18 October 1973: Radio Times

The Americanisation of Diana

She very definitely set her own style when she took over in The Avengers. Now she has a stylish new series all her own. starting this week - made in AMerica. Peter McDonald reports from Hollywood.

Diana Rigg still talks of her last big Hollywood party as if reassuring herself that it wasn't just a figment of her imagination. "It was studded with stars of stage and screen, presidents of this, than and the other", she says. "There was one very famous old film star who shall remain nameless.

"In the course of the evening I was introduced to him three times. Each time he looked at me and said, 'Who are you and where am I?' 'Well,' I thought to myself, 'I've finally made the Hollywood scene!'"

Miss Rigg is also making the Hollywood scene in another sense. She is currently appearing in her own television comedy show, Diana, which focuses on the adventures of an English fashion illustrator in the United States.

"I liked the idea of coming to America and working with the Americans on their home ground. It seemed more of a challenge," she explains. "Also, everything I was offered in Britain began with, 'Enter Diana with gun in hand'.

"Diana is very far removed from The Avengers."

She finds it fun, even though the producers and writers have rather fixed ideas as to what constitutes Englishness nowadays. "There are words they are very fond of writing in," she says. "They come smiling on to the set, "We've written you a lovely English line - by love." "I'm sorry!" I say, "but you've got it wrong."

The series itself is very lightweight. It doesn't deal with profound things but that's not what it's about. It's what 90 per cent of American television is about." She says this is not an apology - but because she now knows the reality of American life.

"When I grew up, everything in America was wonderful. The music, they always seemed to have so much more money, more glamour - the list was endless. My generation was very American oriented.

"Now one realises as a European how lucky we are in many respects. My lifestyle in England I now value considerably more than I did before I visited America. All the creature comforts, for example, the car, the colour television, and all the mod cons - I would throw them all in for a little English homeliness."

However, she and her artist husband Menachem Gueffen managed to maintain something of their normal lifestyle. The Beverly Hills home which they rent isn't, she insists, "film starry" - despite its swimming pool.

"I know immediately how English people will picture it," she laughs, "but that wouldn't be me at all.

"It's a marvellous place. Very beautiful and secluded and we have made the den into a studio for Menachem. For the most part, we stay home.

"You give an enormous part of your life to the job and it's not worth it to sacrifice the rest. You can only survive with a healthy balance between your work and your private life."

Even so, she finds an odd status consciousness still exists in the American film industry. "I started out here simply as the girl from The Avengers, then word of my work at the National Theatre began filtering through and I started being treated with a certain amount of awe and deference - which made me laugh because neither demands that."

When Diana Rigg is asked what tempted her to do an American television series she replies without hesitation. "The money," she says, with a perfectly straight face.

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