ENTERTAINMENT
07/30/2015 05:53 pm ET

Martin Luther King Jr. Had A Surprising Role In Saving 'Star Trek'

King saved the show in a behind-the-scenes encounter.
William H. Alden via Getty Images

When actress Nichelle Nichols played Uhura on "Star Trek," she became one of the first ever female black actors on a well-known series to have a role that wasn't a stereotypical maid or nanny. But, as she talked about in a Reddit AMA she did Thursday, she almost left the role for a career on Broadway until Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her otherwise.

After a Redditor asked about the legend of King persuading her to stay on "Star Trek," Nichols confirmed the story and elaborated about what she and the civil rights leader/Trekkie talked about.

Saying that "the stories have gotten mixed and confused," Nichols clarified:

Dr. Martin Luther King, quite some time after I'd first met him, approached me and said something along the lines of "Nichelle, whether you like it or not, you have become an symbol. If you leave, they can replace you with a blonde-haired white girl, and it will be like you were never there. What you've accomplished, for all of us, will only be real if you stay." That got me thinking about how it would look for fans of color around the country if they saw me leave. I saw that this was bigger than just me.

Nichols had been offered a role on Broadway which, in her words, was "always a dream." She was "ready to leave 'Star Trek' and pursue what [she'd] always wanted to do," but King had successfully convinced her to put the dream in front of her dream.

After this answer, another Redditor brought up a related legend that the show's creator, Gene Roddenberry, responded to hearing what King had said with something along the lines of, "Finally, someone gets it." Nichols then confirmed that this was also true.

Star Trek

Nichols has talked a bit about this encounter in the past. At one point, the actress said she was thinking of leaving the show after the first season, when she was told that a "Star Trek" fan wanted to meet her.

This fan ended up being King, who said he was a "Trekker" [sic]. When she told him her intentions, his face dropped until he convinced her otherwise. It seems from that moment, the show was able to "live long and prosper" with Nichols remaining in the cast.

 

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