Comic-Con 2018: Nichelle Nichols reveals how Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her to stay on ‘Star Trek’

Nichelle Nichols appears on the "From The Bridge" panel during Comic-Con International 2018.
(Mike Coppola / Getty Images)

Before “Black Panther,” Nichelle Nichols began paving the way for afro-futurism and black representation in pop culture.

The 85-year-old actor received a standing ovation before even saying a word during her appearance Friday at a Comic-Con panel on the former subject.

Nichols is best known for her role as “Star Trek’s” Lt. Uhura on the TV series from 1966 to 1969 and in later franchise films. As one of the first black women to not play a servant or nanny on TV, she’s revered by many for shattering Hollywood barriers for black performers.


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At the panel, Nichols reminded everyone of something else — her connection to the civil rights movement. After “Star Trek’s” first season, Nichols had plans to pursue other opportunities. Martin Luther King Jr., a Trekkie, persuaded her to stay.

“I was going to leave the show to go to Broadway because I’m a singer, dancer and actor, and I had an offer,” she said. “I was about to go when Dr. King said to me, ‘You can’t.’”

“And I said, ‘What you talking about, Dr. King?’”

Here’s what she said King told her: “What you have to give is important. You must take 24 hours and think about and if you still wish to go to Broadway at this time, I won’t stand in the way, I won’t try to talk you out of it.”

King’s reminder worked.

“What he had to say stayed with me and it wouldn’t leave and so I couldn’t leave and I never regretted it.”