Before Gal Gadot emerged on the scene, Lynda Carter was the woman whom everyone associated with the name “Wonder Woman.” Her portrayal of the DC superheroine on television has endured decades after the show finished in the late 1970s. However, Carter has never just been an actor; in the spirit of a Renaissance woman, Carter has also worn the hats of a beauty pageant champion, a singer/songwriter, and a model, all while using her fame to promote the causes that sit close to her heart. So how did she go from a kid from Phoenix, to Miss America, to inspiring young women everywhere as one of DC’s most iconic superheroes? Read on to learn more about Lynda Carter and her remarkable life and career.
1. Personal Improvement
Lynda Carter has been very open about her trouble with alcoholism. In 2008, she stated that thanks in part to her participation with a rehabilitation clinic, she had been sober for ten years. She credited her husband and family for helping her through her problem and coming to terms with herself.
2. Upper Echelon
In 1985, DC Comics published a special title to celebrate 50 people who defined DC for audiences worldwide. Fittingly, this publication was called Fifty Who Made DC Great. Lynda Carter was included amongst these 50 for her three years on Wonder Woman (and rightly so).
3. Hands Up, Punk!
Carter’s first appearance in a fictional TV series was in a 1974 episode of the police drama Nakia. A couple of years later she would appear in another 1970s police series: Starsky & Hutch (not the Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller film, mind you). But this was just the start of her TV career, as you might have guessed.
4. Here, There, But Never Gone
Although appearing in Wonder Woman would immortalize Lynda Carter in the history of pop culture, it’s worth noting that the show lasted just three seasons, after first premiering as a made-for-TV movie. It only ran from 1975 to 1979, so the fact that the show, and Carter’s performance as Wonder Woman, have endured as long as they have speaks highly of them, given the limited time they had to prove themselves.
5. I Approve of This
As some of you will remember, the first season of Wonder Woman took place during World War II, with a more satirical and campy tone than later seasons (very fitting, since some of the people who worked on the show also worked on the Adam West Batman show). The subsequent seasons switched over to a modern setting (due to budgetary reasons), only to receive lower ratings.
However, Carter much approved the latter changes, as it meant abandoning the comedic overtones, which she’d always disliked.
6. The Big Screen
Carter’s first film role was in the 1976 B-movie Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw. In an example of art imitating life, Carter plays an aspiring musician. Of course, it’s safe to say that she probably didn’t go on a crime spree like Bobbie Jo does in the film!
7. …And Proud of it!
While some actors might get tired of being defined by one role, Carter has made it clear throughout her life and career that she is honored to be so closely associated with the iconic superheroine. So should we feel free to approach her with our favorite lines from the show?
8. Place of Birth
Carter was born in Phoenix, Arizona on the 24th of July, 1951, to Juana and Colby Carter. Her mother, who was originally from Mexico, passed away in 2013. Her American father, who is still alive, worked as an art dealer for much of his life.
9. Starting Young
Carter’s first appearance on TV occurred when she was just five years old! She took part in an episode of Lew King’s Talent Show.
10. You’re a Star!
In the early 1970s, Carter expanded her talents by performing in beauty pageants. It’s safe to say that this was a big success for her; in 1972, she won the title of Miss World USA as Arizona’s representative.
11. Childhood Dream
Carter had actually grown up reading the Wonder Woman comics, so you can imagine her astonishment at being able to play her beloved heroine on the small screen decades later!
12. No Easy Task
Carter competed with no fewer than 2,000 other women to win the lead role in Wonder Woman!
13. TV Magic
Most people who watched Wonder Woman will remember that the lead character’s bracelets glowed and flashed as they repelled bullets. Carter actually controlled this herself by holding the remote control in her hands, out of sight of the cameras.
14. Wonder Woman vs the Angels
Of the many women who auditioned for the role of Wonder Woman, three of them (according to Carter herself) happened to be Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Kate Jackson. You might know these three as the leads in the show Charlie’s Angels.
15. Je T’aime
In the early 1970s, before she ever found stardom as an actor, Carter had a brief relationship with Michel Polnareff. For our non-French readers, Polnareff was one of the biggest French musicians of his time and continues to be highly acclaimed and successful to this day. Maybe they’ll eventually reunite for a singing tour together?
