Charlie’s Angels‘ Jaclyn Smith — the only Angel to have starred in all five seasons — has high hopes for the latest big-screen adaptation of the classic series. Due Nov. 1 from Columbia Pictures, the latest reboot is directed and co-written by Elizabeth Banks and stars Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska.
“What I hope is they keep some of the simplicity of our show,” Smith, 73, tells The Hollywood Reporter‘s It Happened in Hollywood podcast, adding that ABC’s 2011 TV remake, which lasted just one season, missed the mark by going too “dark” with the material.
Says Smith, “I think I just want to see the girls work together, believe their friendship. Because I think that is what made our show special.”
The show’s winning formula — three beautiful female PIs working together to solve a case presented to them by a faceless boss — was the vision of executive producer Aaron Spelling.
“Really, Charlie’s was Aaron. He liked bright, happy, popping. He said it was ‘mind candy.’ It wasn’t meant to be Shakespeare. … The lighting was not shadows and moody. Get into their faces, get into their eyes, really look at these girls,” she says.
Smith and co-stars Kate Jackson and Farrah Fawcett took a lot of heat in the show’s debut 1976-77 season: “I don’t know why we got slammed so much. They gave us no value.” Critics were quick to dismiss the trio as “Barbie Dolls prancing around in pretty clothes,” she recalls.
“But we really weren’t. [Our characters] were emotionally and financially independent. We were making our way. We were strong — we did a lot of our stunts. We had each other’s backs. I never thought of it as we were exploited in any way.”
The show was an instant smash when it premiered on ABC, averaging a 26.0 rating in its first season and making superstar sex symbols of Smith, Jackson and Fawcett.
Recalls Smith of the overnight success, “It’s like you’re a rock star. You don’t go anywhere without being bombarded. You don’t stand in a line at a movie. You can get a reservation anywhere. … And do you want to pose for Hustler for $1 million?” (They turned down the offer.)
Fawcett decided to walk away from the show — and her contract — at the end of the first season, eliciting a prolonged and ugly legal battle. “I think she had a lot of people in her ear,” Smith explains. “She was married to Lee Majors. He wanted her home cooking and being a wife. That didn’t work so it ended pretty quickly.” Majors and Fawcett divorced in 1982 after nine years of marriage.
When Fawcett got sick with cancer in the mid-2000s, “it brought us closer together,” Smith recalls. “Because my husband is a doctor and he was very helpful at looking at her case and her studies and what choices she was making. It reunited us in a closer way.”
Fawcett died in 2009 at age 62. Smith gets emotional thinking of those last months spent with her friend and co-star. “Farrah never lost her humor and never lost her hope and never was ‘poor me,'” Smith says. “She did say, ‘I never thought this would happen to me.’ But she never gave up.”
After Fawcett departed the series, it replaced her character, Jill Munroe, with Jill’s little sister, Kris, played by Cheryl Ladd. Smith placed a phone call to Ladd during the podcast taping — leading to an impromptu Angels reunion.
Ladd shared anecdotes from the set, including the ridiculous lengths to which the producers went to get the stars into ratings-boosting outfits.
“We were at a store trying on bathing suits, planning a trip to Hawaii that never happened in the episode, but they had to find a way to get us in bathing suits for the episode,” Ladd said. “We looked at each other like, ‘Do you believe this crap?'”