Space Queen Nichelle Nichols Did An AMA For Reddit!

Nichelle Nichols, who was recently hospitalized after suffering a minor stroke, recently did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) for Reddit. Some of the questions Ms. Nichols answered were common ones she has answered before, such as questions about Martin Luther King and working with Gene Roddenbery, but quite a few were questions I had never heard her answer before. Many people remarked on how gracious and amazing it was for Ms. Nichols to answer as many questions as she did. Here are some of the more interesting questions, answers and information to come out of this AMA: 

 * Ms. Nichols' responses are in bold. 

What are Nichelle's upcoming plans/new projects?

I’m doing something very exciting online. I’m one of the founding celebrities on a new website called StarPower, where stars raise funds for the causes we care about while building closer, long-lasting relationships with our fans. I’m giving away some of my original Star Trek memorabilia, tickets to upcoming events, and doing some exclusive one-on-ones with fans. I even started hosting my own mini-AMA before someone told me I should do it here! What sets StarPower apart from other sites is that it’s a monthly subscription rather than a flash-in-the pan. I know from working with non profits in the past that a constant, reliable revenue source is the dream compared to the booms and busts of traditional fundraising. I’m supporting the Technology Access Foundation and the Planetary Society.

Continuing her advocacy work with NASA, Nichelle will once again be going where very few people have gone before! As she explains: 

I am honored to say that I will be among the first non-essential personnel to experience NASA’s newest telescope: SOFIA. On September 15th, I’ll board a special 747 with a very specially built telescope integrated into the fuselage, taking off at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center near Palmdale, California. 

SOFIA is actually a second generation Airport Observatory. The first generation was the Keiper Airborne Observatory, flown in the mid 1970’s, which I also had the honor being able to fly on, and even operate the equipment! 

I would love to share this event with my fans through live sharing here on StarPower, a special for my VIP fans supporting the great causes that help make these kinds of historical events happen. I'm working with NASA to see what's possible. 

Interested in SOFIA? Learn more here:http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sofia/index.html


In the course of answering a question about the role she almost left Star Trek for until MLK asked her to stay (a very famous story Nichelle has told many times)--it was a Broadway role by the way--Nichelle was asked a follow-up question that I will lie awake tonight thinking about the possibilities of: 

If you could play any roll on Broadway, what would your choice be?

Nichelle Nichols: 

After the show, I would have loved to see them take Star Trek to Broadway as a musical. I write as well as perform, I would have loved to take a creative lead here.

You guys. We could have had it ALL. Someone please get on this. NOW. 

 

Nichelle was asked about Whoopi Goldberg being cast on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Whoopi being inspired by Nichelle to become an actress is another well-known Star Trek/Nichelle Nichols story, but I personally did not know that Gene Roddenbery consulted with Nichelle when Whoopi wanted to join the cast of TNG: 

Do you have an interesting story involving Whoopi Goldberg?

Nichelle Nichols: 

Whoopi Goldberg said Star Trek was her favorite show growing up. She said "they need to write something for me!" Her agent said "you can't act in Star Trek, you're a comedian!" She said "No, I'm an actress who does comedy!"

Gene talked to me about it, I think he wanted my reaction. I was really excited about it, and I laughed and said "yes, that's what the show needs, a Whoopi Goldberg! Yes!" She was terrific.

This was no 'comedy thing' to her, this was her favorite show and she is a great actor, she did fantastic, and the world discovered it through Star Trek.

I believe she knew our roles better than we did.


Nichelle is asked about filming fan-favorite film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (aka The One With The Whales): 

My question is, my all time favorite Star Trek movie is Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. A great part of the movie takes place in San Francisco in the 80's. Can you tell us a bit about the experience? Filming in on the streets of SF? Also, in the movie, you all have a bit of fun swimming with the whales when the Bounty crashes in San Francisco Bay in the future. Was the scene any fun to film? Or was it not fun at all for you?

Thank you again and God bless you!

