‘Bad Betty’ Ain’t So Bad
Our Interview with Multitalented Actress Kres Mersky
She was Number 10 - the rough roller princess embroiled in a shady insurance scam involving the "accidental" murders of her roller derby teammates - she even tried to hurl Jill over the side of the skating rink to her death. But in real life, Bad Betty's just the opposite.
We were fortunate enough to speak with actress Kres Merksy, who guest-starred as "Bad Betty" King on Charlie's Angels roller derby classic, Angels on Wheels in 1976. Outside the rink, Kres is as charming, lovely and talented as could be. An accomplished stage, film and television actress, she's also a gifted playwright and performer with a special niche in one-woman shows.
Aside from her memorable role on Charlie's Angels, you'll easily be able to spot Mersky in any number of her many guest-starring roles on television including Murder, She Wrote, Wonder Woman, Taxi, Ironside, Barney Miller, ChiPs and many more popular series of that era.
In 2008, Kres wrote and starred in a quirky and hilarious short film based upon her short story about a woman who befriends a large, blonde rope she discovers in her neighbor's back yard. (Be sure to scroll to the bottom to watch the entire film!) Edited by her son, film director Teddy Gersten, "Rope" went on to become an official selection of the 2008 Bend Film Festival, the 2009 SF Indie Fest and the 2009 Newport Beach Film Festival.
Currently involved in more writing and theatrical projects, Kres has a varied and active career - we can't wait to see what she'll do next! To learn more about her and to find out when and where you can catch her on stage, visit Kres' official website, www.kresmersky.com.
BACKGROUND CHECKTownsend Agency original interview by Holly June 9, 2010
"I started acting when I was about 14, doing school plays and loving it," Kres recalls about her earliest love of the craft. "When I was about 19, I got my first professional jobs in TV, film and theater and stayed pretty busy in those arenas after that." Her first television role was in 1969 on the classic western, The Virginian. Shortly thereafter, she went on to make appearances in Emergency!, Ironside, and The New Dick Van Dyke Show.
Then, in the fall of 1976, Merksy's agent learned about the villainous role open for an episode of the new hit series, Charlie's Angels. "I don't remember the entire audition for Angels, it was so long ago, but I know a number of other actresses were up for the same role as I was. That's usually the case. I did meet with the episode's director, Richard Benedict, and read the 'Bad Betty' role at the audition." Then the producers asked if she could roller skate: "I went 'Oh, sure!' which was true, but when I went down to the set when we started shooting, I was like, 'I don't know if I can do this.' It was a real, professional roller rink and I found out I'd have to do a lot of my own derby skating."
Angels on Wheels was the series' 12th episode, but the show already had the nation's television audiences abuzz. Mersky recalls: "I hadn't watched the show yet, but it was immediately popular with the public. All three of the actresses were getting a lot of press at that time."
Once Kres had landed the role, things went fairly quickly. All of the interior scenes featuring the actresses at the roller rink were actually shot on-location in downtown Los Angeles at the famed Grand Olympic Auditorium, then home to the popular Los Angeles Thunderbirds roller derby team. These sequences were augmented by poor-quality stock footage of real roller scrimmages filmed at the Auditorium in years previous.
"The show shot for five days and the hours weren't too bad; I arrived at 6am and left at around 7pm. That's actually an average shooting day . . . These shows are a little intimidating because you come in there and you really don't know anybody, and you have to perform, there's no real rehearsal or anything. TV is very fast and you have to just do your job and try to be as good as you can. "My hair and make-up was done in a make-up trailer at the location and I think I drove to the skating rink myself. My make-up was fairly minimal - not like the Angels, of course. They were the glamour pusses. But you know, in TV you always wear a lot of makeup for the camera."
This episode's director, Richard Benedict had an active career as an actor in over 100 film and television projects before he turned to directing in the 1960's, working on dozens of television series including The Rookies, Police Woman, and Hawaii Five-O. He manned only one other Angels episode during the show's first season, The Killing Kind.
"Angels on Wheels was a pretty uncomfortable working experience for me," Kres says. "The director was very edgy and impatient. The skating was scary for me - trying to give a convincing performance and the challenge of skating on the ranked rink. But the cast was considerate. Farrah was very sweet and and not at all taken with herself. She was having some trouble remembering her lines and was impressed that I had my down so solidly. She told me that.
"Farrah Fawcett was very nice, very sweet. The other women (Kate and Jaclyn), I didn't really have a lot to do with, in fact I didn't have any scenes with them. So I kind of saw them on the set, but I didn't really have much to do with them. Farrah was the one I had the scenes with. She was a very, very sweet person, very simple, quite nice, not a diva or anything like that."
This episode is packed with classic Angels action, including the show's open where Bad Betty hurls her teammate over the railing and into the arms of a waiting henchman who snaps her neck. Later, Betty tries this same move on Jill, but the great Athletic One manages to kick her way out of the bad guy's grip, rolling back onto the track to take down Bad Betty herself.
Although it was a stunt double who stood in for Kres during Jill's beat-down at the end, Kres explains that she did actually have to do her own turns on the wheels: "I remember there was a stunt coordinator there on the set, but I did have a double who did the really fast skating for me. But then again, some of it I had to do myself!"
"The coordinator was there to help us with the very difficult task of maneuvering on the angled surface of the track. He was very nice and supportive, the director - not so much. The other stunt actors were also nice and helpful with me staying upright on wheels. No one ever got hurt as far as I knew."
Kres' other scenes, including a heated conversation with Jill in the rink's locker room and a tense dinner with Jill and the insurance scam's ringleader, the evil Jessica Farmer, were shot on the 20th Century Fox lot. "I didn't see the famous Townsend Agency office set during shooting. But I'm sure it had to be on the same sound stage as the restaurant set I was in with Farrah and Andra Akers."
Although she watched the episode when it first aired in December, 1976, Kres recalls having seen Wheels "maybe twice since then. People seem to really remember that episode for some reason!" With such an impressive acting resume, it's difficult to narrow down a favorite experience, but Kres remembers "having an especially good time on television working on an episode of a show called Stephanie (a sitcom.) I had to play a woman who was Bulgarian. It was a juicy role and I had fun learning the accent." She guesses that she's most often recognized for her work on Charlie's Angels or Wonder Woman due to those series' immense and enduring popularity with fans. These days, Kres is concentrating on her theater pieces: "I'm writing a new play - a kind of nutty romantic-fantasy. It's in its early stages and I have a ways to go with it. My son and I made another short film which he is editing now and we hope to get out on the independent circuit as we did with 'Rope'."
"In this profession unfortunately you can't sit around much and wait for the phone to ring - you have to initiate much yourself. I do like working on my own material quite a bit. You get to feel at least you have some control over your artistic life. Any upcoming performances and projects should be up on my website (www.kresmersky.com). I try to keep it current. "
"ROPE" written by and starring Kres Mersky -
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