Zoe Saldaña has opened up about Nichelle Nichols’ influence on her career, particularly when it came to playing Nyota Uhura in the Star Trek film reboot.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Saldaña wrote on Instagram Monday about what it was like for her to meet the sci-fi icon once she secured the role of playing Uhura in an alternate timeline.
Saldaña called Nichols "a true star--a unique artist who was ahead of her time always."
She also recognized Nichols’ leadership as 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.” Nichols’ work for equality, she wrote, “was unwavering.”
“Nichelle made me feel safe, told me to play her with all the confidence in the world,” wrote Saldaña. “My hope is that we continue to keep her memory alive by celebrating her amazing body of work, and by spreading her 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.”
The final statement is a nod to the classic line from the Star Trek franchise uttered by Leonard Nimoy's character Spock, "Live long and prosper."
Within the Star Trek lore, the line is a Vulcan phrase accompanied with the Vulcan hand salute.
Saldaña described Nichols’ energy “infectious every time I was in her presence.” She said that Nichols helped her believe “that anything was achievable, if you put your heart into it.”
“I mean, she inspired Mae Jemison to follow her dreams of becoming an astronaut and that’s exactly what Mae did,” she continued. “…Maya Angelou once said, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ I agree with this statement with the exception of Nichelle Nichols. It’ll be hard to forget what she said and hard to forget what she did, and it will certainly be impossible to forget how she made us feel.”
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Nichols died Sunday at the age of 89.
Her son Kyle Johnson confirmed Nichols’ death on Facebook, writing, “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years. Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.”
“Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all,” he continued. “I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.”