Two longtime associates of Star Trek actress and Hollywood icon Nichelle Nichols are speaking out against her son, who has been named her legal conservator by a court.
On Tuesday, Nichols’ manager Gilbert Bell provided Atlanta’s CBS46 with a disturbing video, apparently taken by him, in which the 86-year-old TV star can be heard screaming in protest as she holds what Bell claims are legal guardianship documents filed by her son, Kyle Johnson.
Speaking to PEOPLE, Bell said he has been Nichols’ manager for 12 years.
“It’s pretty devastating what is going on with this icon,” he said.
Nichols’ close friend Angelique Fawcette told PEOPLE she was shocked by the video, which was reportedly recorded on April 23.
“I knew [Nichols and her son] had a bad relationship,” she said. “I’ve never seen Nichelle scream like that.”
“It’s like, what is going on behind closed doors every day?” she continued.
Johnson had no comment when reached by PEOPLE.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to PEOPLE that officers conducted a welfare check at Nichols’ home on Tuesday, but declined to provide further information.
Fawcette, a movie producer, said she met Nichols in 2012 and has remained extremely close with her ever since, visiting her twice a month in recent years.
“She was going to be an actress in one of my films. I didn’t think it would turn into a friendship,” Fawcette explained. “But she ended up being way more than just an actress. She became like family, like a mother to me.”
Nichols reportedly suffers from dementia, but Fawcette, who said she last saw the actress two or three weeks ago, insists she “is not a victim of delusions.”
“I’m not a doctor and I’ve never gone to an appointment with her, so I don’t know what type of dementia she has, but I know she has short-term memory loss,” Fawcette said. “But she is not unaware of who she is, nor is she not aware of her surroundings. She is not having outbursts.”
“She was reading that court document in that video, and that is what made her upset,” Fawcette continued. “I know for a fact, as a person who has been around her all of this time, that she is not at that level. She still takes care of herself. For example, when I visit her, if I change the color of my hair, she notices. And she knows that her friends never come by. I’m the only friend that visits her.”
Fawcette said she has become invested in protecting Nichols and, at her request, even recorded a video of her in 2013 in which she states her desire to be her own legal guardian and continue working. The video, which Fawcette posted on YouTube in 2018, can be viewed here.
“I was hoping that I’d never have to share it, but years passed by and I saw a lot of terrible things happen to her,” Fawcette said. She started to have memory issues, but again, she is cognizant. She still takes care of herself. She still dresses herself. She knows when she goes to these conventions, it’s actually what keeps her going and happy, to visit fans.”
“I asked her son to please just do what his mother says, let her work and visit her fans,” Fawcette said. “He basically laughed in my face.”
Johnson filed a petition in 2018 to assign a conservator for his mother. In the petition, Johnson claimed that Nichols needed court-ordered protection because certain “individuals have unduly exerted themselves into Ms. Nichols’ life to her detriment.”
In August 2018 court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Fawcette objected to Johnson’s petition to be named Nichols’ conservator, arguing that the actress is “perfectly able to manage her financial and personal affairs,” pointing to the 2013 video evidence that Nichols is “well-spoken, coherent and articulate” and noting her “active, current involvement in the film industry, including frequent visits to many Star Trek entertainment conventions, acting roles in new films, and interviews with the largest U.S. newspapers.”
In the documents, Fawcette alleged that Johnson’s “primary purpose” in becoming his mother’s conservator was to obtain access to her estate, “including, but not limited to, her income and personal and real property.”
In her objection, Fawcette also alleged that Johnson is “absolutely careless” with Nichols’ wellbeing and “except for a few occasions over the last six years, did not bother to visit [her].”
She alleged to the court that Johnson’s plan was to place Nichols in a rest home to “preclude her from acting and gain ownership and possession over her income, home and other property.”
Fawcette told PEOPLE she doesn’t trust Johnson “at all” and insists Nichols “does not want to retire.”
But she’s not giving up on her beloved friend.
“Now that I’ve spoken out, he’s not going to let me see her,” she predicted. “I’ll just have to go back to court to fight for my visitation rights. I just hope that she’s okay.”
Nichols broke a major race barrier when she was cast as Lt. Nyota Uhura in the 1960s sci-fi series Star Trek. When the show first aired in 1966, Nichols was one of the first black women to play a major role on primetime television.
She is popularly cited as having the first interracial kiss on American television, when her character famously locked lips with white leading man William Shatner‘s Captain James T. Kirk. Martin Luther King Jr. once called Nichols’ role “the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a black woman in television history.”
She also worked to recruit diverse astronauts to NASA, including women and ethnic minorities. Among those who were recruited as a result of the program was Sally Ride, the first female American astronaut.
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