George Takei is continuing to expand his domination of the internet. The star, probably originally most recognizable as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek, already has a web empire built. His Facebook page has over 10 million likes, his Facebook original show has 9 Million. He's on Twitter, Instagram, and the Guacamoley! website.
George Takei might be one of the most active people on the internet already, and now he's extending that reach to the App world. Takei has joined TraceMe, a free app – founded by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is designed to:
"…let celebrities and content owners tell their own stories, offer fans experiences they won't find anywhere else, and build a powerful community. We're changing how fans engage with their favorite stars in every field, and we're super excited to give George's massive fan base a chance to interact with him and with each other in a whole new way."
I had the chance to chat with George Takei over the phone about joining the app, political activism, and the evolution of technology.
DHK: You've got such a formidable online presence already, what do you take into consideration when you're entering a new endeavour like TraceMe?
Takei: Well, what makes this special, we've been very successful with Facebook – and now TraceMe offers even higher quality opportunity to get much more personal, intimate, and relaxed, forthright with my fans. That's what prompted this change, not this change but expansion to TraceMe.
DHK: Do you sleep? I feel like you're constantly putting out content? You are the most on the ball person on the internet possibly.
Takei: You know I lead a very intense life. I had a press conference yesterday morning with state legislators. I had a mid day doctors appointment, and evening on Lawrence O'Donnell and had to do a little homework for Lawrence O'Donnell. So it's a very full life, so yes it takes organization to devote some time to the fans, but they are the people who make your career. So I make that time. Fortunately I have a very good team, spearheaded by my hubby Brad. So they take most of the load off for me, and I get to do the other things life demands of me.
DHK: I'm sure you get this a lot, but in terms of Asian and Asian American representation you were IT for a long time in mainstream US media – you're an advocate for diversity on that front, you're an advocate for LGBTQ rights – how is this app going to magnify the messages of diversity and representation?
Takei: Well the thing is, you know, social media has that – you know when I was – I was gonna say a teenager but even as an adult, I had no idea I'd have the opportunity to have a global community. The word "community" in quotes. And social media allows us to do that. With TraceMe it's without the interruption or disruption of those bothersome things called trolls. There you have a higher quality conversation without those disruptions so it's a wonderful new development and expansion of the opportunity to work with fans.
DHK: Speaking of conversation, so this sounds like it's very much going to be a two way street. What's something that fans and audiences can do to help amplify these causes and continue circulating this conversation? Because obviously you'll be putting content out there, but how can they help outwardly?
Takei: Well for example, yesterday morning I had a press conference with the state legislators in Beverly Hills. We were able to get diversity language into a bill that provides tax credits, California tax credits to productions that are applying for that sort of financial perk. Having that language of inclusiveness, of diversity, particularly people of color, women, and this day and age now the Muslim voice needs to be heard. Getting that language into a bill was so important and we succeeded in getting that on that bill. With this community, without the disruption, we're able to speak positively and effectively and much more efficiently without those disruptions.
DHK: I feel like we live in an actual world of science fiction these days – sometimes it feels a bit more dystopian than one would hope, but for you what do you think the biggest technological development over the last 50 years that has impacted you has been?
Takei: Well, exactly 52 years ago we premiered Star Trek, and it wasn't a sensation back then, we were very low rated. But Gene Roddenberry who created the show, had this great vision of our future. And some of the technology that was so amazing back then is now passe in our time, the 21st century. For example we wore these little devices on our hip, and we walked all over the Starship Enterprise, and we'd flip it open and start talking. And back in 1966 or the 60s, people were amazed. There's no cord and it's tiny! And we could be talking on it. Now not only do we talk on it, we watch movies on it, we buy things on it. We do all sorts of things on our phone, iPhone. So what was amazing science fiction 52 years ago in the specific case of Star Trek has now been achieved and is behind us. And we're boldly going where other things haven't gone before. The thing that I still devoutly pray for the early development of is that device which we called the transporter. Where we stepped on a pad, and sparkly energy went through us and we beamed over to our destination in a matter of seconds. (Laughs) We avoid then: airports, airport security, lost luggage and all that. That's something of a future technology I pray for.
DHK: It would certainly make life more convenient, I'd also take a replicator. Food for free? I'm down. (Takei laughs) So speaking of 52 years ago, if you went back and told yourself you'd have an online empire, do you think you would have believed yourself? Or even comprehend what the communication cultural shift would be – from something like television where it's just recorded one way outward – to this global and local conversation?
