rallamajoop: (Leigh Chapman)
[personal profile] rallamajoop
The most famous girl from UNCLE is, of course, April Dancer, who starred in her own spin-off series, and many will at least remember Lisa Rogers, Waverly's assistant from the final season. But UNCLE was never short of female staff in a variety of lesser-known roles, some of whom would become the longest recurring characters in the show. Though they may not have made the opening credits, characters like Heather, Sarah and Wanda shared more than enough screentime to deserve a little recognition of their own.

But as anyone who's ever paid much attention to the guest cast would realise, the producers of The Man from UNCLE weren't all that sold on the importance of consistency, or even above taking the name "Mark Slate" from a 40-something American and giving it to a 20-something Brit. The supporting cast got this particularly bad. Mr. Del Floria, the only comparable male role, was played by four different actors over his six credited appearances (and at least a couple more over his uncredited ones), "Sarah" by three different actresses, and "Wanda" by seven – one of whom also played Sarah, just for maximum confusion. Producers would often cast whoever happened to be available at the time, while others would apparently drop a recurring actress so their girlfriend could have the role instead. After several attempts to make sense of it all via IMDB I eventually put together an honest-to-god spreadsheet just to get my head around it all. Instead, this turned out to be only the beginning.

Still, even between clashing schedules, unpredictable production changes, and more than their share of casting couch bullshit, some of these actresses still had a chance to leave a mark on the show – and the more I read up on them, the more interesting they turn out to be. Not much seems to have been written about either the characters or the actresses behind them – the section on them in John Heitland's otherwise fairly comprehensive book, for example, was riddled with errors and miserably brief. What started for me as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to make sense of just how many "Wandas" there really were gradually grew into a major piece of detective work and several thousand words worth of essay on half a dozen different characters. The result is probably going to be of most interest to trivia junkies and fic writers looking to flesh out their supporting casts, but if ever you find yourself in need of a (relatively) definitive resource on the female support staff of UNCLE, well, here you go.

The complete article is now more than long enough to require sub-headings. Links below cover all the most significant recurring roles, plus a handful of others who only showed up once who also stuck in my memory for one reason or another.





A few more words of introduction

The idea of giving Waverly a regular secretary (largely for Napoleon to flirt with, thanks to Ian Fleming) goes back as far as the earliest production notes, and it's doubtful we'd have seen nearly so many women around the office without fanservice as the excuse. Jobs reserved for female staff were primarily of the traditional secretarial variety: manning reception, collating information and answering calls. Except when one of the title characters took a call, the sight of a man behind the communications desk was a rare thing indeed. Flirting with Napoleon over the radio (or sometimes in person) was always to be a big part of their role, but at other times, we'd see them turning their hands to anything from medicine to hypnotism. At a place like UNCLE, even manning reception was an important security job, and a gun holster worn at the small of the back was a standard part of the uniform. A few of UNCLE's female staff even got to venture out into the field once in a while.

None, in all the dialogue I can find, are ever attributed to a specific Section, though IV-VI (Intelligence/Communication/Security & Personnel in various combinations) would probably be a safe bet. In episodes where the character's name wasn't spoken aloud, sometimes they'd be credited only as "technician" or "UNCLE girl", and producers seem to have been relatively unbothered about whether the receptionist from a past episode was suddenly acting as a nurse, as long as a reliable actress was available. Badge numbers on recurring characters were sometimes consistent, but more often weren't, even in season 1. Though the 4th season boasts the record for most appearances by any single, named example, the golden age for UNCLE girls was very much back in the 1st season. As the seasons wore on, jobs once given to gorgeous support staff like answering Napoleon and Illya's calls and briefing them on key intel would, somewhat ironically, be increasingly left to Waverly to deal with alone instead. Though this doubtless streamlined casting, the side effect is to make Waverly appear all but exclusively focused on what Napoleon and Illya are doing on any given day, and UNCLE as an organisation seem that much smaller, which I can't help but feel is something of a shame.

For a quick list of which-actress-appeared-as-who-where, that spreadsheet mentioned above is now up on google docs. For the more in-depth version, read on.



Margaret Oberon – Joyce Taylor

The first and original UNCLE girl is also the most mysterious. You'll have to track down the film version of her one appearance (To Trap A Spy) to hear her name spoken at all, as most of her first scene has been cut, probably for time, from both the televised version of The Vulcan Affair and the original pilot cut (included in the DVD box set). Inexplicably, none of the three credit her actress by name, despite her having a significantly larger speaking role than several others in the credits (Illya included). Both John Heitland's book and much of the internet seem to be convinced Margaret was played by Leigh Chapman, who does look similar, but doesn't actually appear in the show until mid-season. Correct credit instead looks to be due to Joyce Taylor, who talks about the role here in an old interview. According to Taylor, she was actually offered a recurring role on The Man from UNCLE, but she declined, as she'd also recently appeared in another pilot which she was far more excited about. As her luck would have it, the other pilot was rejected while The Man from UNCLE was picked up, which is pretty much show biz in a nutshell.

