Nichelle Nichols: ‘Pioneering’ actress who played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek dies | Ents & Arts News



Actress Nichelle Nichols, who rose to worldwide fame and paved the way for black women on television by starring in the original Star Trek TV series, has died.

Her son, Kyle Johnson, said she died Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico. She was 89 years old.

His role in the 1966-69 series as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura earned Nichols great respect from die-hard fans of the series, known as Trekkers and Trekkies.

It also earned him accolades for breaking racial stereotypes and included an on-screen interracial kiss with co-star William Shatner who was unknown at the time.

**FILE PHOTO** Nichelle Nichols has died at 89. WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 1: Nichelle Nichols at the Star Trek Renegades Premiere at the Crest Theater in Westwood, California on August 1, 2015. Credit: David Edwards/MediaPunch / IPX
Photo: AP

“Last night my mother Nichelle Nichols succumbed to natural causes and passed away,” Kyle wrote on her Facebook page.

“Its light however, like the ancient galaxies seen now for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn and be inspired by.

“His was a life well lived, and as such a role model for all of us.”

Star Trek co-star George Takei tweeted: “I will have more to say about the pioneering and incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the deck with us as Lieutenant Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who is died today at age 89.

“For today my heart is heavy, my eyes shine like the stars among which you now rest, my dearest friend.”

The Raumschiff Enterprise's Die Crew Walter Koenig (lr), George Takei, Deforest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, William Shatner, James Doohan and Leonard Nimoy in a single view of the films "Star Trek VI", Company (Archivfoto aus dem Jahr 1992).  Der “Mr. Spock”-Darsteller Leonard Nimoy ist einem Bericht der “New York Times” zufolge gestorben.  Photo by: Paramount/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Nichols pictured with George Takei, Deforest Kelley, William Shatner, James Doohan and Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek VI Enterprise. Photo: Associated Press

NASA recruiter

Like other members of the original cast, Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spinoffs beginning with 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture and attended Star Trek fan conventions.

She also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping integrate minorities and women into the astronaut corps.

The original Star Trek’s overriding message to viewers was that in the distant future – the 23rd century – human diversity would be fully embraced.

“I think a lot of people took it to their hearts … that what was being said on television at that time was cause for celebration,” Nichols said in 1992.

She often recalled how much Martin Luther King Jr was a fan of the series 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 co-stars and I was leaving the show, he got really serious and said, ‘You can’t do this,'” she told a newspaper in 2008.

“‘You changed the face of television forever, and as a result, you changed people’s minds,'” she said, the civil rights leader told her.

“That foresight of Dr. King was a lightning bolt in my life,” Nichols said.


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