Entertainment

Cheryl Ladd understands why we just can't quit 'Charlie's Angels'

New film continues 1976 TV show's legacy

(CNN) - "Charlie's Angels" is back -- again.

The latest iteration of the female-led crime-fighting franchise, released Friday, is a film directed by Elizabeth Banks, who also wrote the screenplay. It stars Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska as the next generation of "Angels."

Banks has put her own twist on the "Angels," who now fight crime internationally for multiple agencies and are LGBTQ+ friendly, but the film continues the legacy that started as a TV show in 1976.

Following five seasons and 110 episodes on ABC, Banks' movie is the third installment in the film series, "Charlie's Angels," released in 2000, and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," released in 2003. An attempt was made to reboot the TV series in 2011, but it was canceled after seven episodes.

So what is it about the "Angels" that revives the franchise every few years?

Cheryl Ladd, who played Kris Munroe in the TV series from 1977 until 1981, has a theory.

"At the time [of the TV show], it was something that had never been done," Ladd told CNN. "None of us was actually trying to be men, we were women, one hundred percent women, and we were powerful and smart and fun to watch and intelligent."

The "Angels" were -- and remain -- iconic.

"It was hot and edgy, and because, [creator] Aaron [Spelling] insisted on some bikinis, occasionally sexy clothes, everybody just decided to write it off and let's face it, it wasn't Shakespeare," Ladd said of the TV series. "But it was definitely something the whole family could watch together all for different reasons."

The "Angels" formula of the early years, Ladd said, was so special, audiences have wanted to revisit it. In 2018, Ladd, who is still acting and next will appear in the Lifetime movie "Grounded for Christmas," attended her first autograph signing, and was shocked at how many "Angels" fans showed up.

"The role was life-changing for sure," she said. "It gave me a 40-year career, so I have nothing but fond memories."

Ladd was offered the role after Farrah Fawcett, who famously played private investigator Jill Munroe, left the series. But Ladd initially turned Spelling down, she couldn't figure out how she'd fit on the show.

"Eventually Aaron looked at hundreds of girls and finally I saw him in a restaurant one night and he called me the next day and said 'Will you come in and talk to me?' So I went in and I talked to him. I said, 'Well, what would I play? Nobody can come in here and try to be Farrah, that won't work. I told him I have to play a real person, if she could be funny and have a character of some sort to build on."

The two brainstormed and came up with the idea that she'd play Fawcett's little sister, a rookie investigator who often fumbled her way through assignments and looked cute doing it.

"That's when I knew I had a character I could play and that I was family. It gave me that little edge of people accepting me," Ladd recalled.

Ladd had yet to see the latest "Charlie's Angels," but said she supports the movie and plans to see it in the theater.

She also has a favorite big-screen "Angels" adaptation.

"The very first one, I will just say with Drew and the girls, that had kind of a sweet nod to the old 'Charlie's Angels,' yet was fresh at the same time," Ladd explained. "That combination, I think, is more what old 'Charlie's Angels' fans were kind of hoping for. It had some semblance of what they fell in love with, a bit of comedy and a bit sexy and a bit of fun and just some girls that were really crazy about each other and stood up for each other."

CNN spoke to Barrymore Thursday at an event for Nowaday, a vintage car touring service she's recently been promoting. She is credited as a producer on "Charlie's Angels" and said she wants the new film to succeed.

She was floored by Ladd's compliment.

"Kris Munroe!" Barrymore squealed about Ladd. "I love her."


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