Cult Faction’s Brett Summers recently caught up with Cult TV sensation Jane Badler to discuss her television work and music career…
Q: You went from beauty contestant to drama queen, how did you feel in landing the role of Melinda Cramer Jenson in the soap One Life to Live?
A: My very first role out of University was Melinda Cramer on the Soap Opera One Life to Live. I was absolutely petrified. The first day on the set I had four lines and I spent the whole day pacing backstage going over those four lines. It was lucky that the role was of a mental patient so I am sure everyone thought I was a method actor! As far as my beauty pageant days go, I was 18 and in High school in New Hampshire when I participated in the Miss America Pageant. Ah heady days x
Q: As time moved on did your opinions change?
A: No, I always felt very lucky to have done all the things I did. I have had a very interesting and varied career.
Q: In 1979 you appeared on the Cult TV radar for the first time in an episode of Fantasy Island. How was that different from the work you had done before?
A: Well for one thing it was the first time I was on night-time TV so we had the luxury of shooting an hour episode in 8 days instead of one day. It was the first time I wore a bikini on camera and the first time I was a sex slave! Of course all very PG – after all it was 1979!
Q: The role that really put you on the map was Dianna in V. How did this role come about?
A: I was living in NYC doing a soap opera called The Doctors with Alec Baldwin. I was also the Arrid Extra Dry Girl. I was flown out to LA to test for a mini-series called V. From what I was told they had already started filming and had seen hundreds of girls but couldn’t find anyone to play the role of Diana. I auditioned in a hotel room. The next morning I had a note under my door saying ‘ Don’t leave Town”. That same day I was getting a mould made of my face and the rest is Sci Fi history!
Q: What was it like during filming? Any stories? How did you feel about the eating scenes?
A: Doing V was one of the most exciting things to have ever happened to me. We shot on the Warner Bros lot. It was massive with big spaceships and amazing crew and cast. I felt very blessed to have worked on that show with the incredible director/writer Kenneth Johnson. I was a bit of a scaredy cat in those days so definitely wasn’t happy about picking up rodents and spiders, petting lizards and swimming with eels; but an actress must put aside her fears for the role of a lifetime!
Q: V became a hugely successful on both sides of the Atlantic. Did you have any idea of the impact it would have?
A: No I had no idea it would become so huge. It was a great surprise. I was lucky to do all the great talk shows. Especially to have been on Johnny Carson twice which is something I will never forget. The biggest surprise has been the impact it has had even after all these years. I was lucky to have travelled to amazing places in style through the success of V. Even now 30 years later I have been invited to perform in Paris many times.
Q: Following the two mini-series V became a weekly series. What were your opinions on that and how it turned out?
A: The series was very controversial as it steered away from the extraordinary vision of Kenny Johnson and turned into a soap opera. I still had a great time as my character was sexy and evil and had lots of great lines. Still it was very disappointing that the quality and integrity of the original mini-series was not upheld.
Q: The Highwayman was another cult tv show that you appeared in? How do you feel about that show? Any memories from that time?
A: Hmmm…I wouldn’t say that it is a show I was that proud of. After all it was about a flying truck but hey a girl has to make a living and that’s exactly what I was doing. It was a real boy show and my role was not really going to win any Emmys, but I was working and having fun in the desert of Arizona.
Q: How did Dianna and Flash Gordon get along?
A: Sam Jones was a gorgeous man. We didn’t spend that much time together and the series was very short lived. But I was most impressed with his super hero status and he didn’t disappoint.
Q: You also became a part of another cult TV franchise: Mission Impossible. What was it like signing onto that show especially with Peter Graves attached?
A: I adored working on Mission Impossible. It was shot in Australia and I was so excited to be shooting a series there. I made lifelong friends working on that show – Thaao Penglis and Phil Morris. Peter Graves was a gentle beautiful man. The best part was meeting my husband – a gorgeous Aussie from Melbourne – we are still together and very happy after 23 years.
Q: In 2010 Dianna appeared in the Australian soap neighbours, although a different character did you find yourself channelling an old role?
A: Pretty crazy how I was once again called Diana! Actually the writer of Neighbours was a fan of my V character so it was a homage to me. The funny thing was I ended up getting the role. It was really fun to play. I was a conniving sexy bad ass and of course I love playing those roles! It was great to be part of an iconic show like Neighbours.
