Zoe Saldana posted a photo Monday on Instagram of “Star Trek” actor Nichelle Nichols in character as Lt. Nyota Uhuru with a heartfelt tribute to the actor, who died Saturday of natural causes in Silver City, New Mexico, at age 89.
Saldana, who took over the role of Uhuru for the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot and its two subsequent sequels, described Nichols in the Instagram caption as a trailblazer for women of color and said meeting her was “a very special moment in my life.”
“We have lost a true star — a unique artist who was ahead of her time,” wrote Saldana. “She’s an icon, an activist and most importantly an amazing woman — who blazed a trail that has shown so many how to see women of color in a different light.”
“Her strive for equality was unwavering,” Saldana continued. “Her energy was infectious every time I was in her presence. She convinced me in believing that anything was achievable, if you put your heart into it.”
Nichols made history in 1968 when her character locked lips with William Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk in the first interracial kiss between a Black woman and a white man on American television, according to NBC News. The kiss came only one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled interracial marriage legal.
Nichols revealed in her book, “Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories,” that she and Shatner were ordered to film an alternative kiss that occurred offscreen — but they purposefully misread their lines to keep the original.
Saldana wrote that she knew she had “big shoes to fill” in taking over the role, but Nichols “made me feel safe” and told her to portray Uhura “with all the confidence in the world.”
Nichols also inspired Mae Jemison “to follow her dreams of becoming an astronaut,” Saldana noted. The Alabama-born Stanford University graduate took that to heart by becoming the first Black woman to travel to outer space aboard the Endeavour shuttle in 1992.
“My hope is that we continue to keep her memory alive by celebrating her body of work, and by spreading the message of peace and equality amongst all people,” wrote Saldana. “She lived a long, impactful life and not only prospered, but helped so many others prosper too.”