All Photos: Alan Mercer Lighting: Eric V.
Tanya Roberts, is the beautiful actress best known for her role as Julie Rogers on the fifth and final season of ‘Charlie's Angels’ in1981 and as Midge Pinciotti on ‘That '70s Show.’
Tanya was born in the Bronx, of Irish and Jewish descent. Her father was a fountain pen salesman. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager. She lived with her mother in Toronto for several years, where she started formulating a photo portfolio and laying plans for a career. At age 15, she left high school and lived for a while hitch-hiking across the United States.
She eventually returned to New York City and became a fashion and cover model. After meeting psychology student Barry Roberts, while waiting in line for a movie, she proposed to him in a subway station and they were soon married. While Barry pursued a career as a screenwriter, she began to study at the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg and Uta Hagen.
Her career began as a model in TV ads for Ultra Brite, Clairol and Cool Ray sunglasses. She played serious roles in the Off-Broadway productions, ‘Picnic’ and ‘Antigone.’ She also supported herself as an Arthur Murray dance instructor. Her film debut was the 1975 thriller, ‘Forced Entry.’
In 1977, as her husband was securing his own screenwriting career, the couple moved to Hollywood. The following year, Roberts participated in the drama, ‘Fingers.’ Roles in the 1979 cult-movie, ‘Tourist Trap,’ ‘Racket’ and ‘California Dreaming’ followed. Tanya was featured in several television pilots that were not picked up.
Tanya was chosen in the summer of 1980 from some two thousand candidates to replace Shelley Hack in the fifth season of the detective television series, ‘Charlie's Angels’ on ABC. She played the sultry Julie Rogers, a streetwise fighter who used her fists more than her gun. Producers hoped Tanya's sizzling presence would revitalize the show's declining ratings and regenerate media interest in the series. Before the season's premiere, Tanya was featured on the cover of People Magazine.
Tanya played Kiri in the 1982 film ‘The Beastmaster.’ She was featured in a nude pictorial in Playboy to help promote the movie, appearing on that issue's October 1982 cover. In 1983 she filmed the Italian-made adventure fantasy film ‘Hearts and Armour,’ based on the medieval novel, Orlando Furioso.
She portrayed Velda, a buxom secretary to private detective, Mike Hammer, in the television movie, ‘Murder Me, Murder You.’ The two-part pilot spawned the syndicated television series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. She declined to continue the role in the Mike Hammer series in order to work on her next project, ‘Sheena: Queen of the Jungle.’
Tanya subsequently appeared as Bond girl Stacey Sutton, a geologist, in ‘A View to a Kill’ in 1985. Other 1980’s films include ‘Night Eyes,’ an erotic thriller, ‘Body Slam,’ an action movie set in the professional wrestling world and ‘Purgatory,’ a movie about a woman wrongfully imprisoned in Africa.
TR: Well I was born in The Bronx but I grew up in Manhattan and Scarsdale. Then my father got transfered to Toronto so we lived there.
AM: Did you make it to Hollywood by being a model?
TR: Not really, I came out here after I had finished modeling. I didn’t really like modeling.
AM: What didn’t you like about modeling?
TR: Just the paranoia that I didn’t look good. I just wasn’t one of those care free, happy-go-lucky models.
AM: Were you always concerned about your looks? You are so gorgeous.
TR: I was camera shy.
AM: It seems you were cast because you were so beautiful. You look so good in ‘California Dreamin.’ That has turned into a bit of a cult classic now.
TR: Really!?! I don’t know who considers it a classic.
AM: I was just reading about it on line and it was being called a type of classic film now. Did you get real excited when you got the opportunity to audition for ‘Charlie’s Angels?’
TR: No, I felt like I would get typecast after that.
AM: Did it typecast you?
TR: Yes I think it did for a while.
AM: I think you were typecast as an athletic beauty.
TR: Yes I was. I always did all my own stunts.
AM: Were you as tough in real life as all your characters?
TR: Yes, as Sheena I certainly was. I rode the horse bareback and threw all the wildebeests, shot the bow and arrow and rode the elephant.
