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Star Trek Actress Nichelle Nichols Dies at 89

Image Source: Indian Express

Nichelle Nichols, an American actress best known for her work on the science fiction TV series Star Trek in the 1960s, passed away at the age of 89.

One of the first black actors in the US to play a leader in authority, Nichelle Nichols broke down barriers in the part of Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the television series.

Nichelle Nichols Working for NASA

Later, she worked for NASA in an endeavor to recruit more women and people of color to the astronaut corps.

According to her son Kyle Johnson, she passed away on Saturday night from natural causes.

Nichols played Lt. Nyota Uhura, a communications officer, in the “Star Trek” TV series and many of its spinoff movies.

Nichols was a television rarity when “Star Trek” premiered in 1966: a Black woman in a significant role on a prime-time television program. Prior to Nichols’ Uhura, there had been African-American women on television, but they mostly portrayed domestic helpers or had minor roles. Uhura was a crucial member of the multicultural “Star Trek” crew.

It was “the first non-stereotypical character portrayed by a Black lady in television history,” according to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

In one of the first inter-racial kisses on US television, Nichols’ character kissed James T. Kirk, who was played by White Canadian actor William Shatner. This incident made Nichols a household name. The kiss scene “changed television forever, and it also transformed the way people looked at one another,” Nichols claimed in a 2014 interview with CNN.

Following the three-season run of “Trek,” Nichols committed her time to the space industry. She aided in the recruitment of astronauts Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, and Guion Bluford, among others, in order to diversify NASA.

George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu, the captain of the USS Enterprise, tweeted a heartfelt remembrance of his co-star.

By using performers of color in prominent roles, the 1960s television series Star Trek helped to dispel preconceptions.

The character of Lt. Uhura, played by Ms. Nicholls, was shown as a capable and composed communications officer, defying stereotypes.

Nichelle Nichols Making Television History

She made television history in 1968 when she and William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series, enjoyed one of the first non-romantic interracial kisses.

Despite her achievements, Ms. Nicholls had initially thought about quitting the program. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., however, who called her figure the “first non-stereotypical role played by a black woman in television history,” persuaded her differently.

After the Star Trek television series ended in 1969, she continued to appear in the first six Star Trek films.

Along with her acting career, Ms. Nicholls took on the role of NASA ambassador, promoting the program’s inclusion of women and underrepresented groups.

Brief Bio of Nichelle Nichols

Grace Dell Nichols was born in 1932, not far from Chicago. (When she was a teenager and dissatisfied with Grace, she adopted the name Nichelle.) Her grandfather was a White Southerner who fell out with his family after marrying a Black lady.

By the time she was 14, Nichols was singing in neighborhood bars thanks to her four-octave vocal range. Duke Ellington was also one among the musicians she encountered and later went on tour with. She spent a lot of time acting and working in bars in Chicago.

She moved to Los Angeles at the beginning of the 1960s, where she landed a role in the “The Lieutenant” television series by Gene Roddenberry. Among the “Star Trek” veterans who worked on the programme were Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, and Majel Barrett.

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