Hailing frequencies are open again on “Star Trek,” as actress Celia Rose Gooding steps into the iconic role of Nyota Uhura originated by Nichelle Nichols in “Star Trek: The Original Series,” and then played by Zoe Saldana in the J.J. Abrams-produced alternate-timeline films “Star Trek (2009), “Star Trek Into Darkness,” and “Star Trek Beyond.” According to the Internet Movie Database, Gooding is a 22-year-old New York native who will be making her television series debut when Paramount+ launches “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” on May 5, 2022, with Gooding’s Uhura at the communications station.
Gooding, according to Broadway.com, is the daughter of Tony Award-winning actress and singer LaChanze. She earned a Tony nomination in 2020, the New York Times reported, for her performance as Frankie Healy in “Jagged Little Pill,” the Broadway rock musical based on the Alanis Morissette album of the same name. Though she lost out on the Tony to a “Jagged Little Pill” co-star, Gooding, as a member of the “Jagged Little Pill” original cast, won a 2021 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. She has also completed an upcoming film, the crime thriller “Breakwater.” According to the entertainment trade paper Variety, Gooding co-stars in the film alongside Dermot Mulroney, Mena Suvari, and Sonja John, who recurred as Dr. Gabrielle Burnham, the mother of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), on “Star Trek: Discovery.”
On April 18, 2022, Gooding participated in a Zoom call with Heavy on Star Trek and several journalists from other outlets to discuss “Strange New Worlds.” The talkative, high-energy actress revealed that viewers will meet a very young, rather raw, but quite capable Uhura and that both Nichols and Saldana were on her mind when she first clipped Uhura’s earpiece onto her ear.
Uhura is Ready for Action
“We’re definitely seeing Uhura getting her space legs, as opposed to her sea legs, and it’s incredible,” Gooding said. “I, of course, did a lot of studying of Nichelle’s Uhura. Actually, my first introduction to Uhura as a character… my mom’s a huge Trekkie. She used to take my sister and I to watch the movies in movie theaters, when they (movies) were still a thing. I remember running to the front row and watching it by myself, craning my neck up to look at Zoe. I remember being so captivated. She knew how brilliant she was. It wasn’t something that she had to make a spectacle of. It was just something that, when she needed to be a capable, brilliant person, she was able to be just that.
“With Nichelle, she had this — there are probably other ways I could describe it — but she has this grace and glamour,” Gooding continued. “Of course, she also had that intelligence and her brilliance. That’s the thing that I’m trying to carry in this very young version of (Uhura), this understanding that she knows even more than she thinks she knows. She’s much smarter than I think she assumes of herself. The newness and the uncertainty is something that I am weaving through this character, as we get to know her season to season.”
Uhura Heads to the Final Frontier
Viewers know where Uhura ends up and who she will end up being, Gooding pointed out. What they don’t know, and what “Strange New Worlds” will present, she said, is how the character got there.
“It’s my job to take that and use it to influence her growth, to monitor like, ‘Oh, this is how she developed this personality trait or as she’s gotten comfortable, she’s been a lot more of this and more of that,’” Gooding said. “That is something that I’m excited for the audience to mark through the first season and, of course, in the seasons to come.”
The upcoming show is a prequel, taking place before the events of “Star Trek: The Original Series.” Some of what will happen in “Strange New Worlds” is baked into the series based on franchise canon. Still, Gooding acknowledged, the show will explore the issue of whether events in life are predetermined or if there is free will. For example – minor spoiler ahead – “Strange New Worlds” will pick up a story thread from “Star Trek: Discovery” in which Captain Pike (Anson Mount) learned when and how he will die. His fate may or may not be sealed and, Gooding noted, Uhura’s prospects just might be of her own making.
“I would say, because of the past that she’s had, I think she will grow into understanding that there is a lot more free will and that she determines her own future,” the actress said. “At the moment where we see her in this first episode, she’s very much someone who’s like, ‘The universe happens to me. I am not something that happens with it.’”