Star Trek helped change the world forever – socially, politically and racially, and also in terms of sci-fi, pop culture and entertainment – and Nichelle Nichols played a huge role in that. Star Trek will turn 50 on September 8, and Nichols, despite a few health scare, including a stroke, joyously and joyfully carries on. She’s still acting; in face, she’ll be on view today in her second episode of The Young and the Restless. She’s got a jewelry line. And our beloved original Uhura continues to appear at conventions and autograph shows in the U.S. and around the world. StarTrek.com sat down to chat with Nichols during her whirlwind visit to San Diego Comic-Con earlier this summer. The actress looked radiant, as always, and sounded happy as she celebrated Trek‘s 50th anniversary, filled us in on her current projects and shared her appreciation for all the love she’s received from fans over the years.
What does it mean to you to be here and sharing in the celebration of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary?
I think it’s fantastic, but I’m just not that old.
Star Trek is 50 and you’re…40. Is that what you’re saying?
We’ll go with that… 32.
And I lie well. (Laughs)
You lie very well. But, really, what does it mean to be here, to share the occasion with the fans here and at the screening of Beyond? This trek just continues to live on.
Yes, it does. You could say it’s amazing, but it doesn’t amaze me.
It doesn’t amaze me because Star Trek fans have been there from the beginning, and so they simply are fantastic. They know what they’re doing. They know what they like. Star Trek… it’s not like silliness coming. They really know what Gene Roddenberry was doing, what he hoped for, for the world, when he wrote it.
What do you think Roddenberry would make of all of this, if he were still here with us?
He’d fit right in. He would love it. I think he would think it was wonderful and that he’d be saying, ‘This is great.’ And I’m sure he would be busy changing this and developing that.
What kinds of stories do the fans share with you about their love of Uhura and the way the character changed their lives?
I don’t know I can answer that, but only because there are all kinds of stories. Everybody has a different reason for being a Star Trek fan. People tell me they went into communications because of Uhura. I know that some people entered the space program, NASA, because of Uhura, because of Star Trek. And I know that because I recruited some of them!
And then there’s Whoopi Goldberg, who saw a black face on television – YOURS – and said, “Look there’s something for me.”
She was a fan first. And then she got so involved with it, with Star Trek. The first person she called was me. I’m so happy that we’re friends. I love Whoopi.
On our way to sit down with you for this interview, we passed hundreds of fans who were waving to you, calling out your name, calling out Uhura’s name. Do you just soak in all that love?
I love the love, and I love returning it. They know that. It’s as simple as that.
M-A-C, the makeup company, is one of the companies that’s celebrating Star Trek this year. They have their Trek station and one of the models is dressed and performs as Uhura. They’re emphasizing Trek‘s empowering women. Can we assume you always viewed Uhura as empowering?
Absolutely. There’s no other way to see her. She always has been and is now and will continue to be. I was at their display and I met the young model. She is beautiful, inside and out.
You’ve designed a line of jewelry…
It’s artistic. It’s another form of artistry.
You had a health scare last year, with the stroke. How are you feeling?
I’m feeling great. I don’t even remember the incident. What did I have? (Laughs)
Star Trek has outlived Gene Roddenberry, Leonard Nimoy and others. It’ll outlive us…and you. How reassuring is it to know the franchise and all it stands for will continue on for generations?
That’s very true. I love it. Star Trek is so strong and it’s so…Gene Roddenberry. It’s really for all of us. You just say, “That’s Star Trek.” It’s a beautiful thing. It means so much (to so many people). And it’s not just a show with some nice-looking people. It’s really talking about something.
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