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Catherine Schell cast as an exotic character

Syndicated US newspaper reports from October 1976 including interviews with Catherine Schell.

Catherine Schell cast as an exotic character

By David Dugas (15 October 1976)

NEW YORK (UPT) - The producers of that lavish British TV series, "Space: 1999." 'were getting ready for a second year of episodes and needed an actress to play the new character, Maya, an exotic creature described as a "resident alien who possesses the incredible power of molecular transformation."

The part went to beautiful Catherine Schell, born in Budapest and schooled in Washington, New York and Munich; an American citizen who settled in London nine years ago after marrying an English actor.

She wasn't a total stranger to the austere environs of "Space: 1999." Last year she joined stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, the husband-and-wife team formerly of "Mission: Impossible," for a guest role.

"I played a robot - computerized to please," she said. "I was blown up in the end. There were all these springs and screws flying out of my head."

"Space: 1999" began life last year, hoping to inherit millions of fans left behind by "Star Trek." For its second year the budget per-episode has been increased to $300,000, bringing the 24-episode total to $7 million.

Part of the increase paid for the services of producer-writer Fred Freiberger, formerly of "Star Trek." Another chunk goes into the elaborate special effects required for Catherine's "molecular transformations" - the ability to transform herself into fascinating objects, creatures and other life forms.

How does she do it?

"It depends on the sort of creature and the situation," Catherine said. "You see what I'm going to turn into in the pupil of my eye. Then I blink and it happens. There is one sequence where I become a black leopard and I come leaping at the camera. Then the leopard takes over in mid leap."

Before venturing into the cavernous "Space: 1999" set each morning, she gets a special hairdo, a pair of beady eyebrows and facial shadows that give her face a distinctively feline look.

The original idea was for her to wear special contact lenses that would make her gray-blue eyes entirely white except for star-shaped pupils. She tried wearing them at home but couldn't see anything so they were eliminated.

"I wore them once in a restaurant and the waitress dropped her glass when I looked up at her." Catherine said.

Actress Roles Scarce, Space-Show Star Finds

Uncredited US press report, 20 October 1976

It could be discouraging - being beautiful and an actress - because women just can't make it big these days in the theater, "but you keep trying ... and then, of course, there is always outer space."

So says Catherine Schell, of London, a beautiful, blue-eyed, reddish blonde, who plays a far-out space character in a current television series, "Space 1999," which is in its second year.

The role conceals the beauty of the earth woman, but she's grateful to be working - 90 percent of the acting population in England is unemployed, she says - and the space role a challenge. Then, too, men may not always be the favored sex at the box office as they are today. In the meantime, women accept roles that may not show off their special talents or beauty.

"It is really difficult to be alien and attractive," she says of her role as a slinky space woman, even though she loves it. "It takes one and a quarter hours to make up for It. I arrive on the set at 7 am. And work until 5:20 or so, and several nights a week I work much later.

"I found myself drifting to television, mostly with BBC, because things are still pretty tight for women in plays and movies. There is almost a 10 to 1 ratio of men to women, even in television, and some of the biggest female names cannot really carry a film on their name alone. They need to be teamed with outstanding male stars such as Steve McQueen or George Segal."

At one time Miss Schell thought this situation was due to prejudice at the studio level, but she now thinks the public "happens to prefer being entertained more by men than by women." Why, she doesn't know. But studios "no longer nurture their female stars as they did once when they wrote special vehicles for them and promoted them to the hilt.

"But it is probably all to the good when you think how many movie stars have been hurt by the promotions. For example, Marilyn Monroe found it hard to live up to the image that had been up for her," she adds.

The space series is being touted as "the most expensive series ever done on television" she explained. It is the first since "Star Trek" began and she is enjoying the role of Maya, princess from the planet Psychon who is in charge of computers and scientific analysis of alien data.

In fact, Miss Schell might have been a baroness in Hungary - her father, Baron Schell von Bauschlott renounced the title when the family fled to the United States from Hungary during the Communist takeover, she says.

She went to school for five years on Staten Island when her family lived in New York, and she lived in Washington, D.C., where her father was a diplomat in the Hungarian Embassy, before returning to Europe. Recently she has been touring the United States to promote the space series, but she has never worked in America.

For her space role, the make up people provide her with eye brows that sweep up to her temples like a seagull in flight and her hair is swept back close to her head. She also has "the power of molecular transformation into animals, birds and human beings" in the role. Maya doesn't resemble the real Miss Schell, who has an enchanting smile and wears her long, straight hair at times in a curly, girlish hairdo.

She has spent a lot of time educating herself in the theater. She has played in about 10 movies including "The Return of the Pink Panther" with Peter Sellers, but such roles do not come along often enough.

"The unemployment rate in England is high in the acting profession because an incredible number of kids come out of drama school and the repertory companies can take only a small number each year. Then, too, there are union members who work other jobs and just act now and then. Hard core actors do tend to work more because they are more persistent," she explains.

Down-To-Earth Space Creature Added

Uncredited, 4 November 1976

Hollywood - For the sci-fi buffs, "Space: 1999" might be considered a substitute until the return of "Star Trek," whenever that blessed day occurs. To keep the Trekkies and the other fans in tow, the producers of "Space: 1999," have brought in any number of innovations to keep us tuned to the box.

