Geek Exclusive: Celia Rose Gooding Talks Nichelle Nichols’ Legacy & Imposter Syndrome On ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’

When actress Nichelle Nichols made her debut on Star Trek’s original TV series in 1966, it turned out to be a supporting role that inspired a whole generation, while also becoming a historic moment for television. The singer/dancer turned actress not only played the role of a brilliant linguist, translator, and cryptographer, Nyota Uhura, she made television history for Black women and set the foundations of a character that has since been played by other notable actresses.

Now, Broadway star Celia Rose Gooding is adding to that legacy, embarking on a new journey with the USS Enterprise in Paramount+’s series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Set before the events of the original, iconic sci-fi show, the show, currently filming its second season follows the same ship under the directives of the previous captain, with a few familiar faces.

Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura.

“It’s hard to put into words just how special this opportunity is. I think especially talking to the legacy of Nichelle Nichols and the amount of work that she did for Black women on screen and off screen,” said Gooding in an exclusive interview with Geek Culture. 

Nichols portrayed Lt. Uhura for over 25 years and earned her accolades for breaking stereotypes that had limited Black women to acting roles as servants, and portrayed the first interracial onscreen kiss on national TV. Thanks to Nichols, Uhura became a figure of grace, elegance and intelligence as the USS Enterprise crew often turned to her to solve complex problems.  

“To have an opportunity to pay homage to the amount of work she did just so that Black women could be seen as pillars of respect, intelligence, dignity and grace and the opportunity she gave for us to be represented as beings and not just tools for other people, for her to be seen as a full human being in herself,” continued Gooding. 

“It’s an honour and a dream and I hope that I can have like a fraction of the impact that she’s had on the entertainment industry and beyond.” 


Gooding’s Uhura is a much younger version of the character, so in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the character is still a Cadet, serving on board the Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike, not Captain James T. Kirk, as part of an advanced placement programme under Starfleet. The series is itself a spin-off of Star Trek: Discovery, which first introduced younger versions of Pike, Number One and Spock from the original series, now played by Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck. The first season of Strange New Worlds, which concluded its run last year, is among a list of new Star Trek shows that are being made, and has won acclaim from both critics and fans.

While Uhura is one of the characters that links the new series with the original, Gooding’s take is not the Lieutenant that Nichols portrayed, at least not yet, and the new series delves deeper into Uhura’s early days and reveals her backstory as a girl from Kenya whose parents and brother died when she was very young. 

Uhura’s journey as a cadet allows viewers and fans to see the celebrated character from a different lens, one that shows the internal struggles and tribulations that many young women of colour face when entering new and foreign spaces. 


Explained Gooding, “There’s an arc that Uhura has in season one that I think is very similar, at least to the life that I’m living right now, as a young person who sometimes believes that they are in way over their head, but I think this season specifically was an incredibly cathartic opportunity to give a word to a feeling that I think a lot of not just Black women, but a lot of women of colour specifically feel when they enter spaces, that feeling of imposter syndrome or insecurity, to put light on that and to showcase it as a very valid feeling as it is, I think was incredibly important,” 

Gooding hopes that this portrayal of Uhura will provide some comfort to viewers who find themselves dealing with the same internal battles. If anything, Uhura should prove that it’s completely okay to be human, to shed the performance and still be able to end up on top at the end of the day.

“I think we women of colour move through the world as if we have to be on top of our game 200% of the time and feel confident, and never second guess ourselves and that’s not human at all!” shared the actress, who made her professional performance debut on Broadway in 2017. 

“We have an opportunity to give Uhura real humanity. She’s going to grow into this icon and pillar in Starfleet. It was really – I keep saying cathartic – but it was incredibly cathartic and humanising and I hope that this version of this character opens doors and sheds light for others who don’t have to feel 100% confident all the time.” 


As if the stars have aligned, Uhura’s journey in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is one that parallels Gooding’s. The young star started out as a Broadway actress and rose to prominence in the role of Mary Frances “Frankie” Healy in the rock musical Jagged Little Pill. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds marks the actress’ first foray into film & television – a medium entirely different from performing on stage in front of a live audience.

Crossing into TV, plus playing a character so iconic and beloved, meant that the actress experienced imposter syndrome. Unlike a Broadway show where audiences come and go every night and mistakes are likely more forgivable, a medium like TV is permanent. The idea that it can be revisited even years later planted a lot of pressure and self-doubt in the actress who resorted to deep research and therapy to prepare for the role. 

“A lot of research, a lot of therapy. I think a lot of my preparation – this is speaking to me specifically – a lot of my preparation for Cadet Uhura was getting out of my own way and really just trusting myself, trusting the material and trusting my research and just diving headfirst into it because it’s one thing to sit in your room and study and feel confident in your studies and there’s another thing to wake up and show up and be on set and do it,” shared Gooding. 

“The thing about streaming is that it’s forever, so the decisions that I made are going to be there forever. There’s no editing it or going back to it and changing it or any of that so a lot of my preparation was just accepting the fact that I was chosen, and that I was chosen for a reason and that feeling of not knowing what to do was something that I had to really drop into for this character because that’s exactly what young Uhura is going through.”

The actress also created a Spotify playlist dedicated to Uhura to get herself into character. Coming from Broadway, music is an important aspect of Gooding’s life. She’d even go so far as to say that it’s one of her love languages. Playing songs that she associated with Uhura allowed the actress to connect deeper with the character.

The playlist, titled ‘nyota 🙂’, includes classics like Stevie Nick’s Edge of Seventeen, Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely?, a couple of Whitney Houston’s best hits, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie and more recently, R&B singer Sza’s Good Days. These songs, according to Gooding, were not only songs that brought forward the light and love she sees in Uhura, but were also songs she imagined Uhura would groove to as she gets ready for another day in Starfleet. 

