Nichelle Nichols is dead: Lt. Uhura in the original “Star Trek” series lived to be 89 years old
Nichelle Nichols, the Chief Communications Officer Lt. Uhura in the original “Star Trek” series died in Silver City, NM. She was 89 years old.
Nichols’ death was confirmed by Gilbert Bell, her talent manager and business partner of 15 years.
Nichols shared one of the first interracial kisses in television history on Star Trek. This moment, shared with co-star William Shatner, was a bold move on the part of Nichols, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and NBC given the climate of the time, but the episode Plato’s Stepchildren, which aired in 1968, was canceled Written to put everyone involved out: Uhura and Captain Kirk did not choose to kiss but were forced to do so involuntarily by aliens with the ability to control human movements. Still, it was a milestone.
There had been a few interracial kisses on American television. A year earlier, on “Movin’ With Nancy,” Sammy Davis Jr. kissed Nancy Sinatra on the cheek in what seemed like an impromptu gesture but was actually carefully planned. The Uhura-Kirk kiss was probably the first white/African American lip-to-lip kiss.
But Uhura, whose name comes from a Swahili word meaning “freedom,” was important beyond the interracial kiss: A capable officer who could staff other stations on the bridge when needed, she was one of the first African-American female characters in a minor role on television. Nichols played Lt. Uhura in the original series, voiced her in Star Trek: The Animated Series, and played Uhura in the first six Star Trek films. Uhura was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and to Full Commander in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Nichols considered leaving “Star Trek” after season one to pursue a career on Broadway, but Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a fan of the series and understood the importance of her character as a door opener for other African Americans on television , personally persuaded her to stay on the show, she told astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in an interview for the Archive of American Television.
Whoopi Goldberg, who later played Guinan in Star Trek: The Next Generation, has described Uhura as a role model and recalled being amazed and excited to see a black woman on television who was not a maid.
Nichols and Shatner had a very different recollection of filming the famous kiss: In “Star Trek Memories,” Shatner said NBC insisted that the actors’ lips never actually touched (although it appears), but in her autobiography, ” Beyond Uhura” in 1994, Nichols insisted that the kiss was actually real. Nervous about audience reaction, the network insisted that alternate takes be filmed with and without a kiss, but Nichols and Shatner intentionally missed each of the latter so NBC would be forced to air what appeared to be a kiss (whether their lips were actually touching or not). Not).
Both the “Star Trek” and “Movin’ With Nancy” moments drew some negative reactions, although Nichols recalled that the fan mail was overwhelmingly positive and supportive.
NASA employed Nichols to encourage women and African Americans to become astronauts. Selected in 1978, NASA Astronaut Group 8 included the first women and ethnic minorities recruited, including three blacks. dr Mae Jemison, the first black woman to fly aboard the space shuttle, credited Star Trek as an influence in her decision to join the space agency.
Nichols remained a supporter of the space program for decades.
It may say a lot about Hollywood that in 1991, Nichols became the first African American woman to have her handprints immortalized at the Chinese Theater in a ceremony attended by the rest of the original “Star Trek” cast.
Nichelle Nichols was born Grace Nichols in Robbins, Illinois. She began her show business career at the age of 16 singing with Duke Ellington in a ballet she created for one of his compositions. later she sang with his band.
She studied in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Her breakthrough came with an appearance in Oscar Brown’s high-profile but ill-fated 1961 musical Kicks and Co., in which she played campus queen Hazel Sharpe, tempted by the devil and Orgy Magazine’s Orgy Maiden of the Month The play ended after its brief rehearsal in Chicago, but she caught the attention of Playboy editor Hugh Hefner, who booked her into his Chicago Playboy Club. She also appeared in the role of Carmen for a Chicago public company production of Carmen Jones and appeared in a New York production of Porgy and Bess, where she made her feature film debut in an uncredited role as a dancer in a Adaptation of this work was in 1959. (She would later occasionally show off her singing talents on Star Trek.)
While working in Chicago, Nichols was twice nominated for the city’s Sarah Siddons Theater Award for Best Actress, the first for “Kicks and Co.” and the second for her role in Jean Genet’s “The Blacks.”
She had small roles in the films “Made in Paris”, “Mr. Buddwing” and the vehicle of Sandra Dee “Doctor, you’re joking!” before she was cast in “Star Trek”.
In the early ’60s, prior to Star Trek, Nichols had a multi-year affair with Gene Roddenberry, according to her autobiography. The affair ended when Roddenberry discovered he was in love with Majel Hudec, whom he married and was involved in Star Trek in various ways. (Decades later, when Roddenberry’s health declined, Nichols wrote a song for him called “Gene,” which she sang at his funeral.)
In January 1967, Nichols was featured on the cover of Ebony magazine, which ran two articles about her within five years.
In the early ’70s, the actress made a few guest appearances on television, appearing in the 1974 blaxploitation film Truck Turner, starring Isaac Hayes. She appeared in a supporting role in a 1983 television adaptation of Antony and Cleopatra, which also starred her Star Trek co-star Walter Koenig. She starred alongside Maxwell Caulfield and Talia Balsam in the 1986 horror sci-fi film The Supernaturals.
Later, Nichols began voice work, including in the animated series “Gargoyles” and “Spider-Man” and voiced in “Futurama”.
The actress played the mother of the lead character of Cuba Gooding Jr. in 2002’s Snow Dogs and Miss Mable in the 2005 Ice Cube comedy Are We There Yet?
In 2007, Nichols appeared in the second season of the NBC drama Heroes as Nana Dawson, matriarch of a New Orleans family devastated by Hurricane Katrina who cares for her orphaned grandchildren and great-nephew Micah Sanders (series director Noah Gray-Cabey). . The following year, she appeared in the films “Tru Loved” and “The Torturer.”
A younger Uhura was portrayed by Zoe Saldana in recent Star Trek reboot films.
Nichols has been married and divorced twice.
https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/nichelle-nichols-dead-star-trek-the-original-series-1235330159/ Nichelle Nichols is dead: Lt. Uhura in the original “Star Trek” series lived to be 89 years old