RIP: Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols passed away last night from natural causes.  She was 89 years old.

Although best known for her role as Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek television series, Ms. Nichols first became famous for her role in the play Kicks and Co.  This led to roles in a Chicago production of Carmen Jones and later a New York production of Porgy and Bess.  Nichelle Nichols also did singing and modeling jobs.

Prior to her groundbreaking role on Star Trek, Ms. Nichols began getting roles on television (The Lieutenant; CBS Repertoire Workshop; Payton Place; Tarzan) and theatrical films (Made in Paris; Mister Buddwing; Doctor, You’ve Got to be Kidding).  With her role on Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols became one of the first African-American women to be featured in such a prominent co-starring role on a television series.

When she was offered a role on Broadway, Ms. Nichols planned to leave the series.  However Martin Luther King, Jr. convinced her by saying, “…you cannot, you cannot (leave the show)…for the first time on television, we will be seen as we should be seen every day, as intelligent, quality, beautiful, people.”   Not only did Nichelle Nichols stay for the entire series, she voiced Nyota Uhura on Star Trek: The Animated Series, and returned for the Star Trek feature films (Star Trek; The Motion Picture; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; Star Trek V: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

When Star Trek the series ended, and when she wasn’t making Star Trek feature films, Nichelle Nichols continued to act on television and feature films, worked with NASA to recruit minority and females, released two albums and did voice work for animation! Talk about multi-talented!

My first exposure to Nichelle Nichols was her role on Star Trek.  I can remember the controversy when she and William Shatner had one of the first interracial kisses on television.  I was just a kid, but thought, “What’s the big deal?  She’s a beautiful, smart women.  Kirk would be a fool not to kiss her.”  By all accounts Nichelle Nichols was as beautiful a person inside as out.  I’ve never heard a bad story about her.  Fans love her and rightly so.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nichelle Nichols family, friends and fans.