George Takei had a flashback to his childhood during World War II on the set of AMC’s series The Terror: Infamy. “When I saw the replica of the internment camp, I immediately recognized it,” George says. “The mess hall, the cacophony, the noise. It really took me back.”
The actor, 82, best known as Mr. Sulu on Star Trek, has been spending a lot of time reflecting on this period of his life lately. In addition to his role on The Terror: Infamy, which takes place in a detention camp, he wrote a graphic novel about his childhood, They Called Us Enemy, which has become a bestseller. “To tell this story is the completion of my life’s mission,” he tells Closer Weekly.
George remembers the day his family became among the 120,000 Japanese-Americans detained by the U.S. government in the aftermath of Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. “We saw two soldiers marching up our driveway. Literally at gunpoint we were ordered out of our home in Los Angeles,” he recalls. “That was the beginning.”
In the camp, his parents tried to protect George, his brother and their baby sister. “My father told me that we were on a long vacation in a place called Arkansas. That sounded exotic,” says George. “We remained a family, and I credit that alone for keeping the scars of our unjust imprisonment from deepening on my soul. I was 5 years old when I was imprisoned and 8-and-a-half when I came out.”
His family returned to L.A. to start over. “Jobs were very difficult. Housing was impossible. The hatred was still intense,” says George, who recalls his sister, when confronted with prejudice and malice, crying that she wanted to return “home” to the prison camp. “Her whole life had been spent behind barbed wire,” he says.
George hopes that telling these stories “will remind people that prejudice still exists today. It’s our hope that enough Americans will try to keep this from recurring to make it a better, truer democracy.”
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