Zoe Saldaña Pays Tribute to Nichelle Nichols: ‘A True Star’

·4-min read

A day after the death of “Star Trek” star Nichelle Nichols, fellow Lieutenant Uhura performer Zoe Saldaña penned a tribute to the pioneering actor.

From 1966 to 1969, Nichols portrayed the character of Nyota Uhura — the communications officer of the USS Enterprise — in the pioneering science fiction series “Star Trek,” later reprising the role in six films released between 1979 and 1991. Nichols’ performance as Uhura was hugely significant as one of the first Black women on American television to be portrayed in a position of power, and the actor was famously convinced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. not to leave the series after the first season. Saldaña would portray an alternate universe version of the character in the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot film, as well as two film sequels in 2013 and 2016.

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In an instagram post on Monday, Saldaña wrote about Nichols death and her impact as a Black woman in the entertainment industry, saying that “We have lost a true star — a unique artist who was ahead of her time always.”

“She’s an icon, an activist and most importantly an amazing woman — who blazed a trail that has shown so many how to see women of color in a different light,” Saldaña wrote in her post. “Her strive for equality was unwavering.”

Saldaña also discussed first meeting Nichols after being cast as Uhura in the 2009 film, calling it a “very special moment” in her life, and saying that the actor helped her feel confidant playing the iconic character.

“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,” Saldaña wrote. “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.”

Saldaña will reportedly return to the role of Uhura in an upcoming sequel of the film franchise. On television, Celia Rose Gooding portrays a younger version of the character in the prequel series “Strange New Worlds,” which recently ended airing its first season.

Read Saldaña’s full statement below:

I’m saddened to learn of Nichelle Nichols’ passing. We have lost a true star- a unique artist who was ahead of her time always. She’s an icon, an activist and most importantly an amazing woman- who blazed a trail that has shown so many how to see women of color in a different light. Her strive for equality was unwavering.
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.
Maya Angelou once said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. I agree with this statement with the exception of Nichelle Nichols. It’ll be hard to forget what she said and hard to forget what she did, and it will certainly be impossible to forget how she made us feel.
REST IN POWER QUEEN NICHELLE

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