At a time when Asian Americans were hardly seen on screen, Pat Morita and George Takei broke new ground — seizing roles where they were able to play against stereotypes in the 1960s and '70s.

Morita portrayed Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on the sitcom Happy Days from 1975 to 1983 before his Academy Award-nominated role as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid film franchise — and even starred in the first Asian American network TV sitcom, Mr. T and Tina in 1976. Takei rose to recognition as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek series from 1966 to 1969 and through six of the franchise's films.

upon Morita’s death from kidney failure in 2005. “It was an insecure and inhospitable arena for Asian performers. Yet, with his passion and his gift of humor, he boldly ventured forth into that unpromising world.”

雷电竞娱乐 in the United States during their early years.

Pat Morita

Pat Morita in 2003

Morita said the camps were 'America’s version of concentration camps'

From the time he was a toddler, Morita faced some of life’s biggest challenges. Born Noriyuki Morta on July 28, 1932, he was because of spinal tuberculosis from the time he was 2 years old. Learning to walk at age 9, he spent nine years in a “charitable infirmary for poor, immigrant children at San Francisco’s Shriners Hospital,” his daughter Aly Morita wrote in the Asian American publication .

In August 1943, he was finally able to leave the hospital but was sent directly to join his parents, fruit pickers who had immigrated to the United States from Japan between 1907 and 1912, at an internment camp during .

. “What do kids know about wars? I was happy to be walking, they said this kid would never walk — and I felt like I was some kind of big deal because an FBI guy… was escorting me.”

Taken to the site by Gila River, Morita was overcome by the new environment. “I cried for four days I was so homesick for the doctors and nurses,” he told the in 1986. He was there for a year and a half with his family before they relocated to another internment camp near the border of California and Oregon called Tule Lake.

. “So they called them ‘relocation centers,’ but they were America's version of concentration camps.”

Takei’s family of five was forced to sleep in a horse stall

雷电竞娱乐Born in Los Angeles on April 20, 1937, Takei was only four years old during — and had just turned five when he remembers the harrowing knock on the door.

“We saw two soldiers, marching up our driveway, carrying rifles with shiny bayonets on them,” he recalled on . “They stomped up the porch and with their fists began pounding on the door. The way I remember it, the whole house seemed to tremble. My father came out and answered the door and, literally at gunpoint, we were ordered out of our house.”

Along with his younger brother, baby sister and parents, they were first sent to the Santa Anita Race Track while the internment camps were being built.

雷电竞娱乐“We were herded over with other Japanese American families to the stable area and assigned a horse stall for us to sleep in — from my two-bedroom home with a front yard and backyard on Garnet street in L.A., to a horse stall," Takei explained. "For my parents, it was a degrading, humiliating, painful experience to take their three children into that smelly horse stall, still pungent. I still remember that smell.”

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雷电竞娱乐Of course, imprisoned life behind barbed wires — sometimes three layers thick — was anything but fun, looking back with an adult lens. His family was forced onto a train across the country to Rohwer, Arkansas, where 16,000 of the estimated 110,000 to 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent were locked up. After two years there, they were on the move again.

in 2017. “My mother and father’s only crime was refusing, out of principle, to sign a loyalty pledge promulgated by the government.”

Coincidentally, he ended up at Tule Lake, which was the same internment camps that Morita’s family moved to. While it’s unknown if they crossed paths, their roads out of imprisonment did eventually converge.

Life after the internment camps was a big adjustment for both families

Returning home was a harsh slap in the face for both families. When Morita’s family was freed in October 1945, they had to start life from the bottom again, living out knapsacks and working back in the crop fields. Eventually, they saved enough to open a Chinese restaurant in Sacramento, California. “A Japanese family running a Chinese restaurant in a black neighborhood with a clientele of blacks, Filipinos and everybody else who didn’t fit in any of the other neighborhoods,” Morita explained to the .

, authorities had taken their home and his parents’ thriving dry cleaning business.

“Los Angeles was not a welcoming place,” Takei recalled in a . “We were penniless. Everything had been taken from us and the hostility was intense. Our first home was on Skid Row in the lowest part of our city, living with derelicts, drunkards and crazy people. ...My baby sister said, ‘Mama. Let's go back home,’ because behind barbed wires was for us home.”

雷电竞娱乐But the family’s grit and determination won out. They earned enough to get a three-bedroom home. And during Takei’s teen years, he started wondering about his experience.

“I read civics books that told me about the ideals of American democracy — all men are created equal,” he said in the TED Talk. “We have an alienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And I couldn't quite make that fit with what I knew to be my childhood imprisonment.”

雷电竞娱乐He dove in history books and conversations with his father to better understand the journey he had been through — unknowingly prepping for the life he was about to carve out for himself ahead himself.

George Takei

George Takei in 2014.

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He’s continued telling his experience in as many art forms as possible: His 2015 autobiography To the Stars, the 2012 musical inspired by his life , a New Frontiers exhibit at the in Los Angeles and a 2019 graphic novel They Called Us Enemy. He also has revisited the time in 2019 on the second season of the show The Terror: Infamy, where of the camp where he was interned was built.

Takei has also set out to educate fellow Americans on how to talk about the time, noting that it's an error to call sites “Japanese internment camps.” 

. “They were American concentration camps for Americans of Japanese ancestry. We were in Japanese American internment camps. But the press always, for the last 75 years, have been referring to those camps as ‘Japanese internment camps’ and it drove me up the wall every time I hear it.”

The more he speaks out, the more he hopes the United States will draw from the experience and move forward. “I wish that those, like me, who lived through this nightmare before didn’t have to sound the alarm again,” Takei wrote in in 2018. “But as my father once told me, America is a great nation but also a fallible one — as prone to great mistakes as are the people who inhabit it. As a survivor of internment camps, I have made it my lifelong mission to work against them being built ever again within our borders.”