June Lockhart - Actress (TV's "Lost In Space" / "Lassie")
San Diego Comic Con International - San Diego, CA - July 2000
June Lockhart has been one of the most noticeable actresses in Hollywood. Having appeared in "Lassie," and most memorably in the cult classic "Lost In Space" (which inspired the most recent film starring William Hurt), Ms. Lockhart is known for portrayinig women who were more than "just a female." The roles that she chose, or redefined, were of stronger character women who appeared as equals at men's sides.
More than just an actress on a space/Sci-Fi show, Ms. Lockhart really is actually involved in the aviation and space industries. She has made appearances at dinners and conventions with astronauts and NASA officials as well as having had the chance to watch shuttle launches. We had a chance to visit with Ms. Lockhart in San Diego at the Comic Con International during the summer of 2000 and found out what her involvement is with NASA and how she views her notoriety of "Lost In Space."

K2K: Is it safe to say that you are the patron saint of space mothers?
JL: I would hope I am. Absolutely. I've spent a lot of time down at NASA and it's really remarkable to meet astronauts and they've all said that they watched "Lost In Space" and knew wanted they wanted to do when they grew up. I've been to a couple of shuttle launches, they were quite wonderful, and also I've been invited to the launch of STS-92 in October [2000].
K2K: So, Lost In Space wasn't just another "thing" for you. The whole space industry is interesting to you.
JL: Well I've always been interested in aviation since childhood. I did a lot of work with airlines, like Western Airlines, opening up their routes up and down the California coast. In fact, coming down to San Diego to open up that part of their route. I've worked with them for quite a while but I've always been fascinated by aviation. Then, when this show [Lost In Space] was offered to me, of course I was delighted. At that time, Gemini and Apollo series were on and we landed on the moon. This show was hot! It was really very right on top of all the situation.
K2K: Are you familiar with CG Publishing? They are putting out all the space missions in book format along with CDs that have video and audio footage.
JL: No. Oh, good though.
K2K: Are you as sweet as you always appear in the movies?
JL: Oh, I have an edge to me. You have to.
K2K: You always seemed so fresh and "everything is fine" tidy.
JL: Yes, I am a tidy person, and organized. (Looking down at her table of autographable pictures for sale) You can see how I have everything. I know what I'm doing. I find that my life is much simpler if I organize. I also have a kind of very mellow feeling about most stuff. If things don't work out, then well, it doesn't matter. It won't matter in twenty years anyway. I've taken the long view.
K2K: How much of you is in the characters that you play?
JL: Oh, I think that, with all of us, there are bits and parts of us that go in. But there are lots of ways to play strong women even though they are not written that way. I'll give you an example. During the six years that we were doing "Lassie", we could never make a bean crop come in. So, we're sitting around the table in the kitchen and the dialog is, "Oh Paul. What are we going to do?" If you read it like (gives a whiny example), that's a weak, silly woman. But if she says, (defiantly) "Paul. Now what are we going to do?", it has authority. That's what I chose to put in all the parts. It shows that she's not a whiner.
K2K: How much influence would you say that you've had on women or women's roles?
JL: I don't know. What I hear is that it was a great deal. Especially with female astronauts.
K2K: What was the deal with why they never made the "Lost In Space" movie until recently? Was it really Irwin Allen's unwillingness to do it or to give up the rights to do it?
JL: He was a very peculiar man. I don't need to elaborate on it. He just never put the show together.
K2K: Do you feel that the TV show was treated fairly? Did you, the actors, want it to expand more?
JL: Well, what we signed up for is not what it ended up as. I've always believed that one should complete one's contract and make the best of it. Every show goes off the air, so when I hear people moaning and groaning with "Oh gosh, I wish I could get out of this show and pursue separate interests.", well, you know, it's silly. If you fulfill your contract, it's good business. It's good discipline.
K2K: How did you like doing those episodes like with the "Carrot Man" and such?
JL: Well, the "Vegetable Rebellion"... in fact, I had written an article about it, that was so preposterous and such a ridiculous show that Guy Williams, Mark Goddard and Angela and I left all through it. Guy and I were written out of the next two episodes which is Irwin Allen's idea of disciplining you. We were written out because he was going to "show us." We didn't get to be in his show for two episodes. Mark, the only reason he wasn't written out was because they needed somebody to drive the Chariot in the next two episodes. So he got to stay. It was absurd. I have a great fondness in my heart for it and I've written a very funny story about it.
