Nyota Uhura has arrived on the Enterprise. Although each episode of the forthcoming Paramount+ series — Star Trek: Strange New Worlds — is designed to tell self-contained stories, one arc running through the show will be the origin of Uhura’s career in Starfleet. Unlike the Nichelle Nichols version of the character in The Original Series or Zoe Saldaña’s take in the three “reboot” films, Celia Rose Gooding is starting at the beginning.
Ahead of the May 5 debut of Strange New Worlds, Gooding chatted with Inverse about their “deep dive” into the character of Uhura and their love for both Nichols’ and Saldaña’s performances.
Celia Rose Gooding’s new take on Uhura is both a Trekkie newbie and audience surrogate in Strange New Worlds. This series takes place well before The Original Series, so Gooding’s Uhura isn’t familiar with Spock, the Enterprise, or any of this boldly going action. At least not yet.
Somewhat appropriately, Gooding has a fresh approach to the Star Trek mythos. In fact, they didn’t grow up watching the old show. As a nine-year-old kid in 2009, Gooding’s first Uhura was Zoe Saldaña in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek.
“Zoe Saldaña was my first Uhura. And I loved that performance so much,” Gooding tells Inverse. “My mother is a Trekkie and dragged me and my sister to midnight screenings of the new Star Trek movies.”
Gooding also explains that they had no idea they were trying out for the role of Uhura until well after the fact. “I was auditioning under a pseudonym. And so I brought a lot of myself and my sort of preconceived notions of who this person could be. And then they told me I was Uhura! And I was like, okay I got a lot of homework to do.”
Although Gooding studied the performances of Nichols and Saldaña extensively in their research, the rigorous shooting schedule and the pandemic prevented them from speaking to either actress, yet.
“Although I haven't gotten an opportunity to connect with them the way I want to, I am finding a way to respect both Nichelle’s Uhura and Zoe’s Uhura, but also bring my own version,” Gooding says. “I want to pay homage to this character, but I also want to bring my own zhoosh and flair. It’s a balancing act, and I’ve been taking great pride in it.”
To pulls this off, Gooding says they’ve endlessly researched “all the available information” about Uhura. Strange New Worlds shows this character at the beginning of her journey, and Gooding wants to get it right.
“The beautiful thing about Uhura is that there’s a lot of information about her, but we’ve never seen this time [in her life],” Gooding says. “There are parts that are canon, and parts that are more opinion-based. I also researched the creation of Uhura from Nichelle’s point of view. It’s my job as an actor to find it all and piece it together.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds hits Paramount+ on May 5, 2022.