Exclusive - George Takei Extended Interview

  • Aired:  07/23/14
  •  | Views: 60,081

George Takei, the subject of the documentary "To Be Takei," describes the time he spent in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. (9:07)

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT, AN ACTOR ANDAN ACTIVIST, THE NEW DOCUMENTARY

FILM ABOUT HIS LIFE IS CALLED"TO BE TAKEI."

>> GEORGE IS THE LOVE OF MYLIFE.

I'M PROUD OF HIM.

>> I'VE HEARD THAT BEFORE.

>> HE'S, HE'S WONDERFUL.

>> WELL, IF YOU SEE HIM TALKINGTO ME SOMETIMES, YOU WOULDN'T

THINK SO.

>> I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THATANSWER.

>> HE'S ARGUMENTATIVE AND I'MDEFENSIVE.

>> NOTICE EVERY TIME GEORGE SAYSSOMETHING SERIOUS ABOUT OUR

RELATIONSHIP HE ALWAYS LAUGHSIMMEDIATELY AFTERWARDS.

[LAUGHTER]>> PLEASE WELCOME GEORGE TAKEI.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]WELCOME.

>> GOOD TO BE HERE.

>> Jon: SO NICE TO SEE YOU.

THIS DOCUMENTARY ABOUT YOURLIFE, "TO BE TAKEI," THERE IS AN

AWFUL LOT IN IT THAT ISINTERESTING AND FASCINATING.

WE CAN TALK ABOUT YOUR TIME ON"STAR TREK," YOUR RELATIONSHIPS,

YOUR FIGHT FOR EQUAL RIGHTS INMARRIAGE, ALL THOSE THINGS.

IF YOU DON'T MIND, THERE ISSOMETHING IN THERE THAT I

THOUGHT WAS SO INTERESTING, ANDTHAT WAS YOUR FAMILY'S TIME IN

INTERNMENT CAMPS DURING WORLDWAR II.

>> THAT'S RIGHT.

>> Jon: I WAS, I WAS STUNNED TOSEE THAT.

I DID NOT KNOW THAT.

>> YOU KNOW, THAT'S... YOU'RENOT THAT UNUSUAL.

THERE ARE SO MANY...

[LAUGHTER]WELL, YOU ARE UNUSUAL IN ONE

RESPECT.

>> Jon: YES, NO, I UNDERSTAND. IUNDERSTAND.

I'M NOT BRAD.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO MAKE IT UP TOME.

I DON'T CARE.

>> OH, I HAVE TO DO A LOT OFMAKING UP WITH HIM AFTER I DO

"THE HOWARD STERN SHOW."

>> Jon: OH NO, I CAN IMAGINE.

>> BUT ON THIS SHOW... TOO FEWPEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THAT DARK

CHAPTER OF AMERICAN HISTORY.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> WHEN AMERICAN CITIZENS OFJAPANESE ANCESTRY WERE SUMMARILY

ROUNDED UP WITH NO CHARGES, NOTRIAL, NO DUE PROCESS, YOU KNOW,

THE CORE PILLAR OF OURJUSTICE SYSTEM, AND PUT

IN BARBWIRE PRISON CAMPS SIMPLYBECAUSE WE HAPPENED TO LOOK LIKE

THE THE PEOPLE THATBOMBED PEARL HARBOR.

NOW, I WAS, I HAD JUST TURNEDFIVE YEARS OLD.

AND, I STILL REMEMBER THAT DAYWHEN MY PARENTS DRESSED MY

BROTHER AND MY BABY SISTERAND ME. THEY GOT US UP VERY

EARLY IN THE MORNING AND DRESSEDUS HURRIEDLY.

WE WERE IN THE LIVING ROOM, MYBROTHER AND I, LOOKING OUT THE

WINDOW, AND WE SAW TWO AMERICANSOLDIERS MARCHING UP THE

DRIVEWAY WITH BAYONETS ON THEIRRIFLES.

THEY STOMPED UP THE FRONT PORCH,BANGED ON THE DOOR, AND MY

FATHER ANSWERED IT AND WE WERELITERALLY ORDERED OUT OF OUR

HOME AT GUNPOINT.

MY PARENTS HAD LITTLE LUGGAGESFOR US TO CARRY.

AND, WE WENT OUT AND WE WERESTANDING IN THE DRIVEWAY WAITING

FOR MY MOTHER TO COME OUT.

