Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. convinced Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura, to stay on the show after its first season.
Luckily for fans, she listened, and now she is one of several TV and movie stars attending this weekend’s Motor City Comic Con, where she’ll appear Saturday and Sunday to sign autographs and meet “Star Trek” fans.
The annual gathering of all things geeky takes place Friday-Sunday at the Suburban Collection Showplace and has dozens of guests, including more than 100 comic book creators from around the world, plus several media stars.
Some of the top names include former Michiganian Dean Cain (“Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”), Erin Gray (“Buck Rogers”), Colin Ferguson (“Eureka”) and Billy Dee Williams (“Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”). On the comic side, there’s Billy Tucci (“Shi”), Ethan Van Sciver (“Flash: Rebirth”), and Shane and Chris Houghton (“Reed Gunther”).
There will also be lots of comic book and toy sellers, panels, costume contests and charity fundraisers.
We had a chance to speak with Nichols, who got her start as a singer with Duke Ellington and since “Star Trek” has worked with NASA to recruit minority astronauts and appeared on the NBC show “Heroes.”
How does it feel to be part of the “Star Trek” legacy?
In a word, an honor. A man had a dream, and he changed the world. His name was Gene Roddenberry. He brought so many diverse people and negative views into one grand positive. I was very lucky and honored to be chosen to be part of it.
Everybody’s heard the story about how Dr. King asked you to stay on the show …
He didn’t ask me to stay on the show. He commanded me. … Here was this show where not only did we overcome, but we went into the universe as we should be, as equals. Uhura was an integral part of that dream, he said.
Your image was a great example for young girls. Do you think there are any modern actresses who will have as lasting an effect?
I think that it opened the door for young women, especially African-American young women, and that door has never closed. There are these brilliant young black actresses, and to be nominated or win an Academy Award, is no longer a dream. It’s a fact.
How did Zoe Saldana do as Uhura in the J.J. Abrams version?
I thought she was brilliant. When I met her, she was just wonderful. J.J. introduced us on the set. When she saw me she said, “Oh, my god.” We sat there and talked for two hours. She picked my brain, and I praised her beauty. When I saw it, I thought it was spot on.
What’s your favorite convention story?
I don’t know if I have one; there are so many. It’s just fandom in general. I have nothing but the highest regard for “Star Trek” fandom. They come from all walks of life, and that’s what Gene gave to the world — that all walks of life are important. And that’s what makes the world beautiful.
Would you rather have a teleporter that really worked, or a phaser that really worked?
I’d rather have both. They come in handy. … But a teleporter most assuredly, with a phaser on my hip.
Motor City Comic Con
12:30-7 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Suburban Collection Showplace
46100 Grand River Ave., Novi
Tickets $10-$50, celebrity autographs extra