Nichelle Nichols, the groundbreaking actor who played Lt. Nyota Uhura in the original “Star Trek” series, has died.
She was 89 years old.
Nichols’ death was confirmed Sunday by his son, Kyle Johnson, on his website. Johnson said her mother died of natural causes.
“Its light, however, like the ancient galaxies seen now for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from and be inspired by,” Johnson said in a statement posted to the site. website.
Johnson said her mother’s life was “well lived and as such a role model for” everyone. He asked for family privacy.
Nichols and her “Star Trek” character Uhura broke barriers as one of the first black women on television.
Rod Roddenberry, executive producer of current iterations of “Star Trek” and son of series creator Gene Roddenberry, mourned Nichols’ passing on Sunday.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of legendary icon Nichelle Nichols,” he tweeted. “No words.”
Nichols, was born in Illinois as Grace Nichols. She was discovered in Chicago by composer and musician Duke Ellington as a teenager while working as a dancer and choreographer, according to the National Space Society, for which Nichols served on the board.
“As I learned to believe in my talent, my voice, myself, I learned that I could make others believe too,” Nichols wrote on her website.
Prior to appearing in “Star Trek,” Nichols was an accomplished dancer but had only a handful of acting roles.
Nichols appeared on “Star Trek” in its first season in 1966. She initially considered leaving the show, feeling her character lacked depth. However, after meeting Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a fan of the show, she decided to stay.
It was then that she worked alongside Roddenberry to give Uhura groundbreaking authority and dominance, something unheard of in this era of television.
“When I was on those wonderful sets with all the cast members, the Star Trek universe began to no longer be a fantasy but an opportunity to lay the groundwork for what we could actually achieve by the 23rd century…a bold aspiration and affirmation from Uhura as we eagerly await her arrival,” Nichols wrote on her website.
One moment that broke boundaries, in 1968, was a kiss between Nichols’ Uhura and William Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.” The episode helped reshape what viewers considered acceptable on television and was an early statement on the acceptance of interracial marriages.
After the original “Star Trek” ended, Nichols became a NASA spokesperson, according to her website. She helped recruit astronauts and appeared in public service announcements.
NASA credited Nichols with helping recruit Sally Ride and Frederick Gregory, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“By motivating them like others once did for me, it’s like my life has returned, on a loop, to where a young woman’s dreams began,” she wrote on its website.
In her autobiography, she wrote that she loved attending “Star Trek” conventions, the LA Times reported.
After news of his death was announced, co-stars and fans mourned his loss.
“I will have more to say about the pioneering and incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who shared the deck with us as Lieutenant Uhura of the USS Enterprise, and who passed away today at age 89. For today, my heart is heavy, my eyes shine like the stars among which you now rest, my dearest friend, ” tweeted George Takei, who starred alongside Nichols as “Star Trek” helmsman Hikaru Sulu.
Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., praised Nichols for her portrayal.
“Representation matters. Excellence in representation matters even more. Thank you, #NichelleNichols“, she writes. “Rest well, ancestor.