Question: I remember you writing about how Kate Jackson caused friction on the Charlie's Angel set by being strong-willed. Was she cured of that by the time she did The Scarecrow and Mrs. King? Lilah B., Jackson, Wyo.
Televisionary: Asking if she was "cured" implies Ms. Jackson's assertiveness was an affliction to be treated, Lilah. And while an Angels producer or two may have agreed with you, Jackson never apologized for speaking her mind, and the people who worked with her on CBS's The Scarecrow and Mrs. King from October 1983 to September 1987 didn't seem to mind too much, either. (I'll admit, of course, that Jackson owning a piece of the show may have had something to do with that.)
"Yes, I had my say about Charlie's Angels," Jackson, who played housewife-turned-spy Amanda King, told TV Guide in 1984. "Why is that such a big deal? We're not robots, though some people would like that. I was getting up at 4 or 5 in the morning, pouring my life into it. 'T and A,' that's all anybody wanted to talk about, but I knew we had to have story and character."
That attitude did indeed carry over to Scarecrow, and the actress saw no need to back away from it. "I work 12 or 14 hours a day," she said. "Here it's Saturday night, and I'm working. That's why I can get so distressed and crazy and start yellin' and screamin' at the studio. 'We gotta do this or that!' I'm giving my life to this business. Let's make it as good as we can.... I'm sure some people think of me as a pain, but when you have 13 weeks at best, you can lose an audience like that. I can't afford that."
For their part, her co-stars rolled with the Jackson punches, too. "Whew. That lady is intense," Mel Stewart, who was supervisor to Bruce Boxleitner's Lee "Scarecrow" Stetson on the series. "I love working with her she pulls it out of you. No shtick on this show.... Sure I'd heard all that stuff about Charlie's Angels. Who hadn't? But from the first meeting, Katie Jackson has worked this job."
Boxleitner, was able to make it work, too. "You're not always going to get along," he said in 1986, "but there's never been anything devastating. We don't have arguments and feud with each other. We don't always have to talk to each other, either. Katie and I have been [practically] living together on this show for a while now. You know, you don't have a hell of a lot to say every day. But it obviously works between us."
If Jackson was a danger to anyone, it was really only to herself. Early on in the show's shooting, she jumped off a staircase on the Scarecrow set and blew out most of the ligaments in her foot and ankle. "It sounded like pencils snapping," she said. "Crack. Crack. Crack. Oh, lord, it hurt." For that reason, several early episodes feature Jackson sitting down or shot in medium close-up so her cast and brace wouldn't show.
Boxleitner didn't have such problems on the Scarecrow set. He reserved his biggest scare for Passion Flower, a TV movie he filmed during a break from the show. It was no dangerous stunt or thrilling maneuver that put him at risk, either. It was lunch. Boxleitner and friends, taking a breather while filming overseas, had sailed to an offshore coral formation to eat and he was chewing a piece of baked potato when a chunk lodged in his throat and he began to choke. Most of the people with him didn't notice him gasping for breath, while others weren't sure what to do. "I was afraid for my life," he recalled. "All I kept thinking was, what a dumb way to go. I thought, oh, man... I might die right here on this stupid, rocky atoll off Singapore. This is no hero's death."
No, it wasn't heroic. But it wasn't a death, either, thanks to a woman who knew the Heimlich maneuver.
For co-star and former model Martha Smith, who played a cloak-and-dagger colleague of Boxleitner's, the hazards of the Scarecrow gig couldn't compare to her previous work. Take her teen years, when she was an auto-show model. "Do you know what it's like to stand on a turntable all day talking about imitation-wood vinyl appliqué on an Oldsmobile?" she asked. "The men in the audience! 'Look at those headlights! Ha! Ha! Ha!' 'Do you come with the car?'" Or her earlier appearance as a swimsuit-clad cadaver on Quincy: "I spent days trying to look dead in my bikini on the beach in midwinter with sand fleas jumping all over me and Jack Klugman scraping my feet."
Is it any wonder, then, that when Jackson found herself in a starring role where she had some clout and influence, she made sure she had her say?