George Takei Reflects on Star Trek Costar Nichelle Nichols' Legacy Amid Her Conservatorship Battle

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
George Takei Reflects on Star Trek Costar Nichelle Nichols' Legacy Amid Her Conservatorship Battle
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

George Takei will always be in awe of former Star Trek costar Nichelle Nichols.

At this year's Star Trek Day event, held at The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Takei spoke fondly of his longtime friend and castmate, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2018 and is at the center of a conservatorship battle.

"She was an activist. Back in the fifties when I was doing a civil rights musical called Fly Blackbird, this woman came backstage. She was in the theater, backstage to congratulate the cast. She was stunning," the 84-year-old told PEOPLE.

"I didn't know who she was, but she was this beautiful woman with this huge, wild Afro. Back in 1959, you didn't [see that] ... See, African-American women conked their hair, straightened it and shaped it into a contemporary fashionable hairdo," he continued. "And here's this woman, stunningly good-looking face and this huge, almost unbelievably big bubble of Afro hair. And then she was introduced to me as Nichelle Nichols."

RELATED: Star Trek: Picard Drops Time Traveling Season 2 Trailer on Star Trek Day

George Takei and Nichelle Nichols
George Takei and Nichelle Nichols

CBS via Getty

A few years after their introduction, Takei said that he met Nichols, 88, once again at the first Star Trek table read.

"I've known dear Nichelle from before Star Trek, during the civil rights movement. And she is an activist on every just cause," said Takei.

He then went on to praise Nichols for helping recruit both African-Americans and women to NASA. "Because of our association with Star Trek, she was pegged by NASA to serve as a recruiter for African-Americans and women into the NASA space program. And she committed herself to that, plunged into it with fierce determination and she recruited both women and African-Americans to the program," he said.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Nichelle Nichols and George Takei
Nichelle Nichols and George Takei

Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty

The actor added: "She played a part in the space program in reality, building the so-called launching pad for the real astronauts to go up there and boldly go where none of us have gone before."

The original Star Trek series ran from 1966 to 1969 for three seasons. Takei portrayed Sulu while Nichols played Uhura.

Nichols' role on the series was historic, making her one of the first Black women to have a leading role on television.

"A lot has happened in the span of 55 years," said Takei. "And because of Star Trek, we've had the privilege of meeting both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in person and Buzz Aldrin got to be a casual friend to us. So, it's really a fantastic journey between 1966, when we first went on the air and today, the 55th anniversary."

In recent years, Nichols has been entangled in a battle over her conservatorship. As of January 2019, the actress' son Kyle Johnson serves as conservator of her person and estate, though Nichols' friend Angelique Fawcette and former manager Gilbert Bell have spoken out against Johnson's actions.

Johnson was appointed conservator of her person and estate in January 2019. The news was made public a few months later, after Bell provided a CBS station in Atlanta with an unsettling video in which Nichols could be heard screaming in protest as she held what Bell claimed were legal guardianship documents filed by Johnson.

At the time, Bell and Fawcette spoke out against Johnson in separate interviews with PEOPLE. (Johnson declined to comment.)

RELATED: Nichelle Nichols' Friends Speak Out After Son Sells Star's Home amid Conservatorship Battle

Last month, a Los Angeles Times report revealed that Johnson had sold his mother's longtime home in Woodland Hills, California (which she purchased in 1982), and Bell and Fawcette once again claimed he was acting against the star's wishes.

"When the house was sold, I was very hurt for her," Fawcette, 51, told PEOPLE of Nichols. "She has no place to go back to anymore. It hurt me because I knew that it would hurt her. She stated that she wanted to remain in her home, yet the court let her son move her out."

Said Bell, 82, in a separate interview, "Her home is gone. It's been sold out from under her. She would be horrified if she knew that."

The Times, citing property records, reported that Nichols' house and guesthouse were sold for nearly $2.2 million to Baron Construction & Remodeling Co.

Bell, who previously lived on the property, confirmed to the newspaper that he had recently moved out. According to The Times, in a brief email, Johnson said proceeds from the sale were placed in his mother's conservatorship account to ensure her continued care.