takei, now an "elder-statesman" for both the acting profession and for the LGBT community, spoke warmly of Telly Leung, the young openly gay Asian actor who co-stars in "Allegiance".
"Telly is an enormously gifted and disciplined artist who has the promise of becoming a commanding star," Takei said. "He is my hope for the future of Asian Americans in theater, film, television and the performing arts generally – a multi-talented star. And he also happens to be a great friend."
Both actors share their admiration for each other.
"George is one of the hardest working men in show business," Leung told SFGN. "At 78, he did eight shows a week, he never missed a show, and his stamina and dedication to the story we were telling, his story, was an inspiration to the entire company. He also found the time and energy to be a top-notch, warm, generous human being."
Leung shares many of Takei's concerns for the future under a Trump presidency. "Trump's surrogates have suggested that the Japanese-American internment was a lawful and justified precedent for the intense vetting of Muslims entering the US," Leung said. "This eerily echoes the kind of speech and rhetoric of 1942, when Executive Order 9066 forced thousands of Japanese-Americans to relocate to camps because of prejudice, fear, war hysteria and poor political leadership."
The actors also expressed their concern for the future of gay rights, as Mr. Trump has appointed a number of openly anti-LGBT people to his cabinet.
"No one, not a single appointment, is an advocate for the LGBTQ community," Leung pointed out. "In fact, many of them have been vocal about their opposition to marriage equality. Trump has said he, himself, is a supporter of LGBT rights, but actions speak louder than words."
But Leung isn't giving up. "I am confident that the LGBTQ community will fight relentlessly for equality," he said. "The spirit of those first, feisty, brave brothers and sisters at Stonewall, the spirit of Harvey Milk, the spirit of Edith Windsor, it is something we have in our DNA as a community, and we will not have our rights taken away without a good fight."
"We need to be ever vigilant," added Takei. "He (Trump) has begun to appoint very troubling people to his cabinet, with the transition team headed by the most anti-LGBT Vice President in our history. Many of his short list picks for the Supreme Court are publicly anti-LGBT, some even saying that consensual gay sex should be criminalized."
These are some of the messages which Takei hopes people will take from Allegiance. "We live in a time when we again hear the chilling words of irrational fear and hatred against Muslims, as well as Mexicans and trans people," he said. "We must never allow the mass hysteria and racism that happened to Japanese Americans during WWII to ever be inflicted again on other minorities. If there is any takeaway from our show, it is to demonstrate that this type of massive tragedy not only did happen, but could happen again to another group if we are not vigilant against the excesses of our own democracy."
"Allegiance" will screen on December 13 at the Cypress Creek 16 in Ft Lauderdale, the Broward 18 in Pompano Beach, and the Silverspot Cinema in Coconut Creek.
Ticket Info: http://fathomevents.com/event/allegiance