In any case, Margaret Oberon plays what was to become the traditional role for UNCLE support staff, with key duties that include helping to brief agents on intelligence, manning the communications channel, and flirting with Napoleon over said channel at every opportunity. I'd actually much recommend getting hold of the film version if you can – though most of the added scenes are thoroughly missable, Margaret's introduction scene gives you the extra context missing from the other cuts to explain exactly why she was using a sunlamp in the office (she'd had a beach holiday booked before being called back in to work for this particular job, but is determined to get her suntan by hook or by crook), and how Napoleon knew about it. She also gets to deliver us a clear description of the workings of the early-model cigarette box radios, which had to be plugged into external power sources in some of the earliest episodes. Napoleon is helpful enough to announce her name to us in full at the start of that scene, though if you listen closely, you'll also catch him calling her 'Maggie' later in the dialogue. The extended cuts also include an extra scene where we see her reading a book and enjoying some milk and cookies behind the communications desk, shortly before another call from Napoleon comes through. She's actually much less flirty with him in person than over the radio – frustration over that cancelled holiday and ordinary professionalism dominate there, even as Napoleon turns on the charm.



Heather McNabb – May Heatherly

Margaret Oberon's direct replacement when UNCLE went into production was Heather McNabb, who even gets a couple of lines of proper introduction in the second episode to catch the audience up to speed (oh for the days when UNCLE wouldn't just recast a role and handwave the difference away!) According to Napoleon, she'd been working for UNCLE for about a year, and used to be a stewardess. He starts to tell us something about her roommate, but Waverly cuts him off. Judging by their interaction I wouldn't be at all surprised if Napoleon was the one to 'recruit' her directly from her old job – she's every bit as flirty with him as Margaret and then some, and the only other UNCLE girl we see using the sunlamp in the TV series from then on in. She also knits, does pottery, and apparently brings a dog into the office to entertain herself between taking calls. Presumably, one spends a lot of time in communications just sitting around, waiting for the next call to come in.

In addition to manning communications and providing expositional intelligence briefings, we see Heather using hypnotic methods to help Napoleon prepare for his undercover role as "Harvey Muller" in The Neptune Affair, and working in "computer process data" in The Green Opal Affair. She seems to wield a reasonable amount of authority too ("Don't mind McNabb's bite, it's her bark you have to watch out for." Napoleon warns a new agent). She even sees a little action in Green Opal, though this consists of her being chloroformed by a brainwashed agent, then discussing the incident with Napoleon and Illya later. She also turns up in The Quadripartite Affair, though she doesn't make it into the sequel episode. Her role in a couple of episodes may well have been significantly beefed up thanks to Leo G. Carroll's absence due to illness in those weeks (Heitland's book mentions Carroll becoming ill after "the second week of shooting" as an explanation for why he was absent from episodes like King of Knaves, and presumably also Green Opal and Neptune as well). Heather's role in briefings and office discussion may well have been expanded to fill the narrative gap.

According to Heitland's book, Heather McNabb also appears in at least one of the tie-in novels, though the writer got mixed up and referred to her by the actress's name instead of the character's. I suspect May Heatherly was cast more for her looks than her acting, as her line delivery is sometimes a little flat, but she does have good chemistry with Napoleon, which makes up for a lot. Though the monochrome filter reduces her hair to a flat grey and colour shots of her are hard to find, she's actually a redhead (and natural or not, Heatherly maintains that shade in every photo I can find of her from later in life too).

Heather was obviously meant to be a continuing role – her name even appears in some of the early promotion material for the series, which lists her as the head of communications-research (possible Section IV: Intelligence and Communications? Mind you, squaring that with her having only been with UNCLE a year and a past career as a stewardess may be tricky, though it at least gels well with most of the jobs we see her doing on screen). She was featured on trading cards and other promotional stills, not to mention appearing prominently in a lot of early media hype about the UNCLE series, certainly bolstered by the story that May Heatherly had (I shit you not) spent months training to become a bullfighter when she lived in Spain, only to be thwarted by a rule forbidding women from taking part in the sport. Some of the same promo articles even state "Often as not, she drops some poison darts, a hand grenade and a short-barreled pistol into her purse to join series star Robert Vaughn in pursuit of the bad guys" – which might well reflect some early plan for the character that never got as far as being realised.

