Nichelle Nichols, Uhura From ‘Star Trek,’ Dead at 89

Nichelle Nichols as Uhura

Paramount Nichelle Nichols as Uhura

Nichelle Nichols, a multitalented actress known for her role in “Star Trek,” as well as a singer and civil rights pioneer, died Sunday, July 31, according to a post on her official website. Nichols, who rocketed to worldwide fame, thanks to her iconic role of Uhura from “Star Trek” in the 1960s, and later on “The Animated Series” and the six feature films which followed, was remembered by her son, Kyle Johnson.

“I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” Johnson wrote on the official website, Uhura.com.

“Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away,” wrote Johnson. “Her light, however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.”

“I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further,” Johnson wrote. “Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.”

According to CNN, Nichols died of natural causes.


Roddenberry Created the role of Uhura for Nichols

According to the book “Star Trek: A Celebration,” written by Ben Robinson and Heavy’s Ian Spelling, there was no communications officer role originally on “Star Trek.” Creator Gene Roddenberry knew Nichols as she appeared on his previous show, “The Lieutenant.” When “Star Trek” casting began, Nichols was in Europe, and her agent “implored” her to return to read for the part on this new science fiction show.

“I read the lines for Mr. Spock because there was no Uhura,” said Nichols. She and Roddenberry fleshed out the character together, starting over a lunch.


Singer on the Enterprise


Theme From "Star Trek"Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises Theme From "Star Trek" · Nichelle Nichols Out Of This World ℗ 1991 GNP/Crescendo Released on: 1999-08-30 Auto-generated by YouTube.2014-11-08T15:38:54Z

Fans of “Star Trek” are well aware of Nichols’ talents. On more than one occasion, Nichols sang on “The Original Series.” In one episode, “Charlie X,” Nichols sang to Leonard Nimoy (Spock) in a fun yet flirtatious way. She also sang in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.


An Incredible Talent

According to the “Star Trek Continues” Facebook page, Nichelle studied dance at the Chicago Ballet Academy, and would occasionally show off her moves on set — and in costume. As seen above, these photos show off the talent which Nichols had as a dancer.


‘Woman In Motion’


Woman In Motion | Official Trailer | Paramount+The inspiring true story of Nichelle Nichols' determination to break racial barriers and change the future of NASA's Space Shuttle Program. Stream "Woman In Motion" on June 3, exclusively on Paramount+. Paramount+ Now Streaming. Try It Free bit.ly/3fyL8a9 Follow Star Trek on Paramount+ for the latest news: Facebook: facebook.com/StarTrekOnPPlus Twitter: twitter.com/StarTrekOnPPlus Instagram: instagram.com/startrekonpplus Follow Paramount+…2021-04-05T20:19:55Z

As chronicled in the recent documentary, “Woman In Motion,” Nichols started in Hollywood as a singer and dancer. But thanks to her spirit and work ethic, she became a science fiction icon, which she used in her role as a recruiter for NASA.

“That’s what our tax dollars do,” Nichols said of her work for NASA. “These missions show what mankind can dream of, mankind can do. NASA belongs to me. We have not only the opportunity, but the duty to keep the space program viable where no man or woman has gone before.”

As reported by Heavy, she wasn’t sure how the NASA job would work out, but was elated when she learned how many scientists and other NASA employees were Trek fans.


Civil Rights Pioneer

Nichols contemplated leaving “Star Trek” in 1967 because she felt that the role of Uhura was beneath her. She felt that she could do more. First, Trek creator Gene Roddenberry tried to stop her from leaving, but later (as reported on by Heavy), Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to her as well.

“I also was offered a role in a play to do that was Broadway bound and I was going to leave the show and take that; and it was a good role,” Nichols said in an interview with the Television Academy.

”I forget what the heck it was and I went in and told Gene [Roddenberry] when the season was up, I was going to leave the show and Gene said, ’You can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Yes I can!’ and I said, ‘Gene, you’ve been wonderful and I really thank you for this opportunity, but you know… my life is theater. Musical theater. And I’m getting offers for all kinds of wonderful things, and that’s where I want to be…’ and he’s sitting behind his desk and he looked up at me and I handed him my resignation letter that I had written out.”

“And he took it after I laid it on the desk; he looked at it and he said, ’Take the weekend Nichelle and think about it. And if you feel the same way the beginning of next week… think about this. It’s MORE than you think it is.’ And he took the resignation and stuck it in his desk drawer. And I said, ‘Thanks Gene and skipped out of there,’” Nichols recalled.

Nichols met Dr. King, who talked her out of leaving. Again, thanks to “Star Trek: A Celebration,” when King visited Nichols in person, she informed him that she’d be leaving the show.

“[King] said, ‘What are you talking about?’” Nichols remembered. “He said, ‘You cannot,’ and, so help me, this man practically repeated verbatim what Gene said. He said, ‘Don’t you see what this man is doing, who has written this? This is the future. He has established us as we should be seen. Three hundred years from now, we are here. We are marching, and this is the first step. When we see you, we see ourselves, and we see ourselves as intelligent and beautiful and proud.’”

King’s visit made Nichols reverse her decision, and she stayed on for the second and third seasons of “Star Trek.”


‘Star Trek’ Family Remember Nichols

As the news of Nichols’ death spread, thousands of fans shared their grief on social media, and the hashtag #RIPNichelle was something used by many. George Takei, who worked along side Nichols for so many years, shared his thoughts in the following tweet:

Actor Wilson Cruz, who fans know as Dr. Culber on “Star Trek: Discovery,” also shared his thoughts on Nichols’ passing:

Aaron Waltke, co-executive producer of “Star Trek: Prodigy” also shared his thoughts on Nichols. It was largely thanks to Waltke which allowed Nichols’ voice and character to return to “Star Trek,” in the episode “Kobayashi.


The New Uhuras

When it came time to recast Uhura for the “Star Trek” reboot series in 2008, producer J.J. Abrams selected actress Zoe Saldana for the role. As seen in the photos above, Nichols and Saldana were on very friendly terms, and Nichols was impressed with Saldana’ take on the role.

“I think she’s great,” Nichols told ComicBook.com in 2017. “I told her … I gave her my best and wished her the best and she did very, very well.”

Celia Rose Gooding, who portrays Uhura on “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” tweeted her thoughts on Nichols’ legacy.


A Rocky Retirement

Not everything was good for Nichols in retirement. Many news outlets covered the struggle for control over her estate, including Heavy. According to our article, which was published in 2020, her son Kyle Johnson, claims that his mother’s former manager, Gilbert Bell, committed elder abuse by taking advantage of her diminished capacity to steal her money and control her finances. Bell responded with his own comments about Johnson.

READ NEXT: ‘Star Trek’ Fans: Please Do Not Spoil ‘NOPE’ for Everyone Else

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4 months ago

So Sad to hear this news. May her sprit rest in peace.

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