LOS ANGELES (AP) — Much has been made of the decision to reveal that the “Star Trek” character Sulu is gay in the latest franchise installment “Star Trek Beyond,” but for actor John Cho, one of the most important things was ensuring that Sulu’s husband was also of Asian descent.
“Originally we weren’t even sure if the husband was going to be human,” Cho said. “When I thought about it, I wanted two things: I wanted the parents to look as traditional as possible. And because he was gay, the Asian and Asian thing would ironically be super radical.”
The choice, Cho said, was partially intended as a “valentine” to a gay friend he had growing up.
“I always felt it was harder being gay and Asian than any other combination. I thought the cultural stigma was the thickest on the Asian boys I knew,” Cho said. “It would be appropriate that in the future it would look very much like what we tend to see in heterosexual families. It’s kind of inside baseball, but that was important to me.”
Director Justin Lin said producer Lindsey Weber had her eye on someone quite close by for the part: “Star Trek Beyond” co-writer Doug Jung.
“We thought there’s no way Doug’s going to do it,” Lin said. “He said no, I’m not doing it. I’m a writer.”
Cho figured they were just teasing Jung at first.
But the writer gave in eventually, somewhat out of necessity. The production was having trouble finding someone in Dubai willing to take on the role, Cho said.
In the film, out Friday, the couple is seen reuniting after the crew has returned from a long voyage. They embrace and walk off with their young daughter.
Beside moving the needle in an already historically progressive series, co-writer and co-star Simon Pegg noted that it was also an important moment in the story itself — giving the audience a tangible sense of why that community, which will come under siege later in the film, is precious.
“If it had just been a faceless mass, it still wouldn’t have quite resonated as well as it did with those two people who we know are Sulu’s beloved family,” Pegg said.
While there have been myriad debates over the original intent of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry with regards to Sulu’s sexuality, namely from George Takei, who both originated Sulu and is a vocal LGBTQ advocate in his personal life, fans have seemed largely on board. The creators of the new story are standing their ground, too, in their creative decision.
“It felt like the way to make it a non-event. Like, ‘Oh yeah, you know this guy? Here’s also something you didn’t know,'” Pegg said. “If you resist it, you’re not a ‘Star Trek’ fan.”
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