But for reasons unknown, Heather appears only in four episodes from early in the schedule, and never again. May Heatherly's IMDB profile doesn't mention her having picked up any other job around that time, and I can't find any interview material online that might explain it (and a lot of what I can find is in Spanish, as Heatherly began her film career in Spain and did a lot of later work in Europe, having made some sort of minor name for herself in various Eurohorror films). I can only speculate as to whether she or the producers was behind the decision to drop her from the series, or whether the writers simply ran out of things for her to do. In any case, by the end of the first season Sarah seems to have assumed most of the roles Heather might have played, while Heather is never mentioned again.

On the upside, May Heatherly can at least claim to be the only actress ever to play Heather McNabb – and even got herself consistently assigned badge 28 in all her appearances – which is quite something, considering how other roles were handled further down the page.



Sarah Johnson – Leigh Chapman

Sarah appears in six first season episodes, though she's credited only as "receptionist" in the first to air (The Mad Mad Tea Party Affair, which doesn't mention her name on screen). Though her job is never explicitly named and Sarah seems to do everything from reception to communications to impromptu physical therapy at various points, she largely appears to be Mr Waverly's personal assistant (contemporary articles about her hiring call her Napoleon's secretary, but in practice she seems to answer to Waverly directly much more often than not).

The role appears to have been created for The Love Affair, which was shot midway through the schedule but not shown until much later – and it's an unusually meaty one for an UNCLE support girl. Not only does she help with intelligence briefings, she accompanies Napoleon into the field when they need a woman to pose as a recently deceased professor, then discreetly trades information with him afterwards via a faked phone conversation. She later mentions having used her lunch break to go to see Illya in hospital, though she corrects herself to "Mr. Kuryakin" in Waverly's presence. This, not flirting with Napoleon, is as far from professional as the script asks her to get. (Did I mention that Sarah is My Favourite? Because she totally is.)

Leigh Chapman is actually a figure well worth looking up in and of herself. Though she took a number of acting roles in the 60's, her most significant credits are actually as a writer on various genre shows like The Wild Wild West, Burke's Law and Mission Impossible – no mean feat in a period where getting into the business was even harder for a female name than it is today. She never did write for UNCLE, though at least one article about her casting for UNCLE suggests she might have liked to. Somewhere in the middle, she also found time to date both Robert Vaughn and Harlan Ellison, and to work for Peter Allen Fields, one of the two most prolific UNCLE writers. (Chapman may, in fact, deserve some small part of the credit for Fields having ever made it as a writer at all – according to Heitland's book, Fields' very first published story – a piece of erotic vampire fiction – only made it to a literary agent at all because Chapman rescued it from the waste-paper basket and mailed it off herself.) Some of the most often-used photos of her posing with a gun do seem to come from UNCLE-promotional stills, but don't feature any actual scene or outfit she appears in in the series, in case you're wondering. Almost certainly the best source you'll find on her life is in three articles on the Classic TV History blog following a series of interviews with Stephan Bowie, with whom she seemed to have struck up quite the friendship in her final years.

Real-life flings notwithstanding, on the show, Sarah stands out as one of few UNCLE support staff more likely to mock Napoleon than flirt with him. Besides The Love Affair, Sarah also plays a prominent role is in The Bow Wow Affair, where she first turns up to help Napoleon stretch out his sprained ankle ("Oh, don't make such a fuss." she chastises him, while Napoleon complains "I'm just catering to Sarah's sadism. She thinks it's good for me.") Later, we see her working with Waverly's cousin's dog, who happily obeys her commands though it ignores Napoleon's attempts. A couple of shots from the same episode even manage to make it look like she's sneaking a look at Napoleon's ass, just for a change, which probably amuses me more than it should.

Other episodes keep her to more mundane chores. The Gazebo in the Maze Affair calls on her to confirm that Illya hasn't arrived, and bring in the pear tree with the message from Mr Partridge, assuring them it's been checked by Demolition before demonstrating how to trigger the recording. The Mad Mad Tea Party sees her reviewing security footage with Napoleon at reception, while Never-Never doesn't ask more than that she find someone to go buy Mr. Waverly some more tobacco. Four Steps is the odd one out here – there, Sarah's in the traditional role of communications girl, right down to flirting with Napoleon over the radio, though it's a fairly token attempt by anyone's standards. Most of these episodes she spends sporting badge 28 (last seen on Heather), though in others 20 or 23, which is going to be about par for the course from here on in.


