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From 'Star Trek' To LGBT Spokesman, What It Takes 'To Be Takei' : NPR

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To Be Takei was an official selection for the Sundance Film Festival.

On being closeted for most of his life

To Be Takei was an official selection for the Sundance Film Festival.i

The thing that affected me in the early part of my career was ... there was a very popular box-office movie star — blond, good-looking, good actor — named Tab Hunter. He was in almost every other movie that came out. He was stunningly good-looking and all-American in looks. And then one of the scandals sheets of that time — sort of like The Enquirer of today — exposed him as gay. And suddenly and abruptly, his career came to a stop.

That was, to me, chilling and stunning. I was a young no-name actor, aspiring to build this career — and I knew that [if] it were known that I was gay, then there would be no point to my pursuing that career. I desperately and passionately wanted a career as an actor, so I chose to be in the closet. I lived a double life. And that means you always have your guard up. And it's a very, very difficult and challenging way to live a life.

It's noteworthy how much attitudes toward gay actors have changed in our lifetime.

On growing up in Japanese internment camps

I grew up imprisoned in American barbed wire prison camps simply because Japanese-Americans — American citizens of Japanese ancestry — happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. For that, we were summarily rounded up and imprisoned with no charges, and therefore we couldn't call for a trial ... and [there was] no due process.

I had just turned 5. ... The soldiers with bayoneted rifles came to our home in Los Angeles and ordered us out of [our] home.

On life after the internment camps

When we were released, I was almost 9. My baby sister was almost 5. ... She was an infant when we went in, and my younger brother was a year younger. The coming out [of the camp] was, to us kids, the most terrifying part of it because we [had] adjusted to the routine of living in imprisonment.

We were penniless. The hatred was still intense. The first job my father was able to secure was as a dishwasher in a Chinatown restaurant [in Los Angeles]. Only other Asians would hire us. Our first home was on Skid Row. That was really traumatic for us — the stench of urine everywhere.

It sounds like he had a difficult childhood. 

It made him stronger but it must have been tough to live through.

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