Nichelle Nichols

Actress


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her nearly three-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Nichelle Nichols talks about her work as a cast member on the original Star Trek (NBC, 1966-69) playing "Lieutenant Uhura." Nichols discusses how this role broke many barriers, including portraying the first African-American woman as a high-ranking official and the first interracial kiss on television. She reveals how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. influenced her decision to remain on the show. She talks about the show's creator, Gene Roddenberry and his vision for Star Trek. She details her early career, highlighting her roles in theater and film and touring as a singer with Duke Ellington. She also discusses her roles on The Lieutenant (NBC, 1963-64,) another Roddenberry production. She talks about more recent roles, such as "Nana Dawson" on Heroes (NBC, 2006-10). Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview in North Hollywood, CA on October 13, 2010.

"Uhuru is Swahili for freedom, and that's the history of Africa -- everyone is fighting for Uhuru in one way or another either violently or strategically. He (Gene Roddenberry) says, 'It sounds too harsh for a female.' I said, 'Well why don't you do an alliteration of it, soften the end with an 'A' and it'll be Uhura?' He said 'That's it, that's your name! You named it, it's yours. Now I know exactly where your character comes from, the United States of Africa.'"

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Nichelle Nichols on William Shatner as "Captain Kirk" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on almost leaving Star Trek, and then staying at the behest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nichelle Nichols on some of her favorite and least favorite episodes of Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on the backstory and personality of her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura"
Nichelle Nichols on working for Otto Preminger in the feature film version of "Porgy and Bess"
Nichelle Nichols on the end of the original run of Star Trek, and on the show's long second life including the Star Trek Conventions
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her early childhood, the origin of her name; on her education in music and dance
On her earliest experiences of television; on how African-Americans were portrayed on television while she was growing up; on acting in the play "Kicks and Co." and on singing at the Playboy Club while understudying for Diahann Carroll
On moving to Los Angeles; on singing with Katherine Dunham and Duke Ellington; on working with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Pearl Bailey
On a bet she made with Marlon Brando; on working for Otto Preminger in the feature film version of "Porgy and Bess"; on appearing on The Lieutenant, produced by Gene Roddenberry

Chapter 2

On Dennis Hopper appearing with her on The Lieutenant; on Gene Roddenberry coming up with the idea for Star Trek, and wanting a diverse cast
On auditioning for Star Trek; on naming her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura" with show creator Gene Roddenberry
On the backstory and personality of her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura"; on being protective of her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura"
On starting out as a day player on Star Trek which allowed her to also appear on Peyton Place; on almost leaving Star Trek, and then staying at the behest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Chapter 3

On fan reaction to her role on Star Trek, and on attending the Star Trek conventions; on meeting Coretta Scott King, and discussing Star Trek with her; on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and on her involvement with NASA recruiting; on her frustrations with how her role was written on Star Trek
On Gene Roddenberry making Star Trek a breakthrough for diversity on television; on appearing in various classic episodes of Star Trek
On the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk" (William Shatner)

Chapter 4

On fan reaction to the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk"; on some of her favorite and least favorite episodes of Star Trek; on having had children named after her because of her role on Star Trek
On the end of the original run of Star Trek, and on the show's long second life including the Star Trek Conventions; on the cast of Star Trek;
On the Star Trek feature films; on her original Star Trek costume; on the legacy of Star Trek
On then-current projects; on how things have changed for African-American actors since she began her career; on advice to an aspiring actor, and how she'd like to be remembered
Shows

Heroes

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Nichelle Nichols on appearing on Heroes

Lieutenant, The

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Nichelle Nichols on appearing on The Lieutenant, produced by Gene Roddenberry
Nichelle Nichols on Dennis Hopper appearing with her on The Lieutenant

Peyton Place

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Nichelle Nichols on starting out as a day player on Star Trek which allowed her to also appear on Peyton Place

Star Trek

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Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry coming up with the idea for Star Trek, and wanting a diverse cast
Nichelle Nichols on auditioning for Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on naming her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura" with show creator Gene Roddenberry
Nichelle Nichols on the backstory and personality of her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura"
Nichelle Nichols on being protective of her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura"
Nichelle Nichols on starting out as a day player on Star Trek which allowed her to also appear on Peyton Place
Nichelle Nichols on almost leaving Star Trek, and then staying at the behest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nichelle Nichols on fan reaction to her role on Star Trek, and on attending the Star Trek conventions
Nichelle Nichols on meeting Coretta Scott King, and discussing Star Trek with her
Nichelle Nichols on her frustrations with how her role was written on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry making Star Trek a breakthrough for diversity on television
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry's "Charlie X" episode of Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek episode "Space Seed"
Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever"
Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles"
Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk" (William Shatner)
Nichelle Nichols on fan reaction to the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk"
Nichelle Nichols on some of her favorite and least favorite episodes of Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on having had children named after her because of her role on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on the end of the original run of Star Trek, and on the show's long second life including the Star Trek Conventions
Nichelle Nichols on Leonard Nimoy is "Mr. Spock" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on DeForest Kelley as "Dr. McCoy" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on James Doohan as "Scotty" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on George Takei as "Sulu" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on Walter Koenig as "Chekov" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on William Shatner as "Captain Kirk" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on Majel Barrett as "Nurse Chapel" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek feature films
Nichelle Nichols on her original Star Trek costume
Nichelle Nichols on the legacy of Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on then-current projects

