LATE actress Nichelle Nichols was once close to giving up her role as Lieutenant Uhura in the Star Trek franchise. But thanks to advice from Reverend Martin Luther King, Nichols decided to continue starring as the iconic character.
In a 2011 interview with the US National Public Radio (NPR), Nichols explained that she had lost interest in her character once the first season wrapped in 1967. Despite breaking barriers as one of the few Black actresses on TV at the time, Nichols thought Uhura did not align with her.
“I grew up in musical theatre. To me, the highlight and the epitome of my life as a singer and actor and a dancer/choreographer was to star on Broadway,” said Nichols, who passed away at age 89 on July 30.
She added: “I went in to tell Gene Roddenberry that I was leaving after the first season and he was very upset about it.” However, he told her to “take the weekend and think about what I am trying to achieve here in this show.”
Roddenberry said in later interviews that this was because Nichols was “an integral part” of the series. And that very weekend, Nichols bumped into Reverend King at a fundraiser.
King, who was a ‘trekker’, also persuaded her to stay in Star Trek when she told him her plans to quit. Nichols recalled King telling her: “Don’t you understand what this man (Roddenberry) has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen.
“Do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch?”
After much thought, she agreed to stay on, and has since inspired generations of Black viewers and women with her role. One of them was Zoe Saldana, who later portrayed Uhura in the J.J. Abrams adaptation. The actress hailed Nichols as an icon who blazed the trail for many women of colour.