Nichelle Nichols is an actress, singer and dancer, best known as Communications Officer Lt. Uhura on the legendary 1966 television series Star Trek.
Her first television acting role was on an episode of Gene Roddenberry-created The Lieutenant, titled "To Set It Right," which was about racial prejudice and also featured Dennis Hopper. In 1964 the subject of race was considered taboo for television, resulting in NBC refusing to broadcast the episode. It is said that Roddenberry’s frustrations with the episode never having been broadcast that he made his decision to focus on Star Trek, as it could focus on issues like racial prejudice allegorically.
In 1966, Nichols was cast by Gene Roddenberry to create Lt. Uhura, fourth in command of the Starship Enterprise. A ground-breaking role, Dr. Martin Luther King has stated that Uhura became “the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a black woman in television history.” The series lasted three seasons from 1966 to 1969, and was revived as an animated television series in 1973, with Nichols reprising her role as Uhura. Thanks in part to the cult following the series garnered in syndicated reruns (and the success of a 1977 film from a galaxy, far, far away), it was announced in 1978 that the Enterprise crew would reunite for a feature film by Academy-Award winning director Robert Wise. Star Trek - The Motion Picture opened in North America on December 7, 1979, and set a box office record for highest weekend gross, beating the record set by Superman (1978), and landing in the top three films of 1979. She subsequently co-starred in five other blockbuster Star Trek motion pictures, and appeared alongside other Trek alumni in the fan-made series Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.
Among her many notable TV and film credits, Nichols co-starred with Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn in the Disney motion picture Snow Dogs (2002), with Ron Perlman and Daniel Riordan in the TV film Captain Zoom in Outer Space (1995), and with Maxwell Caulfield and Levar Burton in the Sandy Howard film The Supernaturals (1986). In 2007, Nichols appeared on the NBC blockbuster TV series Heroes as Micah’s grandmother Nana.
Besides her time in film and television, Nichols has had an astounding career in theatre and public service. She has been twice nominated for the coveted Sarah Siddons Award for Best Actress for her performances. In her one-woman show, Reflections, she “becomes” twelve legendary female entertainers, using her beautiful three-octave vocal range to rave reviews. She was under contract to NASA, Nichelle took on the daunting task to successfully recruit the first women and minority astronauts for the Space Shuttle Program, for which she received NASA’s distinguished Public Service Award for her pioneering efforts. In 2004, Nichols was selected as one of the International Human Rights Consortium’s Fete d’Excellence Laureates.