Kellie Flanagan’s acting career was fleeting but memorable. The former child actress made her TV series debut in 1966, at the age of six, and called it a day in 1970. Yet, television viewers all over the globe see her quite regularly, and that’s because one of her appearances – her first ever, actually – was as the “Blonde Girl” in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Miri,” plus she co-starred as “Candy” Muir for two seasons on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Though she may have left the business, Flanagan has led a full and active life. This weekend, she will for the time ever, attend The Hollywood Show, where she’ll sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. StarTrek.com had the chance to chat with Flanagan about Star Trek, her decision to leave behind the acting world, and her life today. Here’s what she had to say…
What's life like for you these days? Family? Work, etc.?
Life for me these days alternates between busy, exciting, and blissfully quiet. My husband and I live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada near Yosemite National Park, so it’s rural and, for example, we have chickens. I spent a great deal of time today wrangling roosters, which is a fool’s errand. Our daughter is in college and, far from “empty nest,” life is full. Besides the aforementioned chickens -- which, by the way, I am moving the roosters to a new home because they are bad news for my hens -- we have a chocolate lab, cats, and a spotted gecko lizard. We live near gorgeous Bass Lake and I have family that live nearby. Some of my hobbies are ceramics, beading, reading and silently correcting improper use of punctuation and spelling on the internet.
I am the managing editor of Sierra News Online, a hyper-local news site dedicated to the Central Sierra, including Eastern Madera and Mariposa Counties. Gina Clugston is the publisher and editor of the site, and we are completely independent. Weekly, I record a radio segment for KRYZradio.org. On any day, I can go from writing about a local community event like the recent Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree to the increasingly common fires that plague the California forests now, in the aftermath of drought and bark-beetle infestation. We moved here 10 years ago. This area is ground zero for the unprecedented die-off of pine trees in the state. It’s also a beautiful, magical place where the backyard is one of America’s greatest National Parks – the waterfalls are rocking in Yosemite this year. We’re at www.sierranewsonline.com
Let's go back in time to Star Trek. "Blonde Girl" was your first television series role. How did you land the part?
Before getting cast in Star Trek, I had done commercials and print work. My agent’s name was Dorothy Day Otis and she was a class act who always wore a snazzy suit and often, a hat. At least that’s how I remember it. Dorothy, I believe, handled a lot of children in those days in what was most likely a male-dominated industry – agents, that is. So she was really special, and very good to me and my family.
You were so small and young that you were propped up on a table so you could be seen. What do you recall most vividly about shooting the episode?
Shooting the episode “Miri” was a lot of fun, like everything I ever did, except it was special because of all the kids. So, in my mind, and remember this is over 50 years ago, it was just one big play-week. Later on, many of the shows I did had one or two kids or maybe more, but nothing ever had as many children as “Miri” and that made it seem like we were running the show, which dovetailed perfectly with the storyline itself.
What's the story behind "blonde girl" with... a green wig?
The story behind the blonde girl with a green wig is simple: give a six-year-old blonde girl a chance to pick out any crazy thing she wants to wear and she could well wind up picking out a green wig, because, why not?
What do you remember of working with William Shatner and also Grace Lee Whitney?
What I remember about William Shatner is mostly what my mom was doing a little light gossiping about… so young, so handsome, so Catholic, so divorced, such a shame, so handsome… Insofar as Grace Lee Whitney is concerned, I have very little recollection at all of the adults on set. Grace, though, died in 2015 at the age of 85, in the town where I live now. This is significant because it’s a very small town. She was beloved.
Take us through getting your line of dialogue in "Miri."
I’ll tell you what I think I remember about getting the line of dialogue in “Miri,” but understand that memory works in mysterious ways and I would not swear to any of this in a court of law. Having offered that disclaimer, what I remember is… I was hired with a non-speaking part, as an extra. I remember a man, possibly the director, but I do not know, put me up on the table – just lifted me up there, which gave me a great view as far as my perspective was concerned.
After a couple of takes, or maybe more, Dorothy came up to me and whispered in my ear that I should say a line of dialogue. She said, when the camera’s rolled and the action was taking place, I should say “Call the police!” I did, and the director liked it, and it was “Cut and print that.” As a result of that line, I got my SAG card. I do not know if Dorothy had discussed this with the director or if it was staged and restaged, but it turned out to have been a very fortunate line for me. It was not unusual then, or is it now, to work out scenes on the fly – especially, perhaps, when you’re dealing with a throng of kids on the cusp of puberty who are on the verge of revolt. Normal stuff.
