Star Trek Beyond: Sulu’s Sexuality–Hot Issue (LGBTQ, Gay)

Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu’s sexual orientation was a hot topic at the Star Trek Beyond premiere in London.

“It is definitely high time for an LGBT character to be included in the Star Trek universe,” Zachary Quinto, who is openly gay, told the BBC Tuesday, adding that the LGBT community had “long advocated for representation” in the franchise. “We’ve been really excited by the response, particularly from young people, who have been inspired and motivated by this turn toward progress.”

The revelation that Sulu, played by John Cho, would be gay was made last week, prompting the original actor, George Takei, to say that the decision to use an already established Star Trek figure rather than a new character was “really unfortunate.”

Co-writer and star Simon Pegg responded in a statement, saying that he “respectfully disagreed” with Takei, and that he, fellow writer Doug Jung and director Justin Lin “loved” the idea of the gay character being someone already known.

“It was not something that was flippant,” added Lin in London. “It was something a lot of thought went into. George Takei is entitled to his opinion, but at the end of the day, I’m the gatekeeper for this and I think it’s in the spirit of what Gene Roddenberry wanted.”

Sulu himself, Cho, said that he was concerned about the decision because he knew that Takei was “a gay man who had played a straight character.”

“I know he felt a fair bit of ownership of that character, and legitimately so,” he added. “I was also worried that it might be inferred that we were somehow suggesting that sexuality was a choice. But I don’t think anyone has inferred that, and we’re certainly not saying that.”

As for Captain Kirk, Chris Pine admitted that he didn’t expect the subject to become such a big deal. “I’m a little stunned there’s been so much attention given to it,” he said.

Star Trek Beyond will have its U.S. premiere at Comic-Con on July 20.