Roy Thinnes' broken ankles saved us from the aliens
Fate intervened in Thinnes' career, and we were all spared from abduction.
An alien infestation isn't even the least likely thing about The Invaders. That the show happened at all, with the right actor in the lead role, was all just a coincidence. The sci-fi program, which ran from 1967-'68, starred Roy Thinnes, who never really wanted to grow up to be an actor. Good thing he changed his mind, though. The Invaders — for a show that lasted two seasons — had an outsized impact on sci-fi media and conspiratorial culture.
While attending Amundsen High School in Chicago, Roy Thinnes was determined to make his career in medicine. Fate intervened though, and during spring football training his senior year, Thinnes suffered an injury resulting in two broken ankles. The setback freed up Thinnes' schedule, and a group of friends dared him to step outside his comfort zone to audition for the Chicago Board of Education Radio and TV workshop. That dare changed the course of Thinnes' life; he was accepted into the program and quickly lost interest in pursuing a medical career.
The workshop led to appearances in a series of industrial films and eventually a role in a TV pilot. The pilot, which aired as a part of The DuPont Show of the Week, was Thinnes' first national exposure and gave him the confidence to move out west and commit to acting. His new calling was briefly interrupted by his service with the Military Police but quickly resumed with several television jobs.
Before taking on the role of David Vincent on The Invaders, Thinnes furthered his presence in the public eye with guest appearances on shows like Peter Gunn, Gunsmoke, and The Fugitive. Those roles skyrocketed Thinnes' cachet in Hollywood, as he quickly began securing acting jobs continuously. His "big break" came as the philandering Dr. Brewer on two seasons of General Hospital. Thinnes wrapped production on that role on a Sunday in 1965 and began working the very next day on ABC's The Long Hot Summer. When that show finished filming in 1966, Thinnes was once again off to a new show only a day later. This time, he was starring as David Vincent in the Quinn Martin production of The Invaders.
As David Vincent, Thinnes gave conspiracy a handsome, neighborly face. Rather than the alien invasion theories coming from a quack on the fringes of society, The Invasion normalized thought and speech outside the cultural norm. The Larry Cohen-directed series was foundational in moving sci-fi forward.
All of that success was the direct result of two broken ankles. So remember, what seems like a setback today points us in another direction for tomorrow's triumphs.
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