On Battlestar Galactica, she played the daughter of legendary Commander Cain; in real life, she's the daughter of archetypal science fiction mom Maureen Robinson. Anne Lockhart became a legend among genre audiences as Sheba - the first female pilot who flew regular combat missions - but the child of Lost In Space' June Lockhart says she grew up with acting and science fiction in her blood.
"I think it was genetically programmed, I don't think I had any choice in the matter," laughs the younger Lockhart, who lives near Los Angeles and has worked on or offscreen on more than a hundred films. "I had a totally normal childhood, I just had a working mom. I went to the set of Lassie when I was little, and the set of Lost in Space, and I'd go see her when she was doing Petticoat Junction, but I wasn't trucked all over the world. I lived in the same house all my years of growing up, I went to the same school, I still have the same best friend since I've had when I was nine."
The twentieth anniversary celebration of Battlestar Galactica and reports on production of a new film have spurred new interest in the series and its stars - some of whom, like Richard Hatch, have been lobbying for a revival, while others have long since moved on. Lockhart reports that she and Laurette Spang, who played Cassiopeia, talked on the phone after the announcement of the new film, "and we were both giggling about it. She said, 'Gosh, do you suppose that they'll call us?' And what, have them fly by the planet for retired Viper pilots to show us sitting in a couple of wheelchairs knitting?"
Yet Lockhart adds that she would love to revisit the role of Sheba. "She was one of my favourite characters I've ever played. The very sudden and surprising cancellation of Galactica left me feeling like, 'Wait a minute, I wasn't done!' I had so much more to explore with her, because she was such an interesting and complex person. I would love to explore where she's been in the ensuing 20 years - I certainly hope she's gotten a promotion past lieutenant!"
Though Star Trek's Lieutenant Uhura beat her to the title, Sheba was the first female character on weekly series science fiction television to fly into combat every week. "The gender barrier was completely broken, and there was no big deal about it," notes the actress, who didn't realize that it was a ground-breaking role until fans at conventions pointed it out to her. A latecomer to the cast, Lockhart turned down an offer for the series pilot, but was delighted to take on the new character when producer Glen Larson sent her the script for "The Living Legend."
"Glen called me and said, 'I have the opportunity to write a new character into the show and I would like to write it for you.' I had been sent a script for Galactica in the very beginning, a real early pilot script, and I turned it down; the character wasn't anything like Sheba, not that strong. Something in my heart said I would not be happy doing this, and to do a really good job, I knew I would have to be happy."
When she read "Living Legend," however, Lockhart jumped at the chance to join the show. "What appealed to me most about Sheba was her strength," she recalls. The fact that she was an equal to the men and was accepted, yet she was quite feminine. But she was accepted and respected for her abilities as a warrior and as a pilot, not because she was a woman."
When she arrived to film, Lockhart knew she was going to be a series regular, "but no one else did - I remember not being able to talk about it when I came in to film." She was billed as a guest star in that first episode, but by the time the two-parter had finished, it was obvious that there was good chemistry between Sheba and Apollo, the single-father Viper captain played by Richard Hatch.
"I think they were moving towards expanding the relationship between Sheba and Apollo when we were cancelled; I don't know how permanent it would have become, because we never got anywhere beyond the kiss in the last episode," recalls Lockhart. "The relationship with Apollo was so funny because we were instantly like oil and water, and that conflict was the over-layer to the attraction underneath, which was great fun to play. I liked her directness, yet I also liked the fact that she was awkward with her emotions - she had great strong emotions, but it was hard for her to express them."
Sheba lost her father, Commander Cain - unforgettably played by Lloyd Bridges - at the end of the episode which brought her to the series, which set up an arc for the end of the season in which she was tempted by a demonic character who offered various characters their dreams come true. In "War of the Gods," Sheba bought into Count Iblis' promises to lead the crew to Earth and reunite her with her father.
Though actress Spang remains a friend of Lockhart's, Cassiopeia's relationship with Sheba was always strained because the other woman had been her father's lover, and she had difficulty trusting Commander Adama in a role like his. "One of the things that really appealed to me was that up to this point, Sheba had had to be all business - all warrior - and never really able to deal with the loss of her father," explains Lockhart. "It was a very real emotional thing that she was going through, especially since it was never very clear whether her father blew up or was alive out there. Count Iblis and his promises provided her with this opportunity."
"She did not deal with this grief, she was in a state of denial about it. Which people do after a loss like that," the actress continues. Tragically, she speaks from personal experience. "I lost my husband; my husband was killed in an accident four and a half years ago. I literally walked around for the longest time feeling like he was going to walk through the door at any minute."
The mother of an 8-year-old daughter who has done voice work and an 11-year-old son who is interested in set design, Lockhart laughs that she hasn't had an easy time making Battlestar Galactica fans out of her kids. "I have the episodes on videotape - I have all of them on Betamax, the dinosaur machine the size of a small refrigerator, I taped them all religiously when they were on - I remember showing them to my kids, "Look, it's Mom, flying a Viper!" and it meant nothing to them!" In the past year, however, her children have accompanied Lockhart to conventions, "and they've seen there are all these other people who think it's cool that Mom flew a Viper, so now they think maybe it is cool."
Though the series aired for only one season, it has a devoted fan following which has spawned cons, zines, and a growing presence online. Lockhart had not followed the progression of Galactica fandom in the years after the series went off the air, though she was aware of the resurgence on the internet. "The Sci-Fi Channel has really renewed the fervour of the original fans and introduced a whole new generation to Galactica," she says, noting that the series holds up very well: "When I looked at the show recently, I was very impressed with the special effects. Do you realize they were all filmed? None of them were computer-generated, and they're as good as the stuff that's computer generated now. There were some really good miniatures."
