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conducted 2nd April, 2004

I was lucky enough to have the chance to speak with Francine York about her guest-starring stint on the second season of Jason of Star Command and what she was up to before and after that time.

Before acting, you did a bit of modeling. What was that like?

FY: Well, modeling was a stepping stone to what I'm doing now. It was fun: I like to show off and wear clothes and be photographed and posing. I always did ever since I was a child. I had a career in San Francisco when I started off. I still do some runway stuff every now and then, but it was a stepping stone, let's put it that way. I always had acting in the back of my mind, though.


What do you consider your "big break" into acting?

FY: Well, I think Jerry Lewis gave me the break in "It's Only Money", which started six movies with Jerry. There are so many things. The first picture I did, "Secret File Hollywood" was the first time I'd ever been in front of a camera.

What do you remember most about your time on Jason of Star Command?

Well, my main remembrance is it was 116 degrees, and when I had to wear that "helmet" it was so terribly hot that the wardrobe gal used to laugh, 'cause every time I would take it off (during the lunch break or something) I would go ohhh! (a loud sigh of relief). I mean it was just so terrible. It looked great, though!

That little girl (who played Mimi), by the way, was awful. We had a lot of trouble with her. I thought she was cute, but we tried to get her to really get some personality going. She was having a ton of trouble with the little doll.

Sid Haig was great! He and I worked along beautifully ! I liked Tamara Dobson, too, she was very nice. I don't know what happened to her. She was really complimentary.

I ran into Craig (Littler) again later in life on a commerical and I commented to him about [the show] and he just dismissed it. Maybe he was just in a different "zone" or something. I was all "Oh my God, is it really you?" I [get] all excited when I see somebody I used to work with and he was all [blasé] about it. He has all-white hair now, you'd hardly know him. Distinguished-looking, [but he doesn't look] the same. I, myself, look the same (hearty laugh).

Anyway, [I did] a terrible thing that's so embarrassing when I think about it. It was my birthday, so they get this enormous cake and put all sort of space things on it, and I took it home! I was so young and stupid I didn't realize it was supposed to be for the crew and everybody else, too! When I think about it, I just want to go apologize to everybody. I was pretty nieve.

The casting director was gay and he said to me "you think you can play the queen?" and I looked at him and said, "I am the queen." As a child, I used to always play the queen and all my girlfriends were my slaves and that was just my thing! [By the time Jason came around], I'd already done some space things (her guest-starring turn in Lost in Space as Queen Niolani a memorable example) so I had great experience with headdresses and things like that.


Well, I guess you have to have a certain kind of attitude to truly make a role like that believable.

My favorite part of that was when I first come in, and you hear that music and [later] the way I snapped my head back and marched off into outer space, that type of entrance and exit was the entrance and exit of all times! I loved that role! The most marvelous part of it is I can still wear that outfit! I still have the same figure! I guess Julie Newmar wore it before me?


Yes, she played a similar character in the previous season, but there were some changes made to the costume before you got it.

I'd heard she'd turned it down and didn't want to do it [again], so I stepped right into it.

John Russell told me how to do a buyout (of my residuals), which was very smart. He was very nice, by the way. He was already getting kind of sick. He was a heavy smoker and he could hardly breathe. When you watch the show, he's got the really kind of throaty, nasal thing going on. I did a movie in Spain with him, too, with George Peppard, so I'd known John before. Of course, he hated that blue face, but I told him it looked really cute!

I'm happy that I got the residuals up-front. I don't know where it ran.

I loved playing that evil character! Nobody gets recognition playing the "good girl." You always get it being the "bad" girl.

Was working for the show, overall, a good experience?

FY: They were wonderful! It was really fun, except for the heat! It's the agony and the ecstasy! The ecstasy was playing the part and the agony was the costume!


There were certain modifications to the costume after Julie had worn it. Did you have any imput into the costume?

FY: I went to the wardrobe fitting and I think they had to refit everything. The had to make the headpiece to fit my head, they took my measurement and except for the leotard, I think everything [else] was remade.

I remember that there were two different things I tried on, if I remember right. One was big and one was smaller and then they asked me if I liked the purple or something, and I said "I love it." Then they decided to put a crown on the headpiece [and] I had to try several crowns on. I loved the scepter! I should've kept it! I loved zapping everything! It was so me!

The three episodes you did were parts of two separate story arcs. When you shot them, did they decide "hey, let's bring her back" or was it already planned?