K2K: What are you doing currently?
JL: I'm on General Hospital and have been since 1984. I play Felicia's grandmother in it. The part of Mariah. It's a nice role and I like it. I do it intermittently throughout all the years. I'm in the storyline again right now.
K2K: How do you like doing soaps?
JL: It's very hard work. Very difficult. It takes discipline. I don't know how they do it year after year after year after year.
K2K: Is it harder than stage acting or about equal?
JL: I don't think there's anything as difficult as being on the stage. Not one of my favorite things to do. You know, you're never done with it. At least, when you finish a days work and you can go home, that's it. All day long, when you're in the play, you're working all day long to start work at night. The last play I did was "Steel Magnolias" and it was the National company. We played Kennedy Center and other theaters like that. It was rich. It was a wonderful experience. I signed on for 4 1/2 months and was quite ready to leave at the end of it. Even though the tour was going on, I had no desire to go on with it.
K2K: You're not one of those people who want to "be real" and "go back to the roots of acting"?
JL: Not me.
K2K: Would you say that you've had a pretty fulfilling career?
JL: Oh yes! I'm delighted. It's been wonderful. But, you see, I'm in, but not of the business. My interests are in political journalism, and traveling, and I'm the ambassador of the California State Parks system. As I said, I hang out at NASA a lot. There are many, many things working as a means to an end for me, as it always has been. That's living a life that's full of fun. A hoot and a giggle.
K2K: A far more powerful woman than many others in the industry.
JL: Yes, I think you're right. Because I'm not really affected whether or not the phone rings asking me to do a job. That way I'm able to be very discriminating over that which I choose to do.
K2K: Not hanging on the thread of having to be an actor all the time.
JL: No. I had a chance to see that with both my mother and my father. When you're working, you're very professional and you do the work. You know your lines and you hit your marks and your collar's clean. There is a wonderful world out there besides what you do on screen.
K2K: Do you have a favorite role?
JL: Each for their own reasons. I certainly enjoyed "Lassie." I'd be with it yet if they hadn't changed the format. I loved "Lost In Space." It was like going out in the sand, being in kindergarten, and playing space. Petticoat Junction was wonderful. It was a privilege to work with those great character actors and I did that the last years it was on, as you know. I enjoy the part on General Hospital, but then again, I have the choice of when I can work and do those shows because I don't think that I would like to do 52 weeks of the year.
K2K: Is there anything that stands out of your whole career?
JL: Yes. Absolutely. The shuttle launches that I've seen. The most extraordinary, physical, emotional, sentimental, patriotic experience that I've ever had in my life. Two launches. Just a brilliant experience. Attending the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium in Washington D.C. at the Washington Monument. At the end of it, I released white doves. I was den mother of the L.A. "Hair" company [musical]. We all sang "Let The Sun Shine In" and "Aquarius". That was an absolute high spot to do that in front of four or five hundred thousand people, despite the count that the Nixon government gave us about how many people were there. They flew over you, took a picture, put it on a grid, and then some guy sits in the office going "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven - oh, sorry, no, I don't want any coffee - four, five, six..."
Let's see, what else? Oh, I had another wonderful high spot recently. Years ago, my father wrote a song called, "The World Is Waiting For A Sunrise". Les Paul and Mary Ford had a big hit with it in the 1950s. It's on Willie Nelson's "Moonlight Becomes You" album. I got in touch with him afterwards to tell him how much I enjoyed his rendition of it. The next time he came to the Universal Amphitheater, I was his guest there and he got me up onstage and sang it with him. So, I played the Amphitheater with Willie Nelson. That was a high spot. Absolutely. That about wraps me up.
(As an added note: I had a chance to speak with June again at the San Diego Comic Con in 2001 and asked her a question that I had forgotten previously).
Regarding her fascination with NASA and space studies, as well as having been on the Sci-Fi classic "Lost In Space" on TV, I had to ask June if she believed in UFO's and life on other planets. Her response was that it would be silly to not believe that there could be more out there in such a vast universe.
Written by Philip Anderson / Photos © 2000 Tara Hauff 

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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