The audience waited eagerly for the panel “Colby in Dolby: with Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner” on Sunday at 10AM in the Marriott Imperial Ballroom, moderated by Colby Smith. Since Wagner arrived first, Colby asked her what it’s like to know she’s been a role model for many years. Surprisingly, Wagner considered the role carefully before accepting it because she wanted to be sure she could influence the role and make sure it had a female perspective and wasn’t just a woman plopped into a male role. For this reason, she only accepted the role when they agreed to give her collaboration rights. She wanted women to have permission to do more and be more than they might have imagined, but she didn’t expect it to become as influential as it did.
Wagner had just finished her reply when Majors arrived. As he approached the stage steps, the spry 84-year-old abruptly shifted into the slow-motion run easily recognizable from his role as the bionically enhanced Steve Austin—arms pumping and face set in concentration. The audience cheered and broke into laughter at his antics. But Majors wasn’t finished with the role of comedian.
Opening the folder he carried, he informed the crowd that it contained a press release he had been told to read. He perused the contents innocently for a moment, and then began to read its contents, which described a new series, Bionic Force One, in which Colonel Steve Austin and teacher/part-time government agent Jamie Sommers are “secretly embedded in an old age home.” According to the tongue-in-cheek release, the show will contain exciting chase scenes in wheelchairs, plenty of action and crashes (mostly by them), and will be “streaming on No Such Network.” Plus, it will be followed by Bionic Force Two! “I’m 84…” Majors said, turning with a grin to Wagner, so “she’ll be pushing my wheelchair.”
After the laughter subsided, Colby asked Majors what he thought about the influence of his famous metal-man role. Majors said he really hadn’t seen it that way. Back when it started in 1963, he said, they made 39–40 shows per season. He contrasted then to now, when complete seasons can be a few as eight episodes. The script was originally called Cyborg, and Majors recalled working eight to ten hours a day. He considers himself lucky to have gotten the role and said he was “just an ordinary guy from Kentucky.”
Colby asked Wagner who had inspired or influenced her to develop the character of Sommers. She replied that actors dig into themselves. In her teen years, she had some health problems that she was able to resolve after a boyfriend’s mother introduced her to holistic thinking, meditation, and medicine. She would visualize seeing her body healed and use the power of her mind to separate herself from the illness. Wagner said she has a fifth-gear personality and tends to get through problems by locking away her emotions. She’s learned to deal with her emotions in the moment, and she got involved in teaching these techniques to others. “Treat yourself well,” she recommended.
Majors said the actors he worked with had a big impact on him. He mentioned Barbara Stanwick, whose advice included to always be on time, to know his lines, and to keep his mouth shut. He reminisced about his first movie, where he worked with Joan Crawford and was asked to ad lib. He had no idea what that was at the time, but he tried. “Come on home with me, baby,” he repeated several times. Needless to say, the line never made it into the show. Crawford’s character, shown as a shadow with an axe, killed him before the initial credits, in which his name wasn’t even mentioned. Despite that fact, a local theater in Kentucky showed the film and put his name on a big sign out front.
When Colby asked how they react when a project gets cancelled too early, Majors immediately quipped, “You cry.” Wagner added, “You just go on to the next.” She spoke about an interesting show that had been cancelled much earlier than she expected. It focused on a zoo in LA, where she worked with an elephant and a lion. The elephant seems to have been well mannered enough. The lion, however, was old and didn’t always behave as its trainer expected. One time, while lying quietly beside her, it decided to nibble on her leg.
If they were to teach a workshop at Dragon Con, Colby asked, what would it be? “I’m way past workshops,” Major joked. “I’m just looking for the next job.” Unfortunately, he’s suffering from macular degeneration and had to wipe his eyes a time or two. While apologizing, he still managed to show his comedic side by pointing out that the audience probably wouldn’t know if he was sleeping or not. A fan shouted out, “We can rebuild him!” Majors heartily joined in with the laughter that followed, then added, “I’m just happy to be here.”
While reminiscing about his early days in Westerns, Majors said he was asked during his audition if he could ride. “I said, ‘Like the wind!’” After he got the part, he went to a local horseman and learned how to ride, which he thought was great fun. “When you’re in your twenties, you’re invincible.” Apparently taking that to heart at the time, he did his own stunts, too. “The more action there was,” he said, “the more I enjoyed the work.”
The panel ended far too soon, but the cheering applause showed how sincerely the audience appreciated these two beloved actors’ work and their participation in this year’s Dragon Con.