Q: Then came the reimagining of V, what did you make of it at first?
A: When I first heard they were doing a new V I could feel my heart beating. I was desperate to be on the show especially when I saw the pilot and thought it was going to be amazing. I was in LA and set up a meeting with the producer at that time, Jace Hall. When I found out there was going to be a second season I met with the new producer and they ended up creating a role called Diana in homage to my original character. I had to audition for it along with lots of other people. I won the role and a week later found myself in Vancouver. Sadly the show never took off and I was disappointed in my character – who never left the dungeon until the last episode when I was killed by my daughter! Still it was a spectacular death!
Q: What was it like going onto set? How did your fellow actors react to you?
A: My first day on the set of the new V was amazing. Everyone stood and applauded. It felt very special. The crew was incredible and I was very warmly embraced into the show. It had been 20 years since I had done US TV. I had forgotten how spoiled American actors are compared to Australian actors. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Q: What was your opinion when V wasn’t renewed for a third season? Do you think television shows are given a chance to grow and develop nowadays?
A: This is definitely a golden age for US TV. There are so many great shows. House of Cards, Homeland, True Detective, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, to name just a few. So many of the big names are doing TV now and it has risen in Prestige alongside films. TV is now attracting the best writers, producers and actors. It has never been more competitive for actors to break into TV.
Q: As well as acting you are known from your music. How does Jane Badler the singer differ from the actress?
A: I adore acting and singing equally. Singing is another form of expression and one which is highly creative. I adore working with musicians. They are definitely a different breed than actors. As a singer I have more control of the content of what I do and my image. As an actor I am cast with someone else’s words. As a mature actress roles are harder to come by but as a singer I can work as much as I choose too.
Q: Both acting and singing involve immersing yourself into a role or song. Do you find this a similar process? Is one harder than the other to do?
A: Singing and acting do have a lot of similarities. Singing is acting to music. For me acting takes up a lot more time. A play or film can be 2 months or more of my life whereas singing is a day, a week but rarely longer. I see a song as a monologue to music. The process is similar but for me it is a lot less time consuming and of course there is the musical element which uses very different skills than acting. I grew up playing instruments and singing. To move into co-writing songs and recording was a very natural progression.
Q: What was it like recording your first album The Devil Has My Double? Did your feelings change during the writing process to the finish product?
A: For my first album The Devil Has My Devil I was approached by Melbourne songwriter/performer Jesse Shepherd. He was looking for a singer to do his next album. Most of the songs were written and I just needed to rehearse them and then record them. It was my first time in a recording studio. It was very exciting and a huge learning curve. The challenge for me was in making these songs my own. I am very proud of this album which was done on a very small budget.
Q: In 2011 your second album Tears Again was released. How did the approach to your second album differ from your first?
A: The second album Tears Again was much more of a collaborative effort. Although Jesse wrote most of the songs, they were written for me and I wrote my first song Nursery Rhyme which was on the album. The album was produced by Paul Grabowsky, a renowned jazz composer and pianist. It was a fusion of Jazz, pop and indie.
Q: With your new album Opus what message are you delivering?
After the second album Jesse and I parted ways and I was left pondering what next. I decided to start writing. It was a new process for me and I spent the next year putting together a group of songs. I was introduced to Bryon St John and Matt Thomas – two very talented songwriters. We spent the next year writing my album Opus. It has been a very exciting journey for me. I was really lucky to meet Jeff Bova who produced the album. Opus is the dark side of love. It is electronic with some incredible musicians and singers lending their considerable talents. The album is a fantastical journey of betrayal, desire, revenge, pain but ultimately power and redemption.
Q: Finally, you seem to have maintained a loyal fan base across all of your work, why do you think that is?
A: As I write this I am trying to pack for two months away. How does anyone pack for two months away? I am doing a series of performances in Paris and then will spend time with my family in LA. I am hoping to perform in the US next year. I don’t have any plans to return to UK but you never know. Life is a great journey, filled with surprises. I am a singer and actress but I also see this next phase of my life as being open to all sorts of new experiences. I am interested in documentary film making and getting more involved in some philanthropic pursuits. I have a fantastic loyal fan base that seems to be very supportive of me and all the new things I embark on so hopefully that will continue. I am very grateful for this loyalty and support. Back to packing! Tomorrow I depart for another adventure – to break into the TV medium!