Nichelle Nichols, who broke barriers for black women in Hollywood when she played communications officer Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek” television series, has died at the age of 89.
His son Kyle Johnson said Nichols died Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico.
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. However, her light, like the ancient galaxies now seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn and be inspired by Johnson wrote on his official Facebook page on Sunday. “His was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.”
Her role in the 1966-69 series as Lt. Uhura earned Nichols a lifelong place of honor among the series’ rabid fans, known as Trekkers and Trekkies. She also won praise for breaking stereotypes that had limited black women to acting as maids and included an on-screen interracial kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time.
“I have more to say about the trailblazing and incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lt. Uhura on the USS Enterprise, and who passed away today at the age of 89,” George Takei wrote on Twitter. “For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shine like the stars among which you now rest, my dear friend.”
Takei played Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series alongside Nichols. But his impact was felt beyond his immediate stars, with many others in the “Star Trek” world also tweeting their condolences.
Celia Rose Gooding, who currently plays Uhura on “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” wrote on Twitter that Nichols “made room for so many of us. She was a reminder that not only can we reach for the stars, but that our influence it is essential to her survival Forget shaking the table, she built it.
“Star Trek: Voyager” alum Kate Mulgrew tweeted: “Nichelle Nichols was the first. She was a trailblazer who walked a very challenging path with strength, grace and a beautiful fire we will likely never see again.
Like other original cast members, Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spin-offs beginning in 1979 with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and frequented “Star Trek” fan conventions. She also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping to bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.
Most recently, she had a recurring role on TV’s “Heroes,” playing the great-aunt of a boy with mystical powers.
The original “Star Trek” premiered on NBC on September 8, 1966. Its multicultural and multiracial cast was creator Gene Roddenberry’s message to viewers that in the distant future – the 23rd century – human diversity would be fully accepted.
“I think a lot of people had it in their hearts … that what was being said on television at the time was cause for celebration,” Nichols said in 1992 when viewing a “Star Trek” exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.
I often remembered how Martin Luther King Jr. he was a fan of the show and praised his role. She met him at a civil rights rally in 1967, at a time when she had decided not to return for the show’s second season.
“When I told him I was going to miss my castmates and that I was leaving the show, he got very serious and said, ‘You can’t do it,'” she told The Tulsa (Okla.) World in a 2008 interview.
“‘You changed the face of television forever, and therefore you changed people’s opinions,'” the civil rights leader said.
“That foresight that Dr. King had was a lightning bolt in my life,” Nichols said.
During the show’s third season, Nichols’ character and Shatner’s Captain James Kirk shared what was described as the first interracial kiss to air on an American television series. In the episode, “Plato’s Children”, their characters, who have always had a platonic relationship, were forced to kiss by aliens who controlled their actions.
The kiss “suggested that there was a future where these issues weren’t so important,” National Public Radio television critic Eric Deggans told The Associated Press in 2018. “The characters themselves weren’t scared because a black woman was kissing to a white man… In this utopian future, we’ve solved this problem. We’re beyond it. It was a wonderful message to send.”
Worried about the reaction of southern TV stations, the showrunners wanted to film a second take of the scene where the kiss happened off-screen. But Nichols said in her book, “Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories,” that she and Shatner deliberately changed the lines to force the use of the original take.
Despite the concerns, the episode aired without a flashback. In fact, it received the most “fan mail that Paramount has ever received on ‘Star Trek’ for an episode,” Nichols said in a 2010 interview with the Archive of American Television.
Born Grace Dell Nichols in Robbins, Illinois, Nichols hated being called “Gracie,” which everyone insisted on, she said in a 2010 interview. As a teenager, her mother told her she wanted to name her Michelle, but she thought she should have alliterative initials like Marilyn Monroe, whom Nichols loved. Hence, “Nichelle”.
Nichols first worked professionally as a singer and dancer in Chicago at age 14, moved to New York nightclubs and worked for a time with the bands of Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before coming to Hollywood for her film debut in “Porgy and Bess ” from 1959. the first of several small film and television roles that led to his stardom on “Star Trek”.
Nichols was known for not being afraid to confront Shatner on set when others complained that he was stealing scenes and camera time. They later found out that he had great support in the creator of the show.
In his 1994 book, “Beyond Uhura,” he said he met Roddenberry when he starred in his show “The Lieutenant,” and that the two had an affair a couple of years before “Star Trek” began. The two remained lifelong friends.
Another fan of Nichols and the show was future astronaut Mae Jemison, who became the first black woman in space when she flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in 1992.
In an AP interview before her flight, Jemison said she watched Nichols on “Star Trek” all the time, adding that she loved the show. Jemison eventually met Nichols.
Nichols was a regular at “Star Trek” conventions and events well into his 80s, but his schedule was limited beginning in 2018 when his son announced he was suffering from advanced dementia.
Nichols was placed under a court guardianship under the control of her son Johnson, who said her mental impairment made her unable to manage her affairs or make public appearances.
Some, including Nichols’ managers and her friend, film producer and actor Angelique Fawcett, opposed the conservatorship and sought more access to Nichols and records of Johnson’s financial and other movements on her behalf. His name was sometimes invoked in court rallies seeking the release of Britney Spears from her own guardianship.
But the court always sided with Johnson and, over Fawcett’s objections, allowed him to move Nichols to New Mexico, where he lived with him in his final years.
Nichelle Nichols, Lt. Uhura from ‘Star Trek’, has died at the age of 89
Source link Nichelle Nichols, Lt. Uhura from ‘Star Trek’, has died at the age of 89