Interview: Celia Rose Gooding On Choosing Her Own Look For Uhura In ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’

At the Strange New Worlds premiere event, TrekMovie had a brief moment to speak with Celia Rose Gooding, who has taken on the classic role of Nyota Uhura. The actress talked about how she has been involved in developing the look for Cadet Uhura on Strange New Worlds.

Can you talk about the choice for Uhura to have your short hair? Did anyone try to suggest a wig or anything else?

No. I auditioned like this and they loved it. So it was never a conversation. It was approached—like they asked me would I want to wear a wig? And my answer was, “Absolutely not.” Wigs? I like to let my scalp breathe. So to have an opportunity to look like myself and show up as myself as this character, it’s an incredible opportunity.

Rebecca Romijn talked about how you two are given a choice of which uniforms to wear.

Yeah, we choose.

Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura and Ethan Peck as Spock.

How does that work, choosing for each episode?

It depends on what’s going on. I like to keep the ratio pretty balanced of top and pant versus tunic. And also sometimes if I’m just feeling the tunic, sometimes I don’t want to try and swim into that top and pants. So it really is however we’re feeling. And the costumes department, they are so forgiving. They’re so collaborative. And so they email us before every episode with like, “What are you feeling? What do you want to do?” And we take it from there.

We get to see Uhura singing on the show, so was there any singing during your audition process?

No, they didn’t thank God! I have a theater background and so I’m sure there’s footage of me singing out there everywhere. I would have happily sang in the audition if they asked me to. [laughs]

Christina Chong as La’an and Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura

Still more SNW gold carpet interviews to come

We still have more gold carpet interviews from the New York premiere of Strange New Worlds with the cast and creatives. Check out our earlier interview with Henry Alonso Myers. Plus see our interviews with executive producer Alex Kurtzman, cast members Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijin, Christina Chong, Bruce Horak, and Ethan Peck.

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New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debut on Thursdays exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., Latin America, Australia and the Nordics. The series airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada. In New Zealand, it is available on TVNZ, and in India on Voot SelectStrange New Worlds will arrive via Paramount+ in select countries in Europe when the service launches later this year, starting with the UK and Ireland in June.

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I am genuinely curious why Celia’s hair style is the topic of conversation. We’re not talking about the hair style of any other actor/actress on the series. She looks good as she is, and I mean, yea it’s great that they didn’t force her to wear a wig, I can’t help but wonder why so much focus on her chosen style. People, fictional or otherwise change hair styles – it makes sense that Uhura would be no different. This is like the Janeway hair all over again.

I guess it is because the Uhura character on TOS series didn’t have such short hair and people are looking for ‘consistency’ whatever that means, same question, would it matter if Spock decided to go back to the Discovery beard and longer hair for strange new worlds?

That was a different time and a totally different era. It’s amazing that people do not change with the times and realize these things right away.

“For the times they are a-changin’”…

Nichelle Nichol’s take on Uhura’s new appearance, from the making of The Motion Picture :D

Oops…Nichelle *Nichols’s*

I was just about to point that out! Yeah she changed hairstyles in time, that’s kind of common in real life too.

Look at Michael Burnham. This woman was changing hairstyles every several episodes for a while. She grew braids in the third season. Nobody cares because its just a person changing things up. It’s the same bizarre argument when Spock showed up in Discovery with a beard. People were arguing Spock didn’t have one in TOS either so therefore…


Lol. We’re all, every one of us, only human…=).🖖🏾

I think the fact her hair looks like a military buzzcut just doesn’t seem to fit with what we know of Uhura as a character. She was always quite feminine, and cadet Uhura has quite an androgynous appearance. I think it’s as relevant an issue to discuss as any.

Uhura’s a CADET at Starfleet Academy and it’s seven years before TOS. The character’s hairstyle at this point in Uhura’s timeline matching Celia’s makes a lot of sense. Uhura is an excited, loving life cadet in her final year getting to take her sea cruise on one of the best ships in Starfleet.
Why Celia has her hair that way is her choice. It’s not for me to approve or disapprove, because it’s her personal expression.

If you think about it though, if Ethan Peck’s Spock had a radically different haircut—if he had a shaved head or long braids down to his waist…people would be talking about the stylistic choice and whether it seems to fit the character. That said, Im more interested in Celia’s performance and whether she captures the spirit of Uhura. I liked her in the first episode. I’ll get used to the buzzcut.

I had no issue with Ms. Gooding’s appearance in the first episode; people change their hairstyle all the time. It’s her delivery that felt nothing like Uhura. Nichelle Nichols and even Zoe Saldana projected a slightly reserved nature in their interpretations once they were on the ship. They were never effervescent and bubbly. The scene where she is distracting the alien until Chapel can knock him out is a perfect example. Uhura was never chatty in that way with a complete stranger, let alone an alien. Watching that scene I got nothing from it that felt Uhura from the character. Same goes for Chapel, she came across more as a hyperactive cheerleader than a professional.

It’s a little depressing that so much focus was placed on her appearance but not a single word was spoken about her approach to the actual character.

Then again, Nichols and Saldana played Uhura 10 or so years later in her life than the version Gooding plays.

I get that but there have to be recognizable threads in there or what’s the point of calling the character “Uhura”? I still have mannerisms that I had as a child. Did she even bother to say “hailing frequencies open” when she put pike on ship-wide comms?

But it’s only one episode, we’ll see where she goes with it.

