There is no doubt that Charlie’s Angels is one of the groundbreaking franchises in the history of movies; however, it began as a wildly successful TV show in the 1970s. The show centered around a group of badass female crime fighters who worked in a detective agency called the Townsend agency. Charles Townsend, a man they never see, owned the agency.
The characters were only able to communicate with Charles through his assistant, John Bosley, over a speakerphone. Police Woman was the first successful television show centered around a female cop, but Charlie’s Angels took it a step further. This show about three female private detectives was far from the norm then and went on to become a success for decades.
Coming to the Limelight
The TV show not only created a buzz in the ‘70s but also went ahead to turn its three main actors Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith, into television sensations for a long time. Besides this, the franchise had another major success later on as a 2003 film, starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz.
It later became a 2011 TV series starring Annie Ilonzeh, Rachael Taylor, and Minka Kelly. Most recently, an attempt at big-screen success was made by writer/director/producer Elizabeth Banks in 2019, starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska as its Angels.
You’d Never Guess
Charlie’s Angels is a successful TV Show. However, it could be hard to believe that at one point, they thought of a much different title or cast choice. Nonetheless, the original series is still regarded as the most prominent version, and its actors still pique fans’ curiosity even to this day.
Below are some fun facts about this ‘70s show that you would never have guessed were true.
They Could Have Been “Cats,” Not “Angels”
The first-ever script about the show was titled “The Alley Cats.” This was supposed to be after the names of the main girls, which were Alley, Lee, and Catherine. Besides having a different title, the girls had slightly different job descriptions.
The girls were meant to be karate experts and were expected to have great fighting skills. Also, they were meant to work for the police. The idea later fell through after Michael Eisner, an ABC producer, thought it was a terrible idea.
It Was the Producers’ Nightmare
The hit TV show and its beloved franchise would have never aired in the first place if ABC producers had had their way. The name and the premise of the show was hated, and there was the belief that three women headlining a show was a failure waiting to happen.
Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg had to make several rewrites and new plots. The pilot was eventually commissioned after one of the writers had a guaranteed agreement.
It Could Have Been Harry’s Angels
At some point, the name Harry’s Angels was considered for the show. However, the idea was rejected because there was another television show on air at that time, called Harry O. They went ahead and chose Charlie as a much better fit than Harry.
The idea of “Angels” was said to have come from a painting of three angels hanging on the wall of Aaron Spellings’ office. However, it wasn’t a thing until Kate Jackson walked in one day and suggested that the girls be called Angels.
The “Original Three” Could Have Been Different
One of the things that made the show a fan favorite was the chemistry between the original three angels. However, we may not have seen that because the angels were supposed to be a brunette, blonde, and a redhead. This idea got canceled because many actresses were better for these roles.
Going through with this plan would not have resulted in the original trio of one blonde (Farrah Fawcett) and two brunettes (Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith). The producers changed their minds after seeing the chemistry between the girls.
There Was a Character Who Lasted Only One Episode
When the pilot aired, there was a character named Scott Woodville. David Ogden Stiers played this role. This character was supposed to be Bosley’s superior and a secret Angel.
However, the producers found the character unimpressive and unnecessary and had to drop it eventually, and Bosley became Charlie’s assistant.
The Show Had Secret Partners
Until 1981, it was a secret that Hollywood’s power couple, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, were entitled to 50% of the show’s profit. This started as a promise made by Aaron Spelling to the couple during the making of their 1973 movie, The Affair.
He promised that one day, they would co-own a television show with him. During the period of the show, the couples were legal investors and partners of the show even though they never received credits as producers. It was a secret until Wagner filed a lawsuit in 1981 to investigate where their money went.
There Was Almost an All-Male Version of the Show
After the huge success of Charlie’s Angels, by Season 4, the show’s producers thought it would be a great idea to make a spin-off about some all-male secret agents.
This was to be called Toni’s Boys. This was scrapped even after a pilot had been filmed due to the audience’s negative reaction to the idea.
The Cast Got Different Pay
Although the show was centered around three women who were performing the same task, with the same screen time as well as the same filming schedule, they were still paid differently. In the first season, Jaclyn Smith was paid $5,000 per episode.
This was only half of what her co-star Kate Jackson received per episode. It was in the final season that each main actor was paid the same amount. This is not imaginable today, especially being a feminist-driven show. These actresses had to face it.
John Forsythe Voiced Charlie, but He Wasn’t Their First Choice
The first choice for the role of Charlie was an actor named Gig Young. His voice as Charlie was loved by producers. This ended when he showed up intoxicated on his first day of work, and they fired him.
