Star Trek was one of the most influential sci-fi shows in the twentieth century. But despite its popularity, it was not immune to social issues at the time. Members of the show also experienced racial discrimination on and off the set. But did you know how discrimination found itself in its animated series?
Leonard Nimoy, the actor behind the character Spock in Star Trek, refused to voice his character in the animated version of the show without George Takei and Nichelle Nichols. Takai and Nichols were co-stars who were not caucasian.
Who was Leonard Nimoy?
Leonard Simon Nimoy was born on March 26, 1931, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was taken to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Max, a barber, and Dora, a housewife. Nimoy’s acting career started very early. He appeared in a play when he was just eight years old.
His passion for acting has been apparent ever since. He was actively involved in various projects while studying at the Boston English High School and in Boston College. Nimoy went against his parents’ direction in studying to find a stable career other than acting.
Nimoy landed a role in Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing production, playing the character Ralphie at the age of seventeen. After undergoing counseling from one of Clifford Odets’ team members, he then applied for California’s Pasadena Playhouse. He adapted Konstantin Stanislavsky’s method acting concept and used it as his own. Nimoy was also known to be inspired by Marlon Brando, and he chose him as his role model.
Nimoy’s interest in acting did not stop even when he joined the United States Army Reserve in 1953. He spent most of his time with the Army Special Services and organized shows that were conceived and narrated by him. He also began appearing in B-grade films and television series reprising minor roles before joining Star Trek as Spock, a half-human, half-Vulcan character in the series.
Nimoy’s popularity led him to be cast in the original Mission: Impossible TV series and other TV films and earned multiple awards in show business as well as other fields that interested him, like the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award for inspiring people to learn more about the universe. Nimoy continued his career in acting until his death on March 1, 2015. (Source: The Famous People)
The Racial Discrimination on the Set of Star Trek
The Star Trek show aired when racial discrimination was rampant in the country. One good case of racial discrimination was the story of Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Nyota in the series.
In her autobiography, Nichols recounts the discrimination she experienced while working on the first season of Star Trek. She felt demoralized when her lines were always cut and racial slurs were thrown her way in between takes. Nichols also wrote that the show’s executives conspired against her and kept her fan mail. (Source: Fantastic Facts)
Nimoy also saw some sort of discrimination when the hit show got a spin-off as an animated series. When the animated series was conceived, the production company Filmation decided only to bring back a few original cast members who were primarily white. The series was only to get back William Shatner, Nimoy, Deforest Kellet, James Doohan, and Majel Barrett.
Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were not asked to return and lend their voices in the animated series. This news didn’t sit well with Nimoy. He refused to work on the series unless Nichols and Takei would be joining them. He was a firm believer in what the series showed, a progressive spirit and approach to ethnic diversity. (Source: Suggest)