Family & Companions
Rarely in Hollywood casting history was an actor or actress so perfectly matched to his or her role, as that of Lynda Carter - the delight of all teenage boys and the envy of all girls - during her amply bosomed run as the Amazon princess on the 1970s hit TV show, "Wonder Woman" ( 1975-79). So perfectly did she embody the role in the public's mind, the actress could unfortunately do little else, having been stereotyped as the iconic DC Comics' heroine for more than 30 years since the show first premiered.
Born Linda Jean Cordoba Carter in Phoenix, AZ on July 24, 1951, the actress was born to Mexican and Irish parents. Already a looker by high school, Carter attended Arizona State University, where she proved herself more than just a pretty face. Blessed with an excellent singing voice in addition to her dark, gorgeous looks, Carter fell in love with performing before an audience. Soon after being voted the most talented student on campus, the black-haired beauty decided to quit school to embark on a career in music.
After a year spent touring as a singer with several rock bands, Carter felt burned-out, and in 1972, returned to Phoenix to debate what direction to take her life. Later that summer, Carter entered a local beauty contest at the urging of friends - an event would forever change her life. As Miss Arizona, Carter competed and won the title of Miss World USA. On the crest of national fame, Carter went on to represent the United States in the even higher stakes Miss World pageant. Unfortunately, despite a narrow finish, Carter did not go home with the crown.
Little did it matter. Never interested in being a beauty queen anyway, Carter parlayed the experience as a foot in the acting door. After moving to New York City that same year, Carter enrolled in acting classes and before long, began popping up on a handful of hit shows, including "Starsky & Hutch" (ABC, 1975-79), "Matt Helm" (ABC, 1975-76) and Bill Cosby's sketch comedy/variety show, "Cos" (ABC, 1976). In addition, she also made her first movie, a low-budget western called "Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw" (1975).
But it was not until America's bicentennial year when she landed her breakthrough role of Wonder Woman, that Carter's career truly took off. An avid reader of the comic as a little girl, Carter said of her on screen alter ego, "[I] always looked up to her, felt like I could identify with her." Ironically, America wound up doing the same to Carter - literally. At 5'9" (and nearly 6' with boots!), the statuesque, blue-eyed beauty seemed the amazing Amazon personified. While this was Lynda Carter's first television pilot, it was actually the second for Wonder Woman. The original - a cheap, downright bizarre train wreck of a movie - had aired the year prior and starred athlete-turned-actress Cathy Lee Crosby in the title role. Taking severe liberties with the material, this version of Wonder Woman bore little, if any, resemblance to the classic comic book super-heroine. Clad in a horrific red and blue polyester jogging suit, Crosby's Wonder Woman did not even have super-powers.
From 1975-77 on ABC, and then from 1977-79, after the show changed networks to rival CBS, Carter played the DC character to the hilt - spinning in circles, using her magic bracelets to deflect bullets, and lassoing suspects to get the truth out of them. "The 'New' Original Wonder Woman" (ABC, 1976-78) was an instant hit, particularly among young viewers. Set in a stylized version of the early 1940's, the show incorporated a heavy helping of comic book clichés and contemporary 1970's kitsch to create a show that appealed to younger audience. In a send-up of the hackneyed "damsel in distress" scenario, it was Wonder Woman who routinely ended up saving the day by rescuing the dashing (but rather danger-prone) love interest, Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner). One of the special effects that became synonymous with the show was the twirling flash 'thunderclap' that transformed mousy Diana Prince into Wonder Woman. The sequence, while certainly meant to look cool, also served a more practical purpose. Due to the difficulty of getting into the extremely snug, form-fitting costume, Carter literally had to be sewn into the top half of the suit each take. The flashing of the thunderclap was used to help to hide the seam between the two segments.
While Carter's acting ability was hardly on the level of Meryl Streep, it did not seem to matter. Her earnest performance endeared her to fans and critics alike. Taking the role seriously - but not too seriously - Carter made Wonder Woman a respectable role model for a generation of children. Decades later, Carter still enjoyed a special icon status in the gay and lesbian community, particularly among those born Generation X.
After a lengthy sabbatical from the spotlight for much of the 1980's and 1990's - during which time she left Hollywood and started a family - Carter returned to the public eye in the mid-2000's with a vengeance, appearing in a number of high-profile roles, including "The Dukes of Hazzard" (2005) and the family comedy "Sky High" (2005). On television that same year, Carter guest-starred in a two-part storyline that began on "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) and concluded on its sister series, "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC, 1999- ). This year also marked the actress' first appearance on stage, when she won the role of Matron 'Mama' Morton in the London stage production of "Chicago."
Despite receiving attention for other roles through the years - including much hype for her red-headed turn as Rita Hayworth in the cheesy TV bio-pic, "Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess" (CBS, 1983) - Carter's most indelible role was always Wonder Woman. In 2004, Warner Bros. announced that Wonder Woman would finally join her DC partners in crime-fighting, Superman and Batman, kicking butt on the big screen. Despite the involvement of A-List producer/director, J.J. Abrams, however, project development dragged along at a glacial pace, mostly due to casting. Hollywood itself wondered who other than Lynda Carter could fill the red, white and blue spangled short-shorts?
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Named Miss Arizona and later Miss U.S.A.
Feature film debut as title character in "Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw"
TV movie debut, "A Matter of Wife...and Death"
Had breakout role as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in "Wonder Woman" TV series
Continued the title role in retitled series "The New Adventures of Wonder Woman"
Starred as title character in TV movie, "Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess"
Played Carole Stanwyck "Partners in Crime"
Cast as Principal Powers in the Walt Disney teen comedy "Sky High" starring Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston
Cast in the big screen adaptation of "The Dukes of Hazzard" with Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott and Jessica Simpson
Returned to her musical roots as prison warden Mama Morton in a London stage production of "Chicago"
Released the jazz record <i>At Last</i>
Released the album <i>Crazy Little Things</i>
Had the recurring guest role of President Olivia Marsdin on "Supergirl"
Began a U.S. tour with her cabaret show "An Evening with Lynda Carter"
Cast as Governor Jessman in the comedy sequel "Super Troopers 2"