Wednesday 29th April 2009 Northern Echo
By Steve Pratt
Lindsay Wagner was one of TV's most popular actresses as the Bionic Woman, but was more interested in opening the minds of viewers than defeating the bad guys. She tells Steve Pratt how she's continuing her work running holistic workshops in Cleveland.
As Jaime Sommers, alias the Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner starred in one of the most popular TV series of the Seventies. Viewers may have thought they were watching just another TV show in which someone with super powers beat the bad guys.
But for the leading lady, the stories meant so much more, as she saw the series as a way of getting across a message of self-help and discovering your full potential.
“I felt I was serving the public in my own way,” she says, as she prepares to bring her holistic workshops to Cleveland.
“If a story is constructed properly people can go out of their life and into something else for a little while. They can experience a higher part of themselves and gain something.”
Her agent, she recalls, was always telling her, ‘don't say that when we go into the meeting – just talk about the story and about the exciting parts'. You can see why. What she preaches needs to be experienced, rather than explained.
But Wagner was adamant. “I was very clear with my producers and writers when I was doing Bionic Woman that it was very important to me and every time they would say I couldn't do the story that way,” she continues.
I imagine it was a constant struggle to meet her needs that the stories should have a hidden meaning. Yet she holds no grudge against the makers, fully understanding their difficult position.
“They weren't categorically opposed to it at all,” she says.
“It was more the pressure put on them with the time constraints of doing a weekly series.
I was asking them to dig deeper in the mind and souls to grow and envision how to release their story. It wasn't easy for them.”
When we speak, she's in a car on her way to Cleveland to run holistic workshops for carers for the second year running. For the first time, she's also holding sessions open to the public.
Driving her is Karen Stowe, the Redcar mother who became European co-ordinator for the actress's "Quiet The Mind and Open The Heart" workshops after she met and was helped by Wagner. Her daughter has special needs and she credits the actress's programme for helping her cope with her difficulties.
While most assume that Wagner's “social” work came after her acting career, it was actually the other way round. She began studying healing methods and spiritual paths from the age of 20. Being a child of the Sixties, she says that investigating mind, body and spirit was more prevalent in the culture.
Before acting, she wanted to be a psychologist.
She went to college briefly, but found it was too difficult to make it through the system.
She discovered later she suffered from dyslexia.
“At that time there wasn't really any help for people. Today, they know a lot about it and let people learn in their own fashion and in their own time,” she says.
She worked as a model before small roles on TV led to being cast as Jaime Sommers, the childhood sweetheart of Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin. Although she died in the episode, the character was such a hit that she was resurrected as the Bionic Woman. The role earned Wagner an Emmy award.
“I see my career as a way of communicating through stories and understanding our human potential and, hopefully, transcending your circumstances,” she says.
“It's easy to say that sentence, but you might not have the proper understanding of it or any experience about what you can do, even if you believe that's true. The reconditioning allows you to do that. That's what we do in the workshops.
It's all come through my own personal healing journey.
I found things that would help me more than other techniques or classical psychology.
I'd come across these things and think, ‘why are people not using these all the time in addition to accepted mainstream psychology?'.
As I come across other techniques I find extremely beneficial for myself and think they would be for others too, I weave them into the programmes I do.”
Her approach to achieve peace of mind, better relationships, health, peak performance and creativity means looking at them from a more holistic point of view.
Even before her workshops, she worked with support groups for convicted batterers and their families and another organisation trying to help stop the cycle of family violence.
“We all go through times of stress, but we don't have the understanding we can do something about it. People go through life thinking they can tolerate it. I was of the belief that we can do something about it,” she says.
Word of mouth from people she'd helped led to increased demand for her workshops and retreats.
“A generation that grew up on my show and developed a positive response to me are now the people whose ears prick up when they hear I'm doing something. I've had people come who wouldn't ordinarily go to something like this, but because of the things I've done they've developed trust in things I'm doing now.”
She hasn't retired from acting but picks and chooses her projects carefully. “I'll do it if a film catches my eye and I feel it's exciting to me, which means helpful to others,” she says.
But these days you'll have a better chance seeing her at holistic workshops, than taking on the bad guys on the small screen.
"Quiet The Mind and Open The Heart" workshops are being held in Saltburn on Saturday and Sunday, and on May 16-17.
Further information from lindsaywagnerinternational.com