The Den Of Geek interview: Jane Badler

All-time sci-fi goddess Jane Badler - lizard-queen Diana in cult classic 'V' - is Australia's gain, America's loss. We caught up with her yesterday...

The divine - or if you prefer, infernal - Jane Badler

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jane Badler’s striking appearance and acting skills took her quickly from beauty pageants through to daytime soap operas and a frequent presence on US TV in the 1970s. But her most enduring mark on popular culture in general – and cult sci-fi TV in particular – lay ahead of her when cast as Kenneth Johnson’s diabolically wicked alien emissary ‘Diana’ in the hugely popular 1983 TV mini-series ‘V’ and the sequel and full-length TV series that followed it.Jane found her husband, eventual family and a new life in Australia when shooting US TV’s Mission Impossible in Australia in the late 1980s. Now she’s returning to her musical roots and to new projects, and was kind enough to have a chat with us from Melbourne yesterday…

Kenneth Johnson was talking to us a few weeks back about the casting of Diana in ‘V’, and how he just walked into the room and thought you were fantastic

Yeah I know! [laughs] Isn’t that a funny thing?

Did you go to that interview with an angle on the character?

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No I didn’t. It’s just a weird thing, isn’t it? You go to so many auditions and often you hear the opposite…’She’s not right’, ‘she’s too this’, or ‘she’s too that’. It’s just so refreshing when someone looks at you and goes ‘She’s perfect!’. I just think often it’s nothing to do with anything you’ve done – it’s just that you’re right for it.

He said you were the right person, right place, right time.

That’s just exactly what it was. And they’d seen a lot of people, and they couldn’t cast it. So I walked in at a good time.

He also said that a lot of women who tried for the part played it as big melodrama, but you didn’t.

Oh really? That’s good to hear. I just played it like myself.

Really [laughs]?

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Well, maybe I did at the time [laughs]. Exactly. I think that’s the whole thing – if you play into it it becomes too arch. But because I was kind of sweet at the time, you know – young and pretty and sweet, I think it was nice for him to go against the idea of the way he thought she should look.

Was there much digging involved to find the evil of Diana?

No, not much. I have to be honest. It wasn’t like there were loads of dimensions to that character. It was pretty much that she was just one way, you know? In the original mini-series, if you remember, she only had four scenes, and behaved similarly in each scene. It wasn’t even until later in the series, that wasn’t actually as good, that I got to have a lot more fun.

Did it surprise you that a character who wasn’t initially in ‘V’ so much made such a huge impression?

Yes, completely. At the time that I did it, I thought it was, you know, a rather small role. It was fun and with four scenes in the mini-series I thought ‘Great’ and that was that. But then I was shocked at the amount of popularity the character had, and how big it was in the second mini-series.

I have the feeling that Diana fans maybe feel more threatened by you than you do by them…?

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Ooh. [laughs] I don’t know. Maybe threatened by what they think I am, but certainly not who I am.

There’s a big mid-season exodus of the actors in the ‘V’ TV series. Obviously the series didn’t have the same amount of backing as the mini-series before it – were you ever tempted to leave too?

Never! I was probably one of the few cast members that was actually having a ball doing it. It wasn’t what the original had intended it to be, and that’s for sure. It kind of spiralled into a soap-opera in outer space, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a great time and lots of fun doing it.

Did your previous background in US soaps like One Life To Live mean that when ‘V’ turned a little more ‘soap opera’, it still seemed like a good gig?

Absolutely. My character had a lot of fun on the series, even though it was disappointing that as much effort wasn’t made in the writing as it could have been. But I still got to have a lot of fun, with the crazy happenings and the sword-fights and the lizard wedding to Charles…all the seductions…

You and June Chadwick were the Alexis and Krystle of the sci-fi world –

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It’s still great fun to see all that facing off between you. Was it ever hard to keep a straight face?

Oh, totally! Really. [laughs] We didn’t take it that seriously. It was just a lot of fun and a great job to go to. I know a lot of the cast members probably didn’t feel that way at the time, but I think I got to have as much fun as anyone did.

Do you still get a lot of recognition and mail about the role?

Yeah, I do. Amazingly enough, I still get letters every week, and I still get a lot of mails on MySpace; new friends that know me from ‘V’. It’s truly incredible.

Your fans have the impression that you met your husband filming Mission Impossible and the rest is history…?

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Yeah, that’s exactly right. I came out here to do Mission and that was it – I left L.A. behind. I went back to L.A. and ended up moving here. That was a long time ago, and I’ve always been very very happy that I’ve done that. It’s been a fantastic life in Melbourne.

With your family pretty much grown, is this going to be an opportunity for us to see more of you on-screen?

