Photoplay's down-to-earth talks with those Galactica girls

Photoplay Vol. 93, #5: July 1979
by Stephen Schaefer

 

Call them the Galactica Girls: Flippant Maren Jensen, beautiful and bright. Funny Laurette Spang, blonde and bubbly. Professional Anne Lockhart, poised and personable. These three co-stars add beauty and romance to ABC's sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica.

When it premiered last September, Galactica was the season's most publicized and television's most expensive, new series. A trio of macho stars - Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, Lorne Greene - and first-class special effects attracted a large teen audience as well as science-fiction buffs. But ratings rule the earthly airwaves, and Battlestar's battles on the Neilson charts have been as decisive as the series' ongoing war with the Cylons: If not exactly victorious, at least in a holding pattern.

Maren, Anne, and Laurette were added to Galactica at different intervals throughout the season. Precisely because they are not showcased as stars (to beef-up ratings, producer Glen Larson didn't intend to overhaul the show into an Angels-in-Space mutant), the trio's knockout appeal has been diminished. "It's a man's show," Maren Jensen laments, speaking the truth.

In the last week of shooting the rocky first season of Galactica, Photoplay visited with the starship's female crew members. At that time, Maren, Laurette, and Anne didn't know whether this episode, to be broadcast as the final show of the season, would be their last ever. ABC was still silent on the next season. (At press time it was finally announced: Battlestar will not return for another season. NBC, though, may pick it up.)

 

Maren Jensen

Maren Jensen

 

"It's so weird being viewed as a success," Maren Jensen marvels. "I'm 22 years old and I've had one major role." Maren is truly the show's success story - a national cover girl on fashion magazines and even TV Guide. It wouldn't be surprising to see the show revived purely on their personal appeal - her potential looms that large by Hollywood standards.

She shouldn't be surprised, although it is a little scary. Being beautiful has never been a handicap in movies, and words are insufficient to convey how spectacularly attractive Maren is. Born September 23, 1956 in Glendale, California, her exotic looks are in part due to her mother, who is of Hawaiian descent.

Galactica's final episode hasn't required Maren's presence, so she's been preparing to leave for the South Pacific to star in her first picture, Shark Boy of Bora Bora, featuring Hurricane newcomer, Dayton Ka'ne. She answers the door of her newly acquired Laurel Canyon house dressed in a slinky black dress reminiscent of the feminine '40s style popularized by Joan Crawford. Maren's taste is reflected in her home environment, which she shares only with a large cat named Ted. The rooms are mostly bare of furniture or clutter, and are decorated with contemporary and African art.

Sitting on her couch, neither smoking nor snacking, Maren laughs at the idea that sci-fi has changed her life. "I've always been interested in science fiction," she says. "I'm reading the Dune trilogy right now." Battlestar, she agrees, has been a great opportunity, although she knows nothing about the ratings: "I hear it all third-hand." For the series' future, she's equally philosophical. "Anyway it goes, it's alright with me." Her future seems set.

You always hear about how much of a "family" everyone is on a series. Is she close with Laurette and Anne? Knitting her brow, Maren turns slightly serious. "I'm not always around. My appearances have been so sporadic, it's been my major disappointment. I realized this when I was going into the series, so it hasn't bothered me, but it would have been great to have had great parts all the time. "We women came along one by one. It wasn't as if we were planned from the beginning according to a master design. It's been haphazard for the show since it began. They've tried to do different things. Annie came in mid-season. Laurette wasn't originally slated for the series."

With her almond-shaped blue eyes and long dark hair, Maren could capture attention just walking into a room much less a spaceship. Does she ever feel merely like window-dressing on the show? "No, I don't as a matter of fact," he says, coolly. "I'm covered from the neck down, so I don't know what I'm dressing."

Although a college dropout, Maren was a straight A student majoring in Theatre Arts at UCLA. She quit in her third year when her modeling work started to take precedence over her studies. "I had been waitressing and doing other jobs to get through school," she explains. "I had been supporting myself since I was 18. I found it was better making $50 hourly as a model, which is what the starting rate is. I got agents for both acting and modeling in '77 and dropped out to work professionally, which isn't so bad."

Maren's the middle of three children born to a doctor father of Danish descent and a mother of Hawaiian-French-English lineage. Her five-years-older brother, Dana, is a college student, and her 15-year-old sister, Kathleen, is an aspiring guitarist/songwriter.