Nichelle Nichols: 

It was a lark and a half! Two and a half larks. Three larks. So much fun. Everybody on it understood that Gene Roddenberry had a funny bone.

My biggest memory of San Francisco was the cold.

They wanted to keep me away from the whales and do some kind of special effects, but I was determined. I think I was as interesting to the whales as they where to me.

I'm so honored to have had a part in your life with your choice of career. I hope it's been everything you hoped for.


Nichelle talks about fighting to get Uhura involved in more away missions on TOS (The Originial Series):

Do you have a favourite moment or episode from the original series?

Nichelle Nichols: 

I loved the whole show, from when I left to the studio to when I got home, and everything in between.

My favorite episodes were anytime Uhura got to go to the planet. I fought for that, the person who knows the planet and the people better than all of you is the communication officer! They don't need to communicate to me up on the ship, I've got the communicator right here.

Note: This seemingly obvious idea of taking the Communications Officer with you to the planet where you don't speak the language, is implemented in Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT)--which is the newest Star Trek series but chronologically takes place about 100 years before Kirk's first Five Year Mission--due to the universal translator not being invented yet. 

 

Asked what it was like to perform with legendary jazz musician Duke Ellington, Nichelle had a typically poetic answer: 

What was it like to sing with Duke Ellington? What was he like as a person?

Nichelle Nichols: 

It was like the sky opened up, and god said "pick anything that you want that would make the world perfect".


Nichelle also weighed in on the Spock/Uhura ship in the J.J. Abrams films: 

How do you feel about Uhura dating Spock in the JJ Abrams franchise?

Nichelle Nichols: 

That wouldn't have happened back in the original series, Uhura was a private person with a personal life separate from the rest of the crew.


As as long-time (as in years before the 2009 film) Spock/Uhura shipper, I am conflicted and struggling right now. It is worth noting that Nichelle's answer about this is somewhat different than previous answers regarding the pairing. In previous answers she seemed to be answering from a real world consideration of the times (the network would have never gone for it), versus this answer which is more of a "is this in character/something this two characters would do" consideration. Personally, I think it's very in character and if Ms. Nichols and I ever get the opportunity to discuss shipping and OTPs, I will be ready with fanfic and ship manifestos. But I promise that I will be super chill. And not outwardly emotional at all (just like a Vulcan!) #IwillGoDownWithThisShip

 

Nichelle was asked what it's like to be a hero and who were her heroes growing up. I think Nichelle's answer is a perfect end point: 

Dear Nichelle, thank you so much for doing this AMA. I grew up watching Star Trek with my father, who used it to teach me about racism and gender equality (not just in the actual stories, but also the behind-the-scenes stuff, like Dr. King asking you to stay on the show). You've been a hero of mine for almost my entire life. My question for you is, who was your hero, or who were your heroes, when you were a child?

Nichelle Nichols:

Thank you so much for your kind words, I'm so honored to have been able to have a role in your life.

I wanted to be a singer as a child. Lena Horne was the greatest when I was growing up, a star, a performer, a lady. When you saw her, you never forgot it. Marian Anderson is tied for first place with her, she was an icon for every black female artist of my generation. And thank God I got to meet her before she died, that was the greatest thing for me. She had a voice that made you just shiver in place.

I have heroes, and I felt it was a duty of mine to be a hero to others. If I was going to be in front of others, I wanted to be a hero I'd be proud to have.

Nichelle Nichols continues to be an inspiration and truly awesome person. Here's the link to the entire AMA: 

 

http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/3f6oq1/i_am_nichelle_nichols_star_treks_uhura_first/

 

Niala Terrell-Mason's picture
on August 4, 2015

Hey, I'm Niala! I'm black, bisexual, super liberal, a Unitarian Universalist (I'll wait while you Google that), and a long time fangirl. I love fan conventions, Marvel, Star Trek, fan fiction, Tumblr, Harry Potter, most of the shows that Fox cancels and books. I work in a public library and I am a grad student pursuing a masters of divinity in interfaith chaplaincy (aka someone who does religion for a living). I hope you think I'm funny.