SINGAPORE - Portraying USS Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu in the latest "Star Trek" movie comes with big shoes to fill, but the man who played the part in the TV series and six films has given his blessing to the actor currently playing the role.
Even though George Takei — whose portrayal of Sulu made him a science fiction legend — said he had not yet had time to catch recently released "Star Trek Into Darkness" due to his busy schedule, he feels John Cho is the "ideal choice" to carry on Sulu's legacy due to the actor's "charm, intelligence, dash and sharpness."
"When (director) J.J. Abrams first announced he had cast Hikaru Sulu, I got a call from John (Cho) asking to have lunch with me," Takei said Friday in Singapore, where he attended the inaugural Social Star Awards. "He was very curious about the intensity of 'Star Trek' fans and doing comic conventions, but he was more concerned about how the fans would accept him because they have identified the character of Sulu with me for so long and he was worried about how he would be received."
"So I told him that it wouldn't be too long before I'll be known as the guy who played John Cho's part, and he was comforted by that," Takei said with a laugh.
Takei, who's 76 and lives in Los Angeles, has had a tremendous following in recent times, with more than 4 million fans on his Facebook page sharing "Star Trek" trivia and news about his current projects.
"People used to think of him as that guy from 'Star Trek,' but now they recognize him as George Takei," said his manager and partner, Brad Takei. "So in other words, his popularity in social media has brought a new generation of fans, and he is now very popular with younger people."
The Japanese-American Takei said Abrams at first had his doubts about casting "Harold & Kumar" star Cho, who is Korean-American, to portray Sulu.
"He told me that he looked hard for a Japanese-American to play Sulu and asked me what I thought of his choice to cast someone not of that lineage," Takei said. "To me, so long as the character remains Asian-American, that would be all that matters."