Maren's father played piano for relaxation when he was young, and her mother's acting was natural for her career as an operatic soprano. Maren's early appreciation for the arts was characterized by a love for music. Even now, she says, there is music in the house, be it Bruce Springsteen, Mozart or Joni Mitchell, "always."

Her goal, she maintains, was always to be an actress. Regarding the prejudicial attitude towards models-turned-actresses, she says with slight irritation, "I think it's funny to be judged on something I did for only nine or 10 months out of my life. You have to be judged as an individual." She reveals that she turns down many commercial offers: "Good parts are the goal."

Shark Boy of Bora Bora doesn't exactly sound like the dramatic vehicle of a lifetime, but it will serve as an appropriate debut for the beauty. "The title is only tentative," she says hopefully. Before being cast in Galactica, Maren was screentested for the lead in Hurricane by the original director, Roman Polanski. Even though the lead ended up with Mia Farrow, producer Dino DeLaurentiis was enthusiastic enough to fashion Shark Boy especially for Maren.

"It will be interesting to go into a project never having met my leading man," she remarks, "although I talked with him by phone. Nor have I seen any of DeLaurentiis's films."

With all this - the new house, a motion picture lead, a TV Guide cover story which singled her out from the huge cast - Maren might feel she's "gone Hollywood." "No way," she says. "My friends are my friends - for years, really. I have had once close friend since I was seven and several good o nes from college. Everyone's on their own scale of progression of very talented people who haven't gotten a break yet. It makes me sad, but I am still an optimist and think that it will happen."

Success will not in any way affect Maren's independence. She has spoken up about the "man's show" aspects of Galactica, and the lower status of the women. She's also been secure enough in her own self to turn down lucrative modeling offers in Paris and New York in favor of studying in California and concentrating on an acting career.

She lives by herself and keeps a low profile. Her private life is - you guessed it - private. "I'm single. I've been in love, oh sure," she'll say, then quickly change the subject. "I'm at a point in my life where I'm enjoying my own responsibilities, especially being on my own and making my own decisions.

"I think it's wonderful being with someone you're compatible with, but true love develops over a period of time, a number of years. People mask a lot to appeal to your fantasies. They try to be to you what they think you ultimately want rather than being what they are." Whether she's living out her own fantasies, Maren refuses to consider. "I don't know what they are," she says. "I don't even fantasize about people. You hear so much garbage about everyone."

With a boyfriend (whom she will not discuss), a hot career, and an upcoming film, how does she relax? "Qualudes," she says, then laughs uproariously. Her publicist laughs, too, while shaking her head. "No," Maren admits, "I do a lot of reading, that really relaxes me. I'm taking 'heavy' stuff with me to Bora Bora - Hemingway, Dickens, the Earth and Seas trilogy. Or I do something self-indulgent, life taking a bath for an hour." She makes a wry face. "Only the telephone cord doesn't stretch all the way to the tub." A happy young woman with only tub-sized problems, Maren Jensen is proof that being on a "man's show" hasn't hurt this woman one bit.

 

Laurette Spang

Laurette Spang

 

Laurette Spang came to Battlestar Galactica only to be suddenly transformed. And once you know Laurette, you'll know that's the typically wacky Spang style.

At 27, the oldest of the trio, Laurette's back on the Universal lot where she started her Hollywood career as a contract player. Of German descent, Laurette was born in Buffalo, New York, but raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Laurette was cast in the premiere three-hour Battlestar as a "socialator," once known as the "girl with a heart of gold," and today commonly referred to as a hooker. Laurette giggles the way some people gesture with their hands - often. Sitting in the Universal commissary and still dressed in Battlestar costume, Laurette is amused at how the creative people on the series managed to alter her character of Cassiopeia overnight.

"Originally, I was offered Galactica as a movie of the week," she says. "I was cast as the love interest for Starbuck (Dirk Benedict). I asked, 'What's he done? Dirk Bogarde?' To do the role I was luckily released from a pilot for Quinn Martin which was sort of an updated Mod Squad.

"As Starbuck's love interest, I was a 'socialator,' and when the decision was made to go for a series and include me, there was this big question: What do they do with a 'socialator' on a kids' show? So, without any explanation in the next episode, I'm wearing a nurse's uniform and assisting Lorne Greene in heart surgery!"

Laurette confides with a giggle, "They clipped some great scenes of mine with Starbuck, one where he made a comment about my 'honorable profession' and another when he would complain about a headache, and I'd tell him, 'Make an appointment!'"

