Actor and activist George Takei burst Real Time host Bill Maher’s fandom bubble on Friday when he discussed his longtime rift with fellow Star Trek star William Shatner.
“Canadians have a certain image of being even-tempered and friendly and all that,” Takei said of Shatner. “Well, he is a person who is that way with himself. He is very self-centered.”
The two were professionals, Takei said, so he was able to work with Shatner, though it could be difficult.
“Not like you’re gonna drive the ship into a Death Star to spite him,” Maher said to Takei, who played helmsman Hikaru Sulu in the franchise’s original series.
“The temptation [was] there at times,” Takei replied, jokingly.
Takei also said that Shatner was the only member of the original cast not to know he is gay, though the rest of his Enterprise “crewmates” never brought it up publicly out of fear the news would damage his career prospects at the time.
Maher pointed out that in Takei’s new biographical documentary, he discusses pitching a story to the series’ creator, Gene Roddenberry, in which the show would address gay rights issues through the use of a metaphor, similar to episodes addressing race and other contemporary topics.
Takei said Roddenberry was responsive to the idea, but demurred in part because of the blackout the show incurred in Southern television stations after it featured an interracial kiss between Capt. Kirk (Shatner) and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols).
“He was treading a very tight rope, because of the fact that he was dealing with issues,” Takei explained. “Television [was] not known for dealing with contemporary issues. He said that if we pushed the envelope too far, then he wouldn’t be able to deal with any issue at all.”
Watch Maher’s interview with Takei, as posted online on Friday, below.