The big-budget “Wonder Woman” starring Gal Gadot as the lasso-twirling Amazon princess, hits theaters Thursday. Though it looks to be a hit and a potential franchise-in-the-making, for some people, Wonder Woman will always be Lynda Carter. The actress played the superhero and her alter ego, Diana Prince, on the TV version that aired from 1975 to 1979.
Since Carter retired her invisible plane, she’s gone on to voice work for video games, produced three albums (she was a singer/songwriter before she started acting) and played plenty of other roles, including the president of the United States on the TV show “Supergirl.” We caught up with the Potomac, Md., resident while she wrapped up recording sessions in Nashville for her latest album and prepared to head back to Washington.
There’s been a big gap between when you played Wonder Woman and now — why did it take so long to bring this iconic character to the big screen?
They needed the voice of a strong female director who got it. Patty Jenkins was able to convince people that her vision was the right vision. She gets it. It isn’t about a caper — no pun intended — but it’s more about who Wonder Woman is inside, and the people who understand how I played her understand that.
So who is Wonder Woman?
She is strong, and she can do anything, and there’s this goodness to her. There’s beauty and strength that transcend time and events. People relate to her — we are her. You and I are her, and that’s why you see those little signs and T-shirts that say things like “Wonder Woman works here” or “My mom is Wonder Woman.” Patty was able to bring that all to the screen.
You played that character for a long time, and you’re so closely identified with her — what was it like seeing someone else play her?
When it was first given a green light, it would be dishonest of me to say I didn’t have a little pang of “well, here it goes.” But after my first conversation with Patty, I felt I had linked arms with a woman who I would go though the rest of my life with. And then when I met Gal, I linked the other arm with her. The three of us really understand what being on the inside of Wonder Woman’s skin feels like.
I mean, so does anyone who ever believed in herself as Wonder Woman, whether it was a little girl or a gay boy — they know, too. But there’s a perspective that comes from being famous for it.
Do we need Wonder Woman again at this moment?
Timing-wise, it’s perfect. I was just writing an email to Patty about this — more than 40 years ago they told me, ‘we’re gonna do a pilot, but honestly, a woman won’t be able to sustain an hour of TV. Who’s going to watch that?’
And in some ways, we’ve taken a step back — Patty didn’t tell me this, but I just know that it wasn’t easy to make this movie. You know she had to fight for every little thing to keep her vision honest.
What do you make of these women-only screenings of the movie?
I think they’re fabulous! That anyone would whine about it — they are extra screenings; they are not excluding anyone. It’s a statement, but I think we need to start spreading the news about a feminism that doesn’t marginalize the men in our lives. We can do something different. And the movie shows that. We have to start spreading that news — that real men change poopy diapers and coach the soccer team and let their daughters paint toenails all kinds of colors.
So tell me about the album you’re working on.
We had finished it, and we were doing final touches, and then I did a [live performance] in Nashville, and my producer was there. And I did a few new songs, and he turns to his friend and goes, ‘wait, why aren’t we doing that one on the album?’
So we added this song — it’s called “Put the Gun Down” by ZZ Ward, and it’s this very bluesy hard rock. You wouldn’t think of me singing this song, but people like it, and we love doing it live. It’s in keeping with my very eclectic taste in music — I do everything from Billie Holiday to the Black Keys to James Taylor. I also have eight original songs on the album, including a country song called “After All These Years” about my husband of 34 years. [Washington attorney Robert Altman, who is also the chief executive of a Rockland, Md.-based company that makes video games.]
Wow, that’s a long time. What’s your secret?
He makes me laugh. And we’re totally supportive of each other. If he wants to go on a ski vacation with guy friends, I say “go, have fun!” And if I want to visit family or vacation with girlfriends, he says, “go, have fun!”
Okay, so it sounds like you’ve got wide-ranging musical taste — is there anything in your music collection that’s embarrassing?
If you looked at my vinyl collection? Maybe — but even something cheesy like [singing] “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” is still good. And [singing again] “School’s out for summer” — I would still love Alice Cooper.
If you had a lasso of truth to use in Washington, what would you do with it?
I have respect for the office of the presidency, and especially being a Washingtonian, I will avoid denigrating the office. However, I’d like to lasso up all leadership and all the Cabinet and find out why so many people seem to be ethically challenged. I think everyone should release their tax returns!