The Star Trek franchise will get its first-ever openly gay character when Starship Excelsior captain Hikaru Sulu is revealed to be gay in the upcoming film Star Trek Beyond.
In an interview with Australia’s Herald Sun on Thursday, actor John Cho — who plays Sulu in the updated Star Trek film series — revealed that the legendary captain of the Excelsior will be shown to be in a committed relationship with a male partner in this summer’s latest installment, with the two also being parents to a daughter.
“I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out of it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicize one’s personal orientations,” the 44-year-old actor told the Herald Sun.
Cho revealed that the decision to make his character gay in the film came from writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin, who made the move to honor original Star Trek star George Takei. Takei played Sulu in the original television series and later came out as gay and became a prominent LGBT activist after leaving the show.
The inclusion of an LGBT character in the franchise comes as Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The original series, starring Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, premiered in 1966.
The new film is also notable in another way; it will feature one of Anton Yelchin’s final onscreen performances, after the young actor died in a freak car accident in June. Yelchin plays Chekov in the film.
“It’s bittersweet with the passing of Anton,” co-star Karl Urban told the Herald Sun. “I’m having a difficult time coming to grips with talking about him in the past tense — it’s very raw and very painful.”
Star Trek Beyond is in theaters July 22.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the name of Sulu’s ship. It is the Excelsior, not the Enterprise.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum