Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

How Nichelle Nichols Behaved On The Set Of Star Trek, According To Walter Koenig

What made the original "Star Trek" one of the greatest TV shows of all time was its commitment to a fundamentally hopeful vision for the future. The series focused on space exploration not as a setting for phaser battles but as a backdrop for lessons about humanity. It focused on our potential and framed our troubled present as a speed bump on the way to galactic exploration.

Among the cast of "Star Trek: The Original Series," few represented that bold vision like Nichelle Nichols. The late actor played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, the communications officer on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Alongside actors George Takei and Walter Koenig, Nichols rounded out the supporting cast next to William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as First Officer Spock, and DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard McCoy.

In real life, Nichols publicly displayed the same values she hoped to champion on "Star Trek." Her work with NASA, helping to encourage diversity within the space program, opened the door for women and people of color to enter careers in the fields of science and space exploration. In the documentary about her, "Woman in Motion," Nichols said, "If they let me in the door, I will open it so wide, they will see the world." Later in life, she was recognized by former president Barack Obama. And shortly after her death in 2022, "Star Trek" studio Paramount paid tribute to her career and lifetime of helping others.

But how was she known to those who acted with her on the show? Nichols' co-star Walter Koenig opened up about his on-set memories of the late legend in a 2019 interview, shedding some light on what it was like to film the iconic sci-fi show alongside her.

Nichelle Nichols was a great friend with great ambitions, according to Walter Koenig

In a 2019 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, "Star Trek: The Original Series" alum Walter Koenig discussed his relationships with his fellow stars of the seminal sci-fi show, including Nichelle Nichols. Koenig remembered Nichols as a warm and motivated individual whose confidence always shone through. "Nichelle was always great," he said. "She was very, you know, charming, and very friendly. From the start, she was very friendly." 

But Koenig also recalled that Nichols was unsatisfied with the size of her role on "Star Trek," a complaint she voiced often — and which almost prompted her to leave the show at one point before civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. persuaded her to remain. "I think, like all of us, she wanted more to do," Koenig observed.

Reflecting further on Nichols' ambitions, Koenig said, "It may have been a little bit more apparent in her than it was in George [Takei], for example, or me. But I don't think she was any more ambitious, though, just that she was a little more confident in expressing it. You know, always a good friend. I always liked her."