How One Of Star Trek's Directors Felt About Shatner And Nichol's Interracial Kiss

Star Trek interracial kiss

Which show the first interracial kiss actually occurred on is kind of an urban legend in TV history. Most agree, however, that the first kiss was on the original Star Trek series in 1968 between Captain Kirk and Uhura. It seems like a such a small thing, but according to Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura, there was a lot of behind-the-scenes tension. During the filming of the famous shot, NBC executives were present, as well as series creator Gene Roddenberry, and the kiss led to a lot of discussions/nervous whispering with the director of the episode. As Nichols tells it, the director didn't initially think there was even going to be any lip-on-lip contact and was very uncomfortable with how to dealt with it.

Let's paint the scene. The kiss took place in the Season 3 episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in which the crew of the Enterprise encounters a group of beings who call themselves the Platonians. Aside from having a thing for ancient greek culture, the Platonians had the power of telekinesis, which they used to force Kirk and crew to do their bidding. That including smooching and they "forced" Kirk and Uhura to kiss in front of them. At the time they filmed this scene, the only people there were William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, and the camera crew. According to Nichols, the kiss was the last thing they needed to film for the day.

Finally we get through the scene and it's time, and he takes me in his arms and he kisses me. "Cut!' He's still holding me. He says what, Bill did. The director, whom I knew and had a great deal of respect for, said Bill. And he walks over like I'm not there. He starts talking to Bill and says, 'You kissed her.' And Bill says, 'Yes, yes I kissed her. Isn't that what the scene is about?'

Nichelle Nichols goes on to remember the director kept quietly talking out the side of his mouth, not really addressing her at all. The director had no clue what to do, clearly not thinking that an actual kiss would be taking place and if they could even show that. Gene Roddenberry was called in and before long two suits from NBC were there watching over the whole thing. The director insisted to Nichols that this had nothing to do with her, but she said, "it is or else there wouldn't be a problem." Nichols felt the scene was good for the episode, but personally, she didn't care if it happened either way and left the big wigs to figure it out.

So it was getting late and filming was already way over time. Roddenberry decided to film the kiss both ways with takes of Willam Shatner and Nichelle Nichols actually kissing and takes where they faked it. Nichols said they did 6 kissing takes and everybody just wanted to go home at that point. The director called for one last alternate take and decided to take matters into his own hands.

So instead of just kissing me, he turns me and bends me over and comes up near me. Then he looks to the camera and crosses his eyes. He hasn't kissed me, the director doesn't see what the cameraman is seeing and he goes, 'There we go! That's a cut and that's a wrap!' And only the cameraman knows what Bill has done and I can see him smiling.

Later, everyone went to watch the dailies and see what the takes looked like. Nichelle Nichols, Shatner, Roddenberry, the director, and the executives are all there. They watched William Shatner's final take and there was just silence. The director put his head in his hands and Nichols was doing everything she could not to crack up before Shatner did. Finally, the executives stood up and said, "Go with the kiss." They left and everybody cracked up except for the director who just said, "I had an excuse. I had a legitimate excuse," presumably meaning he was able to get the cut off without a hitch, without causing major waves with the network executives. He directed an episode of TV that is both in the history books and culturally important. However uncomfortable he felt about the whole thing, I doubt he regretted it later in life.

You can check out the full Today I Learned story, below.

You should all definitely check out Nichols tell the story herself. It's a little long but it's totally worth it just to hear her William Shatner impressions. It's still debated whether this is the first interracial kiss or not - Shatner claims they never actually kissed, Nichelle Nichols says they did, and it's hard to tell in the actual footage - but it makes for a pretty good story.

Matt Wood

Matt has lived in New Jersey his entire life, but commutes every day to New York City. He graduated from Rowan University and loves Marvel, Nintendo, and going on long hikes and then greatly wishing he was back indoors. Matt has been covering the entertainment industry for over two years and will fight to his dying breath that Hulk and Black Widow make a good couple.