Inexplicably, the network decided not to pick up Battlestar Galactica for a second season, despite ratings in the top 20 and generally good reviews. Lockhart found out the news on vacation in Hawaii. "We hadn't officially been given a pick-up, but we went on hiatus thinking we'd be back, because the show was successful," she remembers. "I'd gone for Hawaii just to get some rest for the next season. One of the things about doing that show was that I never saw daylight: I'd get to work when it was dark, and I'd go on the soundstage and space is dark! I'd never been in the sun. So I went to Hawaii to visit my girlfriend, and I read it in the paper."
Though Larson and Universal are often blamed by fans for cutting corners by turning the series into the painfully inferior Galactica 1980, Lockhart claims that the spinoff was rushed into production only after the network realized it had made a mistake and asked for more Battlestar Galactica, only to learn that the crew's contracts had lapsed. "After it was cancelled and there was a lot of mail and a lot of noise, they tried to scramble to pull something together. By this time all of our contracts had lapsed." After approaching a couple of cast members about Galactica 1980, which Hatch and Dirk Benedict reportedly both turned down, "they decided not to go after the rest of us because it wouldn't have worked."
Galactica 1980 was "like a band-aid after it was cancelled," now considered a joke even by its creators. "Even Glen jokes about it," reveals Lockhart. "Do you remember the season of Dallas that Pam dreamed? It would be so fabulous to have Apollo stepping out of the shower saying, 'Could you hand me that towel, Sheba? I had the weirdest dream!'" Although the show will apparently not be considered canon for future incarnations of Battlestar Galactica, Lockhart recalls that her good friends Barry Van Dyke and Ken McCord starred on the series, which featured appearances by Herb Jefferson and Dirk Benedict.
Lockhart has only good things to say about Glen Larson, the producer for whom she has worked more than any other. "I've done every one of his shows, just about; I worked for him prior to Galactica and of all the cast, I've worked for him the most since. I did Hardy Boys, Knight Rider, I had a recurring role on B.J. and the Bear, I did two or three Magnums, I did Airwolf, Auto-Man, Buck Rogers... Glen gave me a lot of terrific characters to play."
Lockhart started her career at age four in a short subject film that was nominated for an Academy Award, and has since acquired a very impressive genre resume. Her most recent film is a family Christmas movie called A Dog's Tale which wrapped last month, but a year ago she shot a science fiction comedy called Bug Busters. "It's kind of a spoof on those movies that used to be on TV on Saturday afternoons with titles like Attack of the Crab Monsters," she says. The film co-stars Randy Quaid and Star Trek alumni George Takei and James Doohan.
Speaking of bugs, Lockhart did voice work on Starship Troopers... along with well over a hundred films over the past two decades. "I've been doing voice work for years, but I never thought anyone cared about it; mostly I do it unbilled, because it's fun," she explains. "I've been police dispatchers, public address announcers, I'm hired often because I can scream - many actresses can't scream, and they need a real blood-curdler. I was a predator in Predator II. I did a movie with Matthew Broderick called Project X where they're training chimps to fly jet fighters, and all the monkeys are really four guys and me - not a monkey noise in there."
An excellent mimic, the actress does accents and foreign languages as well. "I've always had a gift of having a good ear for language, as a kid languages were very easy for me. I can hear colloquialisms, and I also for some reason technically am good at matching the lip sync on screen. Some people cannot do it, even with themselves onscreen. You have to have a sense of rhythm and meter to be able to hear somebody's speech pattern. Sometimes you will have to change words, you will have to replace dialogue and make it fit to match the way their lips move. It's kind of tricky."
The caretaker of many adopted pets and a part-time travel editor for a California magazine, Lockhart has done development research for television, but her main production interest is in live theatre. "I've done five or six plays in the last three years," she explains, describing her latest project, a live radio theatre fundraiser last Halloween.
"I produced War of the Worlds as a multimedia production. We were broadcast on the radio, but we had a 400-seat theatre," she describes. "I had a pre-show with a piano player and a singer in a 1938 evening gown singing period songs, and behind her I ran a video of newsreel footage. It really set the tone! We went on the air wardrobed in 1938 clothing. And I cast it all with science fiction actors, William Wyndham, Maggie Egan, me, Herb Jefferson, Dirk Benedict, Alan Hunt, Lane Davies. We created most of our sound effects live onstage. I would like to do a Western and get all these Western actors that I know to come in and do it, and then do a cop story. You could do all these great genres of radio from the '30s and '40s and give your audience a show."
The actress says that "just like everybody else in town," she has a script which she and a friend are trying to produce, but much of her time is occupied with "carpool and baseball practice!" Though her daughter once told Lockhart, "'I'd like to be an actress until I'm too old to get any good roles, like you, Mom!'" her real goal is to ride in the Olympics. "I would never push them into the business - I would never have them live the life of professional kids," says Lockhart, who made such films with her own mother as Gidget's Summer Reunion, Tell Me That You Love Me and Troll.
On the question of the likelihood that she will return to Battlestar Galactica, Lockhart doesn't have any answers at the moment. Hatch had invited her to participate in the presentation trailer which he took to Universal, "which is actually a brilliant idea," but she never received a script. She was aware as well more than a year ago that Glen Larson had a script and the film rights to the show, but has not seen that either. "I would love to explore Sheba again, but I just don't know what will happen," she says. Stay tuned.