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.

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Re-engineering the Bionic Woman

Speaking of cyborgs….

New Bionic_Woman and castA few years ago, I was excited to read that they were “bringing back” the Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers. I had a bit of a crush on Lindsay Wagner from the original back in the mid-70s, and it was one of my favorite shows. The new show — call it a “reboot”, I suppose — debuted on 9/26/2007, starring Michelle Ryan. I liked it OK but was disappointed that they had changed a number of things for no good reason, as far as I could tell. For example, Jaime herself looked and acted very differently; she was now a bartender, not a tennis pro; she lived with her rebellious, teenage sister; the organization that gave Jaime her “updated” bionics was the Berkut Group, not the Office of Scientific Investigations (O.S.I.); her boss was some jerk named “Jonas Bledsoe”, not the fatherly Oscar Goldman; they gave her a bionic eye, in addition to the legs, arm, & ear; the bionics were now nanite-powered (really? default to nanites?); etc. In some ways, the darker, ethically-questionable, more secretive feel of the series seemed to be trying to capitalize on the popularity of “La Femme Nikita”. This all bugged me a bit, but, as with most things sci-fi, I was still willing to give it a chance.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one disappointed in the series, since it was quickly cancelled and ground to a halt after 8 episodes. So, at the time I decided to jot down a few ideas of what I thought they could do to revive and improve it.

1) Bring back Oscar Goldman, Rudy Wells, and the O.S.I. (Also, minimize any dark, shady aspects. These are the good guys!) Berkut should be renamed, re-organized/re-focused (maybe as a unit within the O.S.I.?), or maybe just disbanded. Jonas and (therapist) Ruth could be killed or reassigned. Not sure whether or not to keep the little sister.

2) Oscar should be a mentor and father figure to Jaime, while Rudy could be somewhat of an absentminded professor/uncle-type. (You know, like in the original series, where they actually liked each other and worked well together?) Maybe Rudy could be a former associate, then rival, of (nemesis) Anthros, who worked on his own version of the bionic technology for either a different government agency or an independent lab. [In fact, I would like to see a totally different approach to the “bionic” technology, blending “old school” with new.]

3) Spend more time training Jaime in espionage, guns, field tactics, etc. Maybe have flashbacks of her learning to control her strength, speed, etc. [This aspect of showing her training with one or more other operatives was one of the things that actually made sense in the reboot.]

4) Borrow from ‘Alias’, where a) there were one or two main opponent organizations whose activities are tracked; and b) operations/assignments should be planned in a briefing room w/ Oscar, Jaime, Rudy(?) and/or Nathan or Jae (assuming they keep those characters), and one or two senior operatives whom she could be alternately paired with on training missions.

Overall, the show seemed to be unfocused (to me, anyway) and in need of better writing. Most of the characters weren’t all that interesting or even likable. For one, I prefer the more lighthearted & fun-loving Jaime of old. (Maybe they would have had her lighten up a bit later on, after grieving for her fiance and “dealing” with the realities of her new life?) On a positive note, casting Katee Sackhoff as Jaime’s troubled, bionic opposite-number, Sarah Corvus, was brilliant! She did a great job, gloating in her superior skills, while also trying to convince Jaime to leave Berkut and join her. It was also a nice homage to Monte Markham’s “Seven Million Dollar Man” character, Barney Hiller/Miller, from “The Six Million Dollar Man”.

This leads me to another way I thought of to improve the show — namely, bring “Col. Steve Austin” into the picture by sort of mirroring the way Jaime Sommers was introduced in the original TSMDM series. I had a couple of background and story ideas back then, which I have fleshed out a little, here.

5) In season two, introduce Steve Austin. Steve and Jaime were high school sweethearts, with Steve being at least a couple years ahead of her. He graduated in 2001 and began attending community college that Fall. Then, one or both of Steve’s parents were killed in the 9/11 attacks. He enlisted, becoming an Air Force pilot. Meanwhile, he & Jaime became estranged and, when he was stationed overseas, they lost touch.

6) Now in 20XX, Steve appears on Jaime’s doorstep. After several tours in the Middle East and a brief stint in the now-defunct NASA Space Shuttle program, the newly-promoted colonel is about to begin working as a test pilot. Over the next few days, they spend a lot of time together and rekindle some old flames. Steve asks Jaime to come watch him on his first flight of a new supersonic jet. As in the original TSMDM, Steve has a terrible accident while landing and is near death. A distraught Jaime manages to convince Oscar to let Rudy operate on Steve and replace various parts with bionic ones. (Steve’s superb military record certainly works in his favor, since Oscar thinks he would make a good O.S.I. operative.)

7) Taking another cue from the original TSMDM/TBW, Steve suffers minor brain damage and doesn’t remember Jaime or their relationship. Nevertheless, he accepts her friendship and assistance in learning to accept (and use) his bionics. This aspect can, of course, be interspersed throughout 2 or 3 or more episodes.

8) At some point, Oscar tries to recruit Steve into working for the O.S.I. If he does it full-time, perhaps he would be assigned to another installation. Or, maybe he could agree to only the occasional assignment while he concentrates on relearning his piloting skills. Or, maybe they work out that he remains in the military for another 2 or 3 years (perhaps training recruits?), before beginning training with the O.S.I.? (Of course, this will be affected by whether or not Steve gets his own show.)

So,… thoughts? I think the old fans (like me) would really appreciate these changes, bringing back both the tone and some familiar characters/elements from the original series. New, younger viewers might like it better, too. As long as the casting and writing were up to snuff, it could be a popular show (or two) once again. And, speaking of casting, that’s what I’ll do in my next post….