Nichol Nichols, who broke down barriers for black women in Hollywood who played communications officer Lieutenant Uhura in the original “Star Trek” television series, has died at the age of 89.
Nichols died Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico, his son Kyle Johnson said.
“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, died of natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, is for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from. And will continue to be inspired,” Johnson wrote on his official Facebook page on Sunday. “His life was well lived and as such a model to all of us.”
His role as Lieutenant Uhura in the 1966–69 series earned Nichols the status of a lifelong honor with the series’ crazy fans, known as the Trekkers and Trekkies. It also earned its praise for breaking stereotypes that limited black women to acting roles as servants and included an interracial onscreen kiss with co-star William Shatner that was unheard of at the time.
George Takei wrote on Twitter, “I have to say more about the trailblazing, incomparable Nickel Nichols, who shared the bridge with us as Lieutenant Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed away today at the age of 89.” “For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes are shining like the stars in the midst of which you are now resting, my dear friend.”
Takei played the role of Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series alongside Nichols. But his influence was felt beyond his immediate co-stars, and many others in the “Star Trek” world expressed their condolences.
Celia Rose Gooding, who currently plays Uhura in “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” wrote on Twitter that Nichols “made room for a lot of us. She was reminded that we don’t just reach for the stars.” but our influence is necessary for their survival. Forget moving the table, he made it.”
“Star Trek: Voyager” alum Kate Mulgrew tweeted, “Nickel Nichols was the first. She was a trailblazer who, with grit, grace and a gorgeous fire, traversed a very challenging path that we look forward to seeing again.” is unlikely. “
Like the other original cast members, Nichols also appeared in six big-screen spinoffs beginning with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and “Star Trek” fan conventions in 1979. She also served as a NASA recruiter for several years, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps.
Nichols breaks down barriers for black women in Hollywood
Most recently, she had a recurring role in television’s “Heroes,” playing the aunt of a young boy with mysterious powers.
The original “Star Trek” premiered on NBC on September 8, 1966. Its multicultural, multiracial cast was producer Gene Roddenberry’s message to audiences that in the distant future – the 23rd century – human diversity would be more fully accepted.
“I think many people took it to heart … that what was being said on TV at the time was a reason to celebrate,” Nichols said in 1992 when “Star Trek” at the Smithsonian Institution The exhibition was on view.
She often recalled how Martin Luther King Jr. was a fan of the show and admired her role. She met him at a civil rights gathering in 1967, at a time when he had decided not to return for the show’s second season.
“When I told him that I was going to miss my co-stars and that I was leaving the show, he got very serious and said, ‘You can’t do that,'” she told The Tulsa (The Tulsa) in a 2008 interview. Okla.) told the world.
“You’ve changed the face of television forever, and therefore, you’ve changed people’s views,” she said as the civil rights leader told her.
“That foresight Dr. King was a lightning bolt in my life,” Nichols said.
During the show’s third season, Nichols’ character and Shatner’s Captain James Kirk shared what was described as the first interracial kiss to be aired on an American television series. In the episode, “Plato’s stepchildren,” his characters, who had always maintained a platonic relationship, were forced to kiss by aliens who were controlling their actions.
“The kisses suggested there was a future where these issues weren’t such a big deal,” Eric Degans, a television critic for National Public Radio, told The Associated Press in 2018. was kissing a white man… in this utopian-like future, we solved this issue. We are beyond this. It was a wonderful message to send. ,
Concerned about the backlash from Southern television stations, listeners wanted to film a second scene of the scene where the kiss took place off-screen. But Nichols says in her book, “Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories,” that she and Shatner deliberately fluffed lines to force the original take to be used.
Despite the concerns, the episode aired without a hitch. In fact, it received the most “fan mail that Paramount has ever received for an episode on ‘Star Trek,'” Nichols said in a 2010 interview with the Archives of American Television.
Shatner tweeted on Sunday: “I’m so sorry to hear of Nickel’s passing. She was a beautiful woman and an admirable character who did so much to redefine social issues here in America and around the world .
Born Grace Dale Nichols in Robbins, Illinois, Nichols hated being called “Gracie,” which everyone insisted on, she said in a 2010 interview. When she was a teenager, her mother told her that she wanted to name her Michelle, but thought she should have alliterative initials like Marilyn Monroe, whom Nichols loved. Hence, “nickel.”
Nichols first worked professionally as a singer and dancer in Chicago at the age of 14, moved to New York nightclubs and played Duke Ellington and Bess in 1959 before coming to Hollywood for her film debut in “Porgy & Bess”. Worked with Lionel Hampton Band. The first of several small film and TV roles that propelled him to “Star Trek” stardom.
Nichols was known to be unafraid to stand in front of Shatner on set when others complained that he was stealing scenes and camera time. He later learned that he had a strong supporter in the show’s producer.
In her 1994 book, “Beyond Uhura”, she stated that she met Roddenberry when she guest-starred on his show “The Lieutenant” and that the two had an affair for a few years before “Star Trek” began. The two remained close friends for life.
Nichols and another admirer of the show was future astronaut May Jameson, who in 1992 became the first black woman in space aboard the shuttle Endeavor.
In an AP interview before her flight, Jameson said she used to see Nichols on “Star Trek” all the time, adding that she loved the show. Jameson eventually got to meet Nicholas.
Nichols was a regular at “Star Trek” conventions and events in her 80s, but her schedule was limited in 2018 when her son announced he was suffering from advanced dementia.
Nichols was placed under a court guardianship under the control of his son, Johnson, who said his mental decline made him unable to manage his affairs or appear in public.
Some, including Nichols’ manager and his friend, film producer and actor Angelique Fawcett, objected to the conservatism and demanded more access to Nichols and records of Johnson’s financial and other moves on his behalf. Her name was used several times at courthouse rallies demanding the release of Britney Spears from her own guardianship.
But the court consistently sided with Johnson, and over Fawcett’s objections, allowed them to take Nichols to New Mexico, where she lived with him in his final years.
Associated Press Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton contributed from Los Angeles. Former AP writer Polly Anderson contributed biographical material to this report.