This was hardly a new phenomenon; they had plucked Carter from obscurity and made her into a star. But as her celebrity grew, so did her ego, and now she’d gone from difficult to unreasonable to downright impossible! Her contract was up for renewal but negotiations were on the verge of breaking down. In addition to demanding a veritable fortune, Lynda wanted creative control of the program - in essence, to become the producer! Network executives (never fond of actors getting too much power) were backing the producers in resistance to Lynda's conditions. Talks were at an impasse.
In the midst of all of this there was still a weekly program to create. But the tension on the set between the star and the creative staff had affected the quality of the episodes of late. Scripts about skateboarding teenage terrorists and computers run amok were the best the writers could concoct and plummeting ratings reflected the lack of artistic quality. Media critics couldn't help but remark how Carter seemed almost bored to tears as she mouthed the inane lines week after week.
However, the producers believed they finally had a winning script in hand. Looking past their own writing staff, they had returned to the original Wonder Woman comic books as source material, something which they hadn't done since the first season of the series when it was a period piece set in World War II. Coincidental or not, the show's ratings the first season were its highest ever.
So, they decided to adapt a character from the comic as a new nemesis for their heroine. But Nubia would be more than just another villain! She was crafted with an almost Shakespearean complexity (or what passes for it in television, at least). Nubia was an Amazon, like Wonder Woman herself, but one raised in Africa. Nubia was a warrior and although she and Princess Diana would battle in their first meeting, they parted as uneasy friends and tentative plans called for Nubia to return as a recurring ally/opponent.
For the role of Nubia, the producers hired Jayne Kennedy, a former Miss America contestant. This statuesque Black beauty had first gamed widespread fame as a color commentator on the NFL broadcasts. Lately, Jayne had turned to acting. In fact, she had already appeared on an early episode of "Wonder Woman" and so impressed the producers with her talent and charm, that there was no question in anyone's mind she should be given the Nubia role.
But there was a further dimension to all of this which went beyond simply trying to turn ratings around. There was a very real chance Lynda Carter wouldn't continue with the series. She could refuse to sign a new contract or she could return, but eventually have a permanent falling out with the producers and simply walk off of the show. Either way, it was clear the producers would be needed to fill her star spangled satin tights.
The idea of simply hiring another actress to assume the part was ruled out; Lynda had made the role her own and it would be too jarring for viewers to suddenly find a new actress playing the same role without an on-screen explanation.
But someone came up with the concept that the original Wonder Woman could "retire" and hand her duties over to a chosen successor. That was why the Nubia character was being introduced...so that, if need be, she could assume the title role and, in effect, become Wonder Woman. In a best case scenario, Carter would continue in the role and Kennedy could guest star from time to time as a popular secondary character.
But, if push came to shove, the producers now had a ‘Plan B’ and since they didn't expect Carter to willingly shoot scenes in which her character abdicated her position as Wonder Woman, they cannily inserted small bits of extra dialogue in scripts for several weeks, then edited them and shelving them. When laced together, Lynda's lines...run with back shots of her stand-in wearing Lynda’s costume...could be used to create the desired illusion.
Of course, Lynda Carter wasn't oblivious to all of this. Nor was she happy. Her only negotiating leverage rested upon her being indispensable to the show. But if the producers had a ready replacement she was powerless. And what was worse, there wasn't much she could do about it, other than to try and make Kennedy's stay on the set as uncomfortable as possible hoping that may sour Jayne on committing to the show.
Owing to the constraints of episodic television, the weekly shooting schedule was compacted into five brisk days, starting with a script read-through and camera blocking on Monday and culminating with filming the final scenes on Friday. From the moment Jayne appeared on the set, she struck up a friendly bond with the crew (something Carter never did any longer). But the connection between Jayne and Lynda was icy. Luckily, the star chose to spend most of her time sequestered in her dressing room, making for a relatively calm set between takes.
