Statuesque Australian actress and model Peta Wilson charmed countless TV viewers as a sultry spy in the hit TV series "La Femme Nikita" (USA, 1997-2001), which earned her a cult following around the globe. Following the show's departure, she kept a relatively low profile on the small screen and in film, though her appearances in films like "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (2003) and "Superman Returns" (2006) were memorable, thanks in no small part to her sultry presence.
Born Peta Gia Wilson in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on Nov. 18, 1970, Wilson's father was a military man, and moved the family on numerous occasions to far-flung points of the globe, including a stint in Papua, New Guinea. It was there that Wilson developed her initial interest in performing, though at the time it was merely for entertainment's sake, as there was no television or radio in their living quarters. Wilson was educated at an all-girls school in Brisbane, Australia, and favored sports, though her mother encouraged her to take a few etiquette classes to balance out her schooling. The latter proved to be a fortuitous move for Wilson, as a modeling agent recruited her during one of those classes. Shortly thereafter, Wilson enjoyed several years of success as a runway and print model, traveling extensively throughout Europe and Australia.
In 1991, Wilson decided to pursue acting, choosing to relocate to Los Angeles to study under the noted teacher Arthur Mendoza, principal acting teacher at the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting West. By 1995, she was landing supporting roles in independent features like the gritty crime drama "Loser" (1995). She also foreshadowed her own TV stardom with a 1996 guest shot on "Highlander" (syndicated, 1992-98), another TV series based on a cult movie.
Wilson was ready to depart for New York to continue her acting studies when her agent convinced her to audition for the lead role in a new action program based on Luc Besson's popular French action-drama, "La Femme Nikita" (1991). Wilson landed the role, and was soon launched into the pop culture stratosphere, thanks to the show's overwhelmingly positive reception with American audiences. "Nikita" was the top-rated program on American basic cable for its first two seasons, and though critics could claim that the key to the show's success was its complex story structure - which had trained assassin Nikita fighting both enemy forces and nefarious elements within her own agency - the fans clearly saw Wilson's physical beauty, athleticism, and soulful acting as the key to its appeal. For her turn as Nikita, Wilson was twice nominated for a Gemini Award (in 1998 and 1999), as well as for a Saturn Award in 1997.
Unfortunately, even Wilson could not keep "Nikita" afloat, when changes at USA shifted the network's attention to more lucrative programming like professional wrestling. The show was unceremoniously cancelled in 2000. A massive fan protest brought "Nikita" back for a truncated season of eight episodes, but Wilson, who had relocated to New York in 1999 with her boyfriend, director Damian Harris, was already planning her next career moves.
The 2000 film "Mercy," directed by Harris, should have propelled Wilson into the movie major leagues. A steamy erotic thriller with Ellen Barkin as a homicide detective whose investigation into a string of brutal murders brings her in contact with a kinky lesbian domme (Wilson), simply suffered from poor distribution. Wilson fared better on television in projects like Showtime's "A Girl Thing" (2001), in which she played a patient who is taken hostage with her psychiatrist by an unbalanced woman (Camryn Manheim), and "Joe and Max" (2002), a TV-movie about the rivalry (and friendship) between legendary boxers Joe Louis and Max Schmelling. That same year, Wilson gave birth to a son, Marlowe.
In 2003, Wilson returned to theatrical features as Mina Harker, vampire huntress - a role originally slated for Monica Bellucci - in the big-screen adaptation of Alan Moore's cult graphic novel "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Despite the presence of Sean Connery and some eye-popping special effects, the film failed to score at the box office and ignite Wilson's career. The following year, Wilson appeared nude in a layout for Playboy, claiming in news reports that she had agreed to the photo shoot as a means of showing her great-grandchildren how good she had looked in her youth.
Wilson made sporadic appearances on television during the next few years. She played a woman who sought revenge on the con man whose scheme lead to her husband's death in the 2004 TV-movie "False Pretenses," and made appearances on the short-lived TV series "Jonny Zero" (WB, 2005) and in an episode of the Australian TV suspense anthology, "Too Twisted" (2005). Action and adventure fans were pleased to see her turn up for a small role as a NASA spokesperson in Bryan Singer's big-screen retelling, "Superman Returns" in 2006. Wilson and her husband teamed up again in 2007 for the drama-thriller "Gardens of the Night," about the perils of foster care. None of the projects brought her the buzz of her "Nikita," days, but Wilson seemed content as a working actress with a life centered around her family.