From sci-fi to science: Film presentation shows how Nichelle Nichols changed the face of space

Dr. Phillips Frontyard Festival to present WOMAN IN MOTION: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – The City of Orlando plans to observe Women’s History Month, in part, by showing a film from a local filmmaker that highlights the contributions of Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols to NASA.

WOMAN IN MOTION: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA will show as part of the Dr. Phillips Center Frontyard Festival Thursday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but interested viewers should RSVP here and will be assigned to a socially-distanced box for up to five people.

The film is directed and produced by Todd Thompson, and shows how Nichols took her career in sci-fi television to a career in science itself. In 1977, she formed the company Women in Motion, Inc. to bring diversity to NASA. She’s credited with recruiting more than 8,000 African American, Asian and Latino women and men to the agency and paving the way for astronauts like Mae Jemison.

News 6 spoke to Thompson about the documentary back in 2019 right after it showed to a standing-room only crowd at the Orlando Film Festival.

“For us, it was a four-year journey to bring the idea to screen, if you will. We contacted Nichelle very early on in the project, obviously, to see if she would be interested in having the story told and it was a very humbling, amazing experience from that point on,” said Thompson. “This is a woman who literally changed not only the face of the space program, but the face of the entire world by bringing inclusion into space and so it was like your classic hero’s journey, somebody who set off to accomplish the impossible in a very short period of time.”

So many associate Nichols with Star Trek and trailblazing on television, but Thompson said Nichols has really been doing that her whole life.

“Her whole life is pretty much that same story, she was a singer-dancer by the age of 16, one of the first African-American ballerinas, believe it or not, and then she had some breakthroughs on television,” said Thompson.

He said about 60 people were interviewed during the making of the film, with only about 30 making the final cut. But that star-studded cast includes Neil deGrasse Tyson, George Takei, Pharrell Williams, Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton and many more.

“It’s important for me to tell stories that enlighten mankind and the world and make the world a better place,” said Thompson. “Nichelle certainly did that with her impact on NASA.”

For more information on the film, click here.

About the Author:

Tara Evans is an executive producer and has been with News 6 since January 2013. She currently spearheads News 6 at Nine and specializes in stories with messages of inspiration, hope and that make a difference for people -- with a few hard-hitting investigations thrown in from time to time.