20 legendary Black science fiction actors who rocked the genre

19 of 21

Whoopi Goldberg

For Whoopi Goldberg, it all started, more or less, with Nichelle Nichols. As you already know, Nichols made waves with her groundbreaking role as Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek series that aired 1966-1969. Though the show was only around for three seasons, it had huge repercussions for the science fiction community.

For a young Whoopi Goldberg, it was more than a fun sci-fi show. As a 9-year-old, she remembers first seeing Uhura and running through her home, shouting, “Come here, mom, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a Black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!”

That moment stuck with her for many years, through her rise as an actor in her own right. By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation aired, she was ready. With the departure of Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar early on in the series, Goldberg saw an opportunity for a new female character.

Luckily, she was already friends with LeVar Burton, who played Commander Geordi LaForge on the show. Producers thought Burton was pranking them until Goldberg herself (or, according to some accounts, her manager) called.

Ultimately, Goldberg landed the role of Guinan, a civilian bartender in the Enterprise’s Ten-Forward lounge. She was a mystical, grounded person on the show. You get to be that way when you’re a super long-lived El-Aurian. Since Guinan was designed to show up practically anywhere in the Star Trek timeline – she once appeared as a 19th-century friend of Mark Twain’s in a time travel episode – you never known when she might appear again.

Simply asking doesn’t always get you everywhere, unfortunately. We just recently learned that Goldberg tried a similar tactic with the people over at Doctor Who. She wasn’t just gunning for a side role, either. Goldberg wanted to be the Doctor.

It’s a shame, really, that we didn’t get to see her play the first-ever female Doctor, not to mention doing so as a Black actor. Even so, she’s still a huge fan of the series. Goldberg says she wouldn’t mind a guest appearance if BBC bigwigs want to go along this time.