Kate Jackson: “I’m Not the Difficult One”

She may not be an angel among 'Angels,' says Kate Jackson, but reports of her ill temper are exaggerated

Seven o’clock on a California Sunday night. All over the state, families watch television, finish washing or waxing the car, even go to church. But up in the farthest reaches of Los Angeles’s very richest canyons, Kate Jackson, the intelligent, “difficult” Charlie’s Angel, is staying home—alone.

Her house is a California work or art. Fresh flowers. Artificial flowers. A carpet that looks like an ice cream flavor-of-the-month. Skis propped up in a doorway. In another doorway, tennis shoes, with accompanying racquet.

“I’ll turn on the lights out back, so you can see… how great it looks.” And outside, a perfect, understated pool; rows of golden marigolds that swirl against the luminous green and blue. Man! Is it quiet!

“I live here alone, sure. But I’m not worried. Naturally, the neighborhood is OK. I did live in a house that was robbed once. That was awful.”

Kate Jackson pours coffee from a perfect china service and, as almost the first thing she says, talks about fright. “I’d been out to some friends; house for dinner and it got late so I spent the night. The next morning we decided to go to the beach. We went by my house for my suit. But as we were walking around the back, I thought, things just don’t look right, you know? Then when I went into my bedroom. I saw it was—awful. Someone had been in there a long time. The brass bedstead had even been bent—“ She waves her hands as though to shoo the whole thing away.

“Anyway!” She says. And smiles. Kate Jackson was born in Birmingham, Alabama. She majored in drama at the University of Mississippi and Birmingham Southern College. She did summer stock, studied in New York, then held a variety of odd jobs, including that of an NBC tour guide, before becoming a regular on ABC’s Dark Shadows.

In her early 20, she drove—by herself—out to Hollywood, where she managed to land a few small roles in series. She was a beautiful girl who could act and Hollywood rewarded her by making her a star on The Rookies. Then—too quickly?—came Charlie’s Angels. Those three beautiful girls, with the stunning blonde in the middle. And perhaps because there was only one blonde, it was inevitable that Farrah Fawcett-Majors should get the hard publicity.

“Well,” Kate says loyally, “it was wonderful that she got it. It was great for the show, and she never did anything at the expense of anybody. You know, at first I used to kid her by saying that if she ever washed up in television she could get a job in the Brillo business with that hair of hers—but wait! That’s just the kind of thing that if you write it down they’ll think we’re fighting again, when the truth is we never fought at all.

“In fact” (and Kat Jackson draws herself up severely on her couch) “I would like to take this opportunity to say that in many ways – I have been mistagged by the press. I have been called the difficult one. And I’m not! But why, with three to choose from, would the difficult one be Kate?

“For all sorts of reasons. I think because with Farrah and Jackie, if you say something to them, it’s more or less predictable what they might do. Farrah might smile, Jackie might say something sweet. But I might say something! Listen, I’m not kidding, there’s a rotten little snitch on the set of Charlie’s Angels. The minute any little thing at all happens, he’s on the phone to one of those grocery-store newspapers. It makes me furious! Because the character they’ve evolved for me is terrible insecure, temperamental . . . . I may be a little bit nervous but that’s as high up on the scale as I go.”

Kate is sitting on her couch, looking as nice as pie. “Here’s a good example. The first day, OK? Of the second season. Naturally, Farrah didn’t show up. Well, we knew she wouldn’t. And they hadn’t really fixed on Cheryl Ladd. Nobody knew what was happening! So Jackie and I were sitting there in makeup—it wasn’t any later than 8 in the morning—and they said, ‘Ok, that’s it. You can go home now.’ After we got our makeup off, Jackie and I decided to go out to breakfast. When we went to get Jackie’s purse, we realized someone had locked it up in a storage room. We could see it but we couldn’t get to it. The door was flimsy, so what I did—was this.”

And Kate Jackson jumps up, in perfect faded jeans, and executes a violent karate kick into her living room’s quiet evening air.

“I just gave the door a kick. Because we thought everyone else had gone home and we needed Jackie’s purse. But there it was in the next issue of the Enquirer. Kate Jackson in tears! Storms off set! That stuff was just a lie. And they tell those lies all the time.”

But again, why would they choose Kate as the one to pick on?

“Well, it isn’t just me, of course.” From the start there was a whole lot of feeling that we just wouldn’t have the stamina and drive to do an hour show for more than one season. Because it’s an incredible amount of work. But more than that, somebody out there is sure that women just don’t get along together! So that’s what those people are looking for. A story about three women fighting.”

