'Star Trek' actor George Takei takes another space trip, this time on 'Neighbors'
March 27, 2013 8:00 AM
George Takei guest stars in "The Neighbors."
By Rob Owen Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Star Trek" actor George Takei beams into tonight's season finale of ABC's "The Neighbors" (8:30 p.m., WTAE) as the father of alien dad Larry Bird (Simon Templeman). Grandfather arrives from the aliens' home planet of Zabvron for the cliffhanger episode "It Has Begun ... ."
A single-camera sitcom, "The Neighbors" follows the adventures of a human family that moves into a gated New Jersey community that is home to extraterrestrials who have taken human form.
"We order my son and his family to come back home to our home planet, and they refuse because they've gotten to like this planet," Mr. Takei said in a recent phone interview. The final scene also includes a cameo from another sci-fi star: Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the first "Star Wars" trilogy.
Mr. Takei previously encountered the "Star Wars" universe when he voiced a character on Cartoon Network's animated "Star Wars" series "Clone Wars."
"I'm the only 'Star Trek' actor who has crossed that bridge and worked on 'Star Wars,' and now it seems I've blazed a trail for J.J. Abrams, as he's going to be directing a 'Star Wars' film," Mr. Takei said. "But I'm the first one who boldly went."
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Mr. Takei brought up how the "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" universes cross while on the "Neighbors" set with Mr. Hamill.
"I said, working with you is very much in keeping with the whole idea of 'Star Trek,' " Mr. Takei said. Mr. Hamill questioned how, calling "Star Wars" a space fantasy as opposed to the science fiction of "Star Trek." "I said part of the driving philosophy of Starfleet is what we call IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. I took that to heart, and science fantasy is indeed part of the infinite diversity of this genre. We laughed about it particularly because [not long ago] Bill Shatner was saying 'Star Trek' is far superior to 'Star Wars.' "
That led "Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher (aka Princess Leia) to record her own rebuttal on YouTube, and the pair got into a back-and-forth.
"So I went on Facebook and said, we should all work together in concert and the real villain in this case is 'Twilight,' " Mr. Takei said. "That shut Bill up, and he did not have a retort, nor did Carrie Fisher.
"[The] so-called feud between Bill and me, it's all his fabrication." He said he sees Mr. Shatner regularly at "Star Trek" conventions.
When: 8:30 tonight, ABC.
Also starring: Jami Gertz.
"Bill has this talent for ginning up silly controversy, and there is a residual effect of all this," Mr. Takei said. When Mr. Takei married his husband, Brad Altman, in 2008, Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols (Chekov and Uhura on "Star Trek") were in the ceremony.
"We wanted to be inclusive so we sent invitations to all our 'Star Trek' colleagues, and Bill got an invitation as well. All the others responded, but Bill was the only one who did not. He never comes to any of our events. That was typical Bill.
"Two months after the wedding, he goes on YouTube and raves about George not inviting him to our wedding. We were absolutely dumbfounded," Mr. Takei said. "I happened to be driving on Sunset Boulevard a few weeks after that and there was a huge billboard [with Mr. Shatner's face on it] and that's why he made that fuss. They were advertising a new talk show, 'William Shatner's Raw Nerve,' and he needed some controversy to get some attention. That is his modus operandi."
Mr. Takei spent part of last summer in Pittsburgh filming the second season of Nickelodeon's "Supah Ninjas," where he plays a holographic grandfather to a teenage ninja, but it wasn't his first visit.
"I do 'Star Trek' conventions so I've been to Pittsburgh a few times before," he said. "The first was in the late 1970s, and I went expecting the classic vision of Pittsburgh as a steel town, and I arrived and there were all these tunnels and we came through the last tunnel and what an entrance to Pittsburgh. Bam! You come out of the tunnel and Pittsburgh hits you with glossy, glistening high rises over two historic rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela -- I love that name Monongahela, a wonderful Native American name -- and the park at the confluence."
While in town, Mr. Takei and his husband, who also serves as his manager, took in a show at the Pittsburgh Public Theater ("top notch, first rate, wonderful actors") and cites three favorite restaurants: Cioppino in the Strip, Teppanyaki Kyoto in Highland Park and NOLA in Market Square.
If there's a third season of "Supah Ninjas," Mr. Takei is torn on where he'd like to see it filmed: Paramount studios, where the first season was shot, is a short drive from his home, but he said he's also grown fond of Pittsburgh.
"I'm a city collector. I studied architecture and I'm a city kid and I fell in love with Pittsburgh," Mr. Takei said. "I call the sole of my shoe the urban tongue, and I roamed all over it this past summer when we worked there three months consecutively. I really got to get the feel and flavor and the sense of pride the people of Pittsburgh have."
A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published March 27, 2013 4:00 AM