Behind the Scenes on ‘Angels in Chains’
An Interview with Artist & Actress Brooke Tucker
"I'm gonna be watchin' you, sweetcakes, watchin' you real hard."
She was Fran - Maxine's no-nonsense wingman at Pine Parish Prison Farm. A tough and hardened guard, Fran and Sabrina immediately got off on the wrong foot for more than one tense exchange during the Angels' tenure behind bars.
It just goes to show that although this actress left the Hollywood scene once this role was wrapped, she definitely made her on-screen mark, creating an enduring and memorable villain that Charlie's Angels fans have feared for over thirty years!
In actuality, Brooke Tucker is a cool, laid-back and intensely creative artist with an engaging personality and a terrific laugh - she was kind enough to take the time from her busy schedule to speak with us about her memories of working on what has come to be regarded as the single most iconic episode of Charlie's Angels ever produced - Angels in Chains.
The daughter of an Earl Carrol showgirl and veteran stage and screen star Forrest Tucker, best remembered for his role alongside Gary Cooper in "The Westerner" and on television's F Troop, Brooke Tucker comes from glittering creative roots which helped form her career's ultimate focus.
After briefly pursing an acting career on stage and in television in the 1970's which included several episodes of Medical Center and The Ghost Busters, Brooke's work on Charlie's Angels was her very last stint in the world of entertainment. Shortly thereafter, she transformed what was a passionate hobby into a prominent career as an acclaimed artist specializing in the design and creation of extraordinary dollhouse miniatures and scale room designs, as well as teaching workshops in miniature techniques. Retired since mid-2006, Brooke still consults in the fascinating field of miniatures.
BACKGROUND CHECKTownsend Agency original interview by Holly and Anna June 14, 2010
The Audition with Aaron Spelling
"I was sitting in my little second-story apartment in Burbank working on my miniatures, when the phone rang and it was my agent Norah Sanders saying they wanted me to interview for this show, Charlie's Angels. And I said, 'I can't interview for anything now, I have to get ready for a miniatures show!'. I hadn't done very well as an actress, so I had to go out and do something else, but my agent said, 'No, you really need to do this one.'"
Brooke reluctantly agreed, but warned: "I'm not dressing up, I'm coming just the way I am, wearing painted jeans and no makeup and my hair all askew. I'm not putting any effort into this."
Off she went, dressed as-is, into the fray of Los Angeles' rush hour traffic and down to the studio to track down the audition, already in progress.
"I walked in and found that it was a cattle call - and I don't know where I got the guts to do this, I think it was because I didn't care whether I got the part or not - I walked up to the secretary sitting over on the sidelines and I said, 'My name is Brooke Tucker and my agent called and said I'm supposed to read for somebody and I can't stay very long, so unless you can hear me right away, I've got to go.'"
Surprisingly, she was momentarily handed a script and asked to read for the role of Maxine, the sadistic prison guard ultimately played by actress Mary Woronov.
Sitting amongst the 40 or so actresses reading for the part were a casting agent, and Charlie's Angels famed producer himself, Aaron Spelling. Brooke briefly looked over her lines, then introduced herself to those officiating, and launched into her scene which involved Maxine interacting with another character.
Once finished reading, she hurriedly announced: "Thank you very much, I've had a wonderful time, but I have to go now because I'm getting ready for a miniatures show." With all eyes in the room surprised and staring at Brooke, a curious Aaron Spelling asked, "What do you mean??", to which Brooke explained, "I don't think any of you know what I mean - I do miniatures, it's 1 inch to the foot." "Oh, really?" Spelling said, "That's how I got my start."
I said, "What do you mean?" and all these people are just sitting there listening to the two of us. "When I was a young man, I used to make miniatures of the sound stages." And I said, "Really? Then you know how intricate it is." And he said, "Oh, I know it very well." And I said, "Well, I think that's what I'm cut out for, to follow in that direction. So I said it was nice meeting you, thank you all for seeing me, and goodbye."
Anxious to get back to her project and with little care about the outcome of her audition, Brooke drove home through the horrendous tangle of traffic, and as she walked up the front porch to enter her second floor apartment, she could hear the sound of her phone ringing. Rushing in to answer it, she found agent Norah Sanders on the other end. "Well," Sanders said, "I don't know what you did - but you got it."
As it turns out, the producers handed Tucker the role of the prison guard who has two run-ins with Sabrina, and not that of Maxine. "It's funny, I read for the other one, the lady that had so much interplay with the Angels. And everyone thinks [Maxine] is me! I can't imagine anyone could remember somebody who had all of about two lines on the show."
But remember her, we do. You got twenty dollars?
Sweetcakes on Location
Director Phil Bondelli, who took the helm on Chains, had a directorial hand in a wide assortment of the major crime dramas of the 1970's and 1980's including The Mod Squad, ChiPs, T.J. Hooker, Switch, and S.W.A.T. He directed over a dozen episodes of Kate Jackson's police drama The Rookies, and then took part in Charlie's Angels, overseeing only two episodes - Angels in Chains and To Kill An Angel, both Season 1 classics. Interestingly, during the same time, Bondelli also directed a number of Lee Majors' (of Farrah Fawcett-Majors fame) series, The Six Million Dollar Man.
Brooke recalls a discussion with Bondelli about her character's lines: "My mother was quite a lady, and I'm a little bit raunchier than my mom was - but after reading my lines, it still rubbed me the wrong way to keep saying "sweetcakes" or "sweetcheeks" and whatever else my character snaps at the Angels - so I approached the director and very nicely said, 'Excuse me, but this sounds a little bit, you know, rough. Do you think perhaps I could use another phrase?' And he just looked at me and said, 'Miss Tucker, this is what acting is about. You are a prison guard. You're not at a tea party.' But I just hated saying that, it just didn't sound right to me. It's so funny."
