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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Angels '88

Back in 1988, I had been living in Atlanta for just over a year, when it was announced that one of the biggest talent hunts, since the Scarlett O’Hara search, was coming to town. The new Fox network and Aaron Spelling Productions were looking for actresses to star in a new version of Charlie’s Angels called Angels ’88.

Once they were chosen, the four actresses hit the media and I only knew two of the actresses. Karen Kopins had starred in the Jim Carrey movie Once Bitten and the dance film Fast Forward, directed by Sidney Poitier. Claire Yarlett had starred in the Dynasty spin-off The Colbys as Bliss. The other two were Sandra Canning, who had done one TV appearance, and Tea Leoni, who was the unknown chosen by the talent search.

There was a writer’s strike going on and the show kept getting postponed. They eventually renamed the show Angels ’89. Still nothing happened. The show eventually faded away. Karen Kopins went on to star on Dallas for a short story arc and guest appearances on other shows. Funnily enough, Tea became more well-known the others. She went on to star in Deep Impact, her own sitcom The Naked Truth, and also starred with Jim Carrey (in the remake Fun with Dick and Jane). Her personal life was also front page news when she married X-Files star David Duchovny. Sandra went to appear in daytime soaps and Claire continued acting in more TV projects.

I recently acquired the press releases from Fox Broadcasting Company and thought it would be fun to post, since it talks about the actresses, the characters they were going to portray and the premise of the show:

Aaron Spelling Productions and Fox Broadcasting Company introduce the new stars of Angels’88.

(Los Angeles) May 5—Culminating one of the most extensive talent searches ever conducted in which over 20,000 women were interviewed for these roles, Aaron Spelling Productions is proud to announce the four beautiful lead actresses in the new Fox Broadcasting Company series Angels ’88. The four actresses selected are Claire Yarlett as Connie Bates, Karen Kopins as Pam Ryan, Sandra Canning as Trisha Lawrence and introducing Tea Leoni, the actress discovered from the national talent search who will portray Bernie Colter.

It began on Thursday, March 3, in Los Angeles, CA—the first of 43 cities to hold an open call, with Aaron Spelling on hand to officially kick off the national talent search.

Casting directors from Aaron Spelling Productions conducted open calls in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Detroit, San Francisco, Dallas and Nashville, auditioning an average of 700 girls in each city.

In addition to the eleven-city search, 32 Fox affiliates conducted open calls sending a semi-finalist to one of the 11 regional cities to meet and audition for a Spelling casting director.

Finalists were chosen from each of the 11 cities and put on videotape. The tapes were immediately flown to Los Angeles and viewed by Spelling executives.

Fifteen actresses were chosen from the videotapes and flown to Los Angeles on March 29, for a screen test.

Simultaneous to the national talent search, Aaron Spelling Productions’ executives conducted the customary casting procedures, which included taking submissions from professional actresses.

After an exhaustive national talent search, Aaron Spelling Productions and Fox Broadcasting Company are proud to present these four new “Angels” and are looking forward to the series debut later this fall.

Claire Yarlett
(Connie Bates in Angels ’88)

Although she was born (February 15) in Los Angeles, Claire Yarlett is anything but the typical “California girl”. Because her parents are English she spent much of her early life in England, attending a Catholic convent 200 miles north of London.

“The convent maintained very strict and very high educational standards”, she says. “It was a great learning experience for me.”

At age 16, she returned to Los Angeles and began pursuing her acting career one year later.

The 5’9” beauty is a natural athlete: she owns two thoroughbred horses that she rides regularly, particularly at times she needs the comfort of solitude. Her equestrian pursuits are more than just relaxation, as she once trained for the U.S. Olympic riding team. Her other hobbies include tennis, swimming and snow skiing.

Claire is an avid collector of fine automobiles, owning a 1961 190 Mercedes SL, a 1960 S3 Silver Cloud Rolls Royce and an Astin Martin.

Traveling is another one of Claire’s passions. “Living in England is very much like living in the United States,” she says. “But, while you travel from state to state in this country, in England you travel from country to country just as easily.”