Star Trek: "The City on the Edge of Forever"

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Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever"
Topics

Advice

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Nichelle Nichols on advice to an aspiring actor

Characters & Catchphrases

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Nichelle Nichols on the backstory and personality of her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura"

Civil Rights Movement

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Nichelle Nichols on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Diversity in Television

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Nichelle Nichols on how African-Americans were portrayed on television while she was growing up
Nichelle Nichols on almost leaving Star Trek, and then staying at the behest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry coming up with the idea for Star Trek, and wanting a diverse cast
Nichelle Nichols on meeting Coretta Scott King, and discussing Star Trek with her
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry making Star Trek a breakthrough for diversity on television
Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk" (William Shatner)
Nichelle Nichols on how things have changed for African-American actors since she began her career
Nichelle Nichols on fan reaction to the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk"

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Nichelle Nichols on how African-Americans were portrayed on television while she was growing up
Nichelle Nichols on almost leaving Star Trek, and then staying at the behest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry coming up with the idea for Star Trek, and wanting a diverse cast
Nichelle Nichols on the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and on her involvement with NASA recruiting
Nichelle Nichols on meeting Coretta Scott King, and discussing Star Trek with her
Nichelle Nichols on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry making Star Trek a breakthrough for diversity on television
Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk" (William Shatner)
Nichelle Nichols on how things have changed for African-American actors since she began her career
Nichelle Nichols on fan reaction to the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk"

Pop Culture

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Nichelle Nichols on the backstory and personality of her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura"

Television Industry

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Nichelle Nichols on advice to an aspiring actor

Underrepresented Voices

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Nichelle Nichols on how African-Americans were portrayed on television while she was growing up
Nichelle Nichols on almost leaving Star Trek, and then staying at the behest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry coming up with the idea for Star Trek, and wanting a diverse cast
Nichelle Nichols on meeting Coretta Scott King, and discussing Star Trek with her
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry making Star Trek a breakthrough for diversity on television
Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk" (William Shatner)
Nichelle Nichols on how things have changed for African-American actors since she began her career
Nichelle Nichols on fan reaction to the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk"
Professions

Actress

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Nichelle Nichols on the challenge of moving from acting on stage to acting in features or on television
Nichelle Nichols on advice to an aspiring actor

Performers

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Nichelle Nichols on the challenge of moving from acting on stage to acting in features or on television
Nichelle Nichols on advice to an aspiring actor
Genres

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Nichelle Nichols on appearing on The Lieutenant, produced by Gene Roddenberry

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

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Nichelle Nichols on playing "Nyota Upenda Uhura" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on playing "Nyota Upenda Uhura" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on playing "Nyota Upenda Uhura" on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on appearing on Heroes
People

Pearl Bailey

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Nichelle Nichols on working with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Pearl Bailey

Marlon Brando

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Nichelle Nichols on a bet she made with Marlon Brando

Diahann Carroll

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Nichelle Nichols on acting in the play "Kicks and Co." and on singing at the Playboy Club while understudying for Diahann Carroll

Dorothy Dandridge

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Nichelle Nichols on working for Otto Preminger in the feature film version of "Porgy and Bess" with Dorothy Dandridge

Sammy Davis, Jr.

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Nichelle Nichols on working with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Pearl Bailey

Duke Ellington

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Nichelle Nichols on singing with Katherine Dunham and Duke Ellington

Dennis Hopper

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Nichelle Nichols on Dennis Hopper appearing with her on The Lieutenant

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Nichelle Nichols on almost leaving Star Trek, and then staying at the behest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nichelle Nichols on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Otto Preminger

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Nichelle Nichols on working for Otto Preminger in the feature film version of "Porgy and Bess" with Dorothy Dandridge

Gene Roddenberry

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Nichelle Nichols on appearing on The Lieutenant, produced by Gene Roddenberry
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry coming up with the idea for Star Trek, and wanting a diverse cast
Nichelle Nichols on naming her Star Trek character "Nyota Upenda Uhura" with show creator Gene Roddenberry
Nichelle Nichols on Gene Roddenberry making Star Trek a breakthrough for diversity on television

William Shatner

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Nichelle Nichols on the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which she shared television's first interracial kiss with "Captain Kirk" (William Shatner)

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