Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fantastic Femmes--Nichelle Nichols--Nyota Uhura I

Discovered by jazz great Duke Ellington, Nichelle toured with Duke and Lionel Hampton as their lead singer for several years.
Adding acting to her repitore, she appeared in a number of roles in films and on tv shows including The Lieutenant, produced by Gene Roddenberry, who remembered her when casting his next series...Star Trek!

Her role as Uhura ("Nyota" wasn't added until the 1980s) was ground-breaking in that she wasn't playing a servant or someone's wife / girlfriend / sister, but a fully-qualified officer equal to (or better) than anyone around her!
Due to a large volume of racist hate mail, Nichelle considered quitting during the first season, but Dr. Martin Luther King, jr interceded, convincing her to remain.
Several notables including NASA astronaut Mae Jemison and actress Whoopi Goldberg have directly-attributed their choice of careers to her appearance as Uhura on Star Trek.
On the animated sequel Star Trek [1973-74], besides performing as Uhura, Nichelle provided voices of numerous "guest characters" including Dr. Sarah April, the Enterprise's first Medical Officer and wife of Captain Robert April, the ship's first commander!

Nichelle has kept busy, acting both on-screen and voicing animated characters, releasing several albums of her jazz performances as well as turning to film producing!

Trivia:
During the last season of Star Trek, Nichelle was offered the role of Peggy Fair on Mannix, but turned it down.
In the 1970s and '80s, she was a spokesperson for NASA and aided in recruiting female and minority astronaut candidates.
Nichelle is one of the people Robert Heinlein dedicated the novel Friday to.
She's penned two books: a sci-fi novel; Saturn's Child (co-written with Mary Wander Bonanno), and an autobiography; Beyond Uhura.
Genre appearances include...
Lady Magdaline's (Lady Magdaline aka Maggie)
Heroes (Nana Dawson)
Futurama
"Where No Fan Has Gone Before" (as her head in a jar)
"Anthology of Interest I" (as herself)
Simpsons "Simple Simpson" (as herself)
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command "Yukari Imprint" (Chief)
G vs E aka Good vs Evil (Henry's Mother)
Spider-Man [1997] (Miriam the Vampire Queen)
Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space (Sagan, High Priestess of Pangea)
Inside Space (Host)
[A Science FACT series on the Sci-Fi Channel, so it qualifies IMHO]
Batman: the Animated Series (Thoth Khepera)
ABC Weekend Specials "Commander Toad in Space" (SS Stella)
Gargoyles (Diane Maza)
Supenaturals (Sgt. Leona Hawkins)
Star Trek [1966-69] / Star Trek [1973-74] /
Star Trek: the Motion Picture /
Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan /
Star Trek III: the Search for Spock /
Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home /
Star Trek V: the Final Frontier /
Star Trek VI: the Undiscovered Country
Star Trek: 25th Anniversary [VG]
Star Trek: Judgement Rites [VG]
(Lieutenant [later Commander] Nyota Uhura)
Tarzan [1966-68] (Ruana)

Check out...
Uhura.com (Nichelle's Official Site)
Nichelle Nichols (FanSite)
Other actresses to play Nyota Uhura include...
Zoe Saldana in Star Trek [2009]

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