TCA Press Tour: One of the 'Pioneers of Television' explains how Martin Luther King changed the course of 'Star Trek'
Nichols had been an up-and-coming stage performer when she was offered the iconic role, and she insisted, “I still think 'Star Trek' interrupted my career and I got stuck there.” Nichols told the crowd that she tried to leave the Starship Enterprise after the first season “because I thought it was going nowhere for me.”
Producer Gene Roddenberry asked her to reconsider, and the next night she attended an NAACP fundraiser at which she was introduced to a man who claimed to be her “biggest fan.” The Trekkie turned out to be Martin Luther King Jr., who told her that “Star Trek” was the only TV show he and his wife Coretta would allow their three little children to watch, because out in the streets there were African-Americans being hosed for wanting to sit down in a whites-only restaurant; meanwhile, “there I was playing an astronaut of the 23rd century."
When she told King she was leaving the show, “He said what Gene Roddenbery had done was to establish who we were in the 23rd century." Insisting that she needed to stay on the show, he said, "You are part of history, and it’s your responsibility, even though it wasn’t your career choice.”
The series, which is scheduled for winter 2011, looks at some of the classic moments and genres of early television through the people involved. Nichols appears on the science fiction episode; other installments will cover crime dramas, westerns and local kids TV.
— Joy Press
Photo: Nichelle Nichols (NBC).