A glamorous sci-fi icon, Jane Badler went from Miss New Hampshire to a splashy role as a murderous musician on "One Life to Live" (ABC, 1968- ). Her breakthrough came as the villainous alien Diana in...
A glamorous sci-fi icon, Jane Badler went from Miss New Hampshire to a splashy role as a murderous musician on "One Life to Live" (ABC, 1968- ). Her breakthrough came as the villainous alien Diana in the influential "V" miniseries and series franchise (1983; 1984; 1984-85). Glamorous, charismatic and relishing every guinea pig-eating moment of her role, Badler became a sci-fi legend. Although she became a fixture on 1980s TV with roles on "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990) and "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996), her career languished in a series of lower-profile genre projects like "The Highwayman" (NBC, 1987-88) and "Mission: Impossible" (ABC, 1988-1990). Falling in love with an Aussie businessman, Badler moved Down Under, resuming her singing career with indie albums and a cabaret act, as well as essaying another "super-bitch" on the soap "Neighbours" (Seven Network, 1985; Network Ten, 1986-2010; Eleven, 2011- ). To the delight of fans, Badler returned as the indomitable Diana on the reimagined "V" (ABC, 2009- ) almost 30 years later. An enduring cult favorite, Badler's career was a testament to the staying power an actor could achieve if they hit upon the right role.
Born Dec. 31, 1953 in Brooklyn, NY, Jane Badler was always interested in performing and grew up playing flute, guitar and piano. She began singing when she was seven, and after her family moved to Manchester, NH, she began singing professionally in clubs throughout the state. Badler won the Miss New Hampshire pageant and competed in the 1972 Miss America Pageant. Although she did not win, she attended Northwestern University to study drama and continued to sing professionally on the weekends in Chicago. After graduation, Badler moved to New York City to pursue acting but still found time to sing, with a noteworthy vocal performance at the famous Playboy Club in Manhattan. Her tireless approach to auditions and a flurry of high-profile TV commercials - including for American Airlines, her first job - helped Badler break into acting, and she soon won the role of Melinda Cramer Janssen on "One Life to Live" (ABC, 1968- ) in 1977. The role encapsulated Badler's unique talents and presence as she portrayed a gorgeous musical prodigy who became deliciously unhinged and committed such evil acts as attempted murder.
With such a splashy calling card, Badler quickly racked up credits on "Fantasy Island" (ABC, 1978-1984) as well as "The Doctors" (NBC, 1963-1982), where she memorably kidnapped Alec Baldwin's baby. After leaving "One Life to Live" in 1981, Badler briefly returned to the soap in 1983, but her stay was short-lived as she accepted the juiciest role of her career: the glamorous but wicked alien Diana in the 1983 NBC miniseries, "V." A sophisticated Nazi allegory in sci-fi trappings, the miniseries told the story of a mankind's first contact with a mysterious group of aliens known as "The Visitors," who claim to come in peace but quickly conquer the earth, leaving a handful of dissidents to rebel. Sporting then-cutting-edge special effects, a delightfully creepy vibe and a charismatic cast, the miniseries was a massive success, and at the epicenter of the "V"-quake was Badler herself.
Gorgeous, brilliant and sadistic beyond measure, Diana was the second-in-command of the alien race and constantly scheming to seize power for herself. The face of the franchise and its most popular character by far, Badler also filmed one of the most iconic, shocking scenes of 1980s television, vividly recalled by fans years after the fact, when the beautiful Diana revealed her grotesque side by graphically snacking on a guinea pig. The runaway success of the original miniseries led to Badler reprising her role in the lower-quality sequel miniseries, "V: The Final Battle" (NBC, 1984) as well as on "V: The Series" (NBC, 1984-85). While the critical and commercial love for "The Visitors" was ultimately short-lived, Badler retained her status as a cult icon and the most memorable aspect of a franchise full of them.
She followed up her masterfully malevolent turn by playing the ultra-virtuous Meredith Braxton on "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990) and with a slew of high-profile guest spots, including on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996) and "Hotel" (ABC, 1983-88). Badler returned to genre work as Tania Winthrop, the boss of the mysterious agent known as "The Highwayman" (NBC, 1987-88). Although the action show was short-lived, it achieved a modicum of fame with fans around the world, and Badler's unique allure added just the right mystique to the project. The American actress moved to Australia to join the cast of the revived "Mission: Impossible" (ABC, 1988-1990) for its final season as agent Shannon Reed, who coincidentally had a talent for singing. After the show ended, Badler decided to stay Down Under, and married Aussie businessman Stephen Haines.
Badler and Haines began a family, but while her professional output slowed, she never completely retired from performing. She essayed the classic board game character "Mrs. Peacock" in the interactive Australian game show "Cluedo" (Nine Network, 1992-93) based on the Parker Bros.' beloved detective property and guest-starred in "Snowy River: The McGregor Saga" (Nine Network, 1993-96). Enjoying the life of a wealthy society woman after her marriage, Badler focused on her charitable works, raising her sons and taking the occasional role in lower-profile genre projects. She began singing professionally again with cabaret, club and stage appearances in Australia, including the one-woman show "The Love Goddess: Rita Hayworth." Collaborating with an indie band called Sir, she released her debut solo album in 2008, The Devil Has My Double, a character piece exploring the mind of a rich, isolated society woman whose sexual obsessions destroy her.
While attempting to get her music played on Australian TV shows, Badler crossed paths with one of the executives behind the massively successful soap "Neighbours" (Seven Network, 1985; Network Ten, 1986-2010; Eleven, 2011- ). After a successful but grueling audition, Badler signed on for a four-month stint as the powerful super-vixen Diana Marshall - the name, of course, being an homage to her most famous role. Critics and fans loved Badler's turn, which helped revitalize public interest in the show. Her international profile having raised accordingly, Badler released her second album, Tears Again, which channeled the emotional ups and downs of a soap opera star. The rebirth of "V" (ABC, 2009- ) renewed interest in Badler even though she was not a part of the original project. After a lackluster first season, producers bowed to the overwhelming outcry of fans and critics and cast the sci-fi legend as Diana, the imprisoned mother of the alien queen Anna and former ruler of her people.