Grant Imahara: “There’s a geek community, oh yeah.”
Grant Imahara is a singularly talented individual. Having studied engineering, he worked on a lot of fan favourite film franchises, including Star Wars, Terminator and the Matrix, before becoming one of the Mythbusters crew. He’s currently starring as Sulu in Star Trek Continues, which premiered their third episode at Supanova Sydney. We only got to have a quick chat with Grant, as he had a bit of a line forming, but it was still a good one!
On Star Trek and Star Trek Continues
When really talking about Star Trek, you can’t not talk about Gene Roddenberry and his very egalitarian, equal view of the future. Many Trek fans will know that Roddenberry fought to show an equal split of men and women on the Enterprise, something that execs were wary of (as they thought audiences would assume they were all having sex with each other, which to me seems a bit of an odd leap). He was also known for his casting decisions – at the peak of the Cold War, he introduced the Russian character Chekov to the main cast, and at a time when onscreen depictions of African-Americans were mediocre at best, he cast Nichelle Nichols as Uhura (Whoopi Goldberg has told a story of how that inspired her to become an actress).
Another casting decision that was challenged the status quo for the better was casting George Takei as Sulu in the original Star Trek series. It definitely had an impact on Grant: “I think for me, when I was growing up, I didn’t see a whole lot of Asian-American faces on TV, and one of the few I did see was George Takei, and he was a tremendous inspiration for me. And when I first got the opportunity to play this role, I sent him this tweet that said, ‘Hey George, thanks for inspiring me,’ and he sent me a tweet back saying, ‘Thank you for inspiring future generations.’” (Grant favourited the tweet, of course.) “So I do feel this responsibility as someone who’s on TV and on the web, who’s maybe inspiring kids that are Asian American and say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s something I could do.’”
.@grantimahara Thank you Grant. And thanks for continuing to inspire new generations.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) January 18, 2013
Takei has a particularly impressive voice, which you may also have heard from shows such as Avatar: the Last Airbender, Adventure Time and Futurama. It’s a tough act to follow, Grant admits. “I think because George has a very distinctive voice, I had to really work hard and watch a lot of episodes to try and get that voice – and it’s such a deep voice – to try and get the voice down, and to try and get all the mannerisms, including where I put my hands on the helm console to pilot the Enterprise.” So diehard Trekkies won’t be disappointed? “It’s as authentic as I can make it,” Grant laughs.
And as for Roddenberry’s vision: “The idea of Trek Continues is essentially to continue that legacy, that at the end of the series, and how those characters were, we’re just picking it up. So all those egalitarian ideals, and that multicultural future that Gene Roddenberry envisioned, that’s all part of our DNA, and so that automatically becomes part of our series.”
On Star Trek Renegades
You’d think one Star Trek series would be enough for Grant, but nope – he’s also slated to appear in Star Trek: Renegades, another fan-created project to create a pilot for a new Star Trek series. “I’m the aide to Admiral Chekov,” Grant tells us. “Again, it was the opportunity to be a part of the franchise that I love. I was approached to do it, and I said: ‘Of course I’ll do it, because that’s awesome!’”
Grant is a smart guy, and a geek (one of us, one of us!) Of course, we felt obligated to ask whether there’s some sort of secret geek association in Hollywood. Turns out, there is: “There’s a geek community, oh yeah. I hang out with Wil Wheaton and Bobak Ferdowsi, the NASA mohawk guy, so it’s kind of a little club of fun geeky people.
Those who are interested in webseries(es?) may have seen Grant play Small World with Wil Wheaton on the very first episode of TableTop, a board game webseries on the Geek & Sundry Youtube channel a few years back, and he’s also appeared on Spellslingers, another Geek & Sundry show. Given his associations with webseries, is there a show about science or engineering in the works for him? “Funny you should ask, we have a few things in development!”