Season 2 is where Sarah's story gets complicated – because while "Sarah" returns in The Ultimate Computer Affair, Leigh Chapman doesn't. According to Chapman, she lost the job thanks to a new producer who wanted to cast his girlfriend in the role instead (Chapman admits to being hazy on the timeline and does show up later in S2 before being replaced a second time, so which incident she's talking about is little unclear, though the circumstances seem to point more towards the new Sarahs, at a best guess). So we get a new Sarah, now played by Maurine Dawson, who doesn't even look particularly similar to the original, though she does display some of the same attitude when Napoleon makes a pass at her ("Oh no, you're not getting me near that secret map room again." – mind you, the rest of the scene suggests her resistance may have been a bit token). Later, in The Deadly Toys Affair, we meet yet another Sarah, now played by a Gloria Neil, a pale blonde who only gets one line, helping to introduce Napoleon to the toys of the title (though she does get to have some fun with the gag glasses). Whether they're meant to be the same Sarah as Sarah Johnson is left unspecified by the credits, which credit them only as "Sarah", and not much clarified by the randomly assigned badge numbers of 14 and 19. This, alas, is the last we see of "Sarah" in any variation of the name.

Oddly enough, it isn't the last we see of Leigh Chapman, who appears twice later in this season (and who herself has undergone a change in hair colour since we saw her last). She returns once in The Bridge of Lions, and once more in The Nowhere Affair, both times confusingly credited as "Wanda". The role she plays in Nowhere actually seems far more consistent with the Sarah of S1, acting as Waverly's assistant and presenting research – though in Bridge of Lions she's very much more the "Wanda" we'll be seeing from here on out, which is to say her role is to flirt over the radio with Napoleon, which she does.

If that wasn't already confusing enough, in the film version of The Bridge of Lions Affair, Chapman's scenes have been recut and replaced with Yvonne Craig.



"Control"/Maude Waverly – Yvonne Craig

Maude comes from the proud UNCLE tradition of shooting some extra scenes with bonus T&A purely for the theatrical release of one of the movies, which were subject to much less strict censorship rules. Maude is played by Yvonne Craig-of-Batgirl-fame, who'd previously appeared as the innocent from Brain Killer in season 1. Maude in particular has the dubious honour of being almost certainly the most significant role ever to appear in an UNCLE movie script that never in any form made it into the televised version of the show. Initially introduced only as "Control", her role is at least theoretically to run UNCLE's communications desk, but more significantly to flirt with an increasingly baffled Napoleon, who is entirely down with spending some private time with this lovely, quick-witted young lady, but quite at sea as she proceeds to list off date after date that he's supposedly made with her (none of which he makes as the case drags on). Lest you be in any doubt about the point of her inclusion, she also gets the third (and what I'm fairly sure is the last) appearance of the sunlamp – and is clearly going out of her way to avoid tanlines, though we only see that part from behind.

Only in the final scene does Mr Waverly step forward to introduce "Control" to us properly – as Maude Waverly, his niece, recruited specially to keep Napoleon from becoming distracted by other women on the job. All those 'dates' he couldn't remember making were invented wholesale by the Waverlys in the comfortable assurance that Napoleon Solo, professional spy, would naturally assume he must have forgotten his own schedule. Whether Napoleon finally got to go on that date with her at the end we can only speculate; even his enthusiasm may not have survived that reveal. Even by the standards of the UNCLE movies, it's all some seriously wacky bullshit and no mistake.

Though her role in the show is brief, Yvonne Craig talks about the experience a little in a short interview on Bill Koenig's UNCLE page. The longer anecdote about David McCallum she mentions there as saving for her book (which came out in 2000) has since made it online too, and is well worth the few minutes it'll take you to read – not just for how enchanted Craig was with McCallum but for the oh my god, his wife left him for THAT asshole? factor. (One can only hope Bronson treated Jill Ireland rather better than he did Yvonne Craig.)

The footnote to this story is that Yvonne Craig actually gets another appearance in the other movie released for that season, One Of Our Spies is Missing – in a role recut to replace that played by Leigh Chapman in the TV version, The Bridge of Lions Affair. But the character they play isn't called either Maude or Sarah...



"Wanda"

Ah, the mysterious Wanda! No less than seven different actresses would be credited as "Wanda" over the course of the series, and you will not find a longer running supporting role anywhere in the credits, save Del Floria himself (who also got played by several different people). Let's start at the beginning.

Wanda Mae Kim

In S1 "Wanda" was consistently UNCLE's receptionist, and consistently East Asian, though three different women would be credited with the role. Back in the early production phase, there even looks to have been the intent that Wanda would play a more significant continuing role, as early promotional booklets list "Grace Lee as Wanda Mae Kim", a "receptionist-secretary" as exactly that, alongside May Heatherly, Brief bios are provided for both actresses, and they appear together with Vaughn in a series of promotional stills. Though their prominence likely says more about the eagerness of the marketers to sell the show on sex appeal than anything else, photos and news items about the girls were widely distributed and reproduced in numerous articles published before and during the first season. However, Grace Lee herself would ultimately appear on screen as Wanda only once, in The King of Knaves Affair, where she's called upon to inform Napoleon that Mr Waverly is out of the office, and pick on his grammar. Though this would ultimately be the last audiences saw of Wanda in S1, the episode was actually the first out of Wanda's three appearances to be shot in the original schedule, which varies significantly from the order the episodes made it to broadcast.

