Nichelle Nichols, the stunning actress who boldly went where no one had gone before as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, has died. The 89-year-old legend’s death was confirmed by her son, Kyle Johnson, who was in charge of the conservatorship she entered in after being diagnosed with dementia during the last years of her life; Nichols reportedly passed from natural causes.
Born in Chicago in 1932, Nichols got her acting on stage in the Windy City, where she caught the eye of none other than Playboy impresario Hugh Hefner and got a gig working at the prestigious Playboy Club. She eventually auditioned for the legendary Gene Roddenberry, who cast her in his pre-Trek series The Lieutenant in 1964; Roddenberry thought she did a fantastic job with the role, and eventually cast her in the trailblazing role on Trek in 1966. (Nichols also wrote in her autobiography, Beyond Uhura, that she and Roddenberry were a romantic item.)
Nichols’ portrayal of Lt. Uhara broke barriers, earning the admiration of many powerful figures of the 1960s, including Martin Luther King, Jr. (who, as Nichols tells it, convinced her not to quit the show).
Nichols made major waves in 1968 thanks to her kiss with co-star William Shatner in the Star Trek Season 3 episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” (watch it on Paramount+), which is frequently cited as the first interracial kiss in U.S. television history.
After Trek‘s infamous cancellation by NBC in 1968, Nichols eventually reprised her role as Uhura in the first six Star Trek movies. Her talents extended beyond acting, as well; she recorded a few albums, wrote a memoir, and even served as a consultant to NASA.
As you might imagine, many are taking to Twitter to share their memories of Nichols. Here’s one:
…from her Trek castmate George Takei:
…from her late castmate Leonard Nimoy’s son, Adam:
My favorite photo of Dad and Nichelle Nichols on set. The importance of Nichelle’s legacy cannot be over-emphasized. She was much loved and will be missed. pic.twitter.com/1zlTd4F9BD
— Adam Nimoy (@adam_nimoy) July 31, 2022
…from fellow female Trek trailblazer, Kate Mulgrew:
Nichelle Nichols was The First. She was a trailblazer who navigated a very challenging trail with grit, grace, and a gorgeous fire we are not likely to see again.
May she Rest In Peace. #NichelleNichols pic.twitter.com/DONSz6IV2b
— Kate Mulgrew (@TheKateMulgrew) July 31, 2022
…from another Trek alum, Levar Burton:
Heartbroken at the news of her passing, however, I am comforted in the knowledge that she illuminated the way for so of us many with her grace, beauty, talent, intelligence and her commitment to humanity going boldly to the stars! #godess #queen
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) July 31, 2022
…and even from Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter:
Many actors become stars, but few stars can move a nation. Nichelle Nichols showed us the extraordinary power of Black women and paved the way for a better future for all women in media. Thank you, Nichelle. We will miss you. pic.twitter.com/KhUf4YM6pX
— Lynda Carter (@RealLyndaCarter) July 31, 2022
If you’re looking for a comprehensive look back at Nichols’ extraordinary life, look no further than Woman in Motion, the 2019 documentary made about her life. The doc is currently streaming on Tubi, Peacock, Paramount+, Prime Video, and more.