AND WHEN SHE DID COME OUT, SHEWAS CARRYING THE BABY IN ONE

ARM, A HUGE DUFFEL BAG IN THEOTHER AND TEARS WERE

STREAMING DOWN HER FACE.

IT'S A PICTURE I'LL NEVER BEABLE TO FORGET.

AND WE WERE BEHIND THOSEBARBWIRE FENCES FOR THE DURATION

OF THE WAR.

WE WERE SENT... THERE WERE TENCAMPS ALL TOGETHER, ALL IN THE

MOST DESOLATE PLACES, HELLISHPLACES.

THERE WERE TWO ON THE BLISTERINGHOT DESERT OF ARIZONA, IF YOU

CAN IMAGINE THAT.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> WE WERE SENT TO THE SWAMPS OFARKANSAS.

AND THERE WERE OTHERS IN THEWASTELANDS OF WYOMING, IDAHO,

UTAH, COLORADO.

IT WAS A DARK CHAPTER OFAMERICAN HISTORY.

>> Jon: COULD YOU UNDERSTANDAS A CHILD WHAT HAD HAPPENED?

DID YOUR, DID YOUR FATHER, DIDYOUR MOTHER, WERE THEY ABLE TO

IMPART TO YOU WHAT THIS WAS?

I MEAN, I CAN'T IMAGINE IT WOULDMAKE ANY SENSE.

IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE NOW, BUTWHAT DID YOU THINK WAS

HAPPENING?

>> WELL, MY PARENTS TOLD US THATWE WERE GOING FOR A LONG

VACATION TO A PLACE CALLEDARKANSAS, AND THAT SOUNDED

EXOTIC, ARKANSAS.

[LAUGHTER]WE'D NEVER HEARD OF THAT PLACE.

AND A VACATION.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, WHEN WE PUT ONTHESE TRAINS WITH ARMED GUARDS

AT BOTH ENDS OF EACH CAR, BEINGTREATED LIKE CRIMINALS.

>> Jon: AMERICAN CITIZENS.

>> INNOCENT AMERICAN CITIZENS.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> NO CHARGES. YOU KNOW, ITHOUGHT EVERYONE TOOK THEIR

VACATIONS WITH GUARDS LIKE THAT.

[AUDIENCE REACTS]

>> Jon: RIGHT. FOR FIVE YEARS...>> FOR FIVE YEARS.

>> Jon: TO ARKANSAS.

>> WELL, FOUR, FOUR AND A HALFYEARS I THINK.

>> Jon: FOUR AND A HALF YEARS.

>> AND, YOU KNOW, IN THE CAMPSWHEN I MADE THE NIGHT RUNS FROM

THE BARRACK TO THE LATRINE,SEARCH LIGHTS FOLLOWED ME,

BUT FIVE-YEAR-OLD ME THOUGHTIT WAS KIND OF NICE THAT THEY

LIT THE WAY FOR ME TO PEE, YOUKNOW?

I WAS AN INNOCENT CHILD.

[LAUGHTER]AND, ANOTHER SCENE I REMEMBER

NOW AS AN ADULT IS EVERYMORNING AT SCHOOL,

AND THEY HAD SCHOOLS IN THOSEBARRACKS, WE STARTED THE

DAY WITH THE PLEDGE OFALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG.

I COULD SEE THE BARBWIREFENCE...

>> Jon: IN THIS CAMP.

>> IN THIS CAMP.

>> Jon: THAT THEY HADTAKEN YOU TO. TAKEN YOU FROM

YOUR HOME AND PUT YOU IN THISCAMP.

>> AND THERE WAS THE AMERICANFLAG FLYING OVER THE CAMP, BUT I

COULD ALSO SEE THE BARBWIREFENCE AND THE SENTRY TOWERS WITH

THE MACHINE GUNS POINTED AT USFROM MY SCHOOLHOUSE WINDOW AS I

RECITED THE WORDS "WITHLIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL,"

AN INNOCENT KID, RECITINGWORDS THAT --.

>> Jon: IT'S STUNNING.DID, DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR

PARENTS CARRYING ANYTHING WITHTHEM, LIKE ANGER OR BITTERNESS?

IT'S THE TYPE OF THING I,I, I CAN'T IMAGINE EVER GETTING

OVER EMOTIONALLY OR FORGIVING?