Grace Lee does actually appear in the show once more in S2, credited as 'Geisha' for a brief role in Cherry Blossom (whom you may remember as the tiny girl in the kimono who judo-flips Napoleon and proceeds to knock him out with own his favourite move). However, when the script for Green Opal called for a few lines of dialogue from UNCLE's receptionist (reminding a recently cleared agent about an unfinished report before sending him to see Heather), Wanda is now played by Linda Ho (left), even though that episode immediately followed King of Knaves in production. The question of why the role was recast in the few days separating those filming blocks may now be lost to history, but the casting must have made it into at least one press release, as I've found her in a promotional photo with Vaughn and Heatherly, and seen her mentioned in one print article of her own. Nonetheless, Linda Ho's tenure would be similarly brief, as Wanda's third and final appearance in The Double Affair sees her recast yet again, now played by Nancy Hsueh (right). The TV cut there only expects Wanda to pin on one badge, though in the movie-length cut (The Spy With My Face) she also gives Napoleon a list of missed phone messages (all from various women). The latter two actresses are credited only as "Wanda", no last name, so whether they too are "Mae Kim"s is left to the imagination of the viewer. For the record, all three get different badges (25, 30 and 21, in case you're keeping track).


Another uncredited East Asian "Wanda" briefly appears in the pilot. Even she may have been somewhat shortchanged by the TV cut, as another line that didn't make that version clarifies that the receptionist's job of pinning badges onto staff and visitors is more than an act of hospitality. Without a special chemical applied from their fingertips, even a 'valid' UNCLE badge will trigger the alarms, as the intruders quickly do. Monitoring the security camera watching the tailor's shop is also part of the job. Like many receptionists, Wanda's job doesn't appear to have been a full-time role, as various white women were also occasionally seen staffing the front desk (including Leigh Chapman in The Mad Mad Tea Party Affair, and another uncredited actress in the 'Welcome to UNCLE' intro sequence repeated in the first half of the season).

The Asian Wandas of the first season do seem to represent a deliberate effort to establish UNCLE's multi-national character. According to Heitland's book, an early prospectus by Sam Rolfe even suggested that,in addition to the newly created role of Illya Kuryakin, UNCLE's recurring cast should grow to include a Nigerian and a Japanese agent as well. In practice, however, non-white faces were a rare sight among UNCLE New York's personnel even in season 1, and latter seasons seem to have given up altogether on injecting any real diversity into the home branch. The role of Wanda was to be white from here on in.

Wanda Townsend – Sharyn Hillyer

Season 3 brought us a new Wanda in the form of Sharyn Hillyer. Actually, Hillyer's first Wanda appearance was in the final episode of S2 (The Indian Affairs Affair), but she'd go on to reprise the role a total of eight times by the end of S3. Hillyer's Wanda is consistently a communications girl – answering calls and bringing news is her lot, with the exception of The My Friend the Gorilla Affair, where she appears in a lab coat and is tasked with injecting Napoleon with vaccines against every tropical disease they could think of. She's credited only as 'Technician' for that one. Another episode, The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair, credits her simply as "UNCLE agent" but has Mr Waverly refer to her as "Miss Townsend". For the sake of the argument, let's assume they're all Wanda, and Townsend is her last name. This Wanda usually shows up in badge 38, though at times also 20, 27 and even 28 (yet again), so business as usual there.

Oddest of all is her credit as 'Miss Gorgeous' in both film and TV versions of The Concrete Overcoat Affair, despite the fact Hillyer appears nowhere in either version of the story. By luck though, she does show up in one of the promotional photos released with the film, pinning a badge on Napoleon at reception. Look closer still, and you may even note Napoleon's bandaged hand and the plaster on Illya's face, which set the scene fairly conclusively as part of the one that immediately follows the credits, where Illya and Napoleon limp into HQ looking very much the worse for wear after a car accident in the pre-credits sequence. But obviously, the scene in question was cut before release.


Out of all the UNCLE girls, Sharyn Hillyer may well be the most enthusiastic to talk about her time on the show. You can find an interesting interview with her up on youtube, plus there's a short passage on her published in the book Film Fatales by Tom Lisanti – which also boasts sections on a number of other recurring UNCLE actresses, including Stephanie Powers, Yvonne Craig, Jill Ireland and Sharon Farrell. The section on Sharyn Hillyer specifically is expanded further still in a companion work, Drive-in Dream Girls (ironically, Lisanti has clearly missed the fact that not only was Hillyer an empty credit in The Spy In The Green Hat and the tiniest of cameos in The Karate Killers, neither film was ever released domestically in the US, thus her relevance to the latter title is highly debatable). Those links go to google books, ftr, and you can read most of the relevant sections there (or a previous LJ discussion about the former title here). Sloppy as the fact checking may be, there's some great info on Hillyer's own experiences, and her later career as a well-known psychotherapist and relationship coach, popular with lifestyle shows.

