Skip to comments.Nichelle Nichols: MLK impacted decision to stay on Enterprise (invented term "Treker in" 1966)
Posted on 01/17/2011 9:55:33 AM PST by presidio9
PBS' continuing series "Pioneers in Television" features an episode on sci-fi programming Tuesday night that includes an extensive interview with "Star Trek" star Nichelle Nichols.
The timing of the telecast (Ch. 13, 8 p.m.) is accidental, but is significant because it falls a day after today's Martin Luther King holiday. Had it not been for King, Nichols' career may have been different.
After a year with"Star Trek" as communications officer Lieutenant Uhura, she turned in her resignation. But at an NAACP event that weekend, she ran into King.
"One of the promoters came up and said someone wanted to meet me. He said he's my greatest fan," says Nichols, 78. "I thought it was some Trekker, some kid. I turned in my seat and there was Dr. Martin Luther King with a big smile on his face. He said, 'I am a Trekker, I am your biggest fan.'"
At that point, Nichols thought of herself as just a cast member on the show and hadn't fully grasped the racial implications of her part. She'd dealt with race all her life, of course, even on the set at Paramount, where a security guard hurled insults at her, but she hadn't grasped the importance of an African-American woman having a position of respect on TV.
Nichols thanked King, and told him she was leaving the show.
"He was telling me why I could not [resign]," she recalls. "He said I had the first nonstereotypical role, I had a role with honor, dignity and intelligence. He said, 'You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we'd see this on TV.'"
Nichols was at a loss for words. It was the first time the importance of being an African-American woman on television had sank in. She returned to "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry the next Monday morning and rescinded her resignation.
"He sat there and looked at me and said, 'God bless Dr. Martin Luther King. Somebody does understand me,'" Nichols says.
She and King stayed in touch occasionally afterward and until his death.
"I never looked back from that day," she says. "I never regretted the decision."
"Star Trek" stands as the show with the first interracial kiss on TV, with Nichols and William Shatner together. She would continue with the role in movies after the show was canceled.
"I certainly wasn't a pioneer then in my mind," she says. "I was just a young woman, and it was a wonderful opportunity to be on television.
"I really thought of it as a step forward to that end," she adds. "To my amazement, it became a lot more."
Nichols today is working on a script for a movie she expects to star in about tragedy, forgiveness and redemption. She also has a jewelry line.
"Why sit back when there's so much to do and see?" she says. "I expect to live another 20 or 50 years. I want to see what happens."
Uhura, who’s name means Freedom. Google Nichelle Nichols Ebony Magazine. VA VA VOOM!
Her best scenes are in “Mirror Mirror”.
Apparently it wasn’t the first — Sammy Davis Jr. and Nancy Sinatra predated Plato’s Stepchildren — (some object to this answer because it wasn’t affectionate)...but neither was this episode...also the kiss wasn’t really shown.
Shatner kept messing it up so he could do the scene over and over and over.
Actually the Star Trek budget only allowed for two takes. When they did the second take with the kiss tones down, Shatner looked at the camera and crossed his eyes so they’d have to use the take with the kiss.
I remember constructing my own ‘Enterprise’ out of cardboard and popsickle sticks and hanging it in the 8th grade art classroom. This was in the fall of 1966, before there were any real models available. Seems like last year, not over 40 years ago.
” (invented term “Treker in 1966)”
Never heard of it.
Looking back in hindsight, apparently it was Takai’s best acting as well.
I actually like TOS (and only TOS), but I believe this story about as much as I believe that Chelsea Clinton almost died in 9/11.
Did MLK also persuade her to break off her off-screen adultery with "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry?
Except that it was implied and not actually shown. Shatner turns his body just before the kiss.
Is she sure that MLK wasn't just making a move on her?
He did a pretty good job watching John Wayne's backside...
I think he also invented, designed and built the Enterprise.
Well, she’s been telling this story for about 40 years now. Not that that will change your opinion of it.
And for the past 42 years the only other witness to this conversation has been unavailable for comment...
Ever heard of this really cool website "Google.com?"
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