Gail Fisher loved playing Peggy Fair on Mannix, but the character wasn't her style
Peggy was a coffee-serving secretary; Gail was a trailblazing legend.
Sometimes actors play their roles so well that, as an audience, we can't seem to separate them from their roles. Even trailblazing actress Gail Fisher, who broke barriers in Hollywood, found herself explaining how she was different from her most-known part.
Fisher portrayed Peggy Fair on the television show Mannix. The character was a secretary, and the actress brought a lot of importance to the role. She gained two Golden Globes and an Emmy award for it. When people saw her, they thought she was like Peggy in real life.
In an interview with Daily News in 1972, Fisher talked about how much people would identify her with the character. "One of the problems with playing a role like Peggy Fair for four seasons is that people identify you with the character and expect you to be that way," she said.
The actress thought it was a significant role, but something about Peggy Fair wasn't her style. "While I think Peggy is a very nice girl, she is not for me. For example, she wears dresses, while I happen to love pants, suits, boots and lots of jewelry."
How she felt personally about the character's style didn't affect the importance of the role, though. She added, "Of course, Peggy is a very efficient secretary to Mike Connors, and it's a great role. At the Salute to Working Women Conference in St. Louis, I was chosen as 'Working Woman of the Year.'"
The award was presented to her by Julie Nixon Eisenhower. "Guess that proves that all that coffee I make for Joe Mannix on the show plus my other girl Friday chores are both real and important to our large audience," the actress said.
Fisher was known for taking disadvantages and turning them into advantages. She credited "faith, hard-working and the will to win" for helping her stay focused and get ahead.
Peggy Fisher was one of the roles that resulted from her staying focused, but when she wasn't in front of the camera and on set for Mannix, she was Gail, and Gail only.
Watch Mannix on MeTV!
Weeknights at 2 AM*available in most MeTV markets
It's a shame that when they reopened one of Mannix's old unsolved cases for a guest appearance on "Diagnosis: Murder" that she didn't appear as did Mike Connors and several of the original guest case of that episode (Beverly Garland, Julie Adams, Pernell Roberts). She was mentioned briefly at the start of the episode but that was it. And Ward Wood (whose last appearance on Mannix as Lt Malcolm was lying on a floor after being shot in a courtroom) didn't even get *that* much of a callback.
"The New Jersey native and former model went on to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama and two Golden Globe Awards for Best Supporting Actress - Television Series. Fisher was the first black woman to win both trophies."
"She was working as a real administrative assistant to talent manager John Levy, who represented icons such as Cannonball Adderley. Levy once asked her to 'clean out' his files, and Fisher tossed them in the trash. No hard feelings — Fisher and Levy would become husband and wife. A former cheerleader and beauty queen — she took home sashes for pageants like Miss Transit, Miss Black New Jersey and Miss Press Photographer — Fisher found work as a model as she studying acting on stage. She could be seen in print advertisements." (paraphrased)
For those who appreciate Mannix for it's production quality, it's clear the writers (and producers approved) making the character nearly a partner with the detective, by mirroring his determination to solve crimes. While the character did by elegantly caring about her boss, Joe. My hunch is, if the Show ran a decade later, they might've developed that relationship more fully. But the drama said more by working under the expected norms of the time, by the series featuring several effects regarding prejudice. My favorite is when Mannix gives her the evil eye when "Peggy" tries to pull the race card on him (truth-telling). She was a strong powerful actor, and a bit ahead of her time. Being a very graceful addition to Mannix' rough edges without any check & balance. She added the warmth and humanity - but especially office efficiency!!
No, worries, it's all in the easy link below.
She came to a pool hall with hustler Flip Wilson, who was there to meet a challenger at the table -
- and the challenger turned out to be Gail (who looked like she was doing her own shots).
Also starring Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson and Mantan Moreland.
Hall of Fame Night, all the way!