According to Hillyer herself, she actually had a bit-part as a stewardess in the pilot and was offered a recurring role then – presumably that of Heather McNabb, which might well provide some context to Napoleon's off-hand comment in Iowa Scuba that Heather used to be a stewardess. However, Hillyer turned it down when 'the producer' tried to get her to sleep with him (which 'producer' that might have been isn't specified). When she returned under Boris Ingster at the close of season 2, her first role was actually another stewardess (possibly she, too, was Wanda working undercover, but that may be a bit of a stretch). Going by her interview in Drive-in Dream Girls, Hillyer also remembers Harlan Ellison well, and she appears in both of the two scripts he contributed to the third season — one of which includes the only time this Wanda is actually called by her first name on-screen. She also appears prominently in at least one major promotional photoshoot for the series that frequently turns up around the web.

Make no mistake though – this Wanda's first and most important role is to flirt with Napoleon, which she does with substantially less guile than any who've come before her. Her very first scene involves Napoleon exaggerating his role in the latest kerfuffle to impress her, which she takes at face value. "Miss Townsend" expresses great irritation when she hears Napoleon using the same lines on another girl that he'd previously used on her. Hillyer herself suggests the particular pleasure Wanda seems to take in sticking Napoleon with all those needles in My Friend The Gorilla was a subtle form of revenge. Napoleon is interrupted in the middle of asking her out in The Pop Art Affair ("And we'll have a drink at Nardis, and dinner at Chamford, and then we'll stop by my place for a little nightcap"), and the opening of The Monks of St Thomas Affair actually has Napoleon called away to work in the middle of a date with Wanda – though as she's not actually seen, we can only guess which 'Wanda' that might have been.

Miscellaneous Wandas

Perhaps the oddest Wanda of all is the one played by Kay Michaels. She appears precisely once in The Take Me To Your Leader Affair, which comes right in the middle of Sharyn Hillyer's otherwise unbroken streak. Not only does she (as usual) not look like the standard Wanda, but Napoleon actually calls her 'Sharon' (or possibly Sharyn? The plot thickens!) in the dialogue. Yet the credits merrily credit her as 'Wanda' nonetheless. (Incidentally, both Heitland's book and Lisanti's credit Michaels as "Sarah". In their defense, the one time her name is spoken is garbled over the radio, though I still can't buy it as 'Sarah' no matter how many times I listen to it. The subtitles have it as 'Sharon' too.)

But it's hard to beat the twofer of The Bridge of Lions Affair/One Of Our Spies Is Missing, where, in two different versions of the same scene, two different actresses (Chapman and Craig, details up-page) are credited with the role, both of whom last appeared as completely different UNCLE girls. But since Napoleon calls them "Wanda" in the dialogue, that's how both of them are credited here.


Got all that? No? Maybe a Venn diagram will help.


...or not.

I think the only possible conclusion here is that Wanda might just be the single greatest spy in all of UNCLE history. She could be anyone you thought you knew. She's probably out there right now, taking credit for something you thought you did.



Lisa Rogers – Barbara Moore

And at last we get to Lisa Rogers, who appeared as Mr Waverly's secretary in season 4, with a rare consistent assignment of badge 46 across every scene I can find her in. Barbara Moore is credited as Lisa in 10 of the 16 episodes produced, which breaks even Chapman's record and draws even with Hillyer's for appearances (depending how you count her uncredited stewardess in the pilot and that Miss Not Appearing In This Film incident). More specifically, Lisa appears in all but one of the first ten scripts filmed during season 4 (for all we know she may have had scenes in the last of that set too that were cut for time). Thereafter the writers seem to have abruptly given up on Lisa Rogers, though she does reappear in the finale, if only the first half thereof.

According to John Heitland's book, Moore was a former beauty contest winner (as were many of the female UNCLE guest cast) who was chosen out of 50 applicants for the role, and who apparently even picked up a recording contract while doing promotional work for the show in Nashville – so it's just a little disappointing to watch her in action and find her performance so monotonously flat. That short passage in Heitland's book is, for the record, just about everything I could find on her anywhere – the emptiness of Moore's IMDB page would seem so suggest that the rest of Hollywood wasn't any more impressed with her talents than I was.

