Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana has taken to social media to pay tribute to Nichelle Nichols, best known for playing Lt. Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series, who passed away yesterday at 89 years old. Nearly fifty years after she first became famous, when it was time to hand the role of Nyota Uhura over to Saldana for the JJ Abrams-directed reboot of the franchise, Nichols was happy to do so, saying that Saldana "did very, very well with it." Saldana expressed her admiration for Nichols, as well as her awe at the legacy of good works that the original Star Trek leading lady left behind.
Saldana, like Nichols, has been adopted by the geek world, and is currrently starring in the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avatar franchises. She took to Instagram to praise Nichols's work and her personality.
"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."
You can see her post in full below.
Nichols' role as Uhura, a Black woman serving on the bridge crew of the USS Enterprise, in Star Trek inspired many to follow in her footsteps, including future Star Trek actors like LeVar Burton. Her kiss with William Shatner's Capt. Kirk in the episode "Plato's Stepchildren" is also widely recognized as the first interracial kiss on American television. She became iconic enough through Star Trek that NASA later turned to her for help in recruiting women and minorities into its space program, the subject of the recent documentary film Woman in Motion.
"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," Saldana said. "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."