Code Switch
4:31 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Zoë Saldaña Climbed Into Lt. Uhura's Chair, Reluctantly

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 11:55 am

Seriously: what's with all the reluctant Lt. Uhuras?

Zoë Saldaña, the actress who's reprising her role as the Enterprise's resident communications person and, uh, xenolinguist, in this summer's Star Trek Into Darkness, told Latina magazine that she wasn't exactly geeked for the role in 2009's Star Trek.

I was afraid...I was very concerned. I think I was just a little beside myself because after the treat and the gift of booking Avatar and being in the middle of shooting, to be able to then do another great movie with another great filmmaker back to back—I was a little overwhelmed and I thought: 'Maybe I should just take some time off and focus and just rest?' But my mom is a Trekkie, and my team was like, 'Zoe, are you stupid? Don't let fear immobilize you. This is an amazing opportunity to step into the shoes of an iconic character in an iconic series and it's in space and you're a sci-fi buff.' And I was like, 'oh my God, who am I kidding? Absolutely. I'll totally do it.'

Way back in the 1960s, the original Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, was just as reluctant about reprising her role on the original Star Trek series after the first season. "I wanted to return to my first love, which is musical theater," Nichols said in the 2010 documentary "Trek Nation."

But a very influential Trekkie named Martin Luther King urged her to stay on the show. "He told me that Star Trek was one of the only shows that he and his wife Coretta would allow their little children to watch. And I thanked him and I told him I was leaving the show. All the smile came off his face. And he said, don't you understand for the first time, we're seen as we should be seen. You don't have a black role. You have an equal role."

She went back to work the next week and told Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator, that she was sticking around after all.

We guess MLK might be worth listening to, if you're into that sort of thing.

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