Nichelle Nichols, Who Played Uhura on Star Trek, Dead at 89

Nichelle Nichols Dead Uhura Star Trek

Nichelle Nichols, who originated the role of Uhura on the original Star Trek series, has died, our sister site Variety has confirmed with Nichols’ manager and business partner Gilbert Bell. She was 89.

Nichols joined William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in the main cast of Star Trek when it debuted on NBC in 1966. Nichols played communications officer Nyota Uhura, who helped Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew make contact with alien lifeforms.

Nichols was a trailblazer for Black actors in science fiction: She and Shatner shared the first kiss between a white person and a Black person on television, and when Nichols considered leaving the role after Trek‘s first season, Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged her to stay, telling her what a role model she was to Black children. Whoopi Goldberg, who went on to play Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, remembered telling her family upon first watching Star Trek: “I just saw a Black woman on television, and she ain’t no maid!”

Nichols played Uhura in all three seasons of the original Star Trek and later reprised the role in six Trek movies, from 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture to 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Her other TV credits include Heroes, Sharknado 5 and voice work on Futurama, The Simpsons and Gargoyles.

Zoe Saldana took over the role of Uhura in the big-screen Trek reboot, starting with 2009’s Star Trek. This spring, Celia Rose Gooding debuted as Uhura on the Paramount+ spinoff Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, set several years before the original Trek series.

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