As we learned earlier this month, Star Trek Beyond slides in a pleasant surprise about one of its characters: Sulu (played by John Cho) is gay. But it’s no big deal!
Other than original Sulu actor George Takei making a fuss about it, the plan from the beginning has been for Gay Sulu to be quietly inserted into the plot without any fanfare. “We really were trying to make sure that no one thought it was something that happened that made him gay,” Simon Pegg told BuzzFeed News.
To accomplish this, they thought they should make an existing character gay. Otherwise, “it felt like we’d [said], like, ‘Oh, here’s Commodore Paris, she’s the head of Yorktown and she also is a lesbian,’ it would have just felt a little bit like, ‘Here’s the [gay] character! Look, aren’t we clever!’”
Sulu’s husband is played by producer Doug Jung (pictured in Beyond above with the couple’s daughter), and the character’s name is Ben. Originally Ben was going to be played by an actor based in Dubai, but the person “dropped out the day before the scene was going to be shot” for an unknown reason.
That’s when they decided to make Jung Sulu’s husband. “Justin [Lin, director] and Lindsey Weber, our producer, were kind of like, ‘Why don’t you just do it?’ I was a little self-conscious — for my physical appearance. John’s a good-looking guy! But I was thrilled to do it, because it was something we all really believed strongly in, and it was kind of nice to put your money where your mouth is.”
They even developed a bit of a backstory for Ben, though it’s not mentioned in the film. Jung told BuzzFeed, “Ben probably was a civilian. They had met probably on some leave, decided to have this child, and then he would have been coming to Yorktown as a full-time resident in order just to be closer to Sulu, who’s venturing off into the unknown parts of space.”
And in an interview with A.V. Club, John Cho reveals that he requested Sulu’s husband be Asian to increase representation. “I grew up with some gay Asian male friends. You don’t really see Asian men together very often,” he explains. “It’s very rare in life. I’ve always felt that there was some extra cultural shame to having two Asian men together, because it was so difficult to come out of the closet, so difficult to be gay and Asian, that they couldn’t really bring themselves… It’s easier to run away from people that look like your family. I wanted the future to be where it was completely normal and therefore, aside from the gender, they look like a traditional heterosexual couple. So that relationship, to me, the optics of it are that it looks very traditional on the one hand and very radical on the other.”
Star Trek Beyond hits theaters this Friday.