Lindsay Wagner knows the power of fans.
“It’s because of you all that ‘The Bionic Woman’ came about. It was literally by public demand,” the star of the ‘70s action series told a crowd Friday at FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention.
Wagner — along with Lee Majors, the star of “The Six Million Dollar Man” — appeared on the stage of the Salt Palace’s Grand Ballroom to take questions about their days playing the fastest and strongest people on television.
Majors, now 80, learned early that playing astronaut Steve Austin — who survives a crash and has his legs, right arm and eye replaced with superhuman mechanical parts — would require a lot of running, usually shown in slow motion.
“I found out after the first movie how much running it was,” Majors said. The TV movie — the first of three made before ABC committed to a series — was filmed in 1973 near Yuma, Ariz., and required “running around those sand dunes all day, every day. Ever since then, it’s been running, running, fighting and wrestling Bigfoot.”
Wagner, now 70, knew “The Bionic Woman,” a spinoff of Majors’ show, would involve running. “I didn’t think I would have to run in June in California,” she said. “This may be [too much information], but I don’t sweat well. ... We tried to do as much as possible with the stunt girl.”
Majors takes credit for bringing Wagner into the franchise. “I said, ‘I’m getting tired of looking at these hairy-legged crew guys. Can you get me a love interest?’” Majors said.
Enter Wagner’s character Jaime Sommers, a pro tennis player who is injured in a skydiving accident and gets the same bionic treatment as Steve Austin, with one exception: “I got an eye, she got an ear,” Majors noted.
But Wagner, at first, wasn’t going to get her own series. Her character was killed off, as her body rejected her bionic parts.
“They’re not too smart, sometimes,” Majors said of Universal Television, the studio that produced both shows. (Another example of studio short-sightedness was how, decades later, when Majors and Wagner did a “Bionic” TV movie, they added a “Bionic Girl” but decided the actress couldn’t carry a series. That actress was Sandra Bullock.)
Wagner credits fan support for bringing Jaime Sommers back for her own show, “The Bionic Woman,” which debuted in 1976, with Jaime coming out of cryogenic suspension with her bionic parts still working. The show ran two seasons on ABC, and one on NBC. Wagner won an Emmy for the role.
Majors and Wagner teased each other about the addition of a bionic dog, a German shepherd named Max.
“I said, ‘Don’t put no dog on my show. Take it over to Lindsay. She loves animals,’” Majors said.
Working with the dog who played Max was fine, Wagner said, despite the old showbiz rule that one should never work with animals or children.
“Those dogs were pretty controllable,” Wagner said. “They’re not really socialized with people, though. To get him to kiss, kiss, kiss, you got liver smeared on your face.”
After years of development issues, a reboot of the franchise — adjusted for inflation to “The Six Billion Dollar Man” — is in the works, with Mark Wahlberg as Steve Austin, and Travis Knight (“BumbleBee”) directing.
When asked if a fan petition would help secure roles in the new movie, Wagner nodded. “I can say, it works,” Wagner said.
Majors said he would be ready. “I had my knees replaced seven months ago,” Majors said, “so I’m bionic again.”
The FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention — a gathering of fans of science fiction, fantasy and other genres in movies, TV, comics and other media — returns for its fall 2019 edition, with celebrity appearances, autograph and photo sessions, panel discussions, cosplay contests, artists, vendors and more.
Where • Salt Palace Convention Center, 100 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City.
When • Now through Saturday, Sept. 7.
One-day admission • $45 (Friday) and $55 (Saturday), at fanxsaltlake.com and at the door.
Information • Full schedules at fanxsaltlake.com, or on the FanX app.