When she is not working Claire is studying her craft. “I feel very confident in my acting and have studied very hard. I am ready for this role.”

About her new role in Angels ’88, Claire says, “The only way I can describe the feeling is heavenly.”

Karen Kopins
(Pam Ryan in Angels ’88)

“When the producers saw me, I think they saw Pam,” says Karen Kopins of the character she plays in Angels ’88.

The character Pam and the actress Karen Kopins have many similarities, most notably, Karen says, the fact that “Pam wants to be a serious actress—that is exactly what I want too.”

Born (October 10) in New Rochelle, NY, Karen, however, grew up in various places around the northeastern United States. Her father’s business kept the family moving, so Karen learned to be flexible in dealing with changing situations in her early life.

In 1984, she decided to find a new challenge, even though it meant leaving friends and familiar surroundings behind. With her family’s full support and encouragement, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

“I had done a lot of modeling and commercials in New York, but acting auditions were few and far between,” Kopins says. “I couldn’t really find any quality acting jobs, so I moved to Los Angeles to concentrate on acting full time.”

Karen’s first love may be acting, but she is also a gourmet cook and an interior decorator—a creative person, just like her character, Pam. “I love to fix up my friends’ homes,” she says. “I don’t purchase new things, I just rearrange what they have to bring out that special something that is hidden there already.”

In keeping with the “Angels” athletic tradition, Karen enjoys scuba-diving, snorkeling, wind-surfing and snow skiing.

Naming Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis as her favorite actresses, the 5’8” brunette beauty aims for serious recognition herself. “I want to do Broadway plays and work with some of the great actors of our time,” Kopins says.

Despite this sudden success, Karen realizes that fame could be fleeting. “I know that it could all be gone tomorrow,” she muses. “I just hope I can give something back to help younger people while I am around.”

Sandra Canning
(Trisha Lawrence in Angels ’88)

“I suffer from coconut-head mentality,” says Virgin Islands native Sandra Canning, who plays Trisha Lawrence in Angels ’88.

Sandra’s unique self-characterization-implying naiveté-highlights what she perceives to be the difference between life on the islands and in the United States.

“On the islands, people say what they really mean, whereas in America, when people (particularly casting directors) say ‘Nice’, that really means ‘you didn’t get the job.’”

This time, however, Sandra got the job, prevailing over a field of 20,000 hopefuls in a nationwide talent search for the four lead roles in Angels ’88.

A native of St. Thomas, Sandra attended Charlotte Amalie High School on the island. But her beauty and drive quickly carried her out of the Caribbean and into the modeling capitals of Europe and the United States, prior to her landing the role of Trisha in Angels ’88.

If “coconut-head mentality” is Sandra’s synonym for naiveté, her modest tone belies this actress’ serious approach to her calling, not to mention her firm belief in hard work.

“I would like to see my character portray the most positive aspects of hard work,” says Canning. “I honest-to-God feel that getting this part made me really be my best critic in terms of getting 300 percent of my energy out of me.”

This dedicated approach also characterizes Sandra’s real-life feelings about acting. “I have such great respect and love for theatre and the whole art of acting,” she says. “I think that a really dedicated actress gets to the point where she and her craft are one.”

With the financial security that will certainly come from Angels ’88, Sandra has set a strict schedule for herself. “I want to be able to take six months off and do nothing but study acting—work, study, work, study, work, study. I love work.”

She also loves adventure. “My character, in Angels, skydives. I want to skydive.” And if the casting producers or directors feel a bit squeamish about such a notion, they will have to reckon with Sandra’s irrepressible drive.

“If someone says not to do something,” she affirms, “I’m going to do it just because I’ve got to know what’s going on.”

Tea Leoni
(Bernie Colter in Angels ’88)

While skeptics might have dismissed the Angels ’88 nationwide talent search as a media stunt, they will have to think again. The Boston open call brought out 1,000 hopefuls, but most notably, Tea (pronounced TAY-a) Leoni, who after deciding to try out on a whim, went on to win the part of Bernie Colter in Angels ’88.

“Because of the high visibility of the show, a lot of my friends encouraged me to at least take a shot at it,” says the 5’7” blonde beauty. “Seeing all those other girls didn’t really scare me, though.”

