Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Keeping Up with Lindsay Wagner, The Bionic Woman

I actually wanted to be a psychologist. The human potential and emotional thing has always fascinated me. I was very dyslexic when I was young, and they didn’t know anything about it. I tried to go to college, but it was very difficult, so I gave it up and got on with my life. I could read things on my own at my own pace, which I did. I had quite an appetite for learning about that stuff, so I did it on my own.

I was a survivor of domestic violence when I was younger. Our culture back then was very much into, “That’s the way people are.” I didn’t believe that. That was not my experience, so I studied. I’m still studying the mind and spirit and how all that stuff works together, even studying different cultures.

- Lindsay Wagner
2016 interview with Smashing Interviews Magazine

Although Lindsay Wagner never became a  psychologist, she has enjoyed a lengthy and successful acting career, She has also served as a model, a singer, an acting coach, an author and an activist.  She is best known for her role aa  the "Bionic Woman," the female counterpart of Lee Major's "Six Million Dollar Man."  The Six Million Dollar Man aired from 1974 to 1978, while The Bionic Woman ran from 1976 to 1978.  

Lindsay Jean Wagner was born on June 22, 1949 in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Marilyn Louise ((née Thrasher), a building contractor, and William Nowels Waagner, a professional photographer.  Lindsay's parents divorced when she was seven years old and she moved to the northeast Los Angeles area of Eagle Rock with her mother.  

Lindsay relocated yet again when her mother remarried.  She and her mother and stepfather, Ted Ball, moved to Portland, Oregon.  Lindsay attended David Douglas High School in Portland, where she appeared in several school plays.  At the suggestion of a family friend (James Best of Dukes of Hazard fame), she joined an acting class to deal with the domestic abuse she experienced growing up.  In a recent AmoMama article, Lindsay is quoted as saying "Acting class was a place where I could express my emotions in a safe environment.  It helped me realize that I had nothing to be ashamed of.  Domestic violence can be very isolating.  I was only 12, and it really helped."

After attending the University of Oregon for one year, Lindsay dropped out because her dyslexia made her studies too difficult.  In 1968, at the age of 19, Lindsay became the  lead singer of a rock band for a brief time before returning to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.  In L.A, she found work as a model and appeared in a number of TV commercials.  In 1971, she signed as a contract player with Universal Studios.  That same year, she made her TV debut as Jenny Carson  in an episode of the police drama Adam-12 entitled "Million Dollar Buff" (Season 4, Episode 2, Air Date: September 22, 1971).

Lindsay's first prominent acting  role was as Susan Fields in the well-received 1973 film The Paper Chase.  She then appeared in two Season 1 episodes of the popular TV series The Rockford Files,  in 1974 and 1975.  She also guest-starred in five episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D. from 1971 to 1975.  It was television that made Lindsay Wagner a household name in the role of Jaime Sommers on The Bionic Woman.  

Ironically, Lindsay's rise to stardom began in 1975 when Universal Studios decided to drop her as a contract player.  As luck would have it, her final assignment for the studio was to appear in an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, starring Lee Majors.  Lindsay struck a chord with viewers when she began playing Jaime, a tennis pro, and high school sweetheart of Colonel Steve Austin (Majors),in nine episodes of the series.  She first appeared during the second season of the show in a special two-part 1975 episode entitled "The Bionic Woman" Part I (Season 2, Episode 19, Air Date: March 16, 1975) and "The Bionic Woman" Part II (Season 2, Episode 20, Air Date: March 23, 1975).  In the episode, Lindsay's character is critically injured in a skydiving accident.  Her life is saved with surgical bionic implants, similar to those of Colonel Austin's.

Jaime's body, however, rejects her bionic implants, and she supposedly dies on an operating table.  As it turned out, Lindsay's character proved to be so popular with fans that ABC asked the writers to find a way to bring her back.  In the first episode of the next season of The Six Million Dollar Man, it is revealed that Jamie hadn't really died, but was cryogenically frozen until a cure for her ailments could be found.  In 1976, a spin-off called The Bionic Woman was launched, starring Lindsay Wagner.  The Bionic Woman ran for three seasons, the first two season on the ABC network, and then on the NBC network for its final season.

Below is a 1977 photo of a scene from The Bionic Woman with Lindsay and guest star Evel Knievel.