The episode's plot was hardly Emmy Award-winning material, but it had the earmarks of a good action story: Nubia is a member of a hidden tribe of African Amazons, who had been cut off from their Paradise Island sisters centuries ago when the warrior women were driven from their Mediterranean homeland by invading Romans. An unscrupulous explorer discovers Nubia's tribe and he convinces her to return with him to 'Man's World' so he can exploit her superpowers for his own evil ends. He tricks Nubia into thinking that Wonder Woman is a criminal, so Nubia attacks her Amazonian sister. In the end, Wonder Woman convinces Nubia she's been tricked and the two women team up to stop the explorer from stealing a priceless relic.
Because of the possibility of either actress being bruised or injured, the fight scene was saved for last on the shooting schedule. Although stunt women were used for long shots and the most flamboyant action, Lynda and Jayne had to be together in their close-ups.
It was late in the day on Friday and tempers were already frayed by delays in the schedule. On top of that, the two actresses were shooting daggers at one another with their eyes. The set was like a pent-up volcano about to erupt!
The director shot several scenes of Lynda and Jayne in close-ups struggling with one another. For the final shot, he told them, "Really act it up for this one." Lynda chose to interpret his instructions in her own way. As the director called, "Action!" and she and Jayne came together, Lynda grabbed her costar by the hair and began to pull. Kennedy let out a wail, and the director screamed, "CUT!"
With a smug smile on her face, Lynda let go and said, "Oops! Too much method acting, I guess."
But Jayne saw nothing funny in it. Lynda had sent her a message, daring her to challenge the star's dominance and this Black beauty wasn't going to let it go unanswered!
As Lynda smirked at her rival, Jayne's right hand darted out and her open palm cracked hard across the brunette's face. The sound of the slap echoed throughout the sound stage and everyone stopped in their tracks as all eyes were fixed on the two women standing belly to belly facing one another.
Lynda just stood there, her mouth open, stunned that a nobody would dare lay a hand on her! For several seconds, the two stood in silence, their faces flushed with anger. Then, with a banshee's howl, Lynda threw herself at Jayne, tackling her to the floor.
Catfighting was nothing new to Lynda Carter. As a former beauty pageant contestant, she'd plenty of fights with envious pageant hopefuls through the years. She had also been a few hellcat battles on the set of Wonder Woman, first with Linda Day George, ‘Fausta, the Nazi Wonder Woman’ and then with Debra Winger, the brat brought in to play Wonder Girl and - at least in Lynda's estimation - to upstage her. The best of all in the opinion of those who were lucky enough to witness it had been Lynda's slugfest with the original Wonder Woman, Cathy Lee Crosby!
Carter had beaten them all and didn't lack for confidence in her fighting ability but Kennedy was no newcomer to fighting, having been in more than a few catfights of her own over the years. In addition, being married to pro boxer Isaac Kennedy, Jayne had picked up more than a few fighting skills. In other words, this would be no easy win for Lynda Carter.
The two beauties rolled across the floor of the set, their long legs entwined, their hands yanking at luxurious manes of hair. The crew...no strangers to foul language...were shocked by the obscenities the two proud women hurled at one another through clenched teeth.
Lynda finally gained the advantage, using her fingers to gouge the eyes of her dusky rival. Jayne screamed and, momentarily blinded, went on the defensive. That was all the opening Carter needed as she wrapped her hands around Kennedy's slender throat and started strangling her! Gasping for air, Jayne desperately clawed at Lynda's hands but when that proved futile, she threw a wild punch that connected solidly to the side of Lynda's head. With a groan, the dazed brunette released her death grip and tumbled off her adversary.
Both women took a few moments to gather their strength and collect their wits before rising to their feet and slowly circling. This time Jayne struck first, putting her boxing knowledge to work and unleashing one punch after another. Her fists hammered Lynda's face, pounded her abdomen and sunk deep into her big breasts. Carter moaned with each blow as her legs grew wobbly in her high-heeled boots. Still, the tough brunette wouldn't fall. Jayne grew cocky, convinced Lynda was helpless under her barrage. In her conceit, Jayne let her guard drop but, unfortunately for Jayne, Lynda was far from finished.
