Jane Badler is the definition of cool. A seasoned actress with undeniable prowess, she’s brought strong female characters to the screen long before it was buzzworthy. Trained at Northwestern University, she cut her teeth as a young actress on the TV soap opera “One Life to Live” (1968), where she played Melinda Cramer Janssen until 1981, returning briefly to reprise the role in 1983. However, it wasn’t until she landed the role as Diana, the evil reptilian Visitor leader Diana in the NBC mini-series “V” (1983) and its sequel “V: The Final Battle” (1984) that she became a driving force in a pop culture phenomenon. The sci-fi franchise took the world by storm and launched her to superstardom as she was quickly one of the most recognizable faces in television. Her journey would ultimately take her away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to forge a new life in Australia with her loving husband and two spirited sons. Where one chapter ends, another begins. Fortunately for us Jane Badler is focused on the future and the best is yet to come! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this force of nature for a revealing interview to discuss her unique career path, passion for the arts and, most importantly, everything she has in store for her fans in the realms of both acting and music!
You built an eclectic career for yourself. How did you get involved with the arts?
Like a lot of people in the arts, I started very young. I was always drawn to it. I was drawn to dance and music. I played the flute, the guitar and I sang, in addition to being in theater. For me, I think it was a fantastic way to express myself! I grew up in the ‘60s and things were a little bit different then! My parents were divorced, and it was a slightly dysfunctional home, so through acting and all of the things I did, I had a sense of purpose and self-esteem. I was able to create other worlds, which was a wonderful thing for me as a young person!
Who had a big impact on you?
You know, when I was young, I loved Elizabeth Taylor. I thought she was incredible! She was so beautiful and glamorous, and I do love glamour, I have to say! I also really love Barbra Streisand. I sang all of her songs and I thought she was an amazing singer. I also loved that she looked so different and was a big star. These were my tastes as a young person. I also loved James Taylor, the Beatles and Carole King. I sang all of their songs too! Those were a lot of my influences musically. It’s a funny thing, people ask, “Who are your influences?” I think the best answer is anyone who does what they do at a very high level. That always inspires me! It doesn’t even have to be someone who is known! I can go to the theater and see a miraculous play, I’m in awe of the director and I have to go and speak with him! I think I’m just inspired by great work and people who do things slightly different and slightly left-of-center. Then, I try to find my own way in all of it and have my own voice!
You made a name for yourself early on as an actor. What drew you to the craft professionally and did you have reservations about taking the plunge?
Yeah, I think I did. My mother was a little nervous for me. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in me. However, even though I had been accepted into one of the great theater universities, Northwestern, which is very difficult, she wanted me to do a double major. She just wanted me to have something to fall back on, you know. To me, that’s a funny concept because when you say, “something to fall back on,” there is already a part of your brain that starts getting doubt. You might start thinking, “Maybe I’m not good enough.” She felt like I always needed something to fall back on and that is what I did. I studied drama and when I graduated, my mom was in New Hampshire, and I said, “I’m going to New York!” She was so frightened for me! She just said, “Really?” I was 21 at the time. I didn’t know anyone in New York, I didn’t have an agent and I didn’t have a lot of money. I think she was very frightened for me, but I just had this determination because that’s what it takes, ya know!
Well, it certainly worked out in the long-run!
[laughs] Yeah! In those days you could go around and knock on the doors of agents, which is what I did! I don’t think you can do that now. I don’t think anyone would open the door for you if you did that now! [laughs] But then you could, and I got an agent! I did lots and lots of commercials and I got my first soap opera when I hadn’t even been there a year! I was really lucky!
You cut your teeth as a young actor on the soap opera “One Life To Live.” From what I heard, that’s a different animal compared to other types of shows. What did you take away from your time there?
Soap operas are very unique! They are very, very fast paced and you do a show a day. That’s an hour show a day, which is crazy! You have rehearsal, you block it, you do a run and then you tape it. It’s very high pressure and sometimes you have to learn 30 pages in a day. What an incredible learning experience for a young actress! You get very quick! There are good things and bad things about that. Because you have to work so quickly, you don’t have time to delve very deeply and you have to be a master at coming up with emotions. As you know, on soap operas, you’re either crying or angry. It’s extreme emotion! In a way, I think you learn how to master those emotions very quickly, learn lines quickly and come up with the goods quickly. That’s very positive for any young actor!
Building on that, when did you come into your own as an actor?
I love your questions! I think it was a different time then. That was the day of the soap opera — nighttime and daytime. We had everything from “Dynasty” to “Falcon Crest.” The acting style was very different in the ‘80s. If you look at the style, people tended to overact a little bit more. The more mumbling, naturalist acting came a little bit later. Although I had studied, I don’t feel I really came into my own until I moved to Australia, which sounds very strange. Even though I am very proud of “V” and “Mission: Impossible,” I’m even more proud of a lot of the theater I have done here and the depth that I now bring to roles as a mature person.
