Fan-Cast: Bionic Reboot, part 5: Rudy Wells

Alan Oppenheimer as Rudy Wells - smiling, grey suit

Alan Oppenheimer as Rudy Wells

Martin E Brooks as Rudy Wells from opening credits

Martin E. Brooks as Rudy Wells

For our final “Bionic Reboot” fan-cast exercise, we have the primary creator/developer of the bionic technology, good ol’ “Dr. Rudy Wells”. In the original “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV movie, Wells was portrayed by veteran actor Martin Balsam. For the next two TV movies and 7 episodes of “The Six Million Dollar Man” series (including the 2-parter that introduced Jaime Sommers), the role went to voice-over legend (and later Star Trek guest-star) Alan Oppenheimer. He was replaced at the beginning of Season 3 of TSMDM by the wonderful Martin E. Brooks, who is credited in 45 episodes each of TSMDM and TBW, as well as the three subsequent TV reunion movies in the 80s & 90s.

Dr. Rudy Wells was not only adept at designing nuclear-powered, cybernetic prosthetics and their interfaces with organics, he was apparently a damn fine surgeon. Of course, he had an entire surgical team working with him, but Rudy was in charge. Plus, he gave Steve and Jaime their regular physical checkups (including the bionics, of course), so I was always under the impression that he was a physician, too.

Physically, the 3 original actors varied, with Balsam being the oldest (~53), only 5’7″, and a little more… robust. Oppenheimer was fairly trim, balding, about 5’10.5″, and in his mid-40s. Brooks was also trim, not balding (just slightly receding), a tad shorter at 5’10”, and about 49 when he first took over the role. (They were all mustached, too, but that isn’t much in fashion, these days.) I always preferred Brooks’ look and take on the character, but my only physical criterion for a reboot would be that he is still roughly 40-something, maybe 50-ish. As for the kind of person Rudy was, he seemed quite likable and got along well with, and was respected by, everyone. Rudy and Oscar appeared to have a good working relationship. He was kind and truly cared for his patients. True, he really got excited about the bionics and could get lost in his work, but Steve and Jaime (and a few others) were not just experiments to him. As I said before, he was sort of like a slightly eccentric uncle, including the occasional (stereotypical) absentmindedness. I wouldn’t mind if the character was developed a bit more than in the 70s series, but I like the idea of keeping the personality and relationships intact.

In researching candidates for the “Rudy Wells” role, I didn’t come up with as many possibilities as I did for “Oscar Goldman”. Not sure why. But, I did settle on three fine actors for your consideration:

Hill Harper as Sheldon Hawkes

Hill Harper as Dr. Sheldon Hawkes


Hill Harper
(5’9″,b.1966)

Yes, this is an exception to my general rule of keeping the original race of a character. With a name like “Goldman”, I figure Oscar has to be white. But, “Rudy Wells” is much more flexible. So,… Harper is my favorite among these three. Probably best known as Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on “CSI: New York” and more recently as Agent Calder Michaels on “Covert Affairs”, Harper has demonstrated portraying characters that are likable, very intelligent, and intellectually curious, as well as a loyal & dependable friend. Combining the doctor/scientist and federal agent roles — a la “Rudy Wells” — seems a natural fit for Harper. Given the opportunity, he definitely has the chops to make Wells a more complex and well-rounded character, too.

Jon Gries on 2012 Winter TCA Tour Day

Jon Gries

Jon Gries (5’11”,b.1957)

I first remember Gries from the TV series “The Pretender”, in which he played an odd, somewhat nerdy supporting character. He has also appeared in many, many things over the years, including Fright Night Part 2, “Quantum Leap”, “The X-Files”, “Lost”, and “Supernatural”. At 56 (at the time of this writing), Gries is a little older than I would prefer. (He would probably agree.) But, he’s a great, versatile actor, whom I think would do a great job as “Dr. Rudy Wells”. (He even looks a bit like Alan Oppenheimer, dontchathink?)

 

 

 

Rob LaBelle as Dr Frederick Walden

Rob LaBelle as Dr Frederick Walden on Smallville


Rob LaBelle
(5’10”,b.19??)

I can’t find a birthdate for LaBelle on IMDB or anywhere else, but I’m pretty sure he is within our desired parameters. I think the first thing I saw him in was “First Wave” as geeky conspiracy theorist “Crazy Eddie”. Great character! LaBelle has had guest roles in lots of genre shows, including “The X-Files”, “Lois & Clark”, “Sliders”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, “Eureka”, “The 4400”, Watchmen, and “Supernatural”. Though he often plays “out there” characters, even stereotypes, I think LaBelle could bring a sufficient combination of seriousness, humor, and humanity to do “Rudy Wells” justice.

There ya have ’em! Thoughts? Comments?

Thus concludeth this fan-casting series for a possible reboot of “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”. If we’re gonna do it — and I really think “we” should –, we need to do it right. Right? That means returning to the characters, stories, and themes that made the originals so endearing and enduring. Are you listening, NBC/Universal (or whomever has the rights)?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2014.

