Tanya Roberts: Bond Girl, Sheena And Beastmaster, Then And Now
Tanya Roberts holding a perch with a bird on it in a scene from the film 'Sheena: Queen of the Jungle', 1984. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)
She’s fought beasts, worked as a jiggly super spy and lived through the 1970s… twice. Tanya Roberts has gone on a journey throughout her career with each stage more exciting than the last. If you were watching TV in the ‘70s or the ‘80s (which you definitely were) then you know this stunning actress from the hit TV show Charlie's Angels; in theaters, you might have caught her in The Beastmaster (1982), Sheena (1984), and the Bond movie A View to a Kill (1985).
She didn’t just step off the bus in Hollywood and start nabbing roles, instead she busted her buns from a young age to get noticed by modeling agencies and casting directors, all the while hitchhiking across America and finding the love of her life. This is Tanya Roberts, the beastly Bond girl.
The camera caught her eye at a young age
Born in the Bronx, New York City, in 1955, Victoria Leigh Blum was the daughter of a fountain pen salesman. After moving to Toronto with her mother at a young age Blum started building up her modeling portfolio in her early teens. She found success in regional print ads, but knowing that there was more to life than the Sears catalogue she dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and hitchhiked around the country. While on the road she married “some guy,” but his mother had their union annulled. Blum returned to New York City where she met Barry Robert, a psych student who was standing on line for the movies. From that moment on they were inseparable.
She found minor success in New York, but her sights were set on LA
Upon returning to New York and finding her soulmate, Tanya Roberts got back into modeling and appeared in ads for Excedrin, Ultra Brite, Clairol, and Cool Ray sunglasses. She appeared in off-Broadway productions and made her film debut in 1975’s Forced Entry, but she knew that the real work was in Los Angeles. She told People Magazine:
I told Barry, ‘Listen, baby, I’m going to be a star if it kills me, and I’m taking you with me.’ He didn’t laugh—lucky for him… I tried out for a g*ddam part in every major movie for three years.
The two moved to Hollywood in the mid-70s where they both looked for work in the industry. While her husband tried to find screenwriting gigs she auditioned for film roles and appeared in the 1979 cult horror movie Tourist Trap. The movie is absolutely cuckoo bananas and it’s a must see if you’re anywhere on the Venn diagram of horror fans and Tanya Roberts stans.
Tanya was the tough Angel on and off the show
All of Roberts’ hard work paid off when in 1980 she was cast to play Julie Rogers in the fifth season of Charlie’s Angels. Rogers was a street-smart fighter who didn’t mess around. It turned out that Roberts was a perfect fit for the role even if the show was in a ratings tailspin. When Roberts was cast she told People:
I’m not the all-American-girl type. I’m real New York. Once Jackie [Jaclyn] Smith and I were sitting around on the set and this guy was driving us crazy. I told him to buzz off and Jackie said, ‘You really are tough, aren’t you?’ I tried to tell her there’s a difference between tough and direct. I say what’s on my mind, but I think I’m sensitive.
Rather than see her as just another Angel in a revolving door of daffy detective dames, the rest of the cast welcomed her with open arms… and grass skirts. She explains:
I got a fabulous bouquet of roses from Jackie the day I was hired, and Cheryl [Ladd] was on the phone the same day. Those girls are fabulous. I love David Doyle, too. On the set in Hawaii one day, he’s looking beautiful in a grass skirt and before I know it he’s mooning us. David Doyle? You know what I mean?
She mastered the beast, she had a view to a kill
Even though Charlie’s Angels came to an end after the fifth-season finale, that didn’t mean that Roberts was done with Hollywood. In 1982 she starred in The Beastmaster, a film remembered by just about every prepubescent boy with a love of the sword and sandals genre. Sure, the Conan the Barbarian rip off with the pet ferrets was cool, put this was the movie where Tanya Roberts went swimming!
Three years after starring in Beastmaster Roberts took on the vaulted role of Bond girl Stacey Sutton in A View to a Kill. Roberts believes that appearing as a Bond girl put an unnecessary full stop on her career, but she says that if she was faced with the same decision today she’d still take the job. She said:
I sort of felt like every girl who'd ever been a Bond Girl had seen their career go nowhere, so I was a little cautious. I remember I said to my agent, 'No one ever works after they get a Bond movie' and they said to me, 'Are you kidding? Glenn Close would do it if she could.’ And I thought to myself, well you can have regrets if you wish, but what's the point? At the time I didn't know what I know now, and to be honest, who would turn that role down, really?
In the '90s she went back to the '70s
Roberts’ career was mostly silent throughout the early ‘90s, but when That ‘70s Show called in 1998 she jumped at the chanced to play Midge Pinciotti. While speaking about the role in comparison to her time on Charlie’s Angels she noted that she was happy about her second time on a network series because it allowed her to be home. She said:
On That '70s Show, I come in at 10am and leave at 4:30pm. We rehearse all week - first day read through the script, then script into re-writes - everyday the cast works on read throughs. Then on Thursday, we have dress rehearsals and on Friday we shoot the show. On Charlie’s Angels... in make-up at 7am then got home at 7pm! In filming Charlie’s Angels we did a lot of waiting around, for different shots..such as close ups. I hate waiting around.
Unfortunately she left the series on a semi-permanent basis in 2001 when her husband became terminally ill. She continued to appear on the show as her schedule would allow until 2004. Following the end of That 70s show she’s kept quite a private life.
Tanya has no regrets about her career
While speaking with the Daily Mail in 2015 Roberts discussed how she was pigeonholed after her roles on Charlie’s Angels and A View to a Kill, but she admits that she wouldn’t change anything:
I've made a lot of good choices and a lot of bad choices and that's part of life. Whether you're really successful or moderately successful, I'm sure that to get there you have made some bad decisions and good decisions on some level, but that's how I see life. You can't go through life defeated, it's just trial and error.
Tags: Bond Girls | Charlies Angels | Ladies | Sheena | Tanya Roberts | That 70s Show | The Beastmaster | Then And Now
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