I quote in that regard a press communique which sums up some of the innovations in the calm, measured prose that P. T. Barnum might have envied, as follows:

"New incredible sci-characters of the most exciting, enchanting and fabulous dimensions.

"New, fabulous, sci-fi high fashion costumes, for the many beautiful woman in the cast, with the accent underscoring femininity and glamour, designed by Keith Wilson.

"Human emotions of love, hate, tenderness, jealousy, humor, among the complete range of other emotions, are vital elements of the stories and characters in Year Two."

There is more of the same, including the announcement that Martin Landau and his wife, Barbara Bain, will be abetted in the series by a well-known European actress, Catherine Schell. "In a competitive field of international stars," the press communiqué goes on with the same gentle restraint, "beautiful Catherine Schell was selected to play the coveted role of the resident alien Maya. A new, incredibly exciting and enchanting character."

Catherine Schell herself is more down to earth, if that's the phrase I'm groping for here. "The character I play was simply brought in to add a bit of fun," Catherine observed when I asked If she were, in truth, "incredibly exciting and enchanting."

"Just a touch of fun, a new dimension is what the character offers," she says. "She's also an alien, you see, from the planet Psychon. Maya, that being her name, possesses the power of molecular transformation."

"You get transformed into tiny molecules?"

"Into objects made up of molecules," she corrected. "Maya can become anything she wants to - a lion or a lioness, a tiger or a tigress, a dove, a dolphin, anything that's a form of life. Plant, vegetable, human being, animal, fish, insect - whatever, she can become one in a given situation.

"She is also very, very smart. Her brain might be compared to a computer, it being so fantastic that it baffles and defies all scientific explanation."

"Has she ever met a fellow named Spock?" I Inquired. Surely, on "The Dating Game," Maya from the planet Psychon would be attracted immediately to Mr. Spock of the Spaceship Enterprise, half-earthling, half Vulcan and all cool and imperturbable logic.

"Spock?" she said. "Well, Maya is alien, yes, and there lies something of a similarity in the characters. But Spock is known for having no emotions whatsoever whereas Psychon ta a planet of deep and intense emotions. The Psychons are totally emotional, which therefore gives one more scope as an actress. I didn't, after all, want to be just a robot on the screen. It is interesting to work on this type of series because one looks forward to different scripts and circumstances."

It was a guest spot in "Space: 1999" last year that led to her present role of Maya from Psychon, which must be the high IQ capital of outer space.

"Actually," she says, "the computer-type brain thing will be played down because it can get a bit boring. All the same, Maya does compute faster than a computer. The truth is that I never have been a science-fiction fan so that I would go out and buy science-fiction novels. The dialogue I'm given does at necessity have quite a bit of science-fiction Jargon In It, things about the apparatus and space ships and the like. I really don't know what I'm saying when It comes to the technical talk. I merely say the words as one is supposed to and remain in character.

"Maya," she says, "is a woman of humor. She likes to laugh. It's not exactly Noel Coward dialogue we have here but there is some wit. People haven't changed that much that they don't enjoy a bit of laughter. It is, after all, only 1999."

Sci-Fi Series 'Soars'

By Charlotte Hayes, Herald-Dispatch Staff Writer. Week of Jan 30-Feb 5th, 1977.

The Herald-Dispatch is a newspaper in Charleston, West Virginia; WCHS-TV channel 8 was the local ABC affiliate.

"I was rescued from a planet which had exploded," says Ms. Catherine Scheli. Ms. Schell portrays Maya, "the wonder woman of science fiction" in the all-new second season of "Space 1999," airing at 5 p.m. Saturdays on WCHS.TV channel 8.

Ms. Schell says this season's program, produced in England, is more interesting and different than the previous one. There are special effects and the production crew is working with a slightly higher budget, she said.

According to statistics, the second year budget increased to $300,000 per episode for a record of $7,200,000. "This is the most expensive series ever made. This season's show is bigger and better." Ms. Schell said in an interview conducted on trans-Atlantic telephone. The filming of one episode took ten days.

Also starring are Martin Laudau and Barbara Bain. Landau portrays Commander John Koenig and Ms Bain plays Dr Helena Russell

"The characters in this second series have become much more human and humorous. Their relationships are more pronounced and defined." she said

MAYA, A Princess from the planet Psychon, possesses the power of molecular transformation, an unlimited ability to transform herself into objects creatures and other life forms, including a lioness, a panther, a tigeress, a dove, a dolphin. She also possesses a computer brain which defies all scientific experience and explanation. Ms Schell said she uses her powers to help people and herself and sometimes just to be funny

Born in Hungary. Ms. Schell is the daughter of the Baron and Baroness Schell Von Bauschlott, but her father renounced his title when the family fled to the United States during the Communist take-over in Hungary. Formerly a diplomat in the Hungarian Embassy at Washington. D.C.. he returned to Washington with his family and became tours manager for visiting European orchestras until going back to Europe

Ms. Schell attended school in Washington and Staten Island. New York, but completed her education at the American School in Munich, Germany where she began her acting career. Since moving to England, she has starred in "The Return of the Pink Panther" "Persuaders" "Search for the Nile" "The Thriller Series" "The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes" and also appeared in last season's episode of "Space 1999. '

Ms Schell said she enjoys acting in the movies and on television. "I have enjoyed doing just about everything" she said. One of her favorite activities is horse back riding. She said she loves horses but was not able to do any riding while the series was filmed a couple of months ago.