With her lasso of truth and her determination for justice, the character of Wonder Woman has always aimed to right society’s wrongs — a feminist and pacifist who commands respect as she thinks of ways to save the world that don’t require her fists. So it’s no wonder that Lynda Carter, the blue-eyed, raven-haired star who played the heroine and role model (aka Diana Prince) for three seasons on the 1970s CBS series “Wonder Woman,” would embody so many of the same qualities.
“I guess if there’s ever a role that was meant for me, it was Wonder Woman,” Carter says.
One of the reasons that the character — and, by default, Carter herself — is so endearing is that while she doesn’t have time for nonsense, she will stop and give you a hug. Now the singer-actress, who has been known to publicly ban trolls who leave insulting comments on her fan pages (“I think I was anti-bullying before there was any policy that people could speak up for themselves”), is no longer flying around in an invisible plane but instead leaving her mark on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her star ceremony is set for April 3.
Carter has spoken before about how she was warned not to take the role because other women would be jealous of her. She finds this ridiculous, in part because she says she “never played Wonder Woman. I always played Diana.”
“I would never have tried to play a predatory female,” Carter continues. “I’ve never been one. I don’t even know how to be one. Wonder Woman would be the first to bop someone upside the head if he were looking at her when he’s got his arm around his girlfriend. She would not be happy with him and she’d tell him so.”
Despite her character’s patriotic form-fitting ensemble and the fact that she was, for a long time, the lone female superhero in town, Carter doesn’t feel the role objectified her “any more than Superman with a sock in his pocket is objectified.
“We all like looking at pretty people,” she says. “It doesn’t mean anything to me. There are so many more things to worry about… Let’s worry about who we’re going to put in the Oval [Office] next time.”
A staunch feminist and LGBTQ rights advocate — she recently attended a benefit for the progressive-minded political action committee Emily’s List and has served as the grand marshal at several pride parades — Carter says she learned much of this mindset from her mother and the legions of other women in that generation who hung up their kitchen aprons and joined the factory lines during World War II.
“They felt so empowered that they could not only contribute to the safety of our nation, but they had a voice with their person and their hands in a physical way. Everyone had a part.”
Even Carter’s Walk of Fame honor is about charting new ground. Ana Martinez, the organization’s producer, says she’s placing the star in an area she’s never used before just to try it out.
|Carter recently guest starred on the CW’s “Supergirl” as the president.|
“I guess it’s a way for people to walk all over you and it doesn’t hurt,” jokes Carter, who adds that she is thrilled with the recognition.
It doesn’t seem like the opinionated Carter, who freely shares her views on everything from failed Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore to co-parenting (“My husband doesn’t need to be a feminist. He just needs to be my champion.”), is one to be pushed around easily. But, as with all actresses — OK, let’s be honest, all women — she’s had men in the power hierarchy attempt to quash her spark. That’s why she’s so glad that movements such as #MeToo have started.
“Most women have been hit on, and being hit on is different than assault, and it is different if you’re being pressured because you are a subordinate or you’re being drugged,” she says. “I’m not saying that you need to be assaulted to have a hand up of #MeToo. [If you’re] super uncomfortable and got yourself in your situation, you get yourself out. And if you see that guy coming, you warn people.”
But Carter recalls there were good guys, too — men who championed and protected her along the way. She thanks people including Douglas Cramer, who “discovered me and gave me a shot at ‘Wonder Woman,’” as well CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, whom she’s known since 1973 and who will be at the Walk of Fame ceremony. There were also the friends she had while on promotional tours for her music, who taught her how to “walk down the street and not be a victim.”
Carter made a point to still keep a foot in the industry while she was raising her two children. “Some of the best advice I got was, you work all your life to achieve certain things and you need to keep yourself in there” and that “it’s also important for your children to see you working and to know you contribute.”
In addition to a long list of TV movies, she’s done commercials for Maybelline and Lens Express and has had a career in voiceover work for video games made by Bethesda Softworks, a subsidy of ZeniMax Media, which is owned by her husband, Robert A. Altman. She’s the narrator for the Smithsonian Channel miniseries “Epic Warrior Women,” which premiered in March, and will be reprising her role as the governor in the upcoming comedy “Super Troopers 2.”
Last year, she became known to a new generation of fans when she guest-starred on the CW’s “Supergirl” as Olivia Marsdin, the president of the United States who was secretly a Durlan alien. That last bit aside, Carter says she modeled the role on her friends Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.
Melissa Benoist, who stars as Supergirl/Kara Danvers, says it was an honor to have Carter on set.
“I don’t think you can say the words ‘female superhero’ without immediately thinking of her first,” Benoist says, adding that having her on the show was more than just an homage to “Wonder Woman.” “It was electric. Everyone was so excited to have her there.”
The two swapped war stories, and Benoist says Carter “definitely imparted some wisdom” from her time in the industry, such as objecting to having a male stunt double. The elder Justice Leaguer used some of her time backstage teaching Benoist how to do Wonder Woman’s famous spin. (“I can’t imagine how she had to do it in heels and practically just a leotard,” Benoist says of Carter). As most of “Supergirl’s” cast are singers, she also doled out voice lessons.
“She is fearless and she has this light about her that kind of breaks through everything,” Benoist says.
“I would have never tried to play a predatory female. I’ve never been one. I don’t even know how to be one.”
Carter knows that she will forever be linked to her time as Diana Prince, but that hasn’t stopped her from also staying committed to the art form that’s an early love: music. A jazz singer who’s been performing in clubs since she was 14, Carter is touring with her band in her new show, “Red, Rock n’ Blues.”
“We’ve been playing together for 10 years,” she says of her band. “I’ve known some of them for 40 years. We’re very irreverent.”
Carter doesn’t know if she’ll be in the sequel to Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” (“I’m just going to leave it up to the universe and Patty,” she says), but she and the groundbreaking director are close enough that Jenkins will also be a presenter at her Hollywood Walk of Fame star dedication.
“[Lynda] is just the coolest, smartest, most powerful yet elegant, beautiful and lovely person,” Jenkins says, adding that Carter is her “sister in the struggle.”
From their first phone conversation, Jenkins says the two “could have finished each other’s sentences” about their goals for the film adaptation and that there have certainly been “some incredibly funny texts since then, where we both cut to the chase about wanting to defend others and strategize, which felt like the real encapsulation of our instant friendship.
“[It’s] quite incredible to become a part of the story with someone I admire as much as I do Lynda,” the director says. “As the years have gone on, I’ve come to admire that she carried that same spirit into her personal life as well. She lives an incredible and very unique and successful life. She’s had an incredible career but also [has] the personal life and family, which is just as successful.”
No one needs a lasso of truth to verify that that last part is correct.