16. Let’s Have a Laugh
One of Carter’s more well-known film roles is that of Governor Jessman in the 2001 police comedy film Super Troopers. Rather than having to audition, Carter had been personally sought for the role by the filmmakers. She must have enjoyed the experience (not to mention the film’s impressive success as a cult classic) because she also appeared in the 2018 sequel, her first film role in over 10 years.
17. Can You Handle This Truth?
One of Carter’s stunt doubles on Wonder Woman was named Jeannie Epper. Understandably, Epper’s son was quick to brag that his mom was a stunt double for Wonder Woman herself. However, perhaps also understandably, nobody believed him. When she heard about the situation, Carter surprisingly decided to help out Epper’s son: She invited the entire class to the TV set so they could watch Epper in action with their own eyes!
18. Hear Me Roar
Carter has used her status as a celebrity to push for many social reforms throughout her life. She has especially been a strong supporter of the LGBT community. Carter served as the Grand Marshal in two pride parades in 2011 (one in Phoenix, the other in New York). Two years later, she took up the role of Grand Marshall once again for the Capital Pride Parade in Washington DC (that last one seems a rather fitting place to have a pride parade hosted by Wonder Woman).
19. Future Couple
Carter met her current husband, lawyer Robert A. Altman, when they were sat together by a mutual friend at a social event. It turns out that friend had a good eye for matchmaking!
20. Walk on By
On April 3, 2018, Carter received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It remains to be seen when Gal Gadot will get hers.
21. Move On, Mickey
A regular actor for Warner Brothers, Carter has rarely worked with other production companies. One exception is her participation in the Disney film Sky High (which wasn’t a particularly high profile role, as you can imagine). It remains the only Disney film which Carter has ever acted in, appearing as the Principal Powers.
22. A Hero in Real Life
In the true spirit of her status as a superheroine, Carter has spent her life dedicated to philanthropy. She regularly hosts a charity golf tournament named in her honor. Not only that, Carter has actively worked with the Red Cross, USO, and several children’s charities, for which she has been acclaimed and commended by many organizations.
23. You Win This Round, Kate…
Carter was one of many women who auditioned for the role of Captain Kathryn Janeway for the sci-fi series Star Trek: Voyager. As any Trekkie would be quick to point out, Carter lost out the role to Kate Mulgrew. Suddenly, we’re wondering if Carter ever auditioned for Orange is the New Black as well.
24. Creators and Actor
As one can imagine, playing Wonder Woman caused Carter to meet the family of William Moulton Marston, the man who created the heroine. Carter not only became familiar, but very friendly with the family, who we can imagine had nothing but praise for her portrayal of Marston’s creation.
25. A Grand Appearance
Carter was approached by director Patty Jenkins to appear in the 2017 film Wonder Woman in a cameo role. Sadly, Carter was busy with concert commitments and couldn’t find a good time to join the film production. However, Carter has made it clear that she would be happy to do it in the future. Maybe we’ll see her in the sequel?
26. Would You Call Her a Commercialist?
In 1977, Carter didn’t let her responsibilities on Wonder Woman get in the way of pursuing a modeling career. She signed a contract that year with the cosmetics company Maybelline to model for them. She also appeared in a Diet 7Up commercial alongside the well-known comedian Don Rickles.
27. Too Young to Gamble, Old Enough to Sing
During high school, Carter performed in a few bands. One of them, known as the Relatives, actually got to perform a show in Las Vegas’ Sahara Hotel lounge for three months. Carter was just 17 at the time, and because of her status as a minor, she had to go into the casino through the kitchen in order to play her music.
28. Imagine That Crossover!
Interestingly, Lynda Carter wasn’t the only member of the Relatives to have an acting career. The drummer of that band was none other than Gary Burghoff. You might know him better as Radar O’Reilly on M*A*S*H.
29. Sing and Dance!
Never forgetting her musical roots, Carter was able to bring those talents to Wonder Woman. In the episode “Amazon Hot Wax,” Carter got to sing two songs which she’d also written. Who said you can’t combine your passions with your work?
30. Starting from the Bottom
Like many people who pursue acting, Carter was forced to burn through her savings while trying to find success. Despite the money she’d made as a musician, Carter was pushed to her limits in the pursuit of acting. In fact, she only had $25 in her bank account when she got the role of Wonder Woman.