That confidence made an impression on Casting Director Barbara Remsen, who was also struck by Tea’s talent, all-American outdoor look and rambunctious spirit.

Although her grandmother called her “Sarah Bernhardt” when she was a little girl because of her tendency toward dramatic self-expression, Tea never actually dreamed of becoming an actress, but rather of racing cars.

Tea in turn now points to her grandmother, who was one of the founders of UNICEF as being a major influence on her life. Tea hopes to continue as a spokesperson for the organization and that her role in Angels ’88 might enhance the cause.

Born (February 15) and raised in New York, Tea attended the Brearly School, graduated from the Putney School in Vermont and spent two years at Sarah Lawrence College, where she majored in psychology.

She began modeling out of necessity while on a semester abroad program in Milan. Dwindling funds led her to have some pictures taken, from which she immediately got work. Since then, she looked for anything that would take her away from a 9-to-5 desk job. This drive, coupled with a love of the outdoors, have found her “scrubbing boats” in St. Croix and working as a ranch and in Wyoming. Her modeling has taken her to Japan for a four-month series of assignments, but most importantly, it affords her the chance to pursue her passions—wind surfing and automobiles.

How does she feel about being chosen as an Angel? “I’m thrilled to know that I don’t have to starve in the Village and date an off-the-wall painter,” she says. “I’m excited that a break came my way early!”

Angels ’88 set to debut on Fox Broadcasting Company
Aaron Spelling Productions series subject of nationwide talent search

(Los Angeles) May 5—Angels ’88, a new action-adventure series from Aaron Spelling Productions, is set to debut on the Fox Broadcasting Company. The hour series was cast, following the competition of one of the most exhaustive talent searches ever conducted, ranging over a period of three months in 11 cities.

Angels ’88 chronicles the adventures of four young actresses, whose detective series is cancelled after it is slotted against The Cosby Show. “In order to survive,” said Executive Producer Aaron Spelling, “they open their own detective agency, using their acting skills, and what they’ve learned from portraying detectives on their series. But now the guns don’t fire blanks and there are no stuntmen to help them. They are four beautiful fish out of the water!”

Unlike Charlie’s Angels, these women will not be working for anyone but themselves. Their agency will undergo many of the difficulties faced by new businesses, so the Angels will not only have problems solving cases, they’ll have problems finding cases.

Angels ’88 will have a strong, contemporary style, reflecting the four women who star in the series,” said Spelling. “The series will deal with contemporary themes in a dramatic and entertaining manner.”

“Our young ladies will be intelligent and able to handle their cases by their own ingenuity and resourcefulness. Most of all, they will be women of today,” said Executive Supervising Producer Duke Vincent.

Would I have watched the show? Of course. I think it’s still a premise they could do today, they would just need to lose the Angels connection. It looks like with ABC thinking about bringing back Charlie’s Angels, they are going back to the formula that was successful in the first place. Let’s just hope that the new series will be closer to the original series than the two movies starring Diaz, Liu and Barrymore. The movies had a certain charm, but they took it to a secret agent level that I don’t think the original Angels were.


  1. Great synopsis of the failed revamp!

  2. I distinctly remember this and the announcement of the cast! A color photo and an article appeared in Star magazine and I think I saved that page somewhere. Fascinating reading and sort of sad to see that the actresses' optimism was crushed by the failure of the project to develop fully.

  3. I know what you mean. To hear what these roles meant to them and then have it taken away is a shame.

    I think I remember that Star magazine article. I know I used to have the pages from a fashion shoot the ladies did for either GQ or Vanity Fair or some magazine like that. Sadly, they have been lost in moving over the last 20 years.

  4. Yikes, I was one of the publicists on the show back then. I was in my early 20s and working at Fox Pico in a small trailer at the bottom of the lot. I can't believe Sandra Canning let me lead her bio with that "cocoanut-head mentality" line! Ah, youth. Of course, in those days, as the underdog network that had to try harder just to be taken seriously, we were given tremendous creative latitude and frequently got away with creative murder.

    Thanks for the memories.

    r. scott



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