August 2018 - Cover Story: Getting "Trumpy" with George Takei
You don’t expect an interview with George Takei to begin with a discussion about Breaking Bad, but we were happy to hear that the Star Trek star knew where we were and was enjoying a show that using New Mexico as their backdrop. “I’ve been so busy with projects that I haven’t been able to watch the series,” Takei shared, “So Brad [my husband] and I have been binge-watching it and we love it.” He shared our excitement when we would recognize Albuquerque landmarks while watching the show. That excitement has created tours and fan videos. “It must be so much fun to see the different places that were used on the show and know where they are.”
But today wasn’t about his love of this groundbreaking show, although we agree with his assessment. Today was about learning about Takei’s latest project that combines two of his favorite things: his disgust for Trump and his love of cats. That’s right, Takei has created an app that he hopes will relieve some of the frustration America and the world is feeling from the President. “That man, I will not call him my President, has proven himself to be an embarrassment for this country. He has divided this country. He is a horrible example of someone that should be in charge. He has made many in this country upset and I hope that this app can offer some laughter in a very trying time in government.” The app, House of Cats, uses cool new Pokemón GO style augmented reality features that users can take the inaugural character Trumpy Cat out of the White House and put him anywhere they want, add outrageous dialogue, of their own or taken straight from the Tweeter-in-Chief, and share with friends. Trump has provided the country with memorable sound bites during his time in office thus far and those quotes are one of the fun features of the app. When you touch “Trumpy Cat” you will hear one of the many soundbites that Trump given the world. Takei talked about how the content of the app will grow over time due to Trump’s expected tweets and press conferences. “The great thing is he will always provide us with some ridiculous response during this presidency, so we will have content that can be added to the app for years to come.” The app will also allow you to record audio, so Trumpy Cat repeats whatever you say. “This is without a doubt one of the most absurd and tragic moments in U.S. history," said Takei. "We should feel upset about some of the things that are happening, but we created this app so we can laugh about some of the more ridiculous stuff."
Takei has watched as Trump seems to be repeating history with some of the decisions made in this presidency and it hits close to home. Takei was a strong activist during the civil rights movement appearing in musicals like Fly Blackbird. He had the opportunity to meet Martin Luther King Jr who attended and wanted to meet the cast. “It was a wonderful experience. He was a wonderful man.” But his passion for democracy and the need for government to remember what it meant started at the age of five when Takei’s family was rounded up and put into Japanese internment camps. “Without due process, the fundamental pillar of our justice system, we were summarily rounded up, all Japanese Americans where we were primarily resident on the West Coast and sent off to 10 barb wire internment camps in some of the most desolate places in this country,” shared Takei. “That is why it is important for good people to be actively engaged in the process, sometimes holding democracy accountable so we can have a true democracy.” Even though the administration has made some questionable decisions, Takei feels America will come through this. “The United States is a strong country. It has been through plenty of trials and tribulations. We will get through this presidency together as a nation and heal in the process.”
A percentage of the net proceeds will go to benefit Refugees International (RI - www.refugeesinternational.org), a non-profit organization that advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises. We are an independent organization, and do not accept any government or UN funding.* “They are doing some great work helping refugees in this country,” stated Takei. As stated on their website, Refugees International refusal of accepting funds for government organizations enables them to speak freely about underlying policies that are working well and where global action falls short. The humanitarian groups that respond to refugee and IDP crises often view the organization as an ally, since they can communicate needs and challenges through their robust advocacy in ways they often cannot.
Although Takei has been flexing his political muscles, it has not stopped him from taking on new projects. He talked about some new films and books that will be coming soon. “I just finished a movie called American, where I play a veteran who volunteers at the Japanese American National Museum. There, I meet a mother and her daughter, and this interaction starts to trigger events that happened in the war. It is a absolutely powerful film.” Takei also added his voice to a new upcoming animated film called Blazing Samurai, inspired by the 1974 comedy film by Mel Brooks, Blazing Saddles. “I play Ohga, the henchman to Ika Chu, he’s voiced by Ricky Gervais. It is a fun film.” He is also working on a graphic novel based on his time in the internment camps of Arkansas as a child.
You can definitely say of George Takei that he is not a man who sat back and kept quiet. His experiences as a child and young adult has allowed him to become a vocal advocate for citizens in the country and those still seeking refuge in it. When it comes to what he would like his legacy to be, Takei simply said, “That I lived a good life. It was a hard life, but I did the best of what I was given.” Whether it was making people think or making them laugh, it’s safe to say that George Takei will leave a mark in this world and will continue to fight the good fight until that day comes.