FY: It was scheduled all along, there were no "ifs" or "buts." The compliments were flowing: everybody was just raving about [my performance]. I have that manner and style - that kind of poise - to play that kind of role. You have to have a certain "carraige" to play somebody who is in control.

Also, you did some other cult series like Batman, Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel. Were they fun to work on?

FY: Oh, everybody wanted to do Batman! Roddy McDowall was asked on a documentary "what was the most fun thing about the show" and he said, "working with my partner, Francine York." That was very nice! It was just fun, being on the top show that ever star was on, and I was the only girl on [those episodes], you know? All the other shows had four or five. I was the girl! That and Lost in Space I [get recognized for] a lot. Of course, pictures from Bewitched where I played Venus De Milo sell very well, too.


Any other roles stand out as favorites?

FY: At Universal , I did a thing called "I Love a Mystery," and I had one line. The producer (Leslie Stevens) thought I was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen and put me on two episodes of Ironside. He put me on a lot of his shows - I got on It Takes a Thief, and that set the ball rolling there, then I did Kojak, Columbo and all that stuff. Also, when I did "Bedtime Story," they were going to put me under contract. In that one, I played an Italian on a train. When I look at myself, I think, "was I that beautiful?" It was perfection. Universal was excited, they were going to put me under contract, then they became part of MCA. I'll never forgive Lew Wasserman for that! [Note: Wasserman got into trouble with anti-trust regulators when MCA bought Universal, because MCA's acting agency was representing performers as their agent while their own production company, Universal, was hiring them, violating anti-trust laws. Source: International Movie Data Base].

I think my most "devilish" part that I really sunk my teeth into was Days of Our Lives as Lorraine Temple. That was a really bitchy, wonderful role. I wailed on that one!

I think, recently, working with Nicholas Cage and Brent Ratner was kind of nice. I didn't like "Vanilla Sky" very much. I ended up being cut out of it, but that's alright, I still got paid.

I think my most fun experience, and the one that changed my life most of all, was going to Spain and doing the picture with George Peppard called "Cannon for Cordoba" where I played a belly dancer. Being in Spain, the exotic role and [having] to speak Spanish, I learned Spanish history. I took advantage of being there and not only having a role and working with George.

I saw him a few months before he died at a restaurant. He was so happy to see me - it was a nice reunion - and he died six months later.


Your website mentioned you were a showgirl for awhile and that you had appeared in Playboy, though that was news to me.

FY: I never posed, [but] they asked me to do it, though. I turned Playboy down all the time. What actually happed was that movie I did with George Peppard had a love scene, so they took a clip out, I guess, and put it in there and they showed a breast. Big deal.


So they took it out of context.

FY: Yeah. They [also] did it with Lanie Kazan when she did the Yul Brynner picture, with Jessica Walter from "Play Misty for Me."

Do you think that either helped or hurt your career?

FY: I don't think that hurt, in fact, there's a very funny story about that. After I'd come back [from Spain], there was a big thing about "living in filth" and there was a seminar where Shelley Winters was on the panel. I was going with Clint Walker at that time, and Shelley says, "I absolutely never would dream of [doing on-screen nudity]! I think it's absolutely abominable that anybody would show their body in a movie! I think it's terrible, awful, but if I had your figure, my dear, I'd do it!" I'll never forget that one!

Today, it's so nothing, except for the Janet Jackson thing. All these people in the world could see a breast on television, isn't that terrible? With all the other things going on in the world, they had to make a big thing out of that!

I asked George, "by the way, why did you wear pants in our love scene?" and he joked, "to keep from turning you (Francine) off show business!"

You also did a pilot for Irwin Allen, called The Time Travellers what was that like, and did it even come close to becoming a series?

FY: Well, I tell you, the actors were a little stodgy, in my opinion. It was very slow before they got to the action. It came close to being sold. I think Irwin had a fight with Fred Silverman, who didn't even want me, [saying things like] "she's too tall" [and things like that], but Irwin went in and fought for me, because I'd done a lot of shows for Irwin. It was a nice experience, I liked it, but the two guys were just dull, as far as I'm concerned. It was very close [to going to series] and I think Irwin Allen told Fred Silverman to go "stick it." It could've been a big thing for me. The premise was very good, it could've gotten better.


Any final thoughts on Jason?

FY: Jason of Star Command will always have a special place. It makes me almost sad to look at [it] because you like to hearken back. As long as I keep working, though, it's okay, and I haven't stopped working, so that's always good.


Francine York, thank you very much!

Don't forget to visit Francine York's official website!

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