After the cancellation of The Bionic Woman in 1978, Lindsay continued to perform in television miniseries and in numerous TV movies such as Windows, Door and Keyholes (1978) , The Incredible Journey of Meg Laurel (1979), The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan (1979), Callie & Son (1981), Memories Newer Die (1982), I Want to Live (1983), Two Kinds of Love (1983), Passions (1984) The Other Lover (1985), This Child is Mine (1985), Child's Cry (1986), Convicted (1986), Stranger in My Bed (1987), Student Exchange (1987), Evil in Clear River (1988), The Taking of Flight 847: The Uli Derickson Story (1988), Police Story Burnout (1988), From the Dead of Night (1989), Voice of the Heart (1989), Shattered Dreams (1990), Sins of Silence (1996), Voyage of Terror (1998), The Thanksgiving House (2013) and Change of Heart (2016)

Many of Lindsay's TV movies have tackled social and health issues such as child abuse, family violence and breast cancer. She told Simply Interviews that she this was by choice.  "When I went into this business and decided to go into it professionally, it wasn't until I was twenty[two.  I found it such a wonderful opportunity to talk about social issues.  Having become so popular and having so much powers in the business with the popularity of The Bionic Women, I was able to get a project done that they really didn't want me to do back then.  There were issues that they were afraid to talk about in entertainment because programs were sourced by companies that were advertising products.  That's how television worked."

Lindsay has amassed over 90 acting credits.  The prolific actor has appeared in more than 40 TV movies, five miniseries and 12 feature films.  She is a veteran of Hallmark TV movies such as Mingle All The Way (2018) and Eat, Play, Love.(2017) in which she appeared with Lee Majors.  She has not slowed down in recent years.  In 2022, she appeared in an episode of the CBS adventure series Blood & Treasure. From 2018 to 2019, Lindsay guest-starred as Helen Karev in four episodes of Season 15 of Grey's Anatomy..  In 2015, she played Barbara Bishop in an episode of NICS.  From 2010 to 2014, she had a recuring role as Dr. Vanessa Calder on the science fiction mystery drama Warehouse 13.

Lindsay Wagner has been married and divorced four times.  She is currently single.  According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), Lindsay married Allan Richard Rider, a music publisher, on September 28, 1971.  They divorced in 1974.  Her second husband was actor Michael Brandon, known for his role in the 1980 film A Change of Seasons.  Lindsay wed Brandon in 1976 and they divorced in 1979.  

On May 16, 1981, Lindsay wed Hollywood stuntman and actor Henry Kingi, whom she met on the set of The Bionic Woman.  Kingi, born in L.A. to a Nigerian father and a Japanese mother, married Lindsay in a ceremony at Lake Tahoe, Nevada.  The bride and groom recited an Indian blessing to devote their lives to God and each other, but their marriage ended in divorce in 1984.  The couple had two sons: Dorian Kingi (born September 25, 1982 in Los Angeles) and Alex Kingi, (born September 7, 1986 in Los Angeles).  Their sons also became stuntmen and actors.

Dorian Kingi

Alex Kingi

Lindsay's fourth husband was to actor-film producer Lawrence Mororff.  They marred on May 6, 1990 and divorced in 1993.


* During the first season of The Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner and her then-boyfriend, actor Michael Brandon were involved in a serious car accident.  Lindsay was the driver of the vehicle and Michael was in the passenger seat.  He almost lost an eye and Lindsay suffered a severe cut on her upper lip.  She was left with a small but permanent scar.  Due to the accident product of The Bionic Woman was delayed for weeks.

* In 1977, Lindsay received a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role in The Bionic Woman.

* Lindsay appeared in the three reunion movies that featured most of the original actors from the 1970s bionic series: The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Bionic Showdown: The Six Million  Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1989) and Bionic Ever After? (1994).  Bionic Ever After?, the third and final movie of the franchise, marks Lindsay's last appearance as Jaime Sommers.  It aired on CBS on November 29, 1994. In the film, Jaime's long-overdue wedding to Steve Austin (Lee Majors) is cast in doubt when Jaime's bionic systems begin to fail and Steve is involved in a hostage situation.

* Lindsay is a longtime vegan and an advocate of holistic medicine. In the late 1980s, she became a writer and xo-author of books on health and beauty, including a bestselling vegetarian cookbook entitled The High Road to Heath (1990), 30-Day Natural Facelift Program (1988) and Lindsay Wagner's new Beauty: The Acupressure Facelift (1987).  She has also released a meditation CD entitled Open to Oneness.

* Lindsay is a social activist.  In 1993, she joined the board of directors of Teen Talking Circles, a nonprofit group that supports the positive mental health of young people as they grow into adulthood.  In 2004, Lindsay co-founded the Peacemakers, an organization devoted to preventing domestic violence.  

SOURCES: AmoMama (amomama.com), "Lindsay Wagner Looks Timeless at 73 with Gray Hair - She Turned into Spirituality for the Sake of Her 2 Kids," by Dorcus Osongo, March 26, 2023; Biography (biography.com, ""Lindsay Wagner Biography;" by Biography.com Editors, originally published 2014, updated 2019; Smashing Interviews, "Lindsay Wagner Interview: The Human Potential and Emotional Thing Has Always Fascinated Me," by Melissa Parker, February13, 2016;  Wikipedia; Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Stay updated with breaking celebrity news, old and current television shows or old television shows news by reading TV Banter Blogs.     

- Joanne        

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