Takei: I would never, I mean I'm a pretty imaginative guy, and I would NEVER have imagined something like TraceMe where I'm going to be talking to people in Prague, the Czech Republic, and he or she might be talking to someone in Singapore. And I'd be contributing to that conversation, you know it's an amazing world that we live in today. I don't think even the most visionary of futurists back then in the 60's of the 20th century would have imagined, and I certainly didn't think I'd be living in this world today with all we have going for us now.
DHK: This is a slightly broader question, but how do you define success now versus earlier in your career?
Takei: Oh it's so different, early in my career, you know you just pray for that wonderful role that you got and that you interviewed for. But now our world has become so much larger and more complex and more broad. It's a whole different world altogether, and success in this world, ultimately I think, is to find inner happiness, inner peace, and a sense of fulfillment in having contributed to making this world a better one? How was that (laughs)?
DHK: That sounds like a great definition of success! Just one has to come to terms with over the course of maturing in your life (laughs). I think it's tougher for younger people to not go "where's the role, where's the role?"
Takei: Yeah, and you know the people today still want more power or more money or more more more. And I think ultimately the greatest reward is having found the truth in who you are and feel that you've used your life in a positive way.
DHK: One positive impact is you're incredibly outspoken about Japanese internment during World War 2.
[user_id][user_id]Takei: Japanese AMERICAN. Not Japanese, they were in the United States. We were incarcerated in Arkansas and later transferred to a camp in California. Japanese internment camps were run by the Japanese government. The camps that we were put in were run by the United States government to imprison American citizens of Japanese ancestry here in some of the most desolate places in the United States. So let's get that clear.
DHK: Please forgive my misspeaking. However I feel like we are unfortunately living through a repetition of that in a sense. It might not necessarily be Americans, but we are still interning people here. Do you envision using TraceMe as a mobilization of political action in addition to just getting the message out there?
Takei: Well, TraceMe is an opportunity for me to really share forthright, candid, conversations with my fans. Having had the childhood experience that I had behind American barbed wire fences, that is a part of my life, and I share that with my fans. I think Americans throughout the country have learned from that chapter of American history. Because when Trump signed the first travel ban, thousands of people across the country rushed to their respective airports to protest that. Lawyers went to airports to volunteer, pro bono, their services. The Deputy Attorney General of the United States – Sally Yates – refused to defend that Executive Order. The PEOPLE have learned, it's just that guy who occupies public housing on Pennsylvania Avenue. That house that's painted white. That guy – if you know who I mean (laughs). So yes I will be very much me. That's the wonderful opportunity with TraceMe. I get to be who I am and share who I am with people. You know I'm a fun loving guy, I'm a passionate theater lover, but I am also a political activist.
DHK: One of the other interesting things about TraceMe is you already have interesting and creative collaborators already on board. So living or dead, who is someone you'd like to work with or collaborate with in any field, that you haven't already?
Takei: Well this was about a year ago, I was interviewed by Neil Degrasse Tyson for his podcast, and he is an absolutely fascinating guy with really powerful ideas about, well humankind and the universe we live in. He is really a fantastic person to spend some time with.
DHK: What is a guilty pleasure of yours?
Takei: (Laughs) I am a chocoholic, you know on planes, on long flights they roll out the trolley at dessert time, and there's that frosty goblet of vanilla ice cream. And Brad is sitting right next to me looking at me, and I just can't resist it. There's that dish of glistening deep dark chocolate syrup, and so I tell them "I'm on a diet, let's eliminate the whipped cream and the nuts and the cherries and make up for it with gobs and gobs of chocolate syrup" (laughs) I feel very guilty and I feel very pleasured.
DHK: My last question is what inspires you?
Takei: To be a chocoholic (laughs)?
DHK: That, or in life!
Takei: I think people who have greatness and share their philosophy, and go beyond themselves. I think of a quote from President Obama – I hope I get it right. "Justice grows out of the recognition of ourselves in others. That my liberty depends on my respect for yours" and there's more to that quote that I memorized but you caught me off guard (laughs) I don't know the rest of it right now. But it's really, I think capturing something that's very important. To recognize our commonality. How we are interconnected, and that's how we find justice. And so when we see what's going on with the southern border, with Mexico, and all that's going on. These people are fleeing, literally for their lives. They come from horrible conditions: of violence and chaos. People have seen their love ones killed in front of them, and with their children they're fleeing. There's got to be humanity to accept them and try to make their lives a little better. What is going on there on that border is absolutely cruel, evil, and something that is un American.
And here I got political!
DHK: That's fine I asked you a bunch of political questions anyway (laughs). Thank you so much for your time, it's been an honor, and I look forward to seeing your content on TraceMe!
TraceMe is available on the App Store and on Google Play. Thanks again to George Takei for taking the time to speak with us.