Lynda heaved out a right cross that caught Jayne in the jaw and then followed that with a left to the belly far enough below the belt to qualify as a low blow in any sanctioned bout. While Lynda's punches were awkwardly delivered, there was real power behind them and they took their toll on Jayne's curvy body.
As the women warred, it became obvious that their costumes...designed for looking good and nothing more...weren't up to the rigors of a physical brawl. Before long, the strapless bodices of both had fallen away to reveal their round, full breasts. But this was no time for modesty, both women ignored their nudity except as it provided an opportunity to attack the other's bosom with fists and nails.
Unleashing a kick worthy of a chorus showgirl, Lynda caught Jayne under the chin with the toe of her boot, snapping the sepia beauty's head. A second kick to Jayne's left breast, forced her into a pirouette and Lynda pressed home her advantage, wrapping her arms around Jayne in a crushing bearhug. Their chests mashed together and they seemed to breath as one, their full, firm breasts rising and falling together.
Carter tightened her grip, trying to squeeze the air from her rival's lungs. Desperate to escape, Kennedy slammed her head forward, cracking into Lynda's face. Dazed by the head butt, Lynda lost her grip and staggered backward holding her head in both hands, trying to clear the sudden fog from her brain. Jayne had likewise suffered from the blow, but at least she was now free.
Both women were panting heavily now, their bodies slick with perspiration. As their reserves of strength faded, each knew that, if she were to win, it would have to be soon, before all hope was drained away.
Once more their bodies crashed together and they fell to the carpeted floor of the set. They rolled around for more than a minute, each exhausted beauty gracelessly trying to overpower the other. Then, virtually simultaneously...as if they were thinking with one mind...both gambled everything on the same move. They wrapped her legs around the others head, squeezing their hated rival's head between their thighs.
Grunts punctuated labored breathing as Jayne and Lynda each poured every last vestige of strength into their dueling vices. Against another opponent, either would doubtless have broken them with their scissors but in this instance, they were too evenly-matched for either to dominate the other. Jayne was a lifelong athlete and fitness buff, Lynda a professional dancer, so both women's legs were uncommonly muscular.
As the minutes passed, the two beauties continued their grotesque punishment of one another. The crushing pain was agonizing, yet neither could even consider the possibility of submitting. They were long past such civility anyway...their fight could only end with one beauty victorious and her rival vanquished. There could be no surrender. Ultimately, one woman could no longer endure the brutality. Jayne gave a whimper, her body shuddered in a small spasm and went limp as she slipped into unconsciousness.
Lynda gave a weak, throaty laugh of triumph as she tried to sit up - but she couldn't. Her legs buckled and she sprawled on her back, her massive chest heaving as she lay too exhausted and depleted of strength to move. The toll of the battle on Carter too was made plain when her eyes rolled back and she slumped on the floor unconscious.
In the end, it didn't much matter who had won the fight, at least for the future of the ‘Wonder Woman’ TV show. The network canceled it a few days later, citing declining viewership (and fears the ever-escalating ‘jiggle factor’ offended the growing number of conservative viewers). Producers shopped a "Nubia" series to the networks, but no one was interested; executives had become enthralled by half-hour sit-coms and nighttime soaps and the concept of an African Amazon adventure series didn't appeal to many at the time.
Jayne Kennedy continued her acting career but she never got the big break that would let her break through to become a true success. After several years guest appearances on TV and low-budget movies, Jayne retired to private life and raised her children to avoid the media spotlight and to stay out of show business.
Lynda Carter believed the end of ‘Wonder Woman’ would free her to pursue her goal of becoming a star on stage and screen but, after brief successes with a Las Vegas revue, she only appeared in a few TV movies; never equaling her fame from her stint as Wonder Woman. In time, she, retired to the life of a political wife and celebrity spokesmodel.
Friends of both women noted that, as years passed, both referred constantly and often to their titanic brawl. It was, it seems, a significant memory of their younger, wilder - and more celebrated - youth. Listeners note the animosity between them still rages; the poison of hatred dripping from every word whenever they spoke about the other. Both Jayne and Lynda admitted they’d love an opportunity to get their hands on the other and settle things…once and for all! And after all these years many wonder, could a sequel still be possible?