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‘Star Trek’ Makes History With First Ever Black Female Director

Hanelle Culpepper, first Black female director

Star Trek has always had a diverse cast from George Takei who is Japanese and Nichelle Nichols who is African-American. And, now, the popular TV series has Hanelle Culpepper, its first Black female director in the franchise's history of more than 50 years.

Culpepper is a veteran television director who directed her first play while she was a senior in high school. “I knew this was what I wanted to do,” she says. However, as a young person, directing didn't seem practical as a career choice so she ended up accepting a scholarship to study economics at the University of California, Riverside. Afterward, though, she quickly realized that she had made a mistake and ended up taking film classes and doing an internship at Sony.

Later, she worked as an assistant to a couple of established directors and then for the Sundance Institute. She was also in the prestigious American Film Institute and was selected by NBC’s diversity program. Culpepper’s big break came when she was offered to direct an episode of Parenthood starring Robert Townsend and then 90210, both of which aired in 2012. She later directed various episodes of other TV shows including Criminal Minds, The Flash, Gotham, and more, and even was nominated for an Image Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series in 2015.

The path she has traveled has led her to make history as the director of several episodes of Star Trek: Picard, which features Sir Patrick Stewart reprising his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard.