As the world and the Star Trek community at large continue to mourn the loss of Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Nyota Uhura on The Original Series, co-star George Takei provided an update on the warm reception from fans, how the two go even further back before the NBC series and share more personal memories.
I have been truly moved by the tributes and messages honoring the life and work of Nichelle Nichols, our very own Lieutenant and later Commander Uhura on Star Trek Although our original series ran only three seasons, we became bonded as the fans of our show organized, convened and ultimately pressed for movies and spin-offs of the groundbreaking show. Nichelle and I spent the following decades together as not only colleagues from the bridge of the Enterprise, but as lifelong friends. Much has been said about what a trailblazer and role model Nichelle was for so many young Black women, who saw in her hope and promise for their own future. I wanted to take a moment to share some stories about Nichelle that aren't as well known, and which highlight her lively spirit, her incredible kindness, and her warm generosity.
Our friendship began six decades ago, before Star Trek, when she came backstage after a performance of a civil rights musical I was doing called "Fly Blackbird" in Los Angeles. I will never forget that first meeting. She was stunningly beautiful. But beyond her beauty, she stood out. It was a time when many African American women "conked" their hair, which meant straightening it, as was the current fashion. Instead, Nichelle wore an enormous natural "Afro" sphere on her head. It was natural, it was proud, and it was glorious. I knew right then that she was a singular individual.
Back in the 1970s, after our series ended on television, I became active in local politics and even ran for city council in L.A. That required a lot of fundraising dinners and political campaigning, and I knew that I could always ask Nichelle to be our featured performer. She always donated her talent and made every event feel special and glamorous. Indeed, Nichelle made a point of being at every important milestone of mine that she could, including the opening of Allegiance just a few years ago on Broadway and later in Los Angeles. As a trained stage actress, Nichelle knew how special such occasions were to us.
Takei went further in the thread describing how Nichols was there for him and his husband Brad Takei at their wedding, serving as Matron of Honor and how she was there for him at his father's funeral. There were other tributes that poured in from the Star Trek universe, including TOS co-star Walter Koenig, Next Generation star Sir Patrick Stewart, Kelvin universe Star Trek star Zoe Saldana, Vice President Kamala Harris, and more. You can see the rest of the tributes here.
"I'm saddened to learn of Nichelle Nichols' passing. We have lost a true star- a unique artist who was ahead of her time always. She's an icon, an activist and most importantly an amazing woman- who blazed a trail that has shown so many how to see women of color in a different light. Her strive for equality was unwavering.
Meeting Nichelle was truly a very special moment in my life. Her energy was infectious every time I was in her presence. She convinced me in believing that anything was achievable, if you put your heart into it. I mean, she inspired Mae Jemison to follow her dreams of becoming an astronaut and that's exactly what Mae did.
I knew I had big shoes to fill when I was chosen to play Uhura, and Nichelle made me feel safe, told me to play her with all the confidence in the world. My hope is that we continue to keep her memory alive by celebrating her amazing body of work, and by spreading the message of peace and equality amongst all people. She lived a long, impactful life and not only prospered, but helped so many others prosper too.
Maya Angelou once said "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel". I agree with this statement with the exception of Nichelle Nichols. It'll be hard to forget what she said and hard to forget what she did, and it will certainly be impossible to forget how she made us feel.
REST IN POWER QUEEN NICHELLE
(From Zoe Saldana's Instagram, which you can check out here)