In my blog last week, we learned a bit about the unique show, Dark Shadows. One of the young, unknown actresses who received a role in the show was Kate Jackson. She was born Lucy Kate Jackson in Birmingham, Alabama in 1948.
Jackson started her post-high school education at the University of Mississippi as a history major but then transferred to the Birmingham Southern College, choosing classes in speech and the history of the theater. After an apprenticeship at the Stowe Playhouse in Vermont, Jackson moved to New York City to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Jackson found work as an NBC page and tour guide. In 1970, she accepted the role of Daphne on Dark Shadows.
She would go on to star in several television series during her career. She has also tried her hand at producing and directing.
Kate appeared in several shows in the early seventies including The Jimmy Stewart Show and Bonanza. In 1972, she was offered the role of Jill Danko in The Rookies. Jill was married to Mike Danko (Sam Melville), one of three Southern California policemen featured in the show.
Her appearance in James at 16 brought her the first Emmy nomination.
In 1976 she was offered the role that made her most famous: Sabrina Duncan on Charlie’s Angels. Jackson was credited with naming the show as well. Originally called “Alley Cats,” Leonard Goldberg told her the title had to be changed and she pointed at a photo of three female angels on the wall. Another change was characters. Jackson was offered the role of Kelly Garrett but felt Sabrina Duncan suited her better.
She stuck with the show until the end of the third season. During that time, scheduling conflicts forced her to turn down the offer to star in Kramer vs Kramer which Meryl Streep won an Oscar for. Fawcett had left the show after season one.
Jackson was nominated twice for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role of Sabrina Duncan. I understand her loss in 1978 to Sada Thompson for Family, but I’m not sure I can agree with 1977’s loss to Lindsay Wagner for the Bionic Woman, especially since Sada Thompson was again in the running, as was Michael Learned for The Waltons.
It sounds like they had a lot of fun filming Charlie’s Angels, but it was a grueling schedule. Jackson mentioned that the three women did a lot of ad-libbing on camera. She discussed one scene where Smith was sitting on the couch, Jackson was sitting on the arm and Farrah was standing behind them. Farrah’s character was supposed to turn and walk out the door, but as she did so, she tapped Jackson on the shoulder knowing she would lose her balance and fall on the floor. Kate told her she couldn’t believe she did that. She said “Farrah was walking out the door and looked back at me and laughed. It was actually in the show. I saw it in the show that week. They left it in. They left in a lot of the stuff we did.”
One thing Kate took with her from the show was her close friendships with Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith. After Fawcett’s death, Jackson was quoted as saying “When the first year of Charlie’s Angels ended, our friendship didn’t. It just grew stronger and closer through the years. I don’t know what the connection that the three of us have is, but it is there, and it is something extremely special. I think that is the reason the show worked. I think it’s even better than the movies because we truly cared about each other and still do. It was a pleasure and a privilege.”
During her time on Charlie’s Angels, Kate married her first husband, Andrew Stevens. They divorced in less than two years. Unfortunately, Jackson’s love life would continue in this pattern when she married David Greenwald and divorced in less than two years followed by Tom Hart whom she divorced within two years.
In 1983, Kate returned to the small screen on the Scarecrow and Mrs. King. The show lasted until 1987 with 89 episodes. In this one-hour drama, she played Amanda King, a housewife and mother. Bruce Boxleitner was a spy code-named Scarecrow and the two worked together to help save the country. Amanda had to keep her role a secret. Kate’s partner in The Rookies, Sam Melville, appeared in Scarecrow as Joe King, Amanda’s ex-husband.
During her time as Amanda, Jackson was diagnosed with a malignant tumor and underwent a procedure and radiation treatments.
After Scarecrow’s cancellation, Jackson decided to try one more series in 1988-89, Baby Boom, based on a successful movie starring Diane Keaton. The show did not get the desired ratings, and it was cancelled within the first year. That probably was good for Jackson because in 1989 her doctors found cancer that the previous operation had missed. She endured a partial mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Jaclyn Smith waited at the hospital while her friend was in surgery. Jackson had publicly said “the range of emotions you go through is amazing . . . but I made a conscious decision to be positive.” Smith and Jackson were given great news afterward: the lymph nodes were clean.
In 1995, Kate found herself back in the hospital for surgery to correct an atrial septal defect, a tiny hole in her heart. During this same year, Jackson adopted a son.
Throughout her time starring in various series, she continued to show up in television shows like Sabrina, the Teen-aged Witch and Criminal Minds. She also managed to find time to appear in seven big-screen and 23 made-for-television movies.
Since 2007, she has been out of the public eye most of the time. With her health back on track and a child to raise, I’m hoping she found a happy place to relax and enjoy life. One thing she shared while she was going through her health issues was good advice that inspired me: “Listen with your ears, but hear with your heart. It’s one of the most important things I’ve ever learned. It’s true in art, in life—in everything.” I couldn’t agree more.