You were a kid when you did the episode. Star Trek was still brand-new at the time. What's it been like to see Trek not only explode into a phenomenon, but to see it cross the 50-year mark last year?
To have been a part of the phenomenon that became Star Trek can only be described as a trip. Unlike most experiences which diminish as time intrudes, Star Trek has only become more popular, and the legs on this thing are enormous. I am pretty sure I could win a Nobel Prize for peace or something and my most popular legacy would still be Star Trek. It’s been an honor and a privilege, and I mean that sincerely.
Had you stayed in touch with, worked with or run into any of the other child actors from "Miri" over the years?
It’s entirely likely that I crossed paths with some of the young actors that appeared in Miri, as I continued working for four or five years afterwards.
When was the last time you sat and watched "Miri"?
Once or twice a year I get a residual check for Star Trek, and it’s always labeled “in flight.” So, somehow, even though residuals ended early for this show, somebody managed to get what I believe is airplane rights included in our contracts. I have one now and it’s for $20, but with taxes taken out it’s just over 11 dollars. Every year my husband and I go through this; he wants to deposit the check and I want to save it as a memento because I never know when the next one is coming. That’s a long way of explaining that I finally blew 60 bucks on the TOS set that comes in fancy box. So I have seen the episode in the last few years, and I am going to watch it tonight.
You went on to guest star on A Family Affair and The Andy Griffith Show, to appear in the film Wild in the Streets, and to co-star on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir -- and your acting credits end with The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. How had you enjoyed your time on the show, and what went into the decision to not pursue acting after that?
Sadly, my mom Geraldine passed away just before I turned 11, and she was a driving force in my career – in a very positive way. She always asked me how I felt about jobs, not so much how they felt about me, and her early lessons on intuition remain with me. Fortunately, I had older siblings and my sister Jill took over as my legal guardian. When asked if I wanted to continue in the business, I said no, and went back to regular school in 6th grade. And I did not keep in touch with the business.
During the time I was active, I did over 100 commercials, if you count print and television. I appeared in Star Trek, Family Affair, Mannix, Andy Griffith, an AIP movie called Wild in the Streets, and a lovely Thanksgiving special (All Things Bright and Beautiful) with Burl Ives, Lionel Hampton, Randy Sparks and the Back Porch Majority, and me. I have that on tape, but not on video, so if anyone ever knows how to get a copy of that, I would love it.
For two years, I played Candace Muir on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which is where most of the people on my Kellie page know me from. It’s been popular, still, Down Under, and has been shown on television in the U.S. in the last couple of years, as well. My experiences in television were, without exception, positive. I loved it. Sometimes I got carsick on the way to Beverly Hills for an interview, but that was about the worst of it. To be able to spend all that time on set, it was like an incredible playground where the entire point was creativity – if it’s the right circumstance with the right people, it’s an amazing way for a child to grow up. I do recognize that many of my peers did not have great experiences and so my good fortune is not intended to offset any discomfort or trauma that young actors may have experienced, and there are, naturally, a host of concerns in these situations. I am proud to say that my daughter studies science and I would be equally proud if she had chosen the business. But maybe a little more nervous.
You will be attending The Hollywood Show this weekend. How excited are you to meet the fans, sign photos and also to catch up with some co-stars you probably haven't seen in years?
Since I’ve never been to an autograph show professionally, or at all, I am super-excited to meet people, including fans of the show and others I worked with way back when. I have a Facebook page where fans of various shows I have worked on sort of gather to stay in touch and it’s been one of the most remarkable experiences of my life to get to “know” these people, and to see that they care. It’s really touching, and to have been involved with TOS is truly one of the best things that ever happened to me, even though I was only six at the time.
As an adult, you went on to write a book (Lucky To Live Here: Your Guide To Life In The Yosemite Mountain Area), to produce, to blog and to do all sorts of other things. What of your post-acting work are you proudest of?
In terms of being a creative person, I have enjoyed and taken advantage of all opportunities to express myself. I am even in ASCAP because I wrote a song with a guitar in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, about 25 years ago. Just pointing out that, if you say yes to opportunities and don’t put too much red tape in the way, great things can happen on a comfortable scale. Success to me means having some freedom to operate in this world, a long marriage, good family, dear friends, satisfying work, pets, some laughs and lots of beauty all around. I think I worked hard and also really lucked out. I still work hard. The thing I am very most proud of is my daughter, Clara Briley. True.
In a perfect world, what's next for you?
A memoir and a one-woman show.
The Hollywood Show will take place today through Sunday at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel. Go to www.thehollywoodshow.com for more information.