One new Season 2 cast member of Heroes (tonight at 9 pm/ET, NBC) is certainly no stranger to being on a hit TV show: Nichelle Nichols, who created the iconic Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek — and shared a culture-changing kiss with William Shatner — was "delighted" to get the role of Nana Dawson. The Hurricane Katrina survivor provides sanctuary to her great-nephew Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey) and has become the primary caregiver for her grandson and granddaughter, Monica (Dana Davis).
"I could relate to [Nana] so powerfully," says Nichols, "how she has stood tall. [In the role] I'm a strong woman who's gone through an awful lot and has lost her daughter, and is now raising and providing a home for these two beautiful grandchildren." Nana hasn't exhibited any special Heroes abilities yet, but don't count it out. Though if she has any preference about what kind of power she'd like to have, Nichols isn't saying. "I'm going to keep that under my belt. I don't want to jinx it."
The concept of human beings rising above their potential and having extraordinary gifts isn't surprising to Nichols: "I've grown up just thinking that what people refer to as powers are natural extension of our lives, of our abilities, and are hidden somewhere, inside that 90 percent of our brain that even Einstein hadn't used yet." In fact, her own mother had something of a gift; she was "a genuine psychic," Nichols tells TVGuide.com. "She never got into business for it, but she could interpret dreams... and other things, sensory things. She knew when people were in trouble and she knew when people were pregnant before they did sometimes."
When she first got the call to come in and interview for the role of Nana, Nichols didn't realize that it was going to be a recurring role on the series. "I thought they were talking about... you know, a guest appearance for a day." She actually heard that she'd gotten the part not from her agent, but from a Star Trek fan. When she called her agent to confirm it, "He said 'How would they know'? I said, 'They're Trekkers, they know everything.'"
Nichols is as excited as Star Trek fans everywhere are about the upcoming prequel movie. "I think it's just terrific, to know that Gene [Roddenberry]'s legacy will not live only in what was there... but that it's going on in that same image." She has high hopes for the project's success. "I think that in J.J. Abrams' hands... all the respect and all of the wonderful characteristics that made Star Trek what it was will be honored. It was just a joy to know that he's taking the helm."
Of course, there's already quite a Heroes-Star Trek connection; first George Takei (Lt. Sulu) had a memorable role as Hiro's father, Kaito Nakamura. And recently costar Zachary Quinto, who plays Sylar, was announced as the young Spock. "He is very, very excited," says Nichols. "He himself is a Trekker, and you can imagine how excited he is to be chosen."
Another rising starlet is taking on the role of a young Uhura: Zoe Saldana. "I think she might bring some interesting new qualities to the character," says Nichols. "I would like to see what the qualities were that Nyota Uhura had that qualified her to go on that first five-year mission where no man or woman had gone before."
As for doing a cameo in the movie, Nichols isn't ruling anything out. "Wouldn't that be nice? I will be blasting it all over the world if and when that should happen. I think that would be so wonderful."
Are you listening, J.J.?
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