'The Avengers' Star Cobie Smulders Reacts to Gay Sulu Character

At Outfest L.A., the actress called the 'Star Trek Beyond' reveal of the first openly gay character in a sci-fi studio franchise "wonderful and fantastic" and says she is looking forward to the "the day when it becomes a normal thing and not newsworthy."
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Cobie Smulders

When Outfest Los Angeles kicked off July 7, the Orlando nightclub massacre and police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were top of mind for many inside downtown's Orpheum Theatre. Sundance Film Festival director and Outfest Achievement Award honoree John Cooper, actor Wilson Cruz (who lost a relative, Brenda McCool, in the Orlando attack) and Outfest executive director Christopher Racster called for more projects featuring casts and storylines from LGBT communities as well as people of color.

"Our stories change the world," proclaimed Cruz.

Opening night occurred the same day John Cho had revealed in an interview with Australia's Herald Sun that his character, Sulu, as the first openly gay character in a sci-fi studio franchise. It's a move that was met with applause from those in attendance at Thursday's event. The Avengers' Cobie Smulders (who stars in Clea DuVall's directorial debut, The Intervention) called it "wonderful and fantastic, [but] I long for the day when it becomes a normal thing and not newsworthy," she told THR.

Director Kimberly Peirce added that it's about time because "we're everywhere, all the time, so hopefully all kinds of people will identify with his character and enjoy that character because that's how it should be."

Filmmaker Andrew Ahn — whose film Spa Night, about a closeted Korean American teenager who works in a spa, also screened during Outfest's run (continuing through July 17) — also said he was excited about Sulu's sexual orientation.

But there's one thing that would make it better: "I really hope that his partner is Asian," he laughed. "Me too," joked Spa Night star Joe Seo.

A version of this story first appeared in the July 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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