I’m not sure…I just did my first feature for a very long time, in November, and we’re waiting for that to be released, and I’ve got two more features that look like they could happen; one’s a psychological thriller and one’s a horror film. And then there’s a series that I may be doing that I’m about to shoot the pilot for, called Resistance. That’s a science-fiction series. You never really know if these things will make it to America. It’s really just in the past couple of years that I’ve gone back to work, and it seems like there are a lot of acting things happening again for me. Hopefully some of these projects will reach the shores of America.

Is Resistance the one where you play another role where the character is called Diana?

Yes! Unfortunately, it’s the opposite [of Diana in ‘V’]. She’s the mother of one of these gifted teenagers who has supernatural powers. Doesn’t mean I won’t have some fun things to do, but certainly a world away from the Diana I played in ‘V’.

Under a Red Moon looks to be very gritty stuff – what attracted you to it?

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Well, it was such a great role. I don’t think I’ve ever played a role like that – of a woman who’s lost her son to heroin overdose. An intruder enters our home and it’s about what happens after that. It was very emotionally full-on, and a great opportunity for me to show that I can do other emotions and other aspects of myself.

You’ve always seemed to appreciate the glam roles like Diana in ‘V’…


…and you’re continuing that thread with your LP The Devil Has My Double, where you’re still totally carrying off that glam and sexuality…

Oh, I love it. I’m just glad I can still do it. I don’t really get cast that way anymore. You get to a certain age and you don’t really get cast that way in films. In the roles that I will hopefully be shooting in the next year, they’re not that way at all; they’re very gritty, emotional roles. But that’s why I love doing my music, because I get to fantasise these personas that otherwise I wouldn’t be able to live out.

In one interview you said of Devil that it has a kind of David Lynch feel to it. Could you elaborate on that…?

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Yes, it very much does. I was very lucky to meet Jesse, of a band called Sir. He’s an amazing writer, and we’ve collaborated about a year on this album, and it’s very David Lynch-ian in its twisted and surreal way of looking at life. It’s not to be taken literally; based in truth, but kind of super-real. The character is a socialite who has all these sexual obsessions, and it takes her into all these strange places. It’s kind of fun, a little bit twisted and a little bit tongue-in-cheek…very glamorous. So it’s lots of fun.

Would you be up yourself for something as outlandish as a Lynch movie?

Totally. I’m pretty much up for anything. That’s the great thing, that I’m lucky that all these weird things are coming to me now that are kind of left-of-centre. It’s really great – I’ve found this kind of cult niche for myself, which is exactly where I want to be.

What do you appreciate about Australian culture now that you’ve lived there for nearly twenty years?

The people are no-bullshit, and kind of laid-back. Certainly in Melbourne, where I live and which is a great city, there’s lots of opportunity to explore things that you want to and to stand out. If you’re really driven to do things, there’s lots of ways to do them here. But the Australians probably aren’t quite as driven as the Americans, and there’s a bit more negativity about. Me, I’m American, so I like to push the envelope and I’ve always got big ideas, and people tend to say ‘Oh, you can’t do that, can’t do that’, whereas Americans are very much ‘Oh, you can do that’.

So that’s a little frustrating. But it’s a wonderful place to live and bring up children.

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Are you pleased to see how much Australia has come on in the TV and movie industry over the last ten or fifteen years?

Yeah, but a lot of the way it’s come up is by exporting; by actors leaving this country and becoming very famous overseas. We’ve got amazing talent here – amazing talent, in Australia. But this industry is much smaller, and it’s a lot harder here to get work and to do good work, so a lot of people do leave and go overseas.

But it’s starting to happen again here, I’ve noticed, over the last few years; there’s a lot more happening in Australia – a lot more films and television being made. Really exciting…

Do you have any cherished dream-projects you’d like to get off the ground?

My dream project is…well, I’ve got two, the first being for my music to do really well and for me to be doing festivals all over the world with it [laughs]. That would definitely be my dream project! And…yeah! To work with Kenny [Johnson] again.

Have you been much in touch with Kenneth Johnson about the various ‘V’ projects?

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Yeah! We do stay in touch actually, Martin, We e-mail each other at least every few months. We stay in touch and I always know what he’s up to, and I let him know what I’m up to. I’ve got the book [‘V’ – The Second Generation], and I’ve read it and we keep each other posted about what’s going on. I’m just hoping that the movie happens for him and that I’m a part of it – it’d just be so exciting.

Jane Badler – thank you very much!

Check out Jane’s MySpace page, where you can find out about her projects, musical and otherwise. The official site for Under A Red Moon is here. And you can find out more about The Devil Has My Double here.

The Den Of Geek interview: Kenneth Johnson

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