Fan-Cast: Bionic Reboot, part 4: Oscar Goldman

Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman

Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman

OK, having detoured into monster country, now we’re back to fan-casting the series regulars for our proposed Bionic Reboot. First up is the part of “Oscar Goldman”, Director of the O.S.I., a division of the U.S. State Department. [Fun fact: The acronym stood for “Office of Scientific Intelligence” in the series, as evidenced by ID cards and Oscar’s office door, but a couple of anomalous episodes have it as the “Office of Scientific Investigation” or “Office of Strategic Investigation” — likely production errors. It appeared to have officially changed to “Office of Scientific Information” in the reunion movies.] In the first TSMDM movie, the character was named “Oliver Spencer” and was played by Darren McGavin, just prior to his “Kolchak: The Night Stalker days”. I think this was consistent with the Cyborg novel, but don’t quote me on that.

I liked Richard Anderson (6’3″,b.1926) a lot in this role in the original “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman” series. He was one part spymaster, two parts bureaucrat. But, he wasn’t too stuffy or unapproachable. And, while he had his share of arguments with his operatives, his compassion and concern for his people shown through, and he backed them up whenever and however he could. He was also, as I mentioned before, a sort of mentor — perhaps father-figure or “big brother” — to both Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers, the latter having lost both of her parents. Again, I would love to see this sort of relationship return in a reboot. (Maybe not at first, but developing as the characters work together and get to know each other.) A little more character development for Oscar would be nice, too.

Anderson had a trim physique and was in his late 40s when “The Six Million Dollar Man” began. That would work for my reboot idea, but I actually pictured Goldman being a little older — 50s, maybe pushing 60. The height is less important, but I think around 6′ or so is good.

I considered Jack Coleman (6’2″,b.1958) of “Heroes”; Laurence Fishburne (6’0.5″,b.1961) of “C.S.I.” and The Matrix movies; Henry Czerny (5’10”,b.1959) of “Revenge”; Jonathan Frakes (6’4″,b.1952) of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”; and Jon Tenney (6’1″,b.1961) of “The Closer”. I also really liked Bruce Thomas of “Kyle XY”, who once portrayed a quasi-retired Batman in an episode of the short-lived “Birds of Prey” series and has done genre voice-work, including “Commissioner Jim Gordon” in the upcoming “Son of Batman”. But, I think I’ve narrowed it down to these two finalists:

John Terry - closeup black jacket

John Terry

John Terry (6’2″,b.1950)

I realize he’s already over 60, so he falls outside my preferred age parameters. But, Terry is the first one I thought of who I really liked for the part. (I guess I was thinking of him from “24”, which was 10+ years ago. He was also on “Lost”.) He just seems like he would really fit the bill, and I think he has the talent to do a great job! Plus, in some pictures, he even looks a little like Richard Anderson.

 

 

 

 

Peter Woodward - portfolio shot, casual blue shirt

Peter Woodward

Peter Woodward (5’11”,b.1956)

A classically-trained British actor, Woodward has done a lot of genre work — e.g., “Brimstone”, “Charmed”, “Stargate: Atlantis”, “Babylon 5” spinoff “Crusade”, “Fringe”, the voice of Ra’s al Ghul in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”, and he can currently be seen in “Dracula”. I think I’d prefer the character with hair, but the bald head with chin-whiskers looks really good on him. I imagine Woodward could do a believable American accent, but having him be a Brit — maybe former MI-5 or MI-6? — might be an interesting twist.

 

 

 

 

Honorable mentions go to a couple guys I would love to see in regular roles again: First, Richard Dean Anderson (6’1.5″,b.1950) of “MacGuyver”, “Legend” (co-starring John “Q” de Lancie), and “Stargate SG-1” (w/ appearances in the spin-offs) fame. He is roughly the same age as Terry and has put on a little weight but still looks good. He played a colonel/general for several years, so he has the “authority figure” bit down. I think Anderson — no relation to the original “Oscar”, despite the old rumors — could make a great Oscar Goldman. Second is Kent McCord (6’2″,b.1942), best known (by those of us old enough to remember) from “Adam-12”, but also from genre fare like “Galactica 1980”, “SeaQuest 2032”, & “Farscape”. He hasn’t been in anything since 2005, and he is over 70, so I’m not sure about his health or desire to act anymore. But, he also might make a fine Oscar Goldman.

So,… who do you see as “Oscar”?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2014.

Fan-Cast: Bionic Reboot, part 1: Jaime Sommers

Since the post that led to this exercise was about the 2007 version of the “Bionic Woman”, we’ll begin by casting the role of Jaime Sommers for a proposed new series. (As far as I know, though, I’m the only one proposing it, at this point. Please see the aforementioned post.) As a big fan of the original, I loved Lindsay Wagner as Jaime and she will always be Jaime. But,… a reboot requires a “replacement”, so we must try to find someone that adequately fits the bill.

