Actress Nichelle Nichols, Uhura of 'Star Trek', dies at 89


By AGENCY

US actress Nichelle Nichols (right, seen in a 2007 filepc),who was best known for portraying Lt Nyota Uhura (left) on 'Star Trek: The Originial Series', has died at the age of 89. – Photo: AFP (right)

Nichelle Nichols, a groundbreaking Black actress who played communications officer Nyota Uhura with cool authority on the popular 1960s series Star Trek, has died at 89.

Her son, Kyle Johnson, announced the death on the official uhura.com website, saying, "Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light, however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain."

A family spokesman said Nichols died in Silver City, New Mexico, where she had been living with her son.

Tributes poured in quickly, including from a long list of devoted "Trekkies."

George Takei, who as helmsman Sulu shared the bridge with Lieutenant Uhura on the USS Enterprise, called her "trailblazing and incomparable," while prominent Georgia politician Stacey Abrams lauded her as a "champion, warrior and tremendous actor."

Nichols made history with one of the first interracial kisses on US television – a 1968 embrace shared with the Enterprise's Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner (a kiss deemed worthy of a separate entry in Wikipedia).

Nichelle Nichols was best known for portraying Lt Nyota Uhura on 'Star Trek: The Originial Series'. – Photo: FilepicNichelle Nichols was best known for portraying Lt Nyota Uhura on 'Star Trek: The Originial Series'. – Photo: Filepic

Martin Luther King Jr. himself once praised Nichols, who broke ground with her powerful performance at a time when Black actors more often were cast as servants or criminals.

Nichols, who had trained in ballet and musical theater, at one point told Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry that she wanted to quit the show to return to the theater.

But when she mentioned that to King, in a chance meeting recounted by the Hollywood Reporter: "All the smile came off his face and he said, 'You can't do that. Don't you understand, for the first time, we're seen as we should be seen? You don't have a Black role. You have an equal role.'"

She stayed.

Nichelle Nichols at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calfiornia August 5, 2012.– Photo: ReutersNichelle Nichols at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calfiornia August 5, 2012.– Photo: Reuters

While best known as Uhura, Nichols had a varied career, dancing with Sammy Davis Jr. in Porgy And Bess, appearing on the NBC series Heroes and recording an album.

She also played Uhura – a name taken from the Swahili for "freedom" – in the first six Star Trek movies.

Later, Nichols worked as a recruiter for Nasa – which reached out to her after she had criticized its lack of diversity – and successfully encouraged several talented African-Americans and women of all races to consider careers with the space agency. – AFP

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Obituary , Nichelle Nichols , Star Trek

   

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