AOL and PBS have teamed up for a digital and broadcast initiative entitled MAKERS: Women Who Make America. The project aims to tell – and collect on video, for posterity – the stories of exceptional women who’ve helped shape the world as we know it, with many of the women internationally famous and others far from household names. The esteemed list of “Groundbreakers” includes Carol Burnett, Billy Jean King, Sandra Day O’Connor, Maria Pepe, Diane Von Furstenberg, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Barbara Smith, Condoleeza Rice, Maya Lin, Gloria Steinem, Phyllis Schlalfly, Zainab Salbi, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters and Star Trek’s beloved Nichelle Nichols.
StarTrek.com is honored to share with fans several video segments featuring Nichols, segments that can also be found at MAKERS.com. Some of the material (and other material also featuring Nichols) may appear in MAKERS: Women Who Make America, a three-hour documentary that will air early next year on PBS. To celebrate Nichols’ achievement, StarTrek.com grabbed five minutes of her time for a rapid-fire interview in which she discussed MAKERS, her appearance next week at Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention and assorted other projects.
How pleased were you to be asked to participate in MAKERS?
Nichols: Read the list of the other participants! That should answer your question.
You tell the story of landing Star Trek, almost leaving, and Gene Roddenberry and then Dr. Martin Luther King convincing you to stay. It’s great to see that recorded here for future generations to watch. What other memories did you share for MAKERS that you are pleased to have recorded for posterity?
Nichols: A lot of people know about my life since Star Trek, but music and dance were my first loves and continue to be very important to me to this day… starting from the time that I was 15 and performed with Duke Ellington - first as a dancer - and then got a chance in a lifetime to fill in for the singer, who was ill, for two shows. Wow!
Another part of your story that's crucial is the work you did after Star Trek, helping to recruit women and minorities into the NASA program. How do you look back on that period of your life?
Nichols: Under contract to NASA, I recruited the FIRST women and minority astronauts for the space shuttle program. That legacy continues into the modern astronaut corps, where sex and color no longer matter... as it should be. I continue to be proud to have been chosen to make those FIRST women and minorities a reality.
When will you get to New York City to see the Enterprise shuttle in its new home at the Intrepid? And how scary is it that it's 35-plus years ago you were on hand to see it roll out?
Nichols: Going to visit the Shuttle Enterprise is something that I look forward to doing as soon as I can. Has it really been 35 years? I'm not that old!
What does it mean to you when people tell you that you have affected their lives, influenced them to pursue a dream, and/or paved the way for them?
Nichols: How BIG is BIG? What does that mean? It's means that it's BIG!!!!!
How excited are you to get to Las Vegas for this year's mega-Trek convention? And that special event breakfast with you, George Takei and fans sounds like fun...
Nichols: Gene Roddenberry's gift to humanity with the creation of Star Trek has always been an honor for me to be a part of… and breakfast with George and fans ain't bad either!
You will also be at the Star Ceremony for Walter Koenig next month. It's about time he got his Star, right? How eager are you to be on hand to see him finally get it?
Nichols: I congratulated Walter recently. It's way the hell overdue! Anything else that I have to say would be CUSS words!!!
What else are you working on in terms of films, music, TV?
Nichols: I'm working on a major motion picture which I'm co-starring in and am also executive producing. I will keep you posted.