Nichelle Nichols could see a romance between Uhura and Spock because the original series showed plenty of hints of something between the two characters.
Being young and new to Starfleet meant excitement and romance were part of the game, according to Nichols. “…she was a recruit and this was her first trip out. It was the five-mission where no man or woman had gone before. So J.J. [Abrams] had the right, as the director of the prequel, to show the characters as young people. NASA recruits train for a year, sometimes two, before they go out on their first mission. As young people, they’re excited and they’re new and they’re going to go on this mission, and there’s romance and so forth that’s going to go on.”
Nichols explained why Spock attracted Uhura. “Kirk was hitting on her a couple of times and he was hitting on everybody else because he was cute – and knew it,” said Nichols. “She shined him off, but Spock fascinated her, her serious side. Now, this is me making my story on what happened, but he saw in her his human side and she touched a side of him that they were supposedly discreet about.”
The attraction between the characters was in the original series, says Nichols. “Now, go back to my participation in Star Trek as Uhura and Leonard (Nimoy) as Spock,” she explained. “There was always a connection between Uhura and Spock. It was the early 60’s, so you couldn’t do what you can do now, but if you will remember, Uhura related to Spock. When she saw the captain lost in space out there in her mirror, it was Spock who consoled her when she went screaming out of her room. When Spock needed an expert to help save the ship, you remember that Uhura put something together and related back to him the famous words, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I’m afraid.’ And Uhura was the only one who could do a spoof on Spock. Remember the song (in Charlie X)? Those were the hints, as far as I’m concerned.”
Nichols claims credit for a change in Zoë Saldana‘s portrayal of Uhura. “She asked me about my background, my parents, and I told her about that,” said Nichols. “I told her I created Uhura’s parents and that they were rather like my parents, that they would have expected the highest from me. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. And Zoë got very serious. She said, “Oh, my God, I wish I’d met you, talked to you before I started shooting.’ I said, ‘I’m sure that you’re bringing something fresh and beautiful.’ She just looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, but I see Uhura in a whole new light.'”
After seeing the movie, “I understood what the young lady was talking about when she said, ‘I wish I had spoken to you before I started,’ because she was playing it light and flirty at the beginning,” said Nichols. “The time I spoke to her was the time they were then going on the ship. Do you remember the scene where she says, ‘No, I’m going! I was promised this, and I’m going,’ and they had to take her on? She was destined to go on. She kissed Spock in a different way and said, ‘I’ll see you on board.’ When she walked on board she was a full-blown Uhura in every manner and way that I had created the character.”