The actress talks about working on the show, playing tricks on John Carpenter, and life after being a lifeguard
Making her film debut as Leigh Cabot in Christine and then going on to do the role of "The Virgin" Connie Swail in Dragnet, Alexandra Paul has seemingly made a career out of being in the right place at the right time. How else to explain her stint on one of the most popular shows ever created, Baywatch. Featuring beautiful shores, gorgeous women, and just the the right amount of action, this show went on to have a miraculous eleven season run and spawned a bunch of TV and straight to video movies.
Recently Alexandra Paul discussed what it was like to work on this show playing the role of Lt. Stephanie Holden.
Tell the readers about your character on the show?
Alexandra Paul: Lieutenant Stephanie Holden is a Lieutenant Lifeguard at Santa Monica Beach, the Baywatch Beach I should say...and she's very serious about her work being a woman in a mans job. And she already is kind of a type A personality, which contrasts very much with David Hasselhoff's personality, his character's personality, which is more relaxed. She also has a long time flame for David, which claps up the 5 years she was on the show.
Speaking of that...that was something I was going to ask. What was it like working with David Hasselhoff?
Alexandra Paul: The best! I love David, not only because he's a pro, but he always came to the set on time, knowing his lines...But also because he had such a great attitude. He was always very positive and upbeat and energetic...never complained which was a great roll model for all the other actors. Many of them were new they hadn't done very much work before Baywatch. And who were rising to very well known, really quickly. And he set a really important example on how to be a professional actor regardless of how famous you are. And so if he's not complaining or having star trips, then certainly nobody else was going to or did. In fact I think we had a really down to earth cast cause David was so down to earth.
How did things change when the show became a cultural phenomenon...I mean I remember starting college at that time and we discussed it in a political science class and it just seemed to sort of just taken over...
Alexandra Paul: Did things change? A no, the actors didn't ...ah, the people didn't change...no, not at all, but certainly things in terms of like the attention put on the show. There were always reporters on the set. Because we shot on the beach and our trailers were right on Pacific Coast Highway, we changed the configurations of the trailers for more privacy...and there was a bodyguard who would take us from our trailers to the set, because there were so many tourists who would come and watch the shoot.
Oh, I gotcha, I gotcha...onlookers!
Alexandra Paul: Oh yea, well people who came to LA that's what they wanted to do...they wanted to see where Baywatch was shot. And of course it was a public beach, so they could come. We just had to put up a little tape around to give us some privacy, but there were always people watching a shoot.
Now during that time, I've actually always wondered this...just as an actress and even for the actors on the show...did nick names like "Babewatch", or other things like that...did that ever bother you? Or is that even anything you ever thought about as you were doing the show?
Alexandra Paul: I think we all new it was lite entertainment and so it seemed to me that it was only the critics that didn't know it was lite entertainment. They were somehow pissed off that you know...we weren't doing like brain surgery. And we all new...we're like sittin on the beach, saving people, and wearing bathing suits and that's what you do when you're a lifeguard. So we didn't ahhh....well it was part of a phenomenon Baywatch, none of us took it very seriously.
Gotcha, gotcha...now what did you think of the idea for the show when it was first pitched to you?
Alexandra Paul: Well I came on...I auditioned for the show after its second season, which was after its first season of syndication? So I came in the second season of syndication, which was when Pamela came and Nichole Eggert and David Charvet and myself, we all came in the same year. That was 91, 91? Yea 91, and at first I didn't want to go on the audition, but not because it was a beach show...it was ah what should I say...it was a guilty pleasure show that wasn't taken very seriously was cause it was a series...and I really didn't want to do a series at the time. But ah, I cancelled my first audition, then decided...ok, I'll go in and I auditioned and David was there and I was very excited. I saw a couple of episodes and new someone who was in the first season of the show, he was a friend of mine...so I...John Allen Nelson. And he ah...so I actually once they offered it to me I began to see hey this could be fun! And it turns out not only did I love doing Baywatch itself but I really loved doing series...so I'm really glad it opened up my mind.
Now I'm going to just change gears just a tad...I gotta ask, because this is one of my favorite movies...could you talk a little bit about Leigh Cabot in John Carpenters Christine?
Alexandra Paul: Oh...yea...that was my first feature, I was 19 and I was terrified! But I remember John...well there is a few incidents I remember form this now...I remember that John Carpenter was wonderful. I remember that I had never read a Steven King book or really seen a horror movie before that because it just wasn't my thing. But I did read the book Christine, which I really enjoyed and have since then read several...quite a few of his books. I certainly didn't think it was going to become the cult movie that it has become. I was really...I had trouble where there was a scene where I was supposed to cry, and I couldn't cry.
So John Carpenter brought me to his buses where he went in between scenes and ah started talking to me...then of course I immediately started to cry and said why did you cast me? I think you just cast me because you felt sorry for me and he just looked at me like what are you talking about? This is an 8 million dollar picture, which was a lot then, right? In 1982, I cast you because I felt sorry for you. I cast you because I thought you were the best for the roll! Then I went back and I guess I tried to cry. Whenever I look at that scene, I think...oh God that was when he took me back to his trailer and all I could do was cry!
I was surprised to get that roll because they told me I was down to the wire on it, then they said, have her do something with her hair, they told my agent. Better with her hair. So knowing nothing of hair and makeup then at that age. I asked my roommate to show me how to curl my hair and she showed me how to do it...and then, but the day of the last audition, she had exams. She went to UCLA so I had to do it on my own. So I curled my hair and drove to the audition and about a block away, I took out the curlers and oh my God she hadn't told me to curl your hair dry, not wet so my hair was wet and totally straight and looked horrible. I went to the audition anyway. Obviously I was stuck, and um they ended up casting me...so I guess my hair wasn't much of an issue anyway. Although in the film I do have a lot of very, very curly hair.
Also on that film, my twin sister, I have a twin sister...and she actually came on the set to fool John, and she dressed as me in my character and no one knew she was on the set except the makeup and hair, the first AD, the lead actor and John Stockwell and she shot a scene! I have a great still of John Carpenter looking up at her, she's in the bulldozer and he's looking up at her like huh? I asked him later and he said just the way she said hello to me was just a little different...I thought maybe you were sick or something. So anyway... so her footage is still in the movie.
I guess my final question for you is what are you working on now?
Alexandra Paul: I'm shooting a movie called In My Sleep and I have four movies coming out...a couple independents and two cable movies, and I feel very fortunate to be busy.
Baywatch: Season 1 and Baywatch: Season 2 will be available on DVD October 30 from Ventura Distribution.