The producers then contacted John Forsythe, who was already a big name in television, being a part of “Dynasty,” a hit drama series. John Forsythe’s performance as Charlie is so remarkable that it is hard to believe that he was only hired a few days before the shooting commenced.
The Swimsuits and Criticisms
Charlie’s Angels would be incomplete without its swimsuit, literally. The show was subject to lots of criticism. This was based on the fact that it depicted the Angels’ as beautiful objects rather than the fierce crime fighters they were supposed to be.
However, one of the cast, Farrah Fawcett, confirmed that swimsuits might have been the reason for the show’s high ratings. The cast of the original Charlie’s Angels series is still considered exceptional. Here are some fun facts and life updates about every Angel in the TV show:
The actress won the hearts of many as the Angel Kelly Garrett. However, she started in the movie, Escape From Bogen County and went on to be the lead actor in The Users. In Charlie’s Angels, Smith played an orphan from Texas who later became one of the Angels.
Before her role as Kelly Garrett in Charlie’s Angels, she starred in more minor roles in movies like Bootleggers, Goodbye Columbus, and many others.
Jacelyn Smith also went on to star in the Charlie’s Angels sequel in 1986, Rage of Angels: The Story Continues. Later on, she would be the only actor from the original series to return for another release titled Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. After Charlie’s Angels, Smith went on to work on a television show about Jackie Kennedy.
Smith and Her Southern Charm
One thing that cannot go unnoticed throughout the Charlie’s Angels TV show was the Southern charm Jaclyn Smith brought with her. It was noted that during the casting, a redhead was needed instead of another brunette since her co-star Kate Jackson who played Sabrina Duncan, was already a brunette.
Eventually, after her reading, there was undeniable chemistry between the three women, and the Southern charm Smith added to the mix did the final trick. Jaclyn Smith went on to be the only Angel who lasted throughout the five years of the show.
Beyond Her Acting
Jaclyn Smith’s incredible talent made her the queen of TV movies, with many of her works being well received by both fans and critics. Apart from acting, Smith successfully made a name for herself in the clothing and cosmetic industry through Kmart.
The actress started a clothing line at Kmart. She later went on to include make-up, home furnishing, and other items. Her clothing line was a huge success, mostly because it was customer-based, creative, and at a price range for the everyday woman.
Life and Four Marriages
Jacelyn Smith was married four times. The first two were to actors Roger Davis and Dennis Cole. Later, she married a filmmaker, Anthony B. Richmond.
She eventually found love with Brad Allen, a cardiothoracic surgeon. She is still married to him to this day. In 2003, Smith was treated for cancer and later on featured in a documentary about breast cancer titled one Minute.
This actress was known as Farrah Fawcett-Majors at the time of Charlie’s Angels because she was married to Lee Majors. From 1967-1977, Fawcett played the role of Jill Munroe. She was tagged the “athletic Angel” and would later leave after her first season to pursue a career as a race car driver. But she appeared for cameos from time to time throughout the remaining seasons.
Although her character in the TV show launched her to stardom, this did not prevent her from leaving the role to expand her acting. After Charlie’s Angels, Fawcett bagged Emmy and Golden Globes awards for the roles she played in some made-for-TV movies. In 2006, she was diagnosed with cancer, and three years later, she died at the age of 62. Needless to say, she will always be remembered for her unique feather locks.
Humble Beginnings of a Star
Farrah Fawcett was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, on February 2, 1947. She first starred as a microbiology major at the University of Texas before switching to art. It was as though Fawcett was intended to be a star from the beginning.
She was named one of the ten most beautiful coeds on campus during her freshman year. This event resulted in her photos being sent to numerous agencies in Hollywood, which later landed her a contract with Screen Gems, earning her $350 per week.
Leaving Charlie’s Angels and Handling the Sudden Fame
After the first season of the show, Fawcett decided that it was time to leave. This exit was very legal, with its settlement being out of court. However, this transaction resulted in the fact that no new Charlie’s Angels merchandise can feature the actress’s likeness without consulting with her estate.
Although Farrah Fawcett was a familiar face to the audience before Charlie’s Angels through her modeling and small acting jobs, the hit TV show shot her into the limelight. The rise to fame could be said to be sudden, given that she only wanted to try out modeling for a year then move back to Texas if it didn’t work out.
Career After Charlie’s Angels
Fawcett left the Charlie’s Angels TV show in 1977 for many reasons, and one of them was the fact that her then-husband, Lee Majors, thought that she spent too many hours on set compared to what they paid her. At that time, Fawcett made $5,000 every episode, which was a huge difference from the $40,000 Majors made every episode on The Six Million Dollar Man.
After the TV show, the actress went on to star in films like Sunburn, Somebody Killed Her Husband, and Saturn 3. They weren’t much of a success in America. However, the actress pressed on by honing her skills as an actress through small projects and would later replace Susan Sarandon in the 1983 Off-Broadway production of Extremities.
