A Conversation with Nichelle Nichols

Post Date: 11 July 2011

Listen now:

Season 2, Episode 24

Some might know Nichelle Nichols best from Star Trek, but this actress, singer, dancer and space advocate has much to say beyond her role in TV’s exploration of the final frontier. In this exclusive interview, she talks about how science fiction and Star Trek—and specifically her ground-breaking role as Chief Communications Officer Lt. Uhura—not only impacted her life, but also had an influence on society over space and time.

Nichelle Nichols Actress, singer, dancer and space advocate.

Star Trek: Motion Picture 20th Anniversary Addition (Main Title)” – Jerry Goldsmith
“Episode Titles” – Alexander Courage
Max’s Factor” – Alexander Courage
The Meld” – Jerry Goldsmith
“Going Up” – Alexander Courage

  • http://random-verbosity.blogspot.com/ Jonathan Sample

    This episodes contains a whole lot of amazing. Thank you for posting it and for continuing to share the brilliance of StarTalk!

  • Drew Mcdowell

    She really is the most amazing person. We would be lucky to have more like her.

  • Elizabeth

    This is incredible. Everyone needs to hear this.

  • http://ugs.academia.edu/JamesKirkland Jim Kirkland

    I shared this on Facebook. Wonderful interview and I have heard other Nichelle Nichols interviews; she is a wonder of grace and class! What a pleasure this must have been for you.

    • Jeff

      Thanks for sharing it with us, Jim, and for sharing it on Facebook.

  • Dan

    Wow, what a wonderful interview. Just great.

  • Ella

    Any chance of a transcript for those who aren’t able to hear it?

    • Jeff

      Sorry, Ella. It’s one of the new projects we’ve been considering for the future, but believe it or not, you’re one of the few people to ever request one.

  • http://rebeccadhillon.com Rebecca

    This is wonderful. She is an idol :)

  • Paige

    This was delightful to listen to. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sean

    Also worth note is she’s gorgeous as hell. And I’m a white guy born in 1968. I’d have given her the first interracial kiss if I had the chance.

  • Annabel

    What a fabulous interview. The interaction between Neil and Nichelle was amazing. She is not only an inspiration but a true lady!


    Another very impressive person I was completely unaware of except to see her occasionally on Star Trek! She was not anyone I had any other information about! Good people everywhere than goodness!

    • Jeff

      Peggy, you may also want to check out Part 2 of the interview, where Nichelle talks about the work she did for NASA recruiting astronauts. It’s even more impressive.

  • Jess

    I’d also love to be able to read a transcript. I’m not Deaf, but I frequently don’t have headphones, or don’t have the space to listen to an interview that I’d gladly read in a quarter of the time. I’m pleased to hear it’s being considered for the future; add my vote to the people who’d like transcripts :-)

    • Jeff

      Got it, Jess. Thanks. (Am I sensing a bandwagon starting? Cool.)

  • Eric Corl

    This woman is so amazing. She gives so much credit to those around her (and rightly so), but she sounds so amazed and humbled to hear what an incredible impact she’s had on us.

  • Gloria

    Jumping on the bandwagon. Having a transcript as an option would be great. Being able to read a transcript generally takes much less time and I find it vastly more convenient.

    • Jeff

      That’s three… keep on jumping, people! Plenty of room…

  • http://bitqwik.com/ Robert Oschler

    Most of the time I hear an actor talk about how serendipity affected their career I’m a bit underwhelmed because the trigger is usually something relatively benign or mundane. This is the complete opposite. This is such a potent and magical story that I would not have been surprised if it were the plot of a Quantum Leap episode or some other poetically enhanced artistic vision. That this actually happened with one of the most pivotal and important figures in history, makes it a gem to be cherished for all time.

    • Jeff

      Perfect… it would have been an awesome Quantum Leap, Robert.

  • Eileen Dranetz

    I am happy to hear Nichelle Nichols on Star Talk. It was great to hear her story anout Martin Luther King’s children being inspired by Uhura. I can’t wait to see Nichelle at the Star Trek Convention Boston on June 8 and 9.

  • Pablo

    Thank you for sharing this interview, Mr. Tyson. I was misty-eyed from the beginning of the podcast. It was great to hear from Nichelle Nichols, especially when talking about her meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. Great stuff!

  • Sarah

    Count me on the bandwagon! I did not listen to this interview because it is difficult for me in present circumstances. I generally prefer transcripts because I am hard of hearing. My hearing aids occupy my ears, so ear buds are not an option for me anymore; headphones are too big to carry around and would cause feedback from my hearing aids, so they are not a viable option. I hate to jack up the volume and inflict my interests upon those who surround me, thus my preference for transcripts.

    • Jeff

      You’re counted, Sarah.

  • Pete Laberge

    Oh! Thank you!
    I had heard of the Story, but here it is! And SHE is still awesome!
    Thanks for giving us this priceless interview!
    I have loved her since I was a kid.
    Still do.

  • Jeff

    For those of you who asked for a transcript of this episode, check out this post on Slashgear.com by Chris Burns:

  • Vincent S

    I saw “Tribute” and Nichelle Nichols’ face in the front page then I was going to “Oh my…” D:. Then I saw MLK and cooled my tits down. Thanks for the Pcasts peoples. Will be enjoyed on transit.

  • David

    Was not excited to listen, but figured why not? Was very glad to have listened to it. I’m not moved by much, but this interview was impressive. Thank you.

    • Jeff

      David, I was a Star Trek fan, so I was excited to listen the first time. But like you, I was unprepared for how much this interview moved me. Thanks for your comment.

  • Josh J.

    Ive been going back and listening to old Star Talk episodes and somehow I missed this one. I was completely unprepared the hear her powerful story. Dr. Tyson, you often say that (science) media influences the world and I think this interview fully illustrates that. Thank you for these tears of understanding.

  • http://ttokttoki.tumblr.com Niki Thomas

    I haven’t cried this hard in I don’t know how long. This is by far my FAVORITE episode.

  • Aaron Izonfasebuk

    Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, I just wanted to thank you for providing such an incredible resource online for free. The Star Talk radio series is the best podcast/radio show I have ever encountered. You have inspired me to start my own podcast/radio show here in Tokyo, Japan. You are an amazing human being. Thank you.

  • Cykyter

    Amazing conversation, im too young to have seen the show, but the message here is timeless. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Little Poobah

      It’s well worth watching the show: you can watch it online via Amazon Streaming or at
      http://www.startrek.com/videos/star-trek-the-original-series .
      I have it all on DVD. I invited my 20-year-old daughter to watch it with me, and she rolled her eyes that I would think she might like some moldy old show from the 1960s. I told her, “Just watch one episode with me. Then if you don’t want to watch any more, I won’t ever ask you again.”

      She was so impressed with it that right after the first episode, we watched another, and another, and another… we watched all 3 seasons over one weekend, and she’s a confirmed fan.

      I did the same with another young person, with the same result.

      In both cases, I gave periodic commentary about what was happening in the world at the time, and what the show was saying about issues of the day (“The Klingons are the Soviets, and the Romulans are the Chinese, and…” “Many Southern stations refused to air this episode because of the interracial kiss” etc.).


    Thank You for this interview! This is awesome!

    While you are at it , check out Chattanooga artist Hollie Berry and why she chose to add Lt Uhura to her street mural.


  • Charlie Protz in NY

    AWESOME 100%

  • msmrphy

    Thanks, that brought back some memories of those times.