Lindsay Wagner from opening of "The Bionic Woman"

Smiling Jaime Sommers brushes hair behind her bionic ear

Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers

First, I know it’s fairly trivial, but I think Jaime should remain blonde. More generally, she should have a similar physical build as Lindsay Wagner — tallish and slender but physically fit. Regarding height, Wagner is 5’9″, so I think a range of 5’7″ to 5’10” makes for fair search parameters. Regarding fitness, the character was originally a tennis pro and, while I don’t think this necessarily would have to be the case in a reboot, I do like the idea of Jaime being into sports/fitness. It would help explain her physiological and psychological ability to survive the accident (whatever it is), surgery, and subsequent therapy.

Personality-wise, Jaime is smart, compassionate, and has a joie de vivre and a fun sense of humor. (At least, that’s what I remember from the original series, and I’d like to see it retained in a reboot.) The actress portraying her needs to be able to convey all of these, as well as both strength and vulnerability.

As far as age goes, Wagner was about 26/27 when she first portrayed Jaime in “The Six Million Dollar Man”, and I assume the character was supposed to be about the same age. This is a tad younger than I would prefer. Given the timeline proposed in the previous post, the character should be about 30, give or take a couple years. Of course, actors often play characters younger than they are, so I’d be willing to cast a young-looking 35-year-old.

When I first starting thinking about this, the two actors that came to mind were Jennifer Morrison (5’5.25″,b.1979) from “Once Upon a Time” and Yvonne Strahovski (5’9.25″,b.1982) from “Chuck”. Unfortunately, Morrison is shorter than I thought and Strahovski, well, it seems too easy casting her in another kick-butt, super-spy role. (Same goes for Rachel Nichols (5’10”,b.1980) of G.I. Joe and “Continuum”.) I looked at several others that I like, but they are either too young, too short, or both. For example, Chloe Bennet (5’5.75″,b.1991) of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”; Jessy Schram (5’7″,b.1986) of “Falling Skies”; Sarah Jones (5’3″,b.1983) of “Alcatraz”; Vanessa Ray (5’4″,b.1980) of “Blue Bloods”.

The next batch of possibles included Jaimie Alexander (5’9″,b.1984) of the Thor movies; Mary Elizabeth Winstead (5’8″,b.1984) of “Wolf Lake” and Final Destination 3; Rachael Taylor (5’7.75″,b.1984) of “Crisis”; and Jaime King (5’9″,b.1979) of “Hart of Dixie” and the Sin City movies, who was actually named after the ‘Jaime Sommers’ character. But, for one reason or another, I just wasn’t sure about them. So, I think I’ve narrowed it down to these three:

Sarah Roemer on the red carpet - smiling

Sarah Roemer

Sarah Roemer (5’7.5″,b.1984)

I first saw Roemer in the short-lived series “The Event” a couple years ago, where she displayed many of the qualities I am looking for in Jaime. She was also in Disturbia and the current series “Chosen”. Though she is a just a tad shorter than I’d like, I think Roemer has the best look, and I know she has the talent. She is my favorite of the finalists.

 

 

 

 

Abby Cornish in dark top - smiling

Abbie Cornish

Abbie Cornish (5’8″,b.1982)

Cornish is an Australian export who has been in Limitless, Sucker Punch, and the recent Robocop remake. I haven’t seen the last one, yet, and I honestly don’t remember much about her characters in the other two. At this point, I’m just trusting that she would have sufficient talent to do Jaime justice.

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Daddario in pink top

Alexandra Daddario

Alexandra Daddario (5’8″,b.1986)

I enjoyed Daddario’s performance in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and also in her recurring role of Kate on “White Collar”. (Lately, she has been in “True Detective”, but I haven’t been able to check it out, yet.) She can play tough and sweet, and those amazing eyes have got to be worth bonus points!

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Darling as Peggy CallahanAs sort of a last-minute addition, I want to add a favorite supporting character: Peggy Callahan, originally played by Jennifer Darling. She was Oscar Goldman’s secretary and actually got involved in a few cases. She was short, cute, had kind of a funny/husky voice, reliable but sometimes flustered. She may have only appeared in 7 episodes of “The Bionic Woman” (and 4 episodes of “The Six Million Dollar Man”), but she was fun and a good friend to Jaime, so I figured I’d try to cast her, too. I’m not even gonna try to duplicate the voice, but the overall character shouldn’t be too hard: sweet-n-spunky, quirky-but-lovable, dependable friend and gal-Friday.

The person I immediately thought of was Emily Bett Rickards (5’5″,b.1991), who plays Felicity Smoak on “Arrow”. In some ways, the Felicity character is similar to Callahan, so it isn’t surprising why I thought of her. Another possibility is Brooke Nevin (5’4.5″,b.1982) from “Cracked” and “Breakout Kings”. She’s about the same age as Jaime (as was the original Callahan), so their friendship might be a more natural bonding. Nevin also seems to have some of the same qualities I was looking for for Jaime; if she wasn’t so short, she’d be in the running for the lead.

Emily Bett Rickards

Emily Bett Rickards

Brooke Nevin

Brooke Nevin

Alright,… How’d I do? Good choices or outta my gourd?

In Part 2, I’ll try a little bionic matchmaking to find a new “Steve Austin” for our “Jaime Sommers” and possibly cast a favorite villain from the original series….

 

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2014.