George Takei Had A Casting Idea Of His Own For Sulu In J.J. Abrams' Star Trek

Director J.J. Abrams' philosophy toward making his 2009 reboot of "Star Trek" likely involved a lot of uses of the words "high octane" and "kicked into overdrive." The characters in Abrams' "Star Trek" resemble the ones we all remember from the 1966 TV series, but electrified for a modern, action-hungry audience. Kirk (Chris Pine) is not just a captain who rules by instinct and occasionally snogs alien women (as William Shatner did), but a rash, skirt-chasing, destructive young punk who gets into bar brawls. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is not merely a logical scientist who, under rare circumstances, lets his human emotions slip through his stony visage (as Leonard Nimoy was), but a perpetually annoyed pill who, more regularly, is given to flights of rage and/or romance.

In the case of Sulu (John Cho), he is not merely a capable pilot with unusual hobbies, a great sense of humor, and a weaponized side-eye (like George Takei), but a master swordsman and affable action hero with a streak of commanding sternness. John Cho was something of an unusual choice to play a "young" Sulu, as Cho was about 37 during the filming of Abrams' film while Takei made the original "Star Trek" when he was 29.

In 2007, IGN interviewed Takei about the new "Star Trek," back when the new film was still in the early stages of its production. Audiences and journalists already knew that the new film was to feature younger versions of the classic "Star Trek" characters, and there was, at the time, a lot of speculation as to who should play which role. Back then, Takei had a very clear idea as to who he wanted to play a young Sulu: John Lim, one of the stars of "Star Trek: New Voyages."

Takei wanted John Lim for young Sulu

Those unfamiliar with "Star Trek: New Voyages" have a very interesting road of discovery ahead. In January of 2004, enterprising Trekkies James Cawley and Jack Marshall decided to make a high-quality, full-length, wholly unauthorized continuation of the original "Star Trek" using the same characters and starring themselves. Cawley, through his connection to various "Star Trek" collectors, was able to assemble the few surviving pieces of the original "Star Trek" set (which was dismantled in 1969) and recreate the most accurate version of the U.S.S. Enterprise in existence; one can still tour Cawley's reconstructed set to this day.

Cawley played Captain Kirk in "New Voyages," a series that ran 10 episodes from 2004 to 2016. Many in the "Star Trek" community were impressed with the production values and quality of the show's pilot, "Come What May," and it wasn't long before Jack Marshall left the fan project to work on the new "Battlestar Galactica."

Meanwhile, several "Star Trek" veterans were moved by Cawley's gumption and decided to help. "Star Trek" writers D.C. Fontana, David Gerrold, and Marc Scott Zicree wrote episodes of "New Voyages," while "Star Trek" actors like Walter Koenig, Grace Lee Whitney, and Denise Crosby appeared periodically.

Takei played the "older" Sulu in the episode "World Enough and Time." While filming, he met John Lim, the fan actor — formerly a lawyer — who played the younger Sulu. Lim, Takei thought, would do nicely in Abrams' film:

"I saw the man who plays me, as Sulu, as a young man, and he's a wonderful actor, a powerful actor. There's one scene where he breaks down in anguish and it's very moving. John Lim is his name, and despite his success as an attorney, after having done this he wants to be an actor." 

Lim is quite good.

Paramount gave Star Trek: New Voyages the thumbs-up

How could "New Voyages" possibly be legal? Takei explained the background and the loopholes of "New Voyages," as well as the pained state of "Star Trek"-lessness that Trekkies experienced in the mid-2000s:

"I did 'Star Trek: New Voyages.' That was made up of a number of 'Star Trek' fans, all of who had become very successful in their respective careers. Look at Paul Allen, the Microsoft billionaire, he's a 'Star Trek' fan. [...]. And when the last 'Star Trek' spin-off, 'Star Trek: Enterprise' went off the air, they were going cold turkey. But they have the resources, the savvy and the connections to do something about it. So they organized, and they organized globally with the Internet [...]."

It seems that Paramount was very kind to the makers of "New Voyages," understanding the importance of Trekkies to the franchise; after all, few other fan groups devote as much time, energy, and money to the object of their worship. Paramount gave an unlicensed thumbs-up:

"They got together, negotiated with Paramount, who said they could make their own series with the understanding that they will not make any money off of it. They said that's all right, because this is a labor of love, it's their passion and they want to do it.The interesting thing is, the actor who plays Dr. McCoy is a real doctor. The man who plays Captain Kirk is a very successful Elvis impersonator. And the guy who plays Sulu is a hotshot Washington, D.C. attorney. All very successful, and 'Star Trek' fans." 

Takei added that Lim was pondering leaving his law practice to become an actor in Hollywood. So far, however, he's only played an uncredited role on "The Wire." 

Three new episodes of "New Voyages" are still in the works.