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.'"

Highlights
Nichelle Nichols on the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character in TV's first interracial kiss; the response from the South
Nichelle Nichols on meeting Duke Ellington
Nichelle Nichols on how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. persuaded her to remain on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on working for Otto Preminger in Porgy and Bess on Broadway
03:09
Nichelle Nichols on what her character's name "Uhura" meant in Swahili - freedom
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her early childhood, the origin of her name; on her education in music and dance
On the first time she saw television; on the representation of African-Americans on early TV; on working alongside Diahann Carroll 
On working with many legendary performers early in her career including Duke Ellington, Marlon Brando

Chapter 2

On her early film roles; on transitioning from theater to film
On meeting Gene Rodenberry and first hearing about Star Trek, originally named Wagon Train to the Stars; on why Rodenberry set it in the future; on how Uhura's character originally was not in the script
On meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the impact that had on her

Chapter 3

On the audience response to her character on Star Trek; on the huge cult popularity of the show; attending Trek conventions
On her reaction to the news Martin Luther King, Jr had been killed; on her involvement with NASA
On the third season of Star Trek; changes in her role; on specific episodes

Chapter 4

On the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character; on Trekkies
On the cast and crew of Star Trek; on the show's legacy; on her current projects
Shows

Heroes

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Nichelle Nichols on the role she played on Heroes; "nana Dawson"
01:42

Lieutenant, The

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Nichelle Nichols on The Lieutenant, her first television appearance in 1964

Star Trek

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Nichelle Nichols on being cast on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols describes her character "Uhura" on Star Trek; how the studio didn't want a black female character on the series; it wasn't in the original script
Nichelle Nichols on what her character's name "Uhura" meant in Swahili - freedom
Nichelle Nichols on how Star Trek's "Uhura's" name came about 
03:26
Nichelle Nichols on the third season of Star Trek; the production schedule; changes in her role;
Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek fan favorite "The City on the Edge of Forever"
Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek fan favorite "Plato's Stepchildren"
Nichelle Nichols on the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character
Nichelle Nichols on the legacy of Star Trek
Topics

Characters & Catchphrases

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Nichelle Nichols on what her character's name "Uhura" meant in Swahili - freedom

Civil Rights Movement

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Nichelle Nichols on her reaction to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr being killed in 1964

Classic TV series episodes

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Nichelle Nichols on the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character in TV's first interracial kiss; the response from the South

Diversity in Television

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Nichelle Nichols on how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. persuaded her to remain on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols describes her character "Uhura" on Star Trek; how the studio didn't want a black female character on the series; Gene Rodenberry defended it as "that's what America looks like"
Nichelle Nichols on the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character in TV's first interracial kiss; the response from the South

Historic Events and Social Change

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Nichelle Nichols on the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character in TV's first interracial kiss; the response from the South

Memorable Moments on Television

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Nichelle Nichols on the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character in TV's first interracial kiss; the response from the South

Minorities

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Nichelle Nichols describes her character "Uhura" on Star Trek; how the studio didn't want a black female character on the series; Gene Rodenberry defended it as "that's what America looks like"
Nichelle Nichols on how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. persuaded her to remain on Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols on the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character in TV's first interracial kiss; the response from the South

Pop Culture

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Nichelle Nichols on what her character's name "Uhura" meant in Swahili - freedom
Nichelle Nichols on the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character in TV's first interracial kiss; the response from the South

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

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Nichelle Nichols on watching the test pattern on early television

We Considered

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Nichelle Nichols on the famous Star Trek scene where her character kisses William Shatner's character in TV's first interracial kiss; the response from the South

Women

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Nichelle Nichols describes her character "Uhura" on Star Trek; how the studio didn't want a black female character on the series; Gene Rodenberry defended it as "that's what America looks like"
People

Marlon Brando

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Nichelle Nichols on how Marlon Brando made a bet her first name wasn't really Nichelle

Diahann Carroll

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Nichelle Nichols on working with Diahann Carroll at the Playboy Club

Duke Ellington

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Nichelle Nichols on meeting Duke Ellington

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Nichelle Nichols on how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. persuaded her to remain on Star Trek
11:55

Otto Preminger

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Nichelle Nichols on working for Otto Preminger in Porgy and Bess on Broadway
03:09

Gene Roddenberry

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Nichelle Nichols on the resistance Gene Rodenberry faced in casting her, a black actress, in Star Trek

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