It was just a few weeks ago when Jimmy Fallon hosted SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and I lamented how the show suffered because of its lack of at least one Asian cast member. I certainly wasn’t expecting to write about the same issue again so soon, but the most recent episode’s STAR TREK sketch once again illustrated the same problem.
STAR TREK star Chris Pine hosted last night’s episode so it was inevitable that they would do a STAR TREK sketch–in this case a “lost” episode of the original series:
And yes, the character of Sulu (played in the original series by George Takei and in the rebooted films by John Cho) made an appearance–and with no regular Asian cast member on hand–the role went to Akira Yoshimura, the show’s long-time production designer, who is clearly not an actor.
Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson picked up on this same issue: pointing out SNL’s continuing problem with its lack of Asian representation by reminding us that Yoshimura has been cast as Sulu in various sketches dating back to the show’s first season in 1976 when Yoshimura played Sulu to John Belushi’s Kirk and Chevy Chase’s Spock:
Yoshimura also played Sulu in STAR TREK sketches in 1986 and 1994.
No offense to Yoshimura who is clearly excellent at his job as a production designer who has been with SNL since its start and I also get that it’s a bit of an inside joke to have him back as Sulu, but if SNL was going to go this route, I wish they had just gotten George Takei or John Cho to do a cameo in that sketch. (Takei is in NYC performing in an off-Broadway production of PACIFIC OVERTURES and I’m sure could’ve swung by after his performance. How cool would that have been?)
But more than that, it’s another reminder that SNL is long overdue in having at least one Asian cast member in its ranks. It’s 2017–it’d be nice if SNL could finally go where pretty much all others have already gone at this point and acknowledge that Asians and Asian Americans are as much a part of the American pop culture landscape as everyone else.