Most of Chains' woodsy outdoor sequences were shot on location at what is now Malibu State Creek Park, more famous for having been the site of the iconic 4077 M*A*S*H unit during the series' 1972-1983 run. Scenes involving the Angels' barracks and the potato field were filmed outside of Los Angeles at an abandoned army base posing as Pine Parish Prison. "I remember they bussed us all out to that old army base that was supposed to be the prison; there's a shot in that episode of me escorting the girls out of a dormitory during a long-shot, and those were the barracks you can see us coming out of." Shot in the summer of 1976, Brooke's memories of her two or three days' shooting schedule are those of uncomfortable weather: "It was hot, it was dirty and it was icky. Especially out in that uncovered 'potato field'." During the Angels' arrest scene just as they're brought onto the prison property, distant storm clouds are visible in the area, as well as a sprinkling of raindrops on the back window of the sheriff's car, which only added to the hot mugginess of the location shoot.
Brushes with the Angels
While she says she never formed a strong friendship with her co-stars, Brooke does recall a few fond memories of her interaction with the Angels.
On seeing the off-camera Kate, Jaclyn and Farrah interacting between takes, Brooke recalls: "I felt that they all got along wonderfully. Especially during the 'shower' scene when they had their towels on! During set-ups they joked around quite a bit."
Typically, the actresses got to work and hit the make-up chairs around 5:00-5:30am during while shooting episodes, and after a full day's shoot, often got home well after dark. As far as the Angels themselves, Brooke's most lasting memory is that of Kate Jackson's generosity to her, actress to actress.
Of the production schedule, she explains: "Most of the time, they do a master shot, and everybody's in it. And during the day, they'll do the close ups on the stars and the principals, and then the stars can go home. So when it comes time for the other actors, the bit players, to do close ups and stuff usually a script girl reads the lines to you."
After a long day's shoot, the principals headed back to L. A., except for one.
"Kate said she wouldn't do that [leave and let the script girl feed Sabrina's lines to Brooke]. She said it was not fair for somebody who needed a chance, that someone in my position needed recognition and so she stayed behind for me. It was another couple of hours for the camera setup and so forth. Kate stayed on the set and said Sabrina's lines to me while they did my close-ups, and that's a very generous thing for a performer to do for someone else."
In between set-ups, Brooke tinkered with her hobby and chatted with Farrah Fawcett: "We had a long connecting trailer with a little tiny dressing room in the middle, so basically we were all in one big trailer. I was working on my little miniatures at the time, that's what I loved to do in my spare time. And Farrah would wander by and walk up the trailer steps and say, 'What are you workin' on today?' and peek in to watch what I was doing and we'd get into it, chatting about the miniatures and stuff like that."
"Farrah and I had a talk while we were on the set together, and I remember telling her about my father [actor Forrest Tucker] and his wife, my stepmom, Marilyn, that they'd adopted a child, and Farrah and I got into some conversations about adoptions and so forth. I remember telling her the name of my OBGYN, Dr. Freedman, and that he was so wonderful and how I just adored him. She'd had asked if I knew any doctors, so I recommended him. And it turns out that Farrah ended up using him - he was actually the doctor that delivered her son, Redmond."
While she never saw Farrah again after the shooting on Chains was completed, Brooke was still pleased to learn that Fawcett had actually looked into the suggestion she'd provided. Farrah's only child, Redmond O'Neal was born in January, 1985, a little over eight years after her conversation with Brooke.
Actress Kim Basinger was just 23 years old and already a veteran model for products such as Breck Shampoo when she landed her role on Angels in Chains as Linda Oliver, the meek inmate whom Kelly befriends. Charlie's Angels was just the second acting gig on Basinger's resume at the time, and Brooke recalls that in real life, she was similar in demeanor to that of her retiring character: "Kim was so young, this was one of her very first roles. She was just the nicest little gal. She was very sweet and very quiet. We did that potato field scene with her. She was very, very shy, at least she appeared that way, I didn't have much to do with her, but we'd all chat to pass the time of day."
Life After the Angels
While Brooke is widely known and respected for her outstanding work in the field of miniatures, her life's passion for the past 30 plus years, she is also occasionally spotted for her Angels fame - or infamy.
"I remember standing behind my table at a miniature show and a mother brought this crying child up to me and wanted me to say hello to prove that I wasn't an ogre. He'd seen me, I guess, lean down into Sabrina and bark whatever it was I said to her in prison, so that little boy was scared to death of me. His mother recognized me and hauled him into the show to prove to him that I was a nice person!"
In the years following her guard duties at Pine Parish, Tucker guesses that she's probably only seen Angels in Chains once when a friend discovered the episode on video at a dollar sale and brought her the tape, now adrift somewhere within her collection.
After having retired from her work as a master miniaturist in 2006, Brooke is joyfully embracing yet another career path, working as a fragrance model for Donna Karan and Michael Kors. "It's fabulous!" she says, "I love it. It keeps me entertained and up to date."
Brooke is now launching a line of jewelry inspired by her patented new perspective on life - AWGO™ - that means Amazing (A) Women (W) Genuine (G) Originals (O). The first piece offered is a stylish bracelet (priced at just $8.95) intended to help identify folks who'd like to show off their AWGO attitude.
Visit Brooke's website, facebook.com/awgofun to get yours or buy one as a gift. Hey, if ya got $20, you can buy two, and tell your Angelic friends you got 'em from Sweetcakes!
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