Laurette grew up the middle child of a chemist father and housewife mother who along with her older brother, Richard, and younger sister, Marilyn, remain in the Midwest. She reflects that "looking back, I realize I always wanted to be an actress." As a drama major during college, she made a summer trip to New York where a chance encounter with a soap opera producer led to an audition the following summer (after graduation), and a place at the Williamstown summer theatre. That led to a scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Spotted by a Universal talent scout, she signed a seven-year contract and arrived in Hollywood in 1972. Roles in TV movies followed until she was dropped by Universal.

"It's not a 'family' on the contract system today the way it was in the heyday of the studios," Laurette explains. "The average lifespan of a contract player is very short. There was that initial panic at being on my own for the first time." Rolling her eyes to the overhead lights, she dramatically states, "I went for a year-and-a-half without a job." Then she makes a confession with comedic overtones: "I tried at one point to get a job as a waitress and was rejected. That was more devastating that losing any acting job!"

Laurette's feelings about Galactica as a "man's show" are far more vociferous than Maren's. "Could I start complaining about women's roles on TV, particularly Galactica!" she says. "In the beginning Maren and I were fifth in line, behind the Cylons and special effects. We knew they didn't want to make it a Little House on the Planet or Bonanza in Outer Space, but the women aren't in responsible positions: There are no women commanders. I'm not on a soapbox for women's lib," she cautions, "it's just that other than waving goodbye before a battle, I feel sometimes I've lost a function on my own."

Battlestar Galactica has given Laurette a great, though exhausting, 13 months. She's befriended Lorne Greene, who asked her to accompany him to the People's Choice Awards when the series was named the Best New Show. She proudly shows a photo taken with Fred Astaire and Richard Hatch.

Offscreen, Laurette's the only one on Galactica who enjoys a running comic battle with health-conscious Dirk Benedict over her junk-food diet. (Midway through lunch, Laurette screams, "My God! I almost forgot! Zonkers are on sale for 59 cents!") Junk food, however, poses no threat to the ever-slim Ms. Spang.

"Dirk's always going around giving advice to everyone about their diet," says Laurette. "I was thinking how proud Dirk was going to be when I told him I'd been fasting for three days, cleaning out my system. He looks at me and says, 'People are here to eat.' It's damned if I do and if I don't," she sighs at being unable to please her finicky co-star. Beyond her junk food splurges, Laurette's fond of practical jokes and enjoys kidding around with the crew.

"I'm still a Michigan person at heart," she offers. "The smog here drives me crazy. I have a nice place in Coldwater Canyon with a backyard and trees but no pool." Unlike many Californians, Laurette's stayed away from the human potential fads like est, meditiations or rolfing.

"It's a crazy business, I don't know why I love it," she says. "The highs are so high. Even the depressions have their purpose. I'll call my family in Michigan and say how bored I am with the sun - after months of it - and they think I'm crazy. I don't want a psychiatrist, just a neutral person who'll listen about the craziness and agree with me."

Single - "I get jokes about that all the time" - Laurette thinks it's "hard dating guys outside the business where you have nothing in common. How can someone take you seriously when you cancel a date to study lines?"

Her idea of a great date is to light candles around the house and cook a dinner. "Or else get dressed and go out, but mostly it's important to be with someone you can laugh with, who has a sense of humor. That makes anything incredibly romantic."

Lively as she talks, Laurette remarks how "good things keep on happening" and attributes it to being brought up "on positive thinking."

She reveals that her look is new, too. "Allen Edwards, who did the original Farrah look and bought Jon Peter's salons, called me up one day and said, 'Your hair needs a change. Come over.' I trusted him because for years I wore the same style."

Does she think that she'll blossom into another blonde sex symbol, like Farrah or Suzanne Somers? Laurette looks almost embarrassed, but answers, "I don't think that's going to happen." With her own script almost ready for the network as a vehicle for herself, a bright outlook on life, and a role in the feature release version of Galactica, Laurette Spang's going to giggle her way far beyond Battlestar's reaches of space. She, Maren, and Anne have what it takes to succeed.

 

Anne Lockhart

Anne Lockhart

 

Anne Lockhart comes to Galactica, her first series, with an acting lineage going back four generations. Her mother, June Lockhart, whom she resembles with an uncanny perfection, was not only Lassie's mistress but famous for the '60s sci-fi series, Lost in Space. Anne's destiny may have been for an acting career, but initially Battlestar Galactica looked out of her orbit.

