George Takei has been on "The Simpsons" before. At least a half-dozen times.
But April 3 will mark his first-ever appearance in 27 seasons that he has voiced a character that is, well, George Takei.
The "Star Trek" icon will appear in a pivotal episode of the Fox animated series this weekend where a long-time supporting character, Waylon Smithers, officially comes out of the closet.
For those who have watched some of the series in the past, Smithers is the righthand man to Montgomery Burns, the owner of the nuclear power plant in Springfield, and the boss to Homer Simpson. Writers have hinted about Smithers' sexuality since almost the very beginning, but Sunday's episode will be the first to acknowledge officially he is indeed gay.
The episode, "The Burns Cage," will have Smithers upset that he's not getting the attention of Mr. Burns anymore, and Homer decides to help him find an actual boyfriend. One of the people they seek out to get advice is the animated version of Takei, representing the actor who has been a strong advocate of gay rights over the years.
"Simpsons" writer Rob LaZebnik wrote the episode, primarily to honor his 21-year-old son, who is gay. In fact, LaZebnik sought out his son's advice from time to time while putting the episode together.
"He once sent me an email, and the header was just 'How does Grindr work?'" his son, Johnny LaZebnik, told the New York Post. "I screenshotted and Instragrammed it, and sent it to all my gay friends because he made me laugh so much."
Takei last appeared on "The Simpsons" in 2013 when he played a sushi chef in "What Animated Women Want." It was the first time he had appeared on the show in 12 years, when he played a waited in the 2001 episode "A Hunka Hunka Burns In Love." Before that, he voiced game show host Wink in the 1999 episode "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo," and in 1991 as Akira for "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish."
"I'm a Midwestern guy, so I don't tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve," the older ZaZebnik said. "But I thought, 'What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?'"
"The Simpsons" air Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.