4/20/1937 (85 years old) Los Angeles, California, United States
While it's impossible to completely separate this Japanese-American actor from his seminal part as helmsman Hikaru Sulu on the original Star Trek series, Takei has enjoyed more varied roles than many of his ST costars, both on and off screen. Born in the U.S., Takei and his family were sent to an internment camp during World War II because of their ancestry, a harrowing experience he recounted in his 1994 memoir To the Stars. An aspiring actor from an early age, Takei began working professionally while still a student at UCLA. He tackled a plethora of TV guest spots and small film roles before signing on to the Starship Enterprise crew in 1966. Although the series wasn't initially a hit, it became a mega-smash in reruns, spawning an animated series and a slew of films, six of which costarred Takei. Of course the show's success was a double-edged sword: Except for ST-related projects, his career dramatically slowed down because he had trouble shaking his Sulu image. Perhaps this stirred him to pursue outside interests: From 1971 to '73, he hosted the local Los Angeles public-affairs series Expression East/West, in 1972 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and the next year he ran for city council. Although he lost, then-mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, where he served until 1984. He also found time to coauthor the sci-fi novel Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe. In the '90s and '00s, Takei popped up as himself in myriad sitcom cameos (Futurama, Will & Grace, Watching Ellie) and was a frequent guest on Howard Stern's radio show. Takei's distinctive, baritone timbre was instantly recognizable, and Stern and his gang often replayed a sound byte of him exclaiming, "Oh my!" which became a sort of unofficial catchphrase. In October 2005, the actor and activist revealed that he was gay and publicly introduced his partner of 18 years (they married three years later). Perhaps this helped shake up his image, because he enjoyed an incredible resurgence in popularity over the next few years. When Stern moved to Sirius satellite radio, Takei became his semiregular announcer. And in 2007, in a brilliant casting move, Takei landed a recurring role on the hot sci-fi series Heroes, as the mysterious, possibly villainous father of the time-bending, comic-loving Hiro. Takei remains active in both the industry and civic affairs, from TV and stage appearances to guest narrating for various symphony orchestras.