AM: Was all this natural for you?
TR: I had been riding since I was a kid. I always preferred riding bareback. You can really hug on to the horse.
AM: You have a connection to animals in general don’t you?
TR: I love animals. I’m an animal freak. I’d have ten dogs if it wasn’t for my boyfriend who only wants two.
AM: Are you into all animals or dogs in particular?
TR: I love all animals. I love cats but I don’t want any here because we have a million lizards. I used to have parrots but one of them was eaten by a hawk and the other one died, but I LOVE parrots.
AM: Did you enjoy working that physically in the films?
TR: Yes, very much. I really loved working with the animals.
AM: After ‘Sheena’ you got a dream role.
TR: Yes, the Bond movie.
AM: Did you enjoy that experience as much?
TR: It was great! We had a lot of fun. Roger Moore was great. It was his last time in the role and we all knew it. We shot outside of Paris, outside of London and in London in a big studio.
AM: How long did it take to film?
TR: Six months.
AM: Did any other movie take that long to film?
TR: ‘Sheena’ took almost that long and I lived in Kenya.
AM: Did you feel out of place in Africa?
TR: It was phenomenal. I loved it.
AM: Are you still so physical?
TR: I hike every day up and down steep hills.
AM: So you are conditioned.
TR: Yes, I’m in good shape.
AM: Would you be interested in working that physically now?
TR: Yes, I could still do something very physical, but they would never hire someone my age to do anything like that.
AM: Probably not, even though I can’t tell your age.
TR: Thank you.
AM: What kind of project would you like to go back to work with?
TR: The best I ever did was working in comedy. “That 70‘s Show’ was my favorite. That’s what I always wanted to do. I worked more in comedy before ‘Charlie’s Angels.’ That’s what I mean by being pigeon holed. They would not even send me out for comedies after 'Charlie’s Angels.’
AM: So how did you get ‘The 70‘s Show?’
TR: I did a comedic film called ‘Almost Pregnant’ and the producers saw it and said she’d be great for Midge. So they brought me in and cast me in the part.
AM: Then you were forced to leave the show for personal reasons right?
TR: I left for a few reasons but mostly it was because of my husband’s illness.
AM: That must have been a very rough period for you.
TR: Very rough. For five years he was paralyzed. I took care of him in and out of hospitals and home. It was terrible.
AM: So you were basically a nurse.
TR: I was a nurse watching my soul mate go right down the tubes.
AM: Have you healed from this yet?
TR: You know, I guess I have, but I am still a little crazy from it I think.
AM: Do you think there is more than one soul mate for everyone?
TR: I’m with my boyfriend Lance now and we are very close. It’s different of course as it would be with any new person. We have a good, strong relationship.
AM: Would you ever do a reality show?
TR: About what...is what I’m wondering. I might do one if something right came along.
AM: Would it be intrusive for you?
TR: It probably would be, but the money would have to be right and not too intrusive.
AM: Do you do a lot of auditioning?
TR: No I don’t. I just got a manager and signed up with an agent again after a few years. I haven’t auditioned at all since my husband passed away in 2006. I didn’t go up for anything. I don’t know why. I was just out of my mind.
AM: You needed a break, but now you’re ready, obviously since you’re getting everything going again. We’re going to see you right away in something I’m certain.
TR: Let’s hope so.
AM: So what is your ideal job now?
TR: I want to do another sitcom. I love the hours. I love working in front of a live audience. It’s like being on stage. My agents know it’s what I want. So that’s what we are going for.
AM: Do you have more men fans than women?
TR: When I do signings I have a lot of women but I guess more men. “Sheena,’ ‘Beastmaster’ and Playboy helped that.
AM: Were you a natural at taking your clothes off in movies and photos?
TR: I wasn’t shown fully naked in any movie but my top was off in ‘Beastmaster.’ But posing with the animals for Playboy, no I was very nervous and had to have a few drinks. I was very uptight. I’m a little more modest.
To learn more about Tanya Roberts visit her web site http://www.tanyaroberts.biz/