At the end of Trek's first season, Nichols considered leaving the series, but Rev. Martin Luther King convinced her that she was an important role model for young black American women. She also appeared in six Star Trek feature films.
Not gonna lie. When I first heard this story I was in tears. This is another reason that Star Trek is important as entertainment and American History.
Is it true that you considered turning the role down at one point?
Nichelle: No, I never considered turning the role down. It’s incorrect. After the first year, I was delighted with having had this opportunity to work with such fine actors, and to work with Gene once again, and have this beautiful role that he allowed me to develop and to name. I named her Uhura from the Swahili word Uhuru, which means freedom. I was delighted, but my first love then, and still, is musical theatre. I never intended or expected to have a career, much less a stellar career, in television and movies. I thought it was really nice of him to give me this opportunity and I was now being offered lots of roles in theatre, especially musical theatre. I completed a year and I was simply going to leave to pursue my first love, musical theatre.
And is it true Dr Martin Luther King then persuaded you to stay....
Nichelle: Gene was very upset and he asked me to think about it over a weekend, and that weekend I met Dr Martin Luther King (MLK). He praised my work that the manner in which I was projecting Uhura, as a woman from the United States of Africa, was very important in how the world would see us as African-Americans, and for the first time on television we would be finally seen as we should be seen, as intelligent and beautiful people. I was stunned by that, and I was absolutely delighted I said: “Thank you so much, I am very much going to miss the cast because I am leaving the show.”
What did he say to you after that?
Nichelle: He became very sombre and said: “You absolutely cannot do that. This is bigger than you think. You must not leave the show at this time.” He added: “Not only can our little children look and see themselves with great pride and look in seeing you, but the world will see us. People the world over are going to see us for the first time as we should be seen. You can’t leave now.” I went back and told Gene what he had said, and told him that I would stay if he wanted me to. Gene cried, not just cried, great big tears rolled down his face, and he said: ‘Bless this man, at least someone knows what I’m trying to achieve.”