In Moore's defense though, I don't think it can be overstated how little the scripts gave her to work with. For all that she was obviously supposed to be a recognisable recurring character, the writers seem to have had no real personality in mind or any idea what to do with her. There's no flirting with Napoleon over the radio or taking up pottery between calls for any UNCLE girl in season 4 – that's all far too whimsical for the new direction of the show. Nor does Lisa get to go into the field or personally lead briefings, so she's largely down to taking calls and handing files to Mr Waverly. A typical Lisa Rogers scene is that in The Test Tube Killers Affair, where she calls Napoleon to say "Please pull over and stand by for Code Yellow message. Repeat, please pull over and await Code Yellow message," thereafter to give him (again, repeated) instructions to head for a different arbitrarily selected location to the original arbitrary location selected for today's action. A more completely pointless waste of airtime could scarcely be envisaged.

About the only episode to bother to do anything interesting with Lisa Rogers is The Master's Touch Affair, in which she gets assigned as a bodyguard to that week's innocent, and shows off a handbag full of weapons cunningly concealed as cosmetics. Mind you, we still don't get to see her use any of those weapons in the field – the whole scene is very nearly as pointless to the plot as her Test Tube appearance. But she gets to show a little cheek for once as she admits to past out-of-work use of some of those gadgets, which is something at the very least.

For all we know, Barbara Moore might have been a perfectly fine actress with better material, but for all her credited appearances, she's perhaps the least memorably-characterised UNCLE girl in the show.



One-hit wonders

Along with this motley assortment of recurring roles are a number of other UNCLE girls who got only a single shot at the show, a couple of whom even got opening title credit. Most of us are presumably familiar with Mandy Stevenson from the translation department, seen in The Never Never Affair and played by Barbara Feldon – who'd go on to play a lead role in Get Smart as Agent 99 (after "transferring to Control" as wikipedia quips).Less often now remembered is , the 'original' April Dancer to appear in The Moonglow Affair – another beauty pageant winner-turned-actress, and who'd go on to a variety of other acting work. But by all accounts, the studio really wanted Stefanie Powers for the role even while Moonglow was in development, so they recast April as Powers when The Girl from UNCLE went into development. One last case from the same category is Carla Drosten, an UNCLE traitor who (formerly) headed the personnel department, played by Elizabeth Allen in the ambitious but rather poorly thought out Waverly Ring Affair.


Others made the credits but not the opening titles. Another character badly shortchanged by the aired cut of The Vulcan Affair was Gracie Ladovan, played by Victoria Shaw, whom you may remember as the lady with the lipstick and the gun in her purse on the plane. You'll have to track down the film version (To Trap A Spy) or the original, colour cut of the pilot to get the line where Elaine points out her reappearance to Napoleon at the party, upon which Napoleon reveals she's actually a spy for their side – the exchange about the lipstick even seems to have been an inside joke between them ("For years I've been telling Gracie to cut down on her make-up"). Despite having far fewer lines than Taylor, Victoria Shaw does appear in the credits, so at least she's easy to track down.


We meet not one but two more UNCLE girls in Rome in The King of Knaves Affair, both of whom venture out into the field during the action. Played by , Gemma Lusso appears to be the personal assistant of Mr Venerdi, Waverly's Italian counterpart, and has clearly met Napoleon before. When he and Illya venture out into Casa Truffare, a notorious underworld meeting spot, Gemma goes too, providing a fount of information all the shadier figures they meet. Later, she reappears in Napoleon's hotel room to debate with him whether the Innocent of the week might be an undercover agent ("My intuition says she is," says Gemma. "Well, I wonder what your intuition would say if she wasn't so pretty," Napoleon counters. Gemma scoffs and smiles). Also undercover at Truffare is the receptionist from UNCLE's Italian office, who apparently appears there regularly, working as a belly dancer, to "pick up a little extra information". She's not named in the dialogue, but the credits list her as "Venetia", played by Tanya Lemani, who seems to have been cast specifically for her belly dancing chops.

In The Arabian Affair, we briefly see Napoleon working with an UNCLE girl called only Mitzi, played by Quinn O'Hara. I've seen it suggested she might be Napoleon's secretary (people do seem awfully determined to give him a secretary, for some reason), though the episode itself implies that she works in the research department ("Research and Development" specifically, which this script seems to have assumed was the intelligence and records division rather than the lab. The show was never terribly consistent about that sort of thing.) Her role is to provide a sounding board for Napoleon as he pieces together his theory that THRUSH agents are murdered by their superiors at age 65 rather than being allowed to retire, and to call Mr. Waverly with questions about whether there's been any news from Illya. Given the standards of the time, the greatest mystery about Mitzi might be why they didn't just credit her as yet another Sarah, but she's lucky enough to get a bit of individuality to her name instead.