31. Talk About a Hiatus!
Carter never abandoned her aspirations to be a musician. However, her albums sometimes took a backseat in favor of her other endeavors. A full thirty-one years passed in between the releases of her first and second albums. Fittingly, the second album was titled At Last.
32. An Adventurer Like You
Gamers might not know it, but they are very familiar with Carter’s voice acting. This is especially true if those gamers play any of the Elder Scrolls games. Carter has provided voicework for Skyrim, Morrowind, and Oblivion. No word on if she took an arrow to the knee during the process, however!
33. Hi Dear!
Interestingly, Carter has a personal connection to The Elder Scrolls. The company which produces those games is Bethesda Softworks. Bethesda’s parent company is Zenimax Media, whose CEO is none other than Carter’s husband, Robert A. Altman!
34. Consistently Consistent
Carter had a unique tradition with all the television specials that she participated in later in her career: She would end each one of them by singing the song “Always.” I guess that makes sense, seeing as she does it every single time.
35. You Spin Me Right Round
According to Lynda Carter, she was the one who came up with the spin transformation which was used in Wonder Woman to depict Diana Prince changing her costume to that of Wonder Woman. Given Carter’s history with ballet, it should come as no surprise that she was able to perform the stunt herself.
36. Lynda the Fearless
Despite having stunt doubles, Carter was very committed to performing as many of her own stunts as possible. She even gave the executive producers at CBS a headache when she insisted on personally hanging from a helicopter in one of the second season’s episodes!
37. Buy My Tracks!
In 2015, Carter took a lead voice role in the video game Fallout 4 (which is also a Bethesda game—go figure!). Not only that, she also wrote and performed five songs which were used in the game. These songs were later made available for sale on iTunes.
38. No Hard Feelings?
Carter had no idea that Howard Cosell, another actor, actually wore a hairpiece in real life. She found out soon enough, though, when she and Cosell co-starred in Battle of the Network Stars. As a joke, Carter poured champagne on Cosell’s head, much to his anger. But don’t worry, afterward she made it up to him whenever they happened to be in the same restaurant. If Carter saw him, she would always send a bottle of champagne to his table. Sounds like a mixed message, to be honest!
39. I Love Kryptonians
Years after portraying Wonder Woman, Carter would eventually return to the DC universe in other TV shows. Carter appeared in an episode of Smallville before showing up in another “super” TV series—years later, she landed the role of US president Olivia Marsdin in Supergirl. Safe to say that Carter is probably not a Marvel fan!
40. Inspired to Give Up
While Carter was studying at Arizona State University, she was voted “Most Talented.” While most of us would modestly brush off such an honor while hiding our smug reactions, Carter was inspired to drop out of her studies to pursue her dreams of becoming a musician. Safe to say that her dream eventually did come true!
41. Amicable Actors?
Two of Carter’s co-stars on the show Wonder Woman have gone on record complaining of tension and a bad working relationship with her. These were Lyle Waggoner (Steve Trevor) and Debra Winger (Wonder Girl). One persistent theory is that Waggoner’s tension with Carter led the writers to diminish his role in the series. Carter has denied any tension with Waggoner, and has pointed out that Winger has frequently clashed with her co-stars during her career.
42. One Girl’s Heroine
According to Carter in a 2017 interview, when she first won the famous role of Diana Prince, she was warned by a producer of Wonder Woman that she should brace herself. The producer was certain that Carter would be despised by the show’s female audience out of envy for her heroic character. Carter, however, thought that was hogwash, as she believed she would be a role model and an inspiration. Thirty years on from that show, it’s safe to say that Carter was on the nose!
43. A Near Miss
Lynda Carter had a role in the war epic Apocalypse Now, but you can be forgiven if you don’t remember seeing her on screen—all of her scenes were cut in the editing process.
44. Loyal to a Fault
While most people loved the film 2016 reboot of Wonder Woman, one person who made his disapproval very clear was Canadian director James Cameron. Carter took such issue with his “thuggish jabs” that she publicly berated him in her impassioned defense of the film, telling him “Perhaps you do not understand the character. I most certainly do. Like all women—we are more than the sum of our parts.”