“Music is definitely a love language of mine and music is really how I connect and it’s just what I use when using words is hard. The playlist was something that I made so that I could have something specific and exclusively mine because I think Uhura is so grand and so public, she is someone who was received and loved by most, if not all, and I had to find a way to make Uhura personal to me so that I could have something that I could really connect to her with – and to me that was music,” shared an excited Gooding. 

“It was music that reminded me of all of my favourite memories and memories that remind me of the light and the joy of Uhura that she carries because she goes through some pretty heavy stuff. I wanted something that reminded me of the brightness and the goodness and the sweetness so I just got a playlist together of things I imagine Uhura would get ready to in the morning because Uhura is a glamazon, so I have like this vision of her getting ready in the morning and like just putting on music and dancing around her quarters and what that would look like.” 


After some time, Gooding decided to make the playlist public to share with Trekkies all over the world. It’s one way the actress attempts to build an intimate connection with the Star Trek fanbase who have been with the franchise since its early conception in 1966. Plus, Gooding herself is a fan and loves Uhura, and all she wants to do is share that love with the world. 

“There were days on set where like it would be six o’clock in the morning and I’d be exhausted and wanting nothing to do but get back into bed and I put that playlist on and it just gave me a pick me up and really dropped me into this character and then I made it public because I was like ‘I think this is honestly like a killer playlist,’” laughed Gooding. 

“So I made it public and people really liked it. I think what people really appreciated about it was that it was something personal because when you are a part of a franchise that is as massive as Star Trek, it’s good to have things that feel intimate and that playlist to me is something very intimate. I didn’t want to be too selfish and only keep it to myself because you’re right, it is pointless. I share playlists that I make with my friends all the time because it’s really how I communicate when words fail. It was just really important to me to have something that was ours and mine and also hers.” 

She continued, “It’s funny to hear myself explain it like she is a different person because she is absolutely, but it’s also me, so it’s just a way to continue to deepen the marriage between this character that I love and what my love for Uhura looks like.” 

Joining any franchise, especially one as dedicated and big as Star Trek is scary and intimidating for new actors. In fact, the franchise is known to be incredibly critical of newcomers and new media. Even shows like Star Trek: Discovery, which was well-received by critics, have not been safe from furious fans. 

Luckily for Gooding, she’s received nothing but a warm welcome from fans. It was both surprising and unexpected for the actress, especially since playing a legacy character like Uhura wrong could stroke the feathers of a few toxic fans. 

“I think a little bit of both. I expected people to be really excited about a new portrayal of Uhura simply because that character is one of the most beloved characters, if not the most beloved character in the franchise. What I did not expect was for people to be so excited about the new stuff I was bringing, because I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that my Uhura, the Uhura that we’re seeing now is very different from the Uhura that we’ve grown to know and love and the fact that people are excited to see something different and excited to see something modern and fresh – that was what really took me aback,” shared Gooding. 

When portraying Uhura, Gooding placed heavy emphasis on striking balance. The actress wanted to pay tribute to the original but also bring something new and fresh to the character. Her effort paid off because fans loved it. Just thinking about the fan support she’s received thus far brings a little tear to Gooding’s eyes. 

“As someone who’s portraying a legacy character, I think there is a line that we have to toe of like paying tribute and sticking to the original and keeping the original in mind and also bringing newness so we’re not just telling the same story over and over again and that’s very scary as someone new to this franchise. It was definitely something that that I kept on the front page of my mind constantly, like ‘bring something fresh but don’t undercut what has already been done’,” she continued. 

“And so, the outpouring of love, especially after episode two, the outpouring of love really took me aback because after shooting the season and not knowing how people are going to feel when the season is presented to the public.. and they love it… it gets me emotional trying to try to put words to it. It means a lot to me. It just really means a lot to me.” 


Season two of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is expected to hit Paramount+ in 2023 and run for 10 episodes. Whilst Gooding can’t share too much about the upcoming season’s plot, the actress teased that season two will see the crew working closer together. This is especially since season one took a different format where each episode served as a means to spotlight each crew member and delve deeper into their origins, personalities and personal stories. 

“See, I’m trying not to get fired,” sang Gooding. “I would say be prepared to see a lot more ensemble work and the crew working together. I think in season one, we focused a lot about singular character storylines and in season two, we sort of see the crew working together a lot more.” 

Gooding has a lot of fond memories from filming the second season, but working together and vibing with her fellow co-stars were her favourite parts of the production experience. 

“Coming from theatre, I love collaborative work and I love having everybody in the room at once and rehearsing and collaborating and being around each other’s energy so that was probably my favourite part about shooting season two,” smiled Gooding. 

“Being able to get the family back together. It feels like summer camp! My favourite part about shooting with the cast is that we have such incredible chemistry as a unit, on-screen and off. I think we have a great dynamic as a group and to have that reflected in season two is something really, really special.” 

With season one completing a run and season two making its way to the streaming service, discussions of a potential season three are on the horizon. Though there is no word on a third season from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ showrunners Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers, Gooding has her fingers crossed, and already has a dream Star Trek character she would love to do a scene with in the future. 

It’s another Captain of the Enterprise – Jean-Luc Picard. 

“I could be dead wrong but I believe I was reading it on Memory Alpha that an older Uhura put Picard through his Starfleet training. I’m butchering it now and I’m sure someone will correct me, but I would love to have a scene like flash forward 20 years, and have a scene with a very young Picard and sort of shepherding him. I think that would be so iconic so I would love to have a moment of that.”