Whoopi Goldberg Was Determined To Get A Role In Star Trek: TNG Because Of Lt. Uhura

It's extremely important to include representation and diversity in mainstream media. I could say this every day of my life and it still won't be enough for some people to understand, but sometimes a good story can better illustrate the point. One of the most famous examples of how integral it is for everyone to see people that look like them in the movies, shows, and literature that they consume involves legendary comedian and actor Whoopi Goldberg and "Star Trek."

The story (as told by Nichelle Nichols) goes that a nine-year-old Goldberg came across an episode of "Star Trek: The Original Series" on TV one day. When Nichols appeared onscreen as Lt. Nyota Uhura, the future star of "Sister Act," "The Color Purple," and "Ghost" ran to her mother and said, "I just saw a Black woman on television, and she ain't no maid!" From that point forward, she was inspired to become a performer that could be a positive force for representation as Nichols was for her.

Eventually, Goldberg received the opportunity to do just that while also being a part of the franchise that started it all for her. However, when it came to landing a role in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," it wasn't very easy for the bonafide movie star. But that's only because Gene Roddenberry thought that people were joking about one of the highest-paid actresses of the 1990s wanting to be on his show.

Pay it Ten Forward

During an appearance on "David Tennant Does A Podcast With ..." from 2019, Goldberg recounted to the once and future "Doctor Who" star her story about being inspired by Nichols' "Star Trek" character. She had indeed been inspired by the existence of Uhura, and expanded on the significance of this milestone event by explaining that Black people weren't represented in science fiction up until that point. It was the first time she'd seen science fiction even acknowledging that they were going to be a part of the future. So when she got word that "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was coming together, she was determined to be a part of it.

"When LeVar Burton told me that he was doing the new 'Star Trek,' I said, 'Will you tell them that I want to be a part of it because ...' and I explained the whole thing about Lt. Uhura. I didn't see him for a couple of months, then I see him and say, 'Did you tell them?' And he said, 'Yeah ... and they didn't believe me.' So we call Gene [Roddenberry] and I said, 'My name is Whoopi Goldberg. I would like to come in and explain to you why I want to be part of this.' He said, 'Why do you want to do this?' I said, 'Because do you not know that before Lt. Uhura there were no Black people in the future? I'm telling you, before this character, there was no representation of a person of color in the future.' ... I just want to be part of that thing that says, 'Yes, we will be in the future.'"

As another layer of how important Guinan was for her, Goldberg went on to share that her sagely bartender might have been the last character that Gene Roddenberry wrote before he passed away. With the groundwork laid by the "Star Trek" OG himself, Goldberg has since become an inspirational figure for others, just like Nichols was for her. And thanks to trailblazers like both of these iconic women, fans can feel seen and reassured that they are and will continue to be a part of this universe for generations to come.