In a similar category is Evangeline, played by Shannon Farnon, who turns up briefly in The Re-Collectors Affair to hand Napoleon a new fake ID (that of an art collector called Mark Nassau) and help Waverly brief him on the titular villains and their suspicious Nazi connections. It seems likely she, like Mitzi, was part of one of the research/intelligence divisions, and presumably had a personal role in organising his cover identity. Though it's a fairly minor bit part by anyone's standards, she does boast a clearly-stated name and solid hints towards her department, but has nonetheless been missed by the (otherwise fairly thorough) list of known UNCLE staff that made it into the fanbible, so it seemed only fair to add her to the record here at least.

We see Napoleon and Illya working with an UNCLE girl called Jasmine, played by Irene Tsu, in The Hong Kong Shilling Affair. She doesn't have a lot to do, but she's fairly emblematic of so much about the first season of UNCLE that she's an interesting example. She seems to be another communications girl; her biggest role in the episode is to sew a listening device onto the Innocent's coat, then help Napoleon test it (she waves Napoleon over to answer a call from Waverly himself while she finishes the job). Later, while they all listen in on the Innocent's conversation, we see her playing a game of mahjong with Illya. No-one behind the communications desk this season ever seems to be without something to help pass the time while they wait for a call, or for the action on the other end of the wire to get interesting.

Other than Jasmine, we don't see a lot of local UNCLE staff during this episode, and one wonders if Hong Kong has any permanent Section I or II members. Though the entire episode is set in Hong Kong, Jasmine is one of only two Asian names to make the credits. Her name is never spoken aloud — I had to find an interview with Tsu where she talks about the mahjong game before I was even sure I had the attribution right (the other, Miiko Taka, credited as playing "Jade", appears to actually be the actress who played the mysterious villianess "Apricot". The name "Jade" is never spoken either). And that, alas, is all pretty emblematic of the early UNCLE seasons too.


Though it's rare to meet an UNCLE girl who isn't young and gorgeous, you see the occasional older woman around the office in season one, and Sam Rolfe supposedly even floated the idea of giving the Section 1 head a secretary called Miss Marsidan, who "was to be fat and fiftyish, possessing a photographic memory, the ability to speak eleven languages, and a genuine motherly concern for her two favourite agents" early in development, according to Heitland. She never made it into the show, of course, though we do meet an agent roughly fitting her description in the opening scene of The Yellow Scarf Affair, when Agent Duncan MacAlister discovers his contact is a friendly, 60-ish woman in a fancy hat, played by Madge Blake. We don't learn her name – she's credited only as "Woman Tourist" – or even whether working for UNCLE is her regular occupation, but she gives every impression of being an old hand of using her harmless appearance to her advantage. Madge Blake actually had one more appearance on UNCLE, as Alexander's much-abused mother from The Alexander the Greater Affair. She's only in the TV version though, as her single scene was cut from the theatrical edit to make room for the addition of Yvonne Craig, and I can't help but be amused that this makes her the perfect antithesis of the Maude-style-UNCLE-girl from both angles at once.

A number of others show up briefly through the series, most of them credited only as 'receptionist' or 'UNCLE girl', while others still get a name but no credit, appearing only as voices on the radio (Illya talks to a "Linda" during The Roundtable Affair, for example, and Napoleon to a "Margo" in The Bat Cave Affair). One of the more interesting from a brief skim of her IMDB bio is the "UNCLE girl" from The Five Daughters Affair – once again, from the Rome office – who has to fight off a couple of armed Thrush thugs while the innocent she's supposed to be babysitting gives her the slip. She's played by Julie Ann Johnson, a professional stuntwoman who was remarkably still doing stunts until as recently as 2006, well into in her mid 60's. Even the briefest scan of her credits makes her sound like a real force to be reckoned with throughout her career; and she's even recently published a book about her experiences over decades of work in a traditionally male-dominated field.

With 105 episodes to poke through there may well be others still I've missed altogether, but you get the idea. Though they may have been cast for fanservice first and all else second, a refreshing constant throughout the show is that the women who worked for UNCLE were portrayed as competent, professional, and good at what they did. (The Girl from UNCLE allegedly has a spottier record, but that also seems to be widely considered one of the factors that killed it.) And though not every part of the series has aged well, there's a lot to recommend in with regards to how it treated its female characters (as Sharyn Hillyer seems only too happy to let you know).

Even if they were weirdly fixated with that whole "Wanda" thing...



ETA: There's is now an appendix of sorts to this post, which goes into some of the old newspaper articles I managed to track down online about May Heatherly, Leigh Chapman, and a couple of the Wandas from the first season of the show. Back in the day, they really did get more press than you might imagine (all that bullfighting and selling their own scripts and whatnot obviously didn't hurt).
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