Actress Nichelle Nichols, ‘Star Trex’ trail-blazing Uhura, of 89. died on

  • Martin Luther King Convinced Him Not to Leave “Star Trek”
  • Former US President Obama Was a Fan
  • Nichols helped NASA attract female, black recruits

July 31 (Reuters) – Nichelle Nichols, whose portrayal of starship communications officer Lieutenant Uhura in the 1960s sci-fi TV series “Star Trek” and subsequent films broke color barriers and recast roles for black actors died at the age of 89. The family said.

Nichols, whose fans included Martin Luther King Jr. and a young Barack Obama, “became a victim of natural causes and passed away” Saturday night, his son, Kyle Johnson, wrote on Facebook.

“Their light, as the ancient galaxies are now being observed for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and inspire,” Johnson wrote.

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The series, which became a pop culture phenomenon, broke stereotypes common on American television at the time by casting black and minority actors in high-profile roles on the show.

In 1968 she and “Star Trek” star William Shatner broke a cultural barrier when they engaged in US television’s first interracial kiss.

She had planned to leave “Star Trek” after one season, but King, a 1960s civil rights leader, convinced her to stay because it was so revolutionary for a black woman to play an important senior crew member. Black people were fighting for equality in American society.

Nichols also helped break down color barriers at NASA, whose leaders were “Star Trek” fans. After criticizing the space agency for failing to select qualified women and minorities as astronauts, it hired Nichols in the 1970s to help recruit.

Her efforts helped attract, among others, the first female American astronaut, Sally Ride; Mae Jameson, the first black female astronaut; and the first black NASA chief, Charlie Bolden.

Nasa said on Twitter, Nichols was “the epitome of what was possible for so many” and “inspiring a generation to reach for the stars.”

Nichols’ portrayal of the capable, level-headed Uhura also helped inspire future black artists, including Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg. Nichols recalled Goldberg watching “Star Trek” at age 9, watching her play Uhura, and shouting to her mother: “Come on quickly! There’s a black woman on television.” And she’s not a maid!” ,

The original “Star Trek” series, tracking the adventures of the crew of the starship USS Enterprise in the 23rd century, ran for only three seasons on the NBC network from 1966 to 1969. But it became extremely popular in syndication in the 1970s, inspiring the first animated series that reunited the cast from 1973 to 1975 and then a succession of feature films and shows.

Nichols appeared in six “Star Trek” films, ending with “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” in 1991.

Conversing with Captain James T. Kirk (Shatner), Vulcan First Officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Starship’s helmsman, Sulu (George Takei), Uhura deftly handles Starship Enterprise’s communications with allied spaceships and the Alien Race .

Takei wrote on Twitter that she and Nichols “lived long and prospered together,” describing her as trailblazing and incomparable. “(My) heart is heavy, my eyes are shining like the stars between which you are now resting.”

Nichols’ most famous scene featured the first written interracial kiss on American television, although it was not romantic. In an episode titled “Plato’s Stepchildren”, Uhura and Kirk were forced to smooch far and wide by aliens messing with vulnerable humans. In real life, Nichols disliked Shatner, whom she considered arrogant.

“She was a beautiful woman and an admirable character who did so much to redefine social issues here in America and around the world,” Shatner said on Twitter.

He felt differently about “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, who cast him after starring in a previous show he produced. Nichols romanced her in the 1960s and sang a song called “Jean” at her 1991 funeral.

White House tour

Obama, the first black US president who was 5 when the “Star Trek” series debuted, was also a fan. Nichols met him at the White House in 2012 and posed for a photo in the Oval Office, with the president smiling and placing a hand on his shoulder, while the two made a “Star Trek” Vulcan hand gesture meaning “longer.” Live and prosper.”

In a 2011 interview with Smithsonian magazine, Nichols recalled meeting King at a civil rights group fundraiser.

Nichols said that she was approached by one of the event’s promoters, who told her, “There’s someone who wants to meet you and he says he’s your biggest fan, so I’m thinking of a younger child.” . I turn around and stand across the room. , walking towards me, Dr. Martin Luther King had such a big smile on his face.”

When Nichols told King that he planned to leave “Star Trek”, he said he told her to stay.

She said King told her: “This is a God-given opportunity to change the face of television, to change the way we think. We are no longer second-class, third-class citizens. He (Rodenberry) had to do it on the 23rd.” century but it is the 20th century that is watching.'” He canceled his resignation.

Like other “Star Trek” cast members, she had a hard time finding work after the original series ended because of typecasting. It was during this time that she played a foul-mouthed madam in the film “Truck Turner” (1974) starring Isaac Hayes. She was a recurring character in the television show “Heroes” in 2007.

Born on December 28, 1932, in Robbins, Illinois, he trained as a singer and dancer and toured with jazz greats Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before beginning his acting career.

Nichols, who had been married twice and had one child, suffered a mild stroke in June 2015.

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Reporting and Writing by Will Dunham; Additional reporting by Rami Job and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Bill Trott, Diane Craft and Christopher Cushing

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principals.

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