You mentioned your role on “V.” That is an awesome piece of your resume. The show was one of the biggest phenomena of the ‘80s. How did you get involved with the project and did you know it would skyrocket the way it did?
It’s interesting, there was no internet at the time of the series and for probably about 10 years after. I knew it was popular because I was on all the talk shows from “Johnny Carson” to “David Letterman” and I was on the cover of “People” magazine. I knew it was a big hit but after the two mini-series and then the series didn’t go anywhere, I kind of figured that was the end of it. It was like any other actor; out there trying to get another job. I moved to Australia and it wasn’t until 10 or 15 years ago that I started suddenly realizing how many fans I had! It was incredible! It was a constant stream of people contacting me and it quite blows my mind! Let’s face it, that was a long time ago!
It was a captivating role. What did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the original written page?
I was in a very vulnerable point in my life at that time. I had lost my father; my mom was a single mother and I was in my 20s. Like a lot of people, I had to make it or break it. It was up to me. I didn’t have any type of cushioning, which most of us don’t! I think I had a sense of determination and I brought all of that to the role of Diana. She is a character who is incredibly determined and incredibly driven yet, even though I was a hard-ass evil bitch, underneath it there was a sense of vulnerability. That was something I had in myself. I didn’t even need to act it; it was just there in me. Maybe that is why people like the role because there were a few dimensions going on.
How did being a part of the phenomenon impact you and what did you take away from the experience?
First of all, the opportunities it has given me are extraordinary. No matter how good I am, the fact that I moved away to Australia at the peak of my career was a hindrance to my career. It was not a hindrance to my personal life and happiness, but it was a hindrance to a career that was doing well. In order to return to Los Angeles, when most actors have stayed and pounded the pavement, no matter how good I think I am, if I didn’t have that amazing iconic stature, it would be much more difficult for me. So, I think having been a part of something like that has given me wonderful opportunities.
What goes into bringing a new character to life?
When I was younger, and I don’t think this is true at all of younger actors now, I would wing it a lot more. Even with all my training, I didn’t work so hard on it like the way I do now. Now, no matter what the role is, it takes a lot out of me. Recently, I did a comedy in Spain and another film, “2047: Virtual Revolution.” It’s not just about learning the lines but creating a whole backstory about the character because often the films I do are not very high budget. That means there isn’t a lot of rehearsal time and it’s filmed very quickly. I have to have really made a lot of choices and done a lot of work before I arrive on set, which I do! Sometimes I get a coach to work with me. I take it really seriously! I learn all my lines before I set foot at rehearsal. It’s a lot of work if you want to look good on the screen!
You mentioned “2047: Virtual Revolution,” which is the film that brought us together today. How did the project come onto your radar and what drew you to it?
Like many of the projects I do, people contact me through social media. For example, I just got asked to sing on someone’s really cool album yesterday! I’m always having people contact me about new projects, which is so awesome. This particular role started when the director, Guy-Roger Duvert, reached to me. We have a mutual friend who I had done a short film with in Paris. He saw me in that short film and thought, “I’d really love to have her in my feature.” He contacted me and sent the script. I read it and said, “Whoa! This is so cool! What a cool premise!” It centers around how most people in 2047 spend all of their time online and it’s become a huge addiction. In the meantime, the real world is falling apart because everyone is online and now all the problems from the real world are now online. I thought it was such a cool concept. It was not a role that was far from anything I had ever done, and it was a role very within my scope to do, which is a kickass woman who is the head of a corporation that is fighting terrorism inside virtual worlds. It was a great role and I was so excited to be asked to do it. I loved working with Guy, who is a gentle, talented director. He is Parisian, and it filmed in Paris. Hello! You can’t say no to Paris, right? [laughs] It’s been a great experience. The film has won a lot of awards and now it’s out on DVD, so it’s been a fantastic thing and I hope he continues to do films.
What do you look for in the roles these days?
I have recently signed with management in New York, which is a very big step for me. It means that I am looking to commit to spending some time in The United States and auditioning again. They are very good managers who handle a lot of very well-known people, so I’m sure they can start to get me in the door again. When I think about what I like to do now, I still love the sci-fi and horror genre, I do! I love acting in those things because I love bigger than life characters. I love fantasy characters and I probably always will! I would also love to play a strong woman on a TV show, something like the Ambassador to the U.N. or an FBI agent. There is so much of that now on television and there is a lot more opportunity for older women as well!
What brought about the decision to transition back to working in the United States?
First of all, both of my children live in America. My eldest son is in technology and is getting a masters at the Tisch School. He lives in New York. The other one is an actor/musician in Los Angeles. I love my kids so much and they are still in their mid-twenties, so that is one very big reason why I want to spend more time in America!
That is cool to hear. What a great reason to be bi-coastal!
