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The comic, 66, added her late friend, who died at the weekend aged 89 and played lieutenant Nyota Uhura on the bridge of the show's starship, showed her black people could make it “to the future”.
Whoopi said on Monday's (01.08.22) episode of The View: “Nichelle Nichols was a trailblazer, a heroine, and an extraordinary woman – somebody who inspired millions and millions of people, but who inspired me because I explained when I went to get my gig at ‘Star Trek' that Nichelle was the first black person I'd ever seen who made it to the future.
“She was head of communications. And this show and this woman was the one beacon that said, ‘Yes, we'll be there.'
“And it just made me feel like that was an amazing thing. She helped propel other women to go into space. She was extraordinary and I was lucky enough to spend time with her over the years.
“She was my friend. She'll be missed.”
Whoopi went on to play Guinan in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation' and in 2018, Nichelle recalled a time when the comedian's agent reached out to series writer and producer Gene Roddenberry about getting her on the show.
Nichelle said: “This is what Gene told me. Whoopi said, ‘It's all Nichelle Nichols' fault'.
“Whoopi said, ‘Well, when she first came on the screen, I was nine years old. I thought she was the most beautiful thing that ever happened on television or anywhere else. And she was a black woman playing in the future and I knew we had a future'.”
When Nichelle was cast in 1966 on the show it was one of the first major roles for a black woman in a US television series and among the first portrayals of a black woman in a military-style command role in any format.
It later culminated in one of the first interracial on-screen kisses, between Nichelle and Admiral James T Kirk actor William Shatner.
She passed away Saturday (30.07.22), with her son Kyle Johnson confirming on Sunday (31.07.22) via Instagram: “Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away.
“Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.
“Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.”