Kate Jackson played the glamorous angel, Sabrina Duncan, for three seasons. She is also known for starring in some Hollywood movies like Empty Cradle, Making Love, and Quiet Killer. She also made an appearance in Criminal Minds in 2007.
Like her co-star in Charlie’s Angels, Farrah Fawcett, Jackson battled cancer. She beat cancer and went on to pursue a life of happiness. Although Jackson has not appeared on TV since 2009, she is still active and working in a memoir with Gallery Books.
Life Before Charlie’s Angels
The actress was born in Birmingham, Alabama, as Lucy Kate Jackson on October 29, 1948. She first went to the Birmingham Southern College, where she studied speech and history of the theatre but later went to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
Her earliest job before her first role was as a tour guide at the Rockefeller Center. Jackson would go on to be cast as the ghost Daphne Harridge in the horror TV Show Dark Shadows. This would also lead to her playing Tracy Collins in the movie Night of Dark Shadows, the feature film version of the show.
The Initial Sabrina
Although Kate Jackson did incredible work with her role as Sabrina Duncan, the character was intended to be quite different from what it was in the TV show.
The initial plan for the character was for Sabrina to be extremely beautiful and regal. However, Jackson wanted to be the glamorous angel at the last minute, an act initially intended for Jacelyn Smith’s character.
What Kate Brought to the Show
It is undeniable that Kate Jackson was a seasoned actress even before her role in Charlie’s Angels. She was yet to become a breakout star; nonetheless, she brought seasoning to the television show. Before the show, the actress was on a nearly similar show called the Rookies. Her impeccable performance on the show was what made her one of the best for Charlie’s Angels.
After the first season, Kate Jackson admitted that her focus on the show began to dwindle. She also went on to agree that she became difficult and refused to dress up glamorously as her character ought to. Although the actress was the one who chose to be the glamorous one, she went back to just turtlenecks and flannel shirts.
An Angel Needs a Breather
After spending three seasons on the show, Jackson decided that it was finally time to leave. In 1979, the actress sat down for an interview with People magazine. In her interview, she stated that she got tired of them, and they got tired of her.
The decision was to help her love life out of the limelight for a while and to work on other projects that would bring her fulfillment as an actor.
The Personal Life of an Angel
After starring on the hit TV show Charlie’s Angels, Jackson worked alongside Bruce Boxleitner on a show called Scarecrow and Mrs. King. She also starred in other TV movies and made lots of appearances as a guest on popular TV shows.
During her successful acting career, Jackson also got the chance to love and get married to actor Andrew Stevens. This marriage ended in 1981. After her first marriage, Kate Jackson got married again to David Greenwald, a New York businessman. After the failed marriage, she married Tom Hart. The marriage lasted between 1991 to 1993. The actress is a breast cancer survivor. She battled the disease in the late 1980s.
Cheryl Ladd, born Cheryl Jean Stoppmeimoor, is the actress who played Kris Monroe, the little sister to Farrah Fawcett’s character, Jill Monroe, in Charlie’s Angels. This actress was born in Huron, South Dakota, on July 12, 1951. She started her career as the singing voice on Josie and the Pussycats, a cartoon series. She also appeared in films and TV shows like The Treasure of Jamaica Reef, Harry O, and Police Woman, among others.
One cannot mention this actress’s notable works without adding Charlie’s Angels to the list. This show was already a sensation with audiences before the introduction of Ladd’s character, and her decision to fill in Farrah Fawcett’s space was a remarkable one.
Stepping Into the Whirlwind
Farrah Fawcett played a crucial role on the TV show. Her decision to leave when it was still the number 1 show everywhere posed the bigger question of who was going to take her place. It was said that Cheryl Ladd was asked to audition for the role, but she refused, not wanting to take Fawcett’s place. She eventually agreed to audition, but after asking so many questions about her role, her new character as Kris Monroe, was born.
This character was to be Jill’s sister, and, unlike her seasoned detective sibling, she would be the rookie Angel, who was still getting the hang of things and might make some mistakes on the way. Fortunately, this new character made sense to the audience, and it also made her a television sensation like the others.
Living off the Glory of Others
The downside to joining a hit television show midway was the fact that it was assumed that it was easier for Ladd since the hard job of making the show a success was already done. Author and host Ed Robertson compared the actress’s inclusion in the show to a coach taking over a football team after they had won the Super Bowl.
He went on to acknowledge the fact that there would always be a comparison of the predecessor to the successor, and this was no different in Ladd’s case. The actress earned her audience’s love by working harder than everyone else, not letting anything slow her down. Her background on shows like Police Woman also helped her accomplish it.
