'Star Trek Beyond' Cast Throws Weight Behind Gay Sulu

Star Trek (2009)-John Cho-Photofest-H 2016
Photofest/Paramount Pictures

Zachary Quinto said at the London premiere that it's "definitely high time for an LGBT character to be included in the 'Star Trek' universe."

Perhaps predictably, the current hot topic of Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu's sexuality reared its head at the Star Trek Beyond premiere in London.

"It is definitely high time for an LGBT character to be included in the Star Trek universe," Zachary Quinto, who is also openly gay, told the BBC Tuesday evening, adding that the LGBT community had "long advocated for representation" in the franchise. "We've been really excited by the response, particularly from young people, who have been inspired and motivated by this turn toward progress."

The revelation that Sulu, played by John Cho, was to become gay was made last week, prompting the original actor, George Takei — who is himself openly gay — to tell The Hollywood Reporter that he thought the decision to use an already established Star Trek figure rather than a new character was "really unfortunate."

Co-writer and star Simon Pegg immediately responded in a statement, saying that he "respectfully disagreed" with Takei, and that he, fellow writer Doug Jung and director Justin Lin "loved" the idea of the gay character being someone already known.

"It was not something that was flippant," added Lin while in London. "It was something a lot of thought went into. George [Takei] is entitled to his opinion, but at the end of the day I'm the gatekeeper for this, and I think it's in the spirit of what [Gene] Roddenberry wanted."

Sulu himself, Cho, said that he was concerned about the decision because he knew that Takei was "a gay man who had played a straight character."

"I know he felt a fair bit of ownership of that character, and legitimately so," he added. "I was also worried that it might be inferred that we were somehow suggesting that sexuality was a choice. But I don't think anyone has inferred that, and we're certainly not saying that."

As for Captain Kirk, Chris Pine admitted he didn't expect the subject to become such a big deal. "I'm a little stunned there's been so much attention given to it," he said.

Star Trek Beyond is due to have its U.S. premiere at Comic-Con on July 20.