Zoe Saldana says late Star Trek actress Nichelle Nicols “not only prospered but helped so many to flourish” following her death at age 89.
The American actress, who also played Nichols’ famous role as communications officer Lt Uhura, praised the veteran performer as a “true star” who was always “ahead of his time”.
News of Nichols’ death was announced by her son Kyle Johnson on her official Facebook page on Sunday, who stated that she had died the previous day in Silver City, New Mexico.
In a post shared on social media on Monday, Saldana said she had “big shoes to fill” taking on the role of Uhura, but that Nicols had “made me feel safe”.
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Nichelle Nichols. We have lost a true star – a unique artist who was always ahead of her time,” she said in a lengthy Instagram post.
“She is an icon, an activist and most importantly an amazing woman – who has blazed a trail that has shown so many how to see women of color in a different light.
“Her pursuit of equality was unwavering.”
She continued: “Meeting Nichelle was really a very special moment in my life. Her energy was infectious every time I was in her presence.
“She convinced me by believing that anything was achievable, if you put your heart into it.
“I knew I had big shoes to fill when I was chosen to play Uhura and Nichelle made me feel confident, told me to play her with all the confidence in the world.
“My hope is that we continue to keep her memory alive by celebrating her amazing work, and by spreading the message of peace and equality among all people. She lived a long, impactful life and not only prospered, but helped so many others prosper as well.
“It will be hard to forget what she said and hard to forget what she did, and it will certainly be impossible to forget how she made us feel.
“Rest in power Queen Nichelle.”
Other members of the Star Trek family paid tribute to Nicols following the news, describing her as a “trailblazer”.
George Takei, who starred as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in the fictional starship USS Enterprise, said his “heart is heavy” after the news and later shared several longer tributes to his “best friend”.
He shared several stories that “are not as well known” and said: “Nichelle and I spent the following decades together as not just colleagues from the company bridge, but as lifelong friends”.
“While fans will miss and honor the famous actress who opened so many avenues with her screen presence, I will also miss the dear friend who always told you she was there to support you, to love you and to see you through this strange and wonderful life beside you.
“Nichelle Nichols, you were one in a million in so many, many ways.”
Kate Mulgrew, who portrayed Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, praised Nichols for paving the way for female actresses.
Mulgrew shared a photo of Nichols in her Lt Uhura role on Twitter, writing: “Nichelle Nichols was the first.
“She was a trailblazer who navigated a very challenging path of grit, grace and a gorgeous fire we will likely never see again. May she rest in peace.”
While actor Jeri Ryan, who played the Borg drone Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager, said: “RIP to a true legend. Her legacy will live forever” in her tribute.
Star Trek’s official Twitter account also wrote: “We are deeply saddened to report the passing of Nichelle Nichols – a trailblazer, an inspiration and so much more. She will be deeply missed.”