Diana Rigg: Remembering Emma Peel, Tracy Bond, And Olenna Tyrell

By | March 19, 2019

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Diana Rigg as Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and in a promotional photo for The Avengers. Source: (imdb.com)

When it comes to British sex symbols of the late '60s, few could compete with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel on The Avengers and Tracy Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Emma Peel was a karate-chopping secret agent who wore extremely fashionable jumpsuits, and Tracy Bond -- well, she's the only woman who ever managed to ensnare James Bond in wedded bliss. Rigg died on September 10, 2020, having recently completed a famous run on Game Of Thrones as Olenna Tyrell, the tough-as-nails matriarch of House Tyrell.

Rigg was born in England and spent her early years in India. She began acting while in school and won many of the lead roles in her school’s plays. She did several theater roles and broke into television in the mid-sixties. She has had success in television, movies, and theater. Her first starring role on television was playing Emma Peel on the British Series The Avengers, from 1966-68. During her time on The Avengers, she was also performing on stage with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Though she was a successful movie star, she was quite dedicated to the theater and starred in plays on Broadway and in England. She won a Tony Award for her role in Medea. In the '70s, Rigg starred in her own sitcom on television titled Diana. She hosted Mystery! On PBS from 1989 through 2004. 

A Sixties Symbol Of A Strong Woman

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Diana Rigg (with Patrick Macnee) as Emma Peel in The Avengers. Source: (imdb.com)

During the Sixties, most female characters on television were homemakers or victims. When Diana Rigg got the role of Emma Peel in The Avengers she broke the mold. The character of Emma Peel was a secret agent who used karate to overpower the bad guys. Diana Rigg is very proud of her portrayal of an independent woman just as smart and strong as any man.

The Avengers actually began as a series in 1961, starring Ian Hendry and Patrick Macnee. Hendry left, and Macnee continued as John Steed, joined by a succession of female assistants. In seasons 2 and 3, the assistant was Cathy Gale, played by Honor Blackman. Seasons 4-6 featured Emma Peel (Rigg), and in the first episode of season 7, Peel left and was replaced by Tara King (Linda Thorson).