50 years ago, Barbara Feldon had no idea that Agent 99, the iconic character she helped bring to life in Get Smart, would still be a relevant and beloved icon all these years later.
While in Sydney last month, Feldon told Supanova TV host Bec that the role was “very easy for her”.
“Agent 99 was kind of a crossover between the ‘50s woman and the ‘60s feminist,” she said.
“She wasn’t quite at the stage that feminism was going to go through in a few years, which was a little bit of a tougher attitude towards men and she was very much differential to guys.”
“On the other hand, she was already showing signs of the new woman, which was someone who was very confident about her intellectual acumen and was not afraid to be the smart one.”
Although she was able to inject some of her own personality into the character, a lot of the show was “tightly scripted”.
“The input was me bringing my own personality to it and my interpretation of who she was, what she said and what her attitudes in life were,” Feldon said.
“We spoke the lines exactly as written because comedy is like music and it has to have a certain rhythm to it in order for the joke to land.”
“Sometimes we’d be in the middle of a scene and Don [Adams, aka Maxwell “Max” Smart] would realise something was wrong with a line or with the lead up to a line and it would have to do with the rhythm, and he would say, ‘Let’s just go on and do something else for a while and it will come to me,’ and it did, he’d say, ‘I have it.’ And he knew exactly how he’d fix that line. In a sense, that was very mechanical.”
Back in the day, the technology on the show blew people away.
“Today, they’re like, ‘So what? I have something better on my wrist.’ If they were making [Get Smart] today you think, ‘What would they come up with technological to surpass where technology is today?’”
Lead image: Dawn Wells, Barbara Feldon and Barbara Eden at Supanova Sydney. Pic by Steven Yee.