What Martin Luther King Jr taught Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols about acting

Nichelle Nichols was about to give up her role as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on the popular TV series Star Trek when one of the most distant Trekkies – Martin Luther King Jr – persuaded her not to.
In a 2011 interview with US National Public Radio (NPR), the star admitted that her first love was musical theater.
I grew up in musical theatre. Nichols, who died at 89 on Saturday in Silver City, New Mexico, said, “For me, the highlight and the epitome of my life as a singer, actress, and dancer/choreographer has been starring on Broadway.
According to the 2010 documentary Trek Nation, in the middle of the TV show’s first season in 1966-1967, Nichols told Star Trek author Gene Roddenberry of her decision to quit.
“I went to tell Jane Roddenberry that I was leaving after season one and he was very upset about it,” Nichols, who was one of the first black women to be cast in a pivotal role on a major TV show, told NPR. .
“And he said, ‘Take the weekend and think about what I’m trying to achieve here on this show. You are so integral and so important to her. And so I said, ‘Yes, I will.'”
This particular weekend, Nichols ran into Mr. King at a fundraiser, and the chance encounter changed the course of her life and the history of popular culture.

“On Saturday night, I went to an NAACP fundraiser, and I think it was in Beverly Hills,” Nichols said.

Come quickly, come quickly. There’s a black lady on TV and she’s not a maid.

Whoopi Goldberg

“And one of the promoters came up to me and said, Mrs. Nichols, there’s someone he’d like to meet with you. He says he likes you.”
“And I’m thinking about the Trekker, you know.
Then I turned and before I got up, I looked across the road and there was Dr. Martin Luther King’s face smiling at me and walking towards me.

And he started laughing. By the time he arrived, he said, Yes, Mrs. Nichols, I am your biggest fan. I’m that Trekkie.”

A still from a 1967 episode of Star Trek, featuring Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Nyota Oora. attributed to him: CBS/CBS Image Archive via Getty Images

At first, Nichols said she lost the ability to speak.

In the end, though, she said she mustered up the courage to tell the King, “I wish I was there on a walk with you.”
To her utter astonishment, King told her, “No, no, no.. you don’t understand. We don’t need you… to march. You’re walking. You reflect what we’re fighting for.”
When Nichols told King of her plans to leave the show, she said, “His face has become very, very serious.”

She said he said to her, ‘You can’t do that…don’t you understand what this man (Roddenberry) has achieved?’ For the first time, we are watching all over the world as we should have seen.

“Do you understand that this is the only show my wife Coretta and I will allow our young children to watch.”
Nichols went on to act in television series and also appeared in three Star Trek films.
She said she understands the importance of acting and has paid dividends in the end.

“I met Whoopi Goldberg when Jane was doing The Next Generation and she told me when Star Trek came out that she was nine and said she turned on the TV and saw me and ran across the house screaming, ‘Come quick, come quick. There’s a black lady on TV and she’s not a maid.'”

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