For fans of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the name Erin Gray will always be synonymous with the character of Colonel Wilma Deering. Erin played the character on both that seminal science fiction series and the theatrical film that preceded it, leaving a lasting impression on science fiction fans. Today, Erin has fond memories of her time on the show and continues to work in film and on television. Join Facts Verse as Erin Gray reveals the truth about Buck Rogers.
Erin Gray was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on January 7, 1950. Her parents’ names were Diane and Daniel, and they separated when Erin was only eight years old. For a few years after her parents’ separation, Erin lived with her grandparents in Palm Springs. Later on in life, her mother took her back in and the two moved out to Larkspur. Erin had begun her high school career at Redwood High School before finishing it off at Pacific Palisades High School.
After high school, Erin attended college at UCLA for a brief period of time. While there, the future star was studying with the intention of receiving a degree in mathematics. However, she eventually decided that she would be better off moving to New York City and pursuing a career in modeling. Erin was no stranger to modeling at the time, having previously won a modeling contest in St. Louis at the age of 14. This led to Erin getting roles in various commercials throughout Los Angeles while she was still in high school, and she even made a television appearance in 1967 as a dancer on the program Malibu U. Although Erin had initially felt that her future lie in mathematics, she eventually decided that her early experiences with modeling could grow into a career that could pay the bills better than anything that she could learn in school. After moving to New York City, Erin’s instinct paid off and she was known as one of the nation’s top television models by the year 1975. At that point, she was earning approximately $100,000 a year and was understandably gaining an interest in acting.
During the period where she was working as a model in New York City, Erin would often fly out to Los Angeles and audition for as many roles as she could in the hopes of eventually being able to make a name for herself as an actress and move out to Los Angeles for good. In 1978, this finally paid off for the aspiring actress when she was given her first starring role. This came in a miniseries by the name of Evening in Byzantium. Erin’s role in the miniseries was a success, and it led to the actress being signed with Universal Studios. She was given a seven-year contract with the studio, resulting in her being cast on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The show premiered in 1979, and was preceded by a theatrical film that came out that same year.
Erin was cast as Colonel Wilma Deering. The role took advantage of Erin’s good looks and great shape, dressing her up in a tight-fitting Spandex jumpsuit that didn’t leave much to the imagination of the show’s hormonal teenage audience. Erin was 28 years old when she signed her contract with Universal Studios, and she started out making only $600 a week. However, her salary grew considerably when she was given her role on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The show proved incredibly popular, lasting for two seasons and having an immense legacy after it’s run.
Erin had essentially just come off of filming Evening in Byzantium when she was asked to start filming Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Filming Evening in Byzantium had been rough, and that rough schedule got even worse when Erin moved over to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. While Erin was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to make a name for herself in Hollywood, the opportunity had come at somewhat of a bad time due to the fact that Erin had recently given birth to a newborn daughter. Because of this, Erin began to feel that her busy filming schedule was conflicting with her duties as a mother.
In addition to Erin Gray, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century also featured Gil Gerard as the titular Buck Rogers. Erin was Buck’s companion on his adventures. The series followed Buck, an astronaut form the 20th century that is put into suspended animation and unfrozen five centuries in the future. Hence, Buck Rogers wakes up in… the 25th century! If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support. As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
When it came to playing the character of Colonel Wilma Deering on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Erin has shared that making the transition over to acting in science fiction was incredibly daunting for her. However, the good humor of her costar, Gil Gerard, helped her overcome her struggles. Initially, Erin expressed that she tried to take filming too seriously. However, Gil helped her see the humor in filming the series, which lightened up the actress’s attitude.
Despite the fact that Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was successful with it’s audience, it only lasted until 1981 due to it’s exuberant production costs and the demand on the cast and crew. Given that receiving the role of Colonel Wilma Deering had been a bit of a mixed blessing for Erin in the first place, she wasn’t too disappointed when the series was cancelled. The series had prevented Erin from spending as much time as she would’ve liked with her daughter, and she was able to make up for it after the show came to an end.
The filming schedule for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century had been tough on Erin, even tougher than the filming of Evening in Byzantium. Filming Buck Rogers in the 25th Century often necessitated incredibly long days for the actress. When filming of the series first started, she lived over an hour away from the studio. This exacerbated her problems even worse, but she was eventually able to move closer so that she could feed and hug her newborn daughter on her lunch break.
Besides the fact the she hadn’t received her big break at the optimal time, Erin still gave her role on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century her all. This is part of why the character of Colonel Wilma Deering has gone on to become such a favorite in the eyes of the show’s fan. Of course, her outfit and good looks also had something to do with it!
After Buck Rogers in the 25th Century came to an end, Erin continued acting on television. During the first season of Magnum, P.I., the actress could be seen in the episode “J. ‘Digger’ Doyle”. The episode revolved around Erin’s character, an expert security analyst by the name of Joy Doyle. Although the character had been written into the series with the hope of her becoming a major part down the line, things didn’t quite work out that way. In the end, the episode proved to be Erin’s only work on the show.
Although Erin’s planned recurring role on Mangum, P.I. didn’t work out, she was given a starring role on the hit 1980s series Silver Spoons that lasted throughout a majority of the decade. Besides this major role, she could also be seen as a guest star on the shows Murder, She Wrote and Superboy. In 1993, Erin appeared in the film Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. As one can infer from the name, the film was a latter entry in the Friday the 13th franchise. Although it claimed that it was going to be the final entry in the series, things didn’t exactly turn out that way; the character of Jason has been resurrected several times since.
In the year 2010, Erin reunited with her Buck Rogers in the 25th Century costar, Gil Gerard. The two reunited to play the character of Buck Roger’s parents in the pilot episode of a Buck Rogers web series. The character of Buck Rogers had existed long before Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, having been created by science fiction author Phillip Francis Nowlan in 1928. The character’s initial appearances were in the magazine Amazing Stories, and the character had already been adapted to other forms of media before 1979.
Erin has grown to have other interests besides modeling and acting, although she does continue to work in front of the camera. She is now a casting agent with her own personal agency that specializes in booking fantasy and science fiction characters for public and private events. The agency is known as Heroes for Hire. In addition to founding Heroes for Hire, Erin is also a Tai chi teacher and published author. In 1998, Erin had a book published alongside Mara Purl titled Act Right, which sought to give advise to aspiring actors and actresses working in both film and television. The book was a success, and a revised edition was released years later.
Nowadays, Erin continues to work in film and other forms of media. In 2011, the starred in the film Dreams Awake, and she has also appeared on the web series The Guild. In 2014, she appeared on a Star Trek web series known as Star Trek Continues. The episode that Erin appeared in also featured Lou Ferrigno. Erin has been married twice, and has two children. She is currently still with her second husband.
Despite being best known as Colonel Wilma Deering from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Erin Gray has also done other work during her career. Comment down below to share what your favorite role from Erin’s career is besides Colonel Wilma Deering, or if you were excited to see that the beloved science fiction actress is still around! As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!