Yeah, I know! How good is that! [laughs] I want to be near them! My husband is now in a position where he can take some time and be with me as well, so that’s even better! I feel like it’s my time! I’ve spent a lot of years with my children and being here in Australia, which I love! My husband is an Australian but I’m also an American and the opportunities for me are not here, they are there. I feel like I have to go and give it a last little shot, if you know what I mean!
I do! You are a seasoned professional, so any production would be lucky to have you aboard!
Well, thank you! I feel like that. Every time I get on set, I feel like a skier who has been doing it their whole life. I get on the set and I’m like, “Yup! I get this!” I get this, and I always have a million ideas. I absolutely love it! I know that I can do it, I just need to get in the ring again!
There is also a wonderful musical side of your career. Tell us about that side of your creative life.
You know, I’m a singer. When people ask me, “What are your influences,” that’s a complicated answer. I am more of the muse for other people. People come to me to sing their songs and I am an interpreter. I take a song and make it my own and that’s what I love doing the most! I started singing at 5 years old in little talent contests. Then I did little musicals and sang in the Miss America Pageant before forming bands. When I got to New York, I didn’t sing a lot because I realized I had no original music and being in a cover band was not the answer for me. Fast forward and now I’ve released three albums of all original music. The first one was done on the smell of an oily rag with a little indie band, which is very cool, hip and indie. The next one was jazz fusion and a friend wrote most of the songs and I wrote one song. I love the song I wrote, “Nursery Rhymes,” which I think is a beautiful song. I worked with the most extraordinary jazz pianist/composer, who produced it. The third album I wrote with two other musicians. That one is called “Opus” and I worked with an extraordinary L.A. producer to bring it to life. Now, I’m about to go back into the studio again to do a disco again, which will be all fun dance music. I am working with an amazing producer called Parralox. It’s been really cool and I’m doing it through a little record in the UK called Energise. Like I’ve said, it’s so great that these little opportunities come up for me!
There is great stuff to dig into for sure. What are your key tracks for those just discovering your body of work?
Yeah! I’ve got some music videos that I couldn’t be more proud of! The very first music video I did is called “Four Corners To My Bed.” What a cool title, right? You can imagine that it conjures up all sorts of sexual things, which is exactly what it’s about it! It’s about the deviations in people’s sexual appetites. It’s a very jazzy, loungey song. I shot the video in Canada and I’m super proud of that one! Later on, on my third album, I did a song called “Losing You,” which I wrote. That is my favorite music video of all. I worked with a guy in LA who is magic when it comes to post-production and he created entire worlds! Each room I walk into is a whole new world. The song is all about states of mind. I also re-did one of Kylie Minogue’s biggest dance songs, “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.” Originally, it’s a poppy song, which I turned into a much darker song. There is a music video for that one as well. Those are three that stand out to me. I have a bunch of videos and my son is in quite a few of them! He was in one of my first one’s called “I Want A Lot of Boys To Cry At My Funeral.” What a title, huh? I think it says it all right there, right? [laughs] He was in that one and in “Losing You” as well. He’s been in quite a few of them, so that has been fun!
It sounds like your passion for music is at an all-time high! Do you have plans for live performances in the near future?
It’s so interesting, I stopped singing for two years and now that I’ve discovered this disco music, which I’m really excited about, I’m definitely starting to think about performing again! I feel like there is so much I can do with this as far as performance and the way I dress. I recently united with the most extraordinary stylist, whom I would trust to dress me. I’m really thinking now about performing this stuff. I will definitely perform in the UK, where the label is and see how it goes. It’s a very slow process when it comes to breaking in new material and coming up with show ideas.
Looking back on your career, how have you evolved as an artist?
I think, in a funny way, I’ve become more compassionate and more curious about not only my own place in the art form but in the whole picture. I produced a film a couple of years ago called “Daisy Winters.” It’s about to be released in America on DVD and streaming. That project taught me so much and that everything is not about me. I could see the whole picture of the film and how every part was equally important. I am taking that with me now in everything I do. I have a true appreciation for everyone who collaborates with me and makes the product what it is, whether it’s a pianist, the person doing the clothes, the background singer or what have you. Each piece is equally important in making a great product! I’ve always had attention to detail and it’s very important to me. I find it really strange when artists haven’t really put attention into their appearance and how they look. To me, that is as important to me as my music; the image that I put forth. Getting a very good team together is so very important. It also becomes harder as you get older because you get even more into the detail of it! It becomes even more important that everything is at a certain level. I think that is more what I’m into now!
What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
I know it sounds cliché but be very true to yourself and your vision. Always trust that! Trust that your vision and whatever you want to do is enough. You don’t have to think there has to be more. Also, never give up! If you believe in something, keep pushing forward. Keep persevering. There will be a lot of rejection along the way and there will be a lot of hard times but if you are passionate about something and you believe in it, you will have to strength to keep going!
That’s amazing advice! Thank you for your time today, Jane! With all the new things on the horizon, I’m sure we will chat soon! Best of luck to you!
Fantastic! I loved it! I look forward to talking to you soon! Take care!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.