Lindsay Wagner best known for her role as Jaime Summers in The Six Million Dollar Man spinoff, The Bionic Woman. By the time the show came to an end in 1978, it had made two significant impacts. First, it gave little girls one of their first role models to look up to. And second, it had taken both a mental and physical toll on its star. In this video, we’re going to look at what Lindsay Wagner has been up to over the five decades since the iconic show aired. Make sure you watch to the end to learn what’s coming next for Lindsay. And don’t forget to like this video and subscribe to the Facts Verse channel so you don’t miss any of our upcoming videos.
In an interview with The Indianapolis Star, Wagner revealed that she hid out and spent a lot of time alone after the show went off the air. She had a lot of recuperating to do, both emotionally and physically. After months of switching emotions in rehearsals and on screen, she found it hard to related to her private life. She felt like she had become programmed and had to set her own life aside for the good of the series. It took her a while to retrain herself to get to a point where she could go at her own pace again.
Her troubles compounded by the fact that she wasn’t the athletic type but was playing a role that required lots of running, jumping, and fighting. The work was exhausting and the pressure of trying to make the show good added to her burden. She cared about the series’ success, and invested her emotions completely. Wagner felt that she became more Jaime Summers than Lindsay Wagner.
Born Lindsay Jean Wagner on June 22, 1949. Her first name the result of her father having been determined to have a son. She didn’t like the name when she was a girl but found it had some advantages when she got older and people would assume she was male before meeting her. Wagner’s parents divorced when she was only 7 years old. And she ended up moving to Eagle Rock, an L.A. neighborhood near Pasadena. After her mother remarried, Wagner ended up practically raising her little sister. The child her mother had with her new husband.
She started acting because she wanted to connect with people emotionally. If nobody was going to do that for her, she wanted to it for others. When she was young, she would tend bar at her mother’s parties rather than play with dolls. She didn’t learn how to play with cutouts until her little sister taught her when she was 16.
Wagner appeared in a number of plays at during her years at David Douglas High School. When she graduated, she went to France for a few months then spent a year at the University of Oregon and Mt. Hood Community College. She dropped out soon after and moved to Los Angeles. Once there, Wagner started modeling and got a taste of acting by appearing on the Playboy After Dark TV show. She was a contestant on the Dating Game shortly after. And in 1971, she signed a contract with Universal Studios as one of its many contract players. Lindsay guest-starred on many shows including Adam-12, Night Gallery, and Marcus Welby, M.D.
She also acted on the big screen, appearing in Two People and The Paper Chase in 1973. Lindsay received critical praise for the roles and proclaimed a rising star. She wasn’t pursuing stardom, however. She felt it put a barrier between an actor and life, making them less of a person. Wagner doesn’t want to put on a pedestal as an actor and wants people to treat her as a normal person. She wants people to look her in the eye and respect her for what she’s doing but as a person, not an image.
One of the breakout hits of the 1970s was The Six Million Dollar Man. Astronaut Steve Austin is equipped with bionic parts that turn him into a sort of superman after a devastating accident. Austin carried out missions for the OSI, a secret government agency. As such, there wasn’t much in the way of romance in the show, which its star, Lee Majors, wanted to change.
He felt the first two years were kind of boring. And with most episodes having him fight one bad guy or another in all kinds of strange locations. He wanted to bring in a love interest for the character, which is where Lindsay Wagner came in. She played tennis pro Jaime Summers, Steve Austin’s former sweetheart. The two are reunited and fall back in love but Summers nearly killed in a parachuting accident. Austin convinces his superiors to save her life by giving her bionic parts as well. She survives the operation but her body later rejects the bionic parts and she actually dies.
To the audience’s surprise, they secretly managed to save her life and she returned in the two-part “Return of the Bionic Woman” which was spun off into her own show. While this good news, her memory was lost and she had no memory of Steve so they had to start over again.
Lindsay was perfect for the role of Jaime Summers. She was pretty but not Hollywood gorgeous, making her a believable girl-next-door type. The audience immediately fell in love with her in the role and devastated when she died. There was tremendous pressure on Universal to bring her back as Jaime Summers but the studio had let her contract lapse. The head of the Boston University psychology department even wrote a scathing letter asking how Universal could make such a potent female archetype and role model, then cast her aside.
The studio suggested other actresses that could play the role. Including Sally Field, Stefanie Powers, and Farrah Fawcett but ABC wouldn’t have it. They wanted Lindsay Wagner in the role. The first offer from Universal was for $2500 per episode but Wagner’s manager, Ron Samuels, countered with $25000 per hour. The studio outraged at this number but ended up paying Wagner $50,000 for The Return of the Bionic Woman.
The two-part episode a bigger hit than anyone expected and everyone involved demanded a spinoff series. Universal had only signed Wagner to a two-part special extension of her contract and had to sign a very exclusive deal to get her to do the show. She ended up taking the studio and the network to the bank.
After the show ended in 1978, Wagner took some time to decompress from the show. It wasn’t long before she started acting again though. She felt strongly about staying in television because it was the most influential type of media. Fortunately, the snobbish attitude of the industry toward television was starting to weaken at this point so she could work in both film and TV. Wagner appeared alongside Sylvester Stallone in Nighthawks and James Brolin in High Risk, both in 1981. She also appeared with Denzel Washington in Richochet ten years later. But she was most prolific in television, starring in more than 50 series between 1979 and 2018. This included three Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman reunion movies.
Outside of the acting business, Wagner has spent a lot of her life involved with various self-help programs. She wrote a series of books with Robert M. Klein about acupuncture used for similar results to facelifts, she wrote a vegetarian cookbook called High Road to Health. And she has put together workshops and seminars about spirituality and meditation.
She has said that she’s been fascinated with the body, mind, and spirit connection her entire life. When she was 19, she became quite sick. She had severe ulcers that were healed after she met someone who helped her with meditation visualization. And looking at her own emotions and psychological patterns and how they led to stress. She realized that the stress of what she was dealing with in her family life was causing her to get sick.
After focusing on the self-help work for a number of years, she got the sense that a change was coming that would get her back into acting. The people at a show called Warehouse 13 approached her soon after about joining the show. After some self-reflection, she realized that while she didn’t miss the hours it required, she missed the creative process of acting.
In her private life, Wagner has been married four times, to music publisher Allan Rider from 1971 to 1973, Michael Brandon from 1976 to 1979, stuntman Henry Kingi from 1981 to 1984, and TV producer Lawrence Mortoff from 1990 to 1993. She and Henry have two sons, Dorian, born in 1982, and Alex, born in 1986.
Even though The Bionic Woman went off the air more than 40 years ago, it continues to live on. Both Lindsay and Lee Majors have embraced the popularity of their shared experiences on those shows, taking part in DVD sets and talking about the shows at various conventions. While some wonder why these particular shows have such longevity, Wagner has some theories about why The Bionic Woman does.
She thinks part of the success was due to the way the show broke molds in our culture at the time. It was the first show with a female main character who was in full power with no excuses and not having to be a sidekick to a man.
Wagner continues to take roles that catch her attention. You’ll see her next in a movie called Christmas at the Ranch, currently in post-production and releasing later this year.