She is not under any obligation to say that, though. That is not a character trait.

Given that she is a cadet at the time of this show I found no fault with her enthusiasm. Perhaps with more experience she will gain more reserve. Although I liked her portrayal in that scene. It felt like something Uhura would have said if she had more lines than normal. It also helped the story by showing that they studied the people of Kiley before their arrival. As the communication officer she would be a part of that study. As for Saldana’s performance…its good but it’s also HER performance,. I like that Celia is getting to put her own personal spin on Uhura. Then again I also have zero issues with them “updating” the characters for this show. So take my statements how you wish.

That scene in the elevator was perfect Uhura in my opinion. It was established in TOS that she monitors all planetary transmissions when the ship is in orbit around a previously unexplored planet. It made total sense that she knew the colloquialisms and was able to immediately engage the gentleman in conversation about a local sports team. I mean she was the one to dope out the whole “Worshipers of the Son” conundrum in “Bread and Circuses” just by listening to the broadcasts after all.

Furthermore, when the TOS writers allowed it Uhura showed she was very cool under pressure. Improvising that little conversation on the fly was right on track for her! She knew what was going on and didn’t panic! Total Starfleet pro! Can’t wait to see where they go with these characters!

I actually consider Uhura outgoing. She has sang in TOS, I think more than once, was curious about the Tribbles and in Mirror, Mirror was very outspoken.

Someone mentioned that she had to refer to the Klingon books to translate Klingon in ST VI. I found that insulting to the character. An officer in her position would have had to have known more than they made it out to be.

I believe Nichelle Nichols said the exact same thing about that bit of TUC!

She’s beautiful the way she is.

If you look at the NASA unveiling of the Enterprise space shuttle in 1976, with all the Star Trek cast members there except Shatner, Nichelle Nichols is there sporting her hair as short as the current Gooding’s hair on the show. Have a look. They’re almost a spitting image of one another.

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Nichelle’s hair is still straight in that photo, or perhaps the more accurate description is relaxed – I’m not a hair stylist^^ – HOWEVER having said all that, perhaps most have forgotten that in the movie of the time i.e. TMP, she sported a big bold beautiful afro (and it may even have been a wig, I’m too lazy to find out)

So…the character of Uhura, and Nichelle, and curly hair have indeed gone together on-screen previously. Ms Gooding’s appearance is fine=)

More than fine, in fact – *consistent*.

Is it just pulled back into a bun?

Hair styles change, this is years before TOS. It’s short because she’s a cadet spending time studying Klingon or in TOS wasn’t it Klingonese? ;-)

It’s pulled back into a bun yes, meaning Nichelle’s hair is still straight ie ofc not an afro – buzzcut, bouffant or otherwise. I thought your saying her hair being short implied it was an afro like Celia’s…I misunderstood. Someone else said Michael Burnham’s style has changed a lot also…I can’t comment on that cuz I’ve never seen more than a tiny bit of Discovery.
People will have to get used to Ms Gooding’s look as the character if, for whatever reason, they find it jarring and given time, people will. I do admit, it jarred me too – not gonna beat myself up though as ofc sometimes change is disconcerting and you, me and everybody else are only human (although…while I get why it was done, I don’t think I’ll ever *like* the latest ‘orginal, old’ Starship Enterprise; just get used to it) but apart from knowing many women do indeed change styles in reality, it helped me hugely when I remembered Ms Nichols as Uhura in TMP (and just how stunning she was in it on top)

Lol Uhura’s supposed to be an expert in languages or is it linguistics, true enough. In The Trouble with Troubles their language was called Klingon’ee/ii according to the Klingon officer winding up Scotty and Chekov aboard the station, wasn’t it. Gutted his description was never used again AFAIK. Compared to ‘Klingonese’, both the sound and the spelling seem…more exotic, otherworldly, alien. *sigh*

Excuse the rambling!🖖🏾

Love having Uhura there and love the idea that her look (and style) can progress over time.

Exactly! Damn Nichelle Nichols is so awesome across all her styles over time.
Love how Celia Rose Gooding can continue the tradition.

All of that – absolutely!🖖🏾

It’s always about an actress’s hair or weight. I remember all the Janeway hair hubbub and more recently,Tilly’s weight. Never the character or the performance. It’s 2022,can’t we do better than this? There are women that change their hairstyles frequently. Why wouldn’t Cadet Uhura have short hair now longer later( or not,if she chooses)?

Yeah it’s kind of sad it’s the women actors on these shows whose appearance get so much scrutiny. I get it’s because this Uhura’s hair is different from the original but yeah it’s silly. She simply grew her hair out TEN YEARS LATER!! Leave it at that.

For the record Laurie, my comment was not aimed at you at all or even for asking the question. I was talking about the people on boards who ARE making it an issue questioning how her hair looks now or debating it should just be longer, etc. I was talking about those people specifically.

What you asked is fine and I think it’s great no one tried to get her to change her hair because it’s not needed. Yes if this was in the actual TOS years, people would have an argument, but even then it’s not really a big one. Yes they are playing old characters but it’s still a different interpretation of those characters as well. She is obviously not playing the character as Nichelle Nichols played her so physical differences shouldn’t be a big issue at this point either.

She didn’t have much screentime in the pilot but really liked her performance. I dind’t see much of Uhura in there but that might just be because Nichols never really got anything to do in the show or the movies anyway, so there’s not much to go on :-D

I will just say it. Sexy and beautiful.