Zoe Saldana, Celia Rose Gooding, Sonequa Martin-Green, Whoopi Goldberg, And More Pay Tribute To Nichelle Nichols

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Since the passing of Nichelle Nichols over the weekend, there has been a constant flow of love and emotion for the Star Trek icon. And since our initial collection of tributes on Monday, there have been even more. Among the updates are homages from a number of Black actresses from Star Trek, including the two who followed in Nichols’ footsteps to take on the role of Uhura.

Uhuras unite in tributes for Nichols

The role of Uhura was taken up in in film by Zoe Saldana in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek in 2009, and this year on television on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds by Celia Rose Gooding. After offering her initial thoughts on social media, Gooding penned a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter titled Nichelle Nichols Inspired Black Women to Dream Big For the Future. The heartfelt column included this:

To say that I would not be playing Cadet Uhura if it weren’t for Nichols’ brilliant portrayal of the lieutenant my young cadet would become is, quite literally, the truth. It would fail to encapsulate how I probably wouldn’t have a career without Nichelle’s devotion to making room for strong-willed, intelligent, opinionated, graceful Black women in entertainment. I’ve been very lucky to have a career in playing confident activists, driven bookstore owners, and performers with a lust for all there is to offer in life and beyond, but I didn’t always believe that the life I live now was possible for someone like me. As a young Black girl, I grew up wishing on stars to be seen and accepted in my fullness — to be represented beyond the loveless best friend, comedic relief, or simply someone secondary to the life of my other, often whiter, peers. In my youth, I didn’t understand that I was craving the very representation that Nichols’ Lt. Uhura provided.

On Monday, Saldana offered a lengthy post in Instagram which said, in part:

Meeting Nichelle was truly a very special moment in my life. Her energy was infectious every time I was in her presence. She convinced me in believing that anything was achievable, if you put your heart into it. I mean, she inspired Mae Jemison to follow her dreams of becoming an astronaut and that’s exactly what Mae did.

I knew I had big shoes to fill when I was chosen to play Uhura, and Nichelle made me feel safe, told me to play her with all the confidence in the world. My hope is that we continue to keep her memory alive by celebrating her amazing body of work, and by spreading the message of peace and equality amongst all people. She lived a long, impactful life and not only prospered, but helped so many others prosper too.

 

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A post shared by Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana)

Goldberg and Martin-Green inspired by Nichols

On her show The View, Whoopi Goldberg talked about how she had been inspired as a little girl by Nichelle Nichols, leading her to join the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She said, “Nichelle was the first Black person I’d ever seen who made it to the future.” Watch the rest below:

Sonequa Martin-Green led the return of Star Trek to television as the star of Star Trek: Discovery, and on Instagram she posted that she was devastated by the news, calling Nichols a “revolutionary force of a woman,” and saying in part:

She was a hero in the true sense of the word. I owe so much to her. We all do. Her impact on the world can’t be quantified but I hope we can follow her example and carry her legacy forward.

Martin-Green is also following in Nichols’ footsteps as the spokesperson for the Back-to-School Blast Off campaign sponsored by Frito-Lay in partnership with STEM Next’s Million Girls Moonshot. The program is sending 16 girls to NASA’s Space Camp, and in a new interview, Martin-Green talked about Nichols’ importance in inspiring young girls:

There’s such a dearth of representation of women and of people of color in STEM careers. It’s about 10%, which is really sad. I feel like STEM careers are the future … I think they’re just going to continue to increase, so there really needs to be representation in those fields,” she says.

Being able to relay that to a younger generation is monumental for Martin-Green. “I hope that I get to meet the girls sometime soon, at least virtually, because right now, with where I’m sitting — standing on the shoulders of Nichelle Nichols and wanting to further her legacy, this is just one opportunity to do that,” Martin-Green shares, visibly emotional. “So, I’m very grateful.”