"I was offered the woman's role long before they finally went into production," she says, "but I turned it down. I've learned from my mother that you have to trust your instincts and at that time, from that early script, I felt I wouldn't be happy doing the series - the character wasn't developed. Then, when they were already in the season, Glen Larson called and asked if I'd be interested in stepping aboard because they had the opportunity to create a new character for the show. Sheba is the result."

Sheba is a warrior, daughter of the Patton-like general played by Lloyd Bridges in a two-part episode. Anne is delighted with Galactica, easily the most enthusiastic of the women on board. "In a way it's easy for me," she says, sitting on the steps of a set on Universal's soundstage 27 where the starship's control room is constructed, "because I've only been working for seven months now and everyone else has been here over a year."

Anne's professional pose and personable manner reflect the assurance of a woman, yet her attitude is mostly that of a gleeful child. This mixture of woman and girl is probably what makes Sheba so convincing and complex as a character. "Sheba's a warrior who is strong, but she has a vulnerable side and that's what I like most about her. She's developed."

For those who have seen Anne in a hot tub with other famous Hollywood offspring Melanie Griffith, (Tippi Hedren's daughter) Desi Arnaz, Jr., and Robert Carradine, in Joyride, or on the pages of Playboy, you know Anne's a curvaceous woman. On Galactica, her figure is suppressed beneath the space suits, though.

Single, never-married Anne offers that once "I came close. I lived in Colorado for a year with a businessman when I was 22, and it hit me that maybe acting wasn't what I wanted to really do with my life. I wondered if maybe it was the result of being a Lockhart. I had a partner, and we had a relationship. We traveled around through 26 states and camped out. I discovered I missed my career terribly. I need it; it makes me happy."

Anne looks radiantly happy, even with the 14-hour workdays she puts in for the series. Breaking the interview is the call to film. On the set with Laurette, Lorne, and several others, Anne cries perfectly on cue. There is an astonishing effortlessness about her control before the camera. Later, she discusses the "family" feeling she finds whenever she works on a soundstage.

"I've never experienced anxiety or tension about performing, partly because when I go onto the stage, an electrician or someone will walk up and say, 'I worked with your grandfather in '36' and you feel at home when that happens."

Anne wasn't raised to be a starlet, child actress, little trouper, or any of those archaic concepts of showbiz offspring. "Mom felt it was important for us to have a normal life. I went to my first Hollywood party when I was 21. It was at the Playboy Mansion, and I was thrilled seeing Paul Newman in one room and Burt Reynolds in another."

Anne was in Marymount High School until her senior year when she went to Arizona's Verde Valley School, which boasts a roster of talented graduates. "Chris Lemmon, of Brothers and Sisters, Jimmy Stevens in Paper Chase, and myself were all there at the same time," she says. "And the latest newsletter reported another grad has been chosen for the space flights."

Her mother never allowed her acting career to interfere with her children's lives, and Anne vows that her children, when (if) she has them, will get that same consideration.

An actress who adheres to the "earn while you learn" school, Anne's never taken acting lessons and, on the age-old question of being helped by having a famous parent, thinks it's both an assist and a hindrance. "You'll get both, 'Say hello to your Mom' and, 'Another Hollywood kid riding in on a name.' You have to really work hard to prove that you can do the role. I guess the famous name thing can work once or twice, but after that I don't think anyone's going to give you a job because of it."

This summer, Anne, sister Lizabeth, 23, and mom will appear in their first film together, Tell Me You Love Me. Anne's appeared onstage with her mother in a summer tour of 40 Carats (playing mother and daughter) and remains close with her. "Her advice to me was, 'You've got a good director inside you - listen to her.'"

For her hobbies, Anne manages to join a weekly Sunday bowling group of musicians and actors. The last three years she's been busily studying belly dancing, "to keep in shape," and is an avid reader. Right now, she's reviewing her roommate's second novel. Elliot Hayes, the author of it, is a friend from high school. "It's strictly roommates," Anne says, "with each of us having our own rooms."

This new Hollywood girl is making it on her own. "I've had fun doing Galactica, and it's been a great springboard to go on to do other things. I've never been one of these people who go berserk when they lose a job. Things happen, and what you get is what's supposed to happen. If the series doesn't go on, it wasn't supposed happen."

Anne's realistic enough to know that the business part of making movies and getting roles depends on hard work, luck, and exposure. But she says she's going to resist being typed into one recognizable image. "I want to crossover and do a variety of roles," she enthuses. "Basically, I'm a character actress, and I guess you could say I want to grow up and be Ruth Gordon!" She laughs, grabs her ray gun, then runs off to play another Galactica scene - perhaps for the last time.