>> MY PARENTS, AND ESPECIALLY MYFATHER, WAS VERY UNUSUAL MAN.

I REMEMBER ON THE TRAIN HE SPOKEVERY LITTLE.

HE, HE WAS STOIC.

BUT ONCE WE GOT TO THE CAMP, HEREALIZED THAT WE HAD TO DO

SOMETHING TO SURVIVE THERE.

AND BECAUSE HE SPOKE JAPANESEAND ENGLISH FLUENTLY AND THAT

WAS NECESSARY, YOU KNOW, TOCOMMUNICATE WITH THE OLDER

PEOPLE AND ALSO TO COMMUNICATEWITH THE YOUNGER AMERICAN-BORN

PEOPLE, HE WAS ELECTED BLOCKMANAGER, SORT OF LIKE, YOU KNOW,

THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CAMP.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> AND HE STARTED TAKING CHARGE,YOU KNOW.

IN ARKANSAS WHEN IT RAINED, THEENTIRE CAMP TURNED INTO A SWAMP,

MUCKY, AND OLDER PEOPLE, YOUKNOW, COULDN'T MAKE THAT TREK TO

THE MESS HALL THREE TIMES A DAY.

THEIR FEET WOULD SINK INTO THEMUCK.

AND SO HE ORGANIZED TEAM OFYOUNG PEOPLE, YOUNG MEN TO BUILD

A BOARDWALK FROM EACH OF THEBARRACKS TO THE MESS HALL,

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> THE PLACE THEY HAD TO GO TOTHREE TIMES A DAY, AND ALSO TO

THE LATRINE.

AND HE TOOK CHARGE.

WHEN I BECAME A TEENAGER, IREALLY BECAME CURIOUS ABOUT MY

CHILDHOOD INCARCERATION, AND WEHAD... MY FATHER AND I HAD LONG

AFTER-DINNER CONVERSATIONS.

AND WHAT I REMEMBER FROM THOSECONVERSATIONS IS THAT HE SAID,

"OUR DEMOCRACY IS A PEOPLE'SDEMOCRACY, AND IT CAN BE AS

GREAT AS THE PEOPLE CAN BE, BUTIT'S ALSO AS FALLIBLE AS PEOPLE

ARE."

AND HE USED THIS EXAMPLE.

IN CALIFORNIA WE HAD AN ATTORNEYGENERAL, A LAWYER WHO KNOWS THE

CONSTITUTION, BUT HE WASAMBITIOUS.

HE WANTED TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR.

AND HE FOUND THAT THE SINGLEMOST POPULAR ISSUE IN CALIFORNIA

WAS THE GET RID OF THE JAPSISSUE, AND HE RAN ON IT, WON,

BECAME THE GOVERNOR, WASREELECTED AND THEN WAS REELECTED

AGAIN, ONE OF THE FEW GOVERNORSTO SERVE THREE TERMS IN

CALIFORNIA, AND THEN HE WASAPPOINTED TO BE THE CHIEF

JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATESSUPREME COURT.

HIS NAME IS EARL WARREN.

>> Jon: WOW.

>> GREAT MAN BUT A FALLIBLEHUMAN BEING.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> OUR DEMOCRACY IS MADE UPOF... MY FATHER SAID, YOU KNOW,

IT CAN BE AS GREAT AS THE PEOPLECAN BE...

>> Jon: RIGHT.>> BUT IT IS ALSO...

>> Jon: BUT IT'S STILL PEOPLE.

>> AS FALLIBLE AS THE PEOPLEARE.

>> Jon: WELL, IT'S A REMARKABLESTORY.

AND I HESITATE. YOU KNOW...

I DON'T WANT TO MAKE IT...THERE'S TONS OF JOY AND

FUN AND LAUGHTER IN THEDOCUMENTARY. IT'S GREAT.

>> IT'S ENTERTAINING.

>> I JUST PERSONALLY WASFASCINATED BY THAT ONE ASPECT

OF IT AND THANK YOU VERYMUCH FOR SHARING THAT.

HE SOUNDS LIKE A REMARKABLE GUY,YOUR DAD.

YOU CAN SEE "TO BE TAKEI," IT'SON DirecTV THROUGH AUGUST

5th, SELECT THEATERS ANDITUNES AUGUST 22nd.

THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.>> THANK YOU.

>> Jon: GEORGE TAKEI, EVERYBODY.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

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