For students at a San Bernardino Valley College class in acting and directing, it’s like reaching the big-time early in their journey.
Their teacher is Lindsay Wagner, who won an Emmy Award for her role in the 1970s television series “The Bionic Woman,” and went on star in 40 television movies, five mini-series productions and 12 feature films.
A recent resident in a San Bernardino Mountain community, Wagner decided to plug into teaching close to home, instead of continuing an association with acting schools in Los Angeles. Now, twice a week, San Bernardino students get lessons from the woman once known as bionic.
“I am so excited about what she is bringing to our program,” said Diane Dusick, the Radio/Television/Film Department professor who brought Wagner into the program.
“Lindsay brings her own style into teaching. She’s very passionate about teaching and what she did in her career,” said Vanya Evans, 22, who plans to start an internet talk show with other students in the Valley College class.
She is very up front about it” (in her critiques),” he said. For Wagner, 64, it’s the first time she has taught students at the entry level.
“I have been learning about what I do when I teach them,” said Wagner, minutes before the start of class Tuesday afternoon. Many of her students have trouble memorizing their lines, she said.
“Nobody taught me how to memorize my lines. I just figured it out on my own,” she said.
She teaches her students to read the script over and connect with the emotional parts, before they start memorizing.
Wagner called “Bionic Woman” a groundbreaking television series. It was the first time a woman in a television series “was at the top of the pinnacle,” Wagner said.
With a “creative consultation” agreement for the show, Wagner said she pushed the writers to go outside the formula for an action series.
“It was pretty much a cop show. But I didn’t want to play an old-school version of a guy in a skirt, going around and bashing people and saying ‘I’m stronger, I win,’” Wagner said.
“There was a requirement to use a certain number of bionic events every quarter of the show,” Wagner said. Writers took many of those as opportunities to inject humor. “Otherwise we would have had a very combative story,” she said.
Rather than resorting to violence, Bionic Woman Jaime Sommers many times resolved issues “by thinking things through,” and engaging the lawbreakers’ “heart and their reason.”
The story line “allowed the feminine side to rise up.”
Years after the show ended, Wagner said grown men have told her that “Bionic Women” taught them they could combine strength and sensitivity.
“Even though the show was about a woman, it gave them permission to be sensitive,” she said. Many women, Wagner said, have written that the show expanded their horizons.
In a letter, one woman said that after graduating from high school, her father said she had to pick between nursing or cosmetology school. But the woman asserted herself and said she wanted to become a scientist. She now works for NASA, Wagner said.
Wagner said that she never envisioned her acting career would lead her “to jump off buildings or stop a car with my foot,” but the show enabled her to explore social issues in other films for screen and television.
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