RIP

George Takei reveals special role Nichelle Nichols played at his wedding

George Takei and Nichelle Nichols
George Takei and Nichelle Nichols (Photo: Twitter)

Nichelle Nichols, 89, who played Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek TV series and films, died on the weekend. Her passing has been lamented by fans all over the world, and many who worked with her.

George Takei, who played the role of Helsman Hikaru Sulu in the original series, yesterday posted a lengthy Twitter thread. He shared a number of his memories of Nichols and explained why she was such a dear friend. This included the very special role she played at his wedding to husband, Brad, in 2008.

“I have been truly moved by the tributes and messages honoring the life and work of Nichelle Nichols, our very own Lieutenant and later Commander Uhura on Star Trek,” he began.

“Although our original series ran only three seasons, we became bonded as the fans of our show organized, convened and ultimately pressed for movies and spin-offs of the groundbreaking show. Nichelle and I spent the following decades together as not only colleagues from the bridge of the Enterprise, but as lifelong friends.

Related: George Takei has perfect response to right-wing “grooming” hysteria

“Much has been said about what a trailblazer and role model Nichelle was for so many young Black women, who saw in her hope and promise for their own future.

“I wanted to take a moment to share some stories about Nichelle that aren’t as well known, and which highlight her lively spirit, her incredible kindness, and her warm generosity.”

How they met

“Our friendship began six decades ago, before Star Trek when she came backstage after a performance of a civil rights musical I was doing called ‘Fly Blackbird’ in Los Angeles,” Takei continued. “I will never forget that first meeting. She was stunningly beautiful. But beyond her beauty, she stood out.

“It was a time when many African American women ‘conked’ their hair, which meant straightening it, as was the current fashion. Instead, Nichelle wore an enormous natural ‘Afro’ sphere on her head. It was natural, it was proud, and it was glorious. I knew right then that she was a singular individual.

“Back in the 1970s, after our series ended on television, I became active in local politics and even ran for city council in L.A. That required a lot of fundraising dinners and political campaigning, and I knew that I could always ask Nichelle to be our featured performer.

“She always donated her talent and made every event feel special and glamorous. Indeed, Nichelle made a point of being at every important milestone of mine that she could, including the opening of Allegiance just a few years ago on Broadway and later in Los Ángeles. As a trained stage actress, Nichelle knew how special such occasions were to us.”

Allegiance, a musical based on Takei’s own experiences as a child, explored the treatment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Many were sent to internment camps, including Takei’s family.

Her role at Takei’s wedding

“When my husband Brad and I got married, we asked Walter Koenig, who played ensign Chekov, to be our best man at the wedding,” Takei continued.

“We asked Nichelle to be our matron of honor. In her characteristic fashion, Nichelle declared, ‘I am not a matron! If Walter can be best man, why can’t I be best lady?” Noting that Walter’s ‘best man’ title implied the awkward title of ‘best woman,’ she was determined to be known as ‘best lady’ to the guests. I told her, ‘Of course you are.’ I’m sharing a picture of Nichelle with us as ‘best lady’ on our happy day.

“When my father passed away, Nichelle came to the funeral and she saw many Japanese Americans with envelopes. They were handing them over to a receptionist in the lobby. She was always a curious soul, so she asked me, ‘George, what are they bringing to the funeral?’

“I said it was friends and relatives making financial contributions to support the funeral costs. Nichelle had never heard of the Japanese tradition called koden. A few days later, an envelope arrived in the mail from her. Inside was a check for $500, a very generous koden.

“So while fans will miss and honor the famous actress who opened so many paths with her presence on the screen, I will also miss the dear friend who always let you know she was there to support you, to love you, and to go through this strange and wonderful life alongside you.

“Nichelle Nichols, you were one in a million in so many, many ways.”

President Biden and William Shatner pay tribute to Nichelle Nichols

Besides Takei, others to pay tribute to Nichols include William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek. He called her a “beautiful woman” who “played an admirable character that did so much for redefining social issues both here in the US & throughout the world.”

Related: George Takei throws shade at William Shatner over his trip to space

President Joe Biden issued a statement, saying: “In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.

“During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she shattered stereotypes to become the first Black woman to act in a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek. With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.

“Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society.”