Nichelle Nichols with Sonequa Martin-Green and William Shatner at 2017 Star Trek: Discovery Hollywood premiere

More Trek memories

Many more members of the Star Trek community not mentioned in our Monday post have shared their thoughts and tributes to Nichols. In a letter to Variety, Meyer offered some of his personal memories of working with Nichols, including this tidbit about being a young director on Star Trek II:

When “Star Trek” was a television series, they got used to the idea of different directors, different writers coming in for the various episodes, so they were professionally experienced. They were just amazingly helpful to me. And she was amazingly helpful. I was also writing the screenplay and she would say things like, “This isn’t exactly how Uhura would express herself here.” She would give me her version, and then I’d tweak it.

Nichelle told me to bear in mind that Uhura’s professionalism transcends her gender. This is a trained officer who is unflappable. She said, “If you listen to those NASA communications officers, all hell can be breaking loose, but they never betray that in how they talk. They remain calm.”

On Monday, we shared some of the tributes from other Star Trek stars, and there are more from members of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, including Sir Patrick Stewart, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner,  Denise Crosby, and Gates McFadden.

Additional Voyager cast tributes came from Kate Mulgrew, Robert Duncan McNeill, and Garrett Wang.

More Deep Space Nine cast and crew thoughts were posted by showrunner Ira Steven Behr and stars Nana Visitor, Nicole de Boer,  and Chase Masterson.

Another Enterprise star adding his voice was Anthony Montgomery.

More Discovery stars offering their thoughts included Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp.

Another Strange New Worlds actress offering her thoughts was Melissa Navia.

From the Kelvin movies, additional tributes have been made by actors Karl Urban and John Cho.

And The Orville creator (and Enterprise guest star) Seth MacFarlane joined in the chorus.

Tribute in Hollywood

On Monday there was a ceremony held for laying flowers at Nichelle Nichols’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which included members of the LA Away Team cosplay group.

More photos can be seen on the official Nichelle Nichols Facebook page.

A representative of the family tells TrekMovie that fans can offer their condolences on Nichelle’s official Facebook Page.

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When she came to visit the Set Tour at Trekonderoga a few years ago, she was setting up her autograph table.
I was helping my buddy set up his vendor section.
Ms. Nichols motioned to me to come to her table. She needed an item of some sort, IIRC.
She extended her hand and I couldn’t speak. Something sounding like a croak came out of my mouth.
She was wonderful.
She held my hand and said, “Hello, dear. My name is Nichelle. What’s yours?”
I was starstruck, something I normally don’t do. I was standing in front of an icon, a woman who made history. Both on television and as an advocate, getting African American women, any woman actually, into space for Nasa. She remembered me at several other conventions that same year. Just a wonderful person. She will be missed.
Boldly Go, Ms Nichols, Boldly Go….

What an honor that you were able to meet her. Amazing woman. Beloved by many.

There have been so many lovely and well-deserved tributes to Ms. Nichols on recent threads that I’ve hesitated to try to say something. But I feel compelled to add or reiterate this comment for anyone who was not a fan during the first-run of TOS from 1966-1969. This was in the decade of the assassination of JFK, the Cuban Missile Crisis (which we now know was more perilous than we knew at the time), the civil rights movement, the anti-Viet Nam protests, and while Trek was airing, the assassinations of MLK and RFK.
The calm, cool, professional, and dignified presence on TV of Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek was enormously impactful on American society in ways that are hard to express if one didn’t live at the time. This was also true to a degree for George Takei, but I suppose that as a female character and with the racial “reckoning” of the day, Ms. Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura was most profound. In addition, she wasn’t merely an image on TV, but in her later tireless work for NASA put into concrete form the vision that her character embodied. The word “iconic” has been used many, many times before and since her death. It is deeply fitting.

Rest in Peace, Ms. Nichols. Will definitely miss you. You gave me so much joy watching you always smiling with the fans. Every year watching you in a Star Trek or SciFi Convention, gave a big smile to my face.

Your love, your talent, every scene of my favorite franchise. What you did for people of color. For woman. For NASA. For the country. For all of us.

Godspeed.