Charlies Angels debuted in 1976 and was immediately an overnight sensation. After its first season debuted to strong ratings, stars Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and Farrah Fawcett were promptly thrown into the spotlight. Their portrayal of police officers turned private detectives Sabrina, Kelly, and Jill springboarded all three of their careers but it was Farrah Fawcett that received the most media and fan attention after her famous 1976 swimsuit poster found its way on to millions of teenage boys bedroom walls across the nation.
Seeing as the show was a momentous success, Farrah’s departure from the series sent shockwaves across Hollywood in 1977. But her reasons for leaving the popular program were threefold. Personal, financial, and creative reasons led to her decision to quit.
Today, we’re going to uncover the truth about what exactly compelled Farrah Fawcett to leave Charlie’s Angels. Sure, the Angels went on to do just fine without her. The series spanned 5 seasons and 115 episodes, but it’s reasonable to assume that it would have been a completely different show if Fawcett had continued on in her role as Jill Monroe.
And considering the fact that her leave was voluntary, one wonders if her departure was worth it. We’ll answer all of these questions in the next few minutes, but first, we’re going to look at the money factor.
Financial Considerations Motivated Fawcett’s Leave
It’s pretty clear that Fawcett helped draw in a lot of viewers to the series. In an interview with the East Bay Times, producer Aaron Spelling attributes a lot of this influx of viewers to one of Farrah’s signature features – her hair.
Even though Fawcett’s presence was one of the key features leading to the success of the show, she was only paid $5,000 per episode – only half of what co-star Kate Jackson was making. Jackson was better known prior to the show’s debut and thus got a better deal at her contractual negotiations.
And even though all sorts of products like lunchboxes, action figures, and board games were produced featuring Facett’s face, she only ever received about 2 percent of all that merchandising revenue.
Following the success of the first season, Fawcett was set to receive a raise. Producers were going to offer her $10,000 per episode but it was reported that Farrah was pushing for $75,000. And when it came to all of that merchandising profit, she wasn’t going to settle for anything less than 10%.
The production company involved in the negotiations quickly discovered that Fawcett wasn’t willing to compromise. When they offered her 8% of the merchandising, she indicated that she wasn’t willing to budge. It was either her way or she was out.
Fawcett Dreamed Of Being In The Movies
Maybe Fawcett wasn’t willing to make any concessions at the negotiation table because the prospect of being in the movies presented her with a much more profitable opportunity – and one that might allow her to have more creative control over her acting.
In 1977, Fawcett told the Washington Post that she desired to make a film that depicted real women’s emotions. That same year, Jaclyn Smith confirmed that Farrah wanted to do feature films instead of commingling to a TV series.
It made sense that Farrah would want to make the leap from television to the movies. She already had a legion of fans that watched her on TV, and then there were all those that bought her merchandise and that steamy swimsuit poster. It was a fairly reasonable assumption that people would be willing to pay to see her up on the big screen.
Fawcett and Lee Majors, her husband at the time and star of the Six Million Dollar Man, co-created Fawcett-Majors Productions to start producing their own movies. Charlie’s Angels producers tried to get her to stay by offering her an upcoming movie role while she continued to film the series, but Fawcett wasn’t so easily persuaded. Even though that offer would have probably resulted in her starring in more films in the future, she politely declined and instead pursued her joint venture with Majors.
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And make sure you keep watching to find out how the production company behind Charlie’s Angels reacted to her departure. Spoiler Alert: They were livid.
Fawcett Wanted More Creative Freedom
One of the big reasons that Farrah rejected Angel’s producer’s counteroffer was the fact that they weren’t able to guarantee that she would have the kind of creative freedom that she desired. She hated the way that her character was being portrayed in Charlies. She wanted to show the audience that she was a woman that’s been through some hard times but has grown in the process. Instead, each script had her playing the same overplayed ditsy blonde, over and over.
But Fawcett wasn’t naive. She knew that the show’s success was in part thanks to her and her co-star’s sex appeal. The program had been nicknamed Jiggle TV by the media and when it got to be number 1 in the ratings, it became very clear to her that the show was successful mostly because none of the angels wore a bra.
Knowing full well that Charlie’s Angels was never going to be able to offer the kind of fulfilling creative control that she desired proved to be one of the more motivating factors in her decision to leave. If she were to have stayed, she would have assuredly been unhappy. Fawcett also knew that her work would have started to slip if she had stayed and continued to play the same role on repeat..
