Sonequa Martin-Green talks about the late Nichelle Nichols

“I knew this was going to be difficult to talk about her,” Sonequa Martin-Green said, tears in her eyes. The “Star Trek” actress was talking about the late Nichelle Nichols, who broke barriers on the same show more than five decades earlier. “She’s very much 1,000% actually a hero.”

This week, Nichols passed away at the age of 89. She paved the path for several other Black actors by becoming one of the first to play a lead role in a television series. Martin-Green, though, has a strong bond with Nichols. Without Nichols’ predecessor role, Martin-portrayal Green’s of Michael Burnham, the first Black female captain in “Star Trek” history, might not have been feasible.

Between Nichols and Martin-Green, there are many similarities, from their iconic “Star Trek” roles to their support of women and girls in STEM fields. GETTY

She was inspired by Nichols not only as an actor but also as a supporter of women and girls, particularly in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Nichols devoted her time after “Star Trek” to encouraging women and people of color to apply to NASA as astronauts.

Years later, Martin-Green is still working to support girls and women in STEM fields.

She has worked with Million Girls Moonshot, a group whose mission is to increase the number of girls participating in STEM-related learning opportunities and initiatives by 1 million. For the purpose of supporting the program’s goals and sending girls to Space Camp, Frito-Lay has donated $100,000.

Martin-Green presented 16 girls, the first group the organization is sending to Space Camp, with ceremonial stars bearing their names as a surprise. She remarked, “I was really looking forward to them seeing my face and knowing how much I love and support them. “I sincerely hope that they will always remember this experience and carry it with them. I’m hoping it puts them on the right track.”

Tears welled in Sonequa Martin-eyes Green’s as she thought about the late “Star Trek” actress Nichelle Nichols. She declared, “She’s absolutely 100 percent a hero. NEWS CBS

“There’s such a dearth of women in STEM careers and especially Black women, Latina women, Indigenous women, it’s 10 percent in STEM careers today,” Martin-Green told CBS News. “So, we need more of us out there and that’s why I jumped at the opportunity to do this.”

According to Martin-Green, Nichols is essential to initiatives like this one that target recruiting female candidates. “She is actually to blame for everything. She was instrumental in integrating NASA back then, thus “She spoke while sobbing as she remembered Nichols.

“She’s the one that said, ‘Wait a second, I don’t see what I need to be seeing. I don’t see equality here.’ And she dedicated the rest of her life to it — from 1977 to 2015 — to establishing these programs in NASA,” Martin-Green said. “And now here we are, and these girls can have this experience. And I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

Martin-Green now wants to build on Nichols’ legacy both on and off the screen. “I remember her saying, “If I’ve inspired you in any way, I only ask that you carry on this heritage,” when she was still alive. Naturally, now all of us who were motivated by her. And I hope these girls are able to achieve the same.”