8 things you might not know about the great Kate Jackson

She was more than an Angel — she came up with the name.

Image: The Everett Collection

Most know Kate Jackson as Sabrina Duncan, the whip-smart investigator on Charlie's Angels. Or perhaps you Eighties kids remember her as "Mrs. King" on The Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Either way, Jackson was a mainstay of 1970s and '80s television. 

The cancer survivor has continued to appear on the small screen into the new millennium. Jackson made her screen debut nearly 50 years ago, on a certain spooky soap opera. To celebrate this TV legend, let's look at some fascinating facts about her career.

1. Her acting gig out of school was a role on Dark Shadows.


The Alabama native began her college education at the University of Mississippi, but she eventually bolted for New York City and studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Jackson honed her skills in summer stage shows. After graduation, she landed her first role on the popular daytime vampire soap opera Dark Shadows. She later admitted in an interview that it was one of her first ever auditions. Playing the ghost Tracy Collins, Jackson did not speak for her first five weeks or so on the show. Eventually, she got some dialogue… and a role in the spin-off movie Night of Dark Shadows.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. She came up with the name "Angels."


After her popular role on the series The Rookies (more on that below), producer Aaron Spelling secured Jackson as the centerpiece of his next series, an action show about three female private investigators. The working title was The Alley Cats. But Jackson, who had some creative say in the development, was no fan of the title. In one meeting, she looked at a painting of cherubs hanging behind Spelling's desk and suggested, "How about Angels?" The show then became Harry's Angels, but the existence of a series called Harry O forced the final edit to Charlie's Angels.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. She was first cast as Kelly, not Sabrina.


Oh, about the origins of Charlie's Angels, there's just one major difference between the pilot development and the final product — Kate Jackson was pegged to play Kelly Garrett. For this reason, Kelly was the main character in the script for the 1976 made-for-TV movie Charlie's Angels. But late in development, Jackson jumped roles to Sabrina and Jaclyn Smith became Kelly.

4. She had to turn down the role that made Meryl Streep's career.


The wild success of Charlie's Angels opened doors for Kate Jackson. She scored the role in emotional 1979 drama Kramer vs. Kramer alongside Dustin Hoffman. However, Jackson was contractually obligated to the shooting schedule of Charlie's Angels. The producers would not accommodate her shooting Kramer vs. Kramer. She was forced to drop out of the film. Up-and-comer Meryl Streep filled in the role — winning the Oscar for Best Actress in the highest-grossing movie of the year.

Image: Columbia Pictures

5. She went from NBC page to hosting Saturday Night Live.


In 1979, Jackson did get to show off her acting range as the host of Saturday Night Live. She certainly knew her way around 30 Rock. Back in her college days, Jackson worked at NBC as a page. Talk about working your way up the ladder. 

Image: The Everett Collection

6. The necklace she bought for SNL became a big part of her Scarecrow and Mrs. King wardrobe.


Notice the necklace Jackson wore on SNL? It was a heart-shaped diamond pendant that she purchased to add some contrasting sparkle to her black outfit. Jackson not only kept the necklace, she frequently wore it in her role as Amanda King on Scarecrow and Mrs. King. You can see it here. 

Image: Warner Bros.

7. She was in one of the first movies about the effects of the Vietnam War.


Let's rewind a bit. In 1972, Jackson starred in a film called Limbo. While not terribly popular or acclaimed, the movie does hold some historical importance. Jackson portrayed the wife of MIA soldier in the Vietnam War. The war would continue to be waged for three more years, making this one not only one of the first Vietnam movies in general but a trailblazer in terms of focusing on the emotional toll back home in the States.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Sam Melville played her husband on two different shows.


Earlier we mentioned The Rookies, the 1972–76 series centering around three young men serving in the fictional Southern California Police Department. Jackson landed the role of Jill Danko, a nurse and wife to officer Mike Danko, played by Sam Melville. By the fourth season, Jackson was receiving the most fan mail of any actor on the show. That's what gave her the clout heading into Charlie's Angels. Well, Jackson and Melville must have had some chemistry, as the two teamed up again on Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Melville appeared a handful of times as Joe King, Amanda's ex-husband.

Image: The Everett Collection

SEE MORE: 10 heavenly facts about 'Charlie's Angels'


Both the President and Ayn Rand were big fans of this 1970s sensation. READ MORE

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Rita6868 18 months ago
The best fact is #8!
Kate played Jill Danko on the timeless show The Rookies 1972-1976.Jill was a sweet and compassionate person.Kate's acting was so good on this show.She was someone you looked for and could not wait to see every week.The plots on The Rookies are still of interest and to me the best written of all of the shows she was on.Definite chemistry between Kate and Sam Melville.They will always be my favorite TV couple.Kate was directing on some of Scarecrow and I will be forever grateful to her for having Sam on the show.We were able to see him in the 1980's before his passing in 1989.Kate is a class act! Love You Kate!
Ceaaa22 39 months ago
One of my favourite shows back then was Charlie's Angels and it was never the same after Kate left. I actually cried when I read the news !

My friends and sisters would role play the characters and I'd always want to be Sabrina because she was the one with brains , so I'd wear turtlenecks and flared slacks and try to style my hair the way she did.

We even recreated the peril scene from the episode " Magic Fire " where she was tied to a chair with a fire bomb set to go off when someone rang the phone. After I was tied and gagged, for a laugh they left me and I had to wait until Mom found me after I managed to loosen the tape enough so I could call for help

She wasn't happy !
NostalgiaFan 60 months ago
I wish Hollywood would wake up and cast KATE JACKSON in something. IMO she is a highly under-rated and under-appreciated actress.
ScottSchada 61 months ago
Agree--She's my favorite Angel. I watch "Charlie's Angel" with a friend recovering in a nursing home, and its always something of a disappointment when its not a KJ episode...
B 62 months ago
I come from three sisters, we did what every girl did in the late 1970s...pretend to be a Angel. My oldest sister got to "be" Sabrina. That was always the one everyone wanted to be. For me, Kate will always be the star of my favorite show, Scarecrow and Mrs. King. It is so very 1980s, and I love it.
Lacey 62 months ago
OK, but WHY did Jackson jump roles to Sabrina and Jaclyn Smith become Kelly ?
Come on MeTV staff writers, put some MEAT on the plate once in a while.
DawnGraham 63 months ago
Kate was the only reason I watched Charlie's Angel's.
cperrynaples 63 months ago
Another fact: She starred in Making Love, where her husband Michael Onkean [also on Rookies] had an affair with Harry Hamlin! Yep, they were gay!
Skippy 63 months ago
Meryl Streep won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for "Kramer Vs. Kramer". Sally Field won Best Actress for "Norma Rae".

stephaniestavropoulos 63 months ago
Kate Jackson portrayed another character on Dark Shadows, {aside from the ghost Tracy Collins:} She Portrayed {In Parallel Time I think it was} Daphne Harridge {Born in 1818.} Wound up being hired a governess by the original Quentin Collins for his son, Tad, in 1840.
Deleted 63 months ago
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stephaniestavropoulos 63 months ago
She not only portrayed the ghost Tracy Collins, she also portrayed another character: Daphne Harridge. {I think this was during Parallel Time, but I could be wrong.} She was born in 1818. The original Quentin Collins hired her to be the governess for his son, Tad, in 1840.
Dario 63 months ago
This lovely lady, a gorgeous Southern Belle, has had some career, I must say. 😁❤️
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