George Takei joins 'The Neighbors' for its season finale

Wednesday, 20 March 2013 12:34 PM Written by 

Neighbors Takei HamillAs ABC’s “The Neighbors” (8:30 tonight, WTAE) ticks toward its first season finale, airing one week from today, the little sitcom that’s received mixed critical reviews preps its season finale that features “Star Trek” actor George Takei as the father of alien dad Larry Bird (Simon Templeman). Grandfather arrives from the aliens’ home planet of Zabvron for a cliffhanger episode titled “It Has Begun…”

“We beam down from this spacecraft and order my son and his family to come back home to our home planet and they refuse because they’ve gotten to like this planet,” Takei said in a recent phone interview. The final scene also includes a cameo from another sci-fi star: Mark Hamill (AKA Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars”). Both actors are pictured at left.

Takei previously crossed over to the “Star Wars” universe by voicing a character on Cartoon Network’s animated “Star Wars” series “Clone Wars.”

“I’m the only ‘Star Trek’ actor who has crossed that bridge and worked on ‘Star Wars’ and now it seems I’ve blazed a trail for J.J. Abrams as he’s going to be directing a ‘Star Wars’ film,” Takei said. “But I’m the first one who boldly went.”

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Takei brought up the crossing of the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” universes crossing while on the “Neighbors” set with Hamill.

“I said, working with you is very much in keeping with the whole idea of ‘Star Trek,’” Takei recalled. Hamill questioned how, calling “Star Wars” space fantasy as opposed to the science-fiction of “Star Trek.” “I said part of the driving philosophy of Starfleet is what we call IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. I took that to heart and science fantasy is indeed part of the infinite diversity of this genre. We laughed about it particularly because [not long ago] Bill Shatner was saying ‘Star Trek’ is far superior to ‘Star Wars.’”

That led “Star Wars” actress Carrie Fisher (AKA Princess Leia) to record her own rebuttal on YouTube and the pair got into a back-and-forth.

“So I went on Facebook and said, we should all work together in concert and the real villain in this case is ‘Twilight,’” Takei said. “That shut Bill up and he did not have a retort nor did Carrie Fisher.”

Takei said there’s no “so-called feud between Bill and me, it’s all his fabrication.” He said he sees Shatner regularly at “Star Trek” conventions.

“Bill has this talent for ginning up silly controversy and there is a residual effect of all this,” Takei said. When Takei married his husband, Brad, in 2008, Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols (Chekov and Uhura on “Star Trek”) were in the ceremony.

“We wanted to be inclusive so we sent invitations to all our ‘Star Trek’ colleagues and Bill got an invitation as well. All the others responded but Bill was the only one who did not. He never comes to any of our events. That was typical Bill.

“Two months after the wedding, he goes on YouTube and raves about George not inviting him to our wedding. We were absolutely dumbfounded,” Takei said. “I happened to be driving on Sunset Boulevard a few weeks after that and there was a huge billboard [with Shatner’s face on it] and that’s why he made that fuss. They were advertising a new talk show, ‘William Shatner’s Raw Nerve,’ and he needed some controversy to get some attention. That is his modus operandi.”

Takei spent part of last summer in Pittsburgh filming Nickelodeon’s “Supah Ninjas,” where he plays a holographic grandfather to a teenage ninja, but it wasn’t his first visit.

“I do ‘Star Trek’ conventions so I’ve been to Pittsburgh a few times before,” he said. “The first was in the late 1970s and I went expecting the classic vision of Pittsburgh as a steel town and I arrived and there were all these tunnels and we came through the last tunnel and what an entrance to Pittsburgh. Bam! You come out of the tunnel and Pittsburgh hits you with glossy, glistening high rises over two historic rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela – I love that name Monongahela, a wonderful Native American name – and the park at the confluence.

“I’m a city collector. I studied architecture and I’m a city kid and I fell in love with Pittsburgh right then,” Takei said. “I call the sole of my shoe the urban tongue and I roamed all over it this past summer when we worked there three months consecutively. I really got to get the feel and flavor and the sense of pride people of Pittsburgh have.”

While in town, Takei and his husband, who also serves as his manager, took in a show at the Pittsburgh Public Theater (“top notch, first rate, wonderful actors”) and cites three favorite restaurants: Cioppino in the Strip, Teppanyaki Kyoto in Highland Park and NOLA in Market Square.

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