Once, in the late 19th century, an obscure woman novelist named Olive Schreiner said that the life of a woman artist should be lived all in her work, that the events of her “real life” should be as thin as skim milk under the rich cream of her accomplishments. Olive weighed close to 200 pounds, was dead broke and not very pretty; she was talking about herself but could have been describing the rich, thin, and beautiful Kate Jackson.

“It takes three months to make the average 90-minute movie. Well, we make a 60-minute segment of Charlie’s Angels in just six days. I’m up every morning at 5. I water the plants and walk the dog for 15 minutes. I leave here by 6:15; I’m usually at the studio by 6:30. Then there’s wardrobe and the hairdresser and makeup, and by 8 we’re on the set. We rehearse for marks.” (By this time, Kate Jackson’s voice has dropped into the one-note monotone of small children or faith healers; she is telling this story more to herself than me.)

“Then they light. Then they do the master shot. Then the close-ups. At noon, every day, they bring me a turkey-san-with-mayo-and-a-carton-of-milk and I take it with me to the dailies. Usually the other girls use that time for publicity, but I watch the dailies so I can see my work, see what I’m doing wrong, OK? Then we work the rest of the afternoon, usually until about 7:30. Of course, if we’re on location that’s something else. Some nights I come home, it’s 10:30; 11:30. I look at the clock and think ‘Oh, God.’ Because I’m only living that night to get up again at 5 in the morning.”

It is an oft-quoted remark of Kate’s that starring on Charlie’s Angels has cut down on her love life. Some years ago she shared a beach house with Edward Albert. Recent months have featured a string of glamorous men. As dates, no one could complain about David Soul of Starsky & Hutch, or Warren Beatty, or Nick Nolte, so dashing in “The Deep.” Nevertheless, there is certainly no one around on this lonely Sunday night.

“I never do anything on a week night,” Kate continues, “I eat something, I read a book, I talk on the phone, I go to bed.”

She lets her head drop from side to side. “Listen! There’s nothing like the necks and shoulders of actors. Have you ever noticed how they crane their necks like this? Or pull at their shoulders like this? What they’re trying to do is lighten up some of the burden. There’s a lot of money, a lot of people’s jobs riding on your shoulders. You feel it. You have to very careful about what you eat, and how much rest you get. The quality of energy you put into your work.”

Marigolds and swimming pool aside, it’s all beginning to sound a little bleak. Kate Jackson seems, in this silence and luxury, like one of those children born without immune reactions, raised in a sanitized glass cube, beautifully cared for but irrevocably isolated—from the dirty, exciting outside world.

“What,” I cautiously ask, “did you do last year during your vacation?”

“I went to Hawaii with my sister and her husband for a week. Then I did ‘James at 15.’ Then I was on The Mike Douglas Show. He let me sing. I messed up the first time, I was so scared, but I did it over and everyone was swell. Then, for a surprise, Mike had my little sister come on the show. I sat there, just speechless, entirely blown away. Because I guess I love my little sister more than anything else in the world. Later, I watched the tapes, and it was very useful to me, because I got to see myself acting naturally, you know?”

And the rest of her . . . vacation?

“I went to New York, to work on the $25,000 Pyramid. We won a whole lot of money! It was just great.” (Kate did magnificently on that zany show, displaying notable intelligence and grace under pressure, winning at least one of her contestant-partners $25,000.) “Then I did the Today show. It was good to see how I worked, live. Then I drove my jeep to Utah for a week.”

It’s getting on toward 10 o’clock. Time to leave. Before I go, Kate takes me into what seems to be a combination storage room and den. She shows me a wall of photographs, which she has taken and developed herself. Pictures of children, elephants, a young man with a guitar. She picks up another picture and hands it to me.

“Take a look at this, what do you see?”

It’s the man with the guitar behind glass.

“What is this, a double exposure?”

“Look again,” Kate says sternly.

Kate is faintly there in the picture, her camera up to her eye.

“It’s me, outside, taking a picture of him, inside. I’m reflected in the glass.”

I notice we are really in a dining room. Up against cartons and a broken clock, just in front of a large television set, a card table waits, with one place setting—knife, fork, spoon, place mat, and a small white saucer with perhaps a dozen vitamin pills. “That,” Kate says, “is what the maid sets up for me before she goes home.”

Kate Jackson. Less a glamour queen than an athlete in training. An actress who says wistfully, as she walks me to the door, that she guesses she has a “love affair with the camera,” that she likes to act “full-tilt boogie,” that in 10 years “Ill be just where I want to be, and I will have been there for a long time.” On the other hand, she says, as though the thought had just occurred to her, “I might be fat, dumb, and happy?”


By Carolyn See TV Guide February 18, 1978

“I would like to take this opportunity to say that in many ways, I have been mistagged by the press. I have been called the difficult one. And I’m not!"

Kate Jackson