In 1966, George Takei got his big break when he was cast as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on the science-fiction series "Star Trek." While the show only lasted three seasons, Takei soon became one of the most popular actors of Asian descent in Hollywood. With a career that now spans 5 decades, he's been prominently involved in hundreds of TV shows and more than 40 feature films, where he's acted alongside such Hollywood heavyweights as Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, and Richard Burton. Born in 1937 to Japanese American parents, Takei was 5 when his family was forcibly sent to an internment camp during World War II. Aside from Hollywood, his many contributions in the arts are matched by his profound accomplishments as an advocate for social justice. Previously, Takei served on the board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission. In 2004, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan.
Upon graduating from high school in 1956, Takei enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied architecture. However, a summer job on the MGM lot convinced Takei that his passions were elsewhere. So, he immediately transferred to UCLA as a theater arts major, setting his sights on becoming a professional actor.
At UCLA, it didn’t take long for him to achieve his goals. Besides performing in numerous campus plays as an undergraduate, he also started to land various smaller (but paying) roles in Hollywood. He later received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater in 1960. Then, after starting a graduate degree at UCLA, he was cast in the stage musical production "Fly Blackbird!" but was later replaced after the show moved to the east coast. Finding little work in New York, Takei returned to Los Angeles to further his studies while again appearing in TV and films, which certainly helped pay his bills. In 1964, Takei added a Master of Arts in Theatre to his growing resume.
An ardent supporter of his alma mater, Takei has recently been making some important returns to campus for a variety of noble causes. In 2019, for instance, the accomplished actor took the stage with other notable UCLA alumni at an event on campus that was part of the university's centennial celebration. For his part, Takei discussed his harrowing experiences as a child in an internment camp during World War II, before addressing how racial issues against Asian Americans (far from being eradicated) still persisted in the U.S.
More recently, in 2020, university leaders announced that Takei was to be the speaker for that year's commencement ceremony at UCLA. As a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic, however, the ceremony demanded some 21st century technology, i.e., it was the first graduation ceremony to be held entirely online. Rather fittingly, the person who helped create a vision for a better future through his role on "Star Trek" used his platform to encourage graduates to build a better world. “With the experience of the pandemic, challenge yourselves to imagine the unimagined. You have technology that dazzles the mind. Soar with it. Aspire as no others have.”