The Humorous Angel
Apart from being the “rookie” Angel, what made Ladd’s character gain ground on the show was the fact that she was the humorous Angel. Being the newcomer and the somewhat inexperienced one in the trio gave room for her to show her humorous side.
This also gave her character a more distinct feature since she not only played another blonde Angel but one that was entirely different from the previous one.
Nothing Like “The Original Three”
Although one could say that the show’s casting directors were geniuses for choosing Cheryl Ladd to play the sister to Farrah Fawcett’s characters, not everyone agreed. A fellow actress on the show, Kate Jackson, was of the latter school of thought. There was an undeniable bond between Jackson, Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith (the original three), and for this reason, adding another person to the mix didn’t sit well with the actress.
When Fawcett left the show, Jackson preferred that it be two angels rather than introducing another actor. The actress never ceased to show her loyalty to the original trio; even when the 2003 film version came out, she wasn’t so keen on it. Nevertheless, Jaclyn Fawcett went on to make a cameo in the movie.
Life After Being a Rookie
After Charlie’s Angels, Ladd went on to star in other successful TV miniseries and TV movies. In addition, she was also able to build a recording career that was worthwhile.
From 1973 to 1980, Cheryl Ladd was married to the actor David Ladd, and they had a daughter together. In 1981, the actress got married to Brian Russell, a music producer, and they have been together ever since.
Shelley Hack played Angel Tiffany Welles on the television show. However, the actress started as a model for Revlon’s Charlie perfume and surprisingly became a cast member of the hit show.
Alongside being a model and actress, Hack is also a producer and a political and media adviser. She was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, on July 6, 1947.
Another Angel on the Block
Just like her co-star, Cheryl Ladd, Hack was another Angel who brought a new light to the show. She came in after Jackson and Fawcett left. To keep the show meaningful for the audience, the idea of having new Angels every year was set into motion by the producers.
Although it was a success, there was the issue of Shelley Hack not being as strong of an actress. Being another blonde Angel, the show’s new episode did not have the same effect as it did with dark-haired Sabrina Duncan, blonde Jill Monroe, and the brunette Kelly Garret.
Tiffany, Who Again?
Although the Charlie’s Angels television show was considered a success in general, the first three seasons were its actual glory days. It is believed to be the result of the exit of two highly beloved Angels and the poor introduction of Shelley Hack’s character. Tiffany Welles, the new Angel on the team, had an introduction that was not solid enough to win the audience over.
According to the author Mike Pingel, the lack of chemistry between the audience and the character was mostly the fault of the writers. He believed that the two-hour-long pilot of the fourth season was enough time to get fans acquainted with this new character; however, the focus was more on the task and Cheryl Ladd.
The Wallflower Angel After Charlie’s Angels
At the beginning of the show, Shelly Hack’s character was written as a background character but later on, probably in hopes of remedying the audience’s relationship with the character, more in-depth writing was done for Tiffany Welles. Nevertheless, the approach did not stop harsh criticism, mostly because of Hack’s acting.
After being a part of the hit TV show, Shelley Hack went on to star in other projects like The King of Comedy by Martin Scorsese and, more recently, Falling for You. She has been married to Harry Winer, a director. Shelley Hack and Harry Winer have a daughter together.
Tanya Roberts played the role of Julie Rogers, which was synonymous with the last Angel to join the show. The actress was born in Bronx, New York, on October 15, 1955. She worked in fashion and Broadway productions before debuting on screen in 1979.
Roberts was cast to replace Shelley Hack’s character. Although Roberts’s character had so much potential, she wasn’t able to save the show’s ratings in its final days. The show went from being number one to being part of the top 30 and later on bottom five.
From “Charlie’s Hottest Angel” to Bond Girl
Tanya Roberts’s character on the show was a breath of fresh air. She was the Angel with wicked looks and craftiness. She was the criminal, and that seemed to be the audience’s delight.
After Charlie’s Angels, Roberts went on to star in different television and big-screen films like The James Bond film, A View to a Kill.
The Transition of the Show
Although the show started great, the producers had to find a way to sustain this success through a formula. This was a set of instructions and tips guiding the show and its characters, but this restricted the actresses from expanding their characters. The formula approach served its purpose for a while until the last couple of seasons became like a recycled version of the older ones with lots of stuff being repeated.
The first season had themes like prostitution, robberies, and drugs, which broke from the norm. It also had a more serious tone compared to the other seasons and provided the audience with a little more sense of excitement. However, the subsequent seasons became more about the hair and dress than the story.
As mentioned in the beginning, Charlie’s Angels is a groundbreaking franchise. While some versions may be more successful than others, the original show still retains its precious position among the others.