MLK convinced Nichelle Nichols to stay on Star Trek

LATE Actress Nichelle Nichols was once close to turning down the role of Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek franchise. But thanks to the advice of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Nichols decided to continue starring as an iconic character.

In a 2011 interview with US National Public Radio (NPR), Nichols explained that she lost interest in her character after the first season ended in 1967. Uhura disagreed with her.

“I grew up in musical theatre. For me, the highlight and epitome of my life as a singer, actor and dancer/choreographer was to perform on Broadway,” said Nichols, who died on July 30 at the age of 89.

She added, “I came to tell Gene Roddenberry that I was leaving after the first season and he was very upset about it.” However, he told her, “Take a weekend and think about what I’m trying to achieve here on this show.”

In later interviews, Roddenberry said that this was because Nichols was “an integral part” of the series. And that very weekend, Nichols ran into Reverend King at a fundraiser.

King, who was a “trekker”, also convinced her to stay in Star Trek when she told him about her plans to quit smoking. Nichols recalled King scoring again: “Don’t you see what this man (Roddenberry) has achieved? For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen.

“Do you understand that this is the only performance that my wife Coretta and I will let our young children stay up and watch?”

After much deliberation, she agreed to stay and has inspired generations of black viewers and women with her role ever since. One of them was Zoe Saldana, who later played Uhura in JJ Abrams’ adaptation. The actress called Nichols an icon who paved the way for many women of color.