George Takei Talks Meeting Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Shares His Own Funeral Plans, and Recalls How Leonard Nimoy Came Up With the Vulcan Salute

Actor and longtime Stern Show guest’s new TV series “The Terror: Infamy” premieres Monday night on AMC

August 12, 2019

There was a familiar voice heard on Monday’s Stern Show as George Takei returned to the studio to catch up with Howard and Robin. As always, George has been staying busy even at 82 years old now. His new TV series “The Terror: Infamy,” premiering tonight on AMC, deals with a subject matter George knows all too well – life inside of a Japanese-American internment camp.

For four years, George and his family were held against their will at the height of World War II. And while the plot of his TV series involves some terrifying shape-shifters, George told Howard his real-world experience was bad enough even without any supernatural beings.

“It was a horrific experience,” George recalled of his time in captivity.

After the war ended and George’s family was released, he told Howard they faced extreme poverty while living in Los Angeles’s Skid Row neighborhood. His father, who held jobs as a dishwasher, a dry cleaner, and eventually worked in real estate, imparted the importance of an education on his children, something George is still thankful for to this day.

Of course, “The Terror” isn’t George’s first foray on television. Audiences have long known him for playing Hikaru Sulu on the original “Star Trek” series and in numerous film productions. On Monday, he recalled how his co-star Leonard Nimoy came up with the now famous Vulcan salute while on the set one day. Nimoy’s character Spock was supposed to be greeting an alien ambassador but he didn’t think a handshake would suffice for the scene.

“Leonard was very religious. You know that Vulcan greeting, the ‘V’ sign? That comes from a Jewish ritual,” George told Howard, explaining the gesture is based on the ancient Priestly Blessing sometimes performed in prayer. Nimoy demonstrated it for the director that day, holding up his hand and separating his ring and middle finger. The director thought it was perfect and had Nimoy use the salutation on the episode.

After Nimoy died in 2015, many of his former “Star Trek” co-stars attended his funeral, including George himself. Someone not in attendance that day though was William Shatner whose conflicts with the rest of the cast have been well publicized. As much as Takei and Shatner have had their differences throughout the decades, George told Howard on Monday he’d still attend Shatner’s funeral when he passes in order to pay his respects.

Howard wondered if George had given any thought to his own final resting place and the actor revealed he and his husband Brad have had many discussions about what kind of service he wants to have.

“I want to have music, classical music,” George told Howard, adding he hopes to have a cellist, a violinist, and a pianist on hand to play. He’d also like to have an open casket at the service though he ultimately wants to be cremated and placed in the crypt across from his parents.

While he’s still here on Earth, George is staying active, both physically as well as politically. He tries to walk 45 minutes daily and told Howard with a smile he and Brad still find time to “wrestle” on Sundays. But he’s also very involved with some of the current presidential candidates, including South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg. George has donated to Pete’s campaign and got to meet him face to face at a Brooklyn fundraiser recently.

Though both George and Pete are openly gay, George told Howard they actually didn’t end up discussing gay rights with each other. However, George was very excited to be introduced to Pete’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg.

“He has great taste in men,” George said with a laugh. “Chasten is absolutely charming.”

Watch George Takei on “The Terror: Infamy” Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.