She felt stifled and stuck. Charlie’s Angels weren’t exactly the finest written series on TV either. Fawcett felt like she wasn’t living up to her potential by staying on with what she saw as a sub-par program.
Lee Majors Supported Fawcett’s Plan To Quit
It wasn’t just finances and her desire for more creative control that played a part in Farrah’s decision to leave Charlie’s Angels. Marital influence no doubt contributed to her choice as well. While filming Charlie’s Angels, the actresses would spend long days on set starting at 5 in the morning. When she wasn’t there filming the series she had other obligations like commercials that robbed her of her free time on the weekends.
Fawcett quickly became dissatisfied with how much time was being asked of her. In her eyes, she was working very hard, with very little reward.
Farrah famously had a clause written into her contract that required filming to wrap up on set in time for her to go home and cook dinner for her husband. Seeing as the couple were both starring in their own respective TV shows, they had very little time to spend with each other.
Lee Majors reportedly was very vocal about what he thought his wife should do career-wise. From the time that she first showed up in Hollywood, he was already advising her to quit TV and transition to making movies.
However, Fawcett and Major’s marriage wasn’t meant to last. The two separated in 1979 and completed their divorce three years later.
Fawcett Wanted A Break From The Limelight
There were other factors that contributed to Fawcett’s dissatisfaction with being on Charlie’s Angels as well. While filming on location one day, Fawcett was involved in an accident involving a race car that left her injured. Additionally, being the star of the show, outshining her fellow Angels had it’s drawbacks as well.
When she suddenly had all the attention being cast in her direction, all the fan mail and media focus, she was left feeling wildly uncomfortable. Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson felt it too. It’s not like they were suddenly pitted against each other, they didn’t fight or have any major disagreements, but it became increasingly clear that a barrier had been erected between the actresses.
With overnight success and amassing a legion of devoted fans, Fawcett no longer felt like she could enjoy a normal life when she wasn’t behind the camera. Every time she would go out in public she would be hounded by fans and journalists. As such, she had to significantly cut back on the amount of time that she spent going out doing ordinary activities like shopping and going out to eat.
She hadn’t expected her life to pan out this way. If she was going to adjust to the newfound fame, she was going to have to adapt her life to the circumstances. She was ready for a change.
Angel’s Production Company Sued Her After She Quit
Regardless of her reasons for leaving the show, Fawcett wasn’t able to make a clean break without any pushback. The production company informed her that she was contractually obligated to stick with the series. When she quit, they hit her with a hefty $7 million breach of contract suit.
The suit was finally settled with Fawcett agreeing to guest star in 6 episodes of the series throughout the remainder of its run. Even after coming to that agreement, Farrah’s problems were far from over. She didn’t expect the industry to react to her departure as they did.
Fawcett was black-listed from other projects at the time. The entertainment industry was outraged with her. To them, she was just a TV sex symbol that wanted to be an actress. They didn’t believe in her worth outside of showing off her body on primetime TV. People labeled her as pretentious and entitled – and for months, no one wanted to deal with her.
Farrah Fawcett Would Always Be Associated With Charlie’s Angels
After leaving the show, Fawcett’s career would never reach the same heights as it did when she was an Angel. The first film she was apart of after departing Charlie’s Angels, Somebody Killed Her Husband was such a failure that it was nicknamed by the media ‘Somebody Killed Her Career’.
After leaving the series, Fawcett’s character was quickly replaced by Cheryl Ladd who was thrown into the mix as the younger sister of Farrah’s character. Fawcett was shocked that she was so quickly, easily, and successfully replaced.
For years, Fawcett continued to be associated with Charlie’s Angels even after she started gaining recognition for her work as an off-Broadway actress and after her Emmy Award nod in 1984 for her part in the TV film The Burning Bed.
Many years later, when Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer, her former Angel co-stars Jackson and Smith – who were both breast cancer survivors – came to her side to provide their support until her passing in 2009 at the age of 62.
Farrah Fawcett’s decision to leave Charlie’s Angels might not have been the most profitable career move that she ever made, but at least she stuck with her guns and didn’t compromise her core principles.
We might not be able to know exactly all that was going to through her mind when she left the iconic TV series, but we do know that she was unhappy with where she was and needed to make the move – regardless of how the network, production company, or the media would react to it.
Anyways, we’d love to hear from you? Who was your favorite Angel? Sure, Farrah gets all the attention but the other lovely ladies deserve a little recognition as well. Drop the name of your favorite Angel in the comments section below.
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