Alexandra Paul has been making movies for almost 35 years, with early notable credits including Christine and A Million Ways To Die.
Yet to millions Paul will forever be associated with the role of lifeguard extraordinaire Stephanie Holden on Baywatch, slo-motion-running, sun-kissed-life-saving show that became a global TV phenomenon during its 10-year run.
Not that Paul minds all that much, with the actress and lifestyle coach only too happy to speak to loaded about her five years and 66 episodes on the series.
How did she end up on the show, what’s the Hoff really like and were there any romances between cast members on set? Alexandra reveals all and a whole lot more besides.
loaded: Can you tell us the story behind how you got cast on Baywatch?
Paul: A Baywatch producer, Greg Bonann, swam at the same pool as I and he had heard I was a good swimmer, so he had put me on the casting list.
I did not want to do a series, so I turned down the first audition request. Back then, in 1992, actors didn’t move as easily between TV series and movies, and I wanted to do movies. When I got the pages for the audition though, the scene seemed like it would be fun to do anyway, so I thought ‘okay I’ll go in’ because you don’t want to tell your agent ‘no’ too many times or they will stop pitching you!
When they offered me the part, my manager told me she thought it was a good idea for me to do it because a lot of independent movies were being financed by Germany and the show was popular in Germany, so it would raise my name profile with those movie investors.
At that time, Baywatch was not considered the mega hit it became the next season, but I decided to do it and I am SO grateful to my manager for encouraging me to.
loaded: Do you remember your first encounter with David Hasselhoff?
Paul: My first audition was reading with David. I was reading scenes for the parts Nicole [Eggert] and Pamela [Anderson] eventually got, and I was right for neither but the producers liked me enough to write a part specifically for me, the part of an incoming lieutenant lifeguard. I even got to name her.
John Holden was my high school math teacher who was very type A, very athletic, passionate but also a hard-ass, so I suggested his last name. Stephanie was a name I liked as I had gone to grade school with a Stephanie. When Yasmine Bleeth was cast as my sister, the writers named her character Caroline, after my real life sister.
loaded: What Hasselhoff was he like on set?
Paul: David Hasselhoff was hilarious and such a good role model for the rest of the actors: he knew his lines, came to the set on time, never complained and was kind to everyone. The lead actor sets the tone on the set, so you can see ours was a very happy place to work.
“As for other on-set romances, I can say from personal experience, yes”
loaded: Do you look back on Baywatch with fond memories? What is your favourite memory from the show?
Paul: Baywatch was my favorite job out of my 100 jobs in a 35-year career! It was just so wonderful to go to the beach every day, put on a comfortable bathing suit (no high heels and hair spray!) and be heroic.
I loved doing all the swimming sequences and I loved my co-stars. I am still close with so many of my Baywatch co-stars – we bonded over a very special time in our lives, starring on the most watched show in the world.
One of my favorite memories is being on one of the yellow speedboats waiting for my turn to shoot a rescue and it was just so beautiful out there on the water. We saw dolphins and the sun was warm. I felt so grateful to be there. And at work!
But I have so many other memories too – David making me laugh so hard when he and I had to film in the freezing December ocean. I was so cold I couldn’t speak properly and there was a fake shark circling us and David was being so silly that it was hard to keep a straight face even though we were supposed to be in mortal danger.
loaded: Meeting Pamela Anderson all those years ago, did you ever think she would become such a huge star?
Paul: There are a lot of gorgeous, sexy women in Hollywood, but I can tell you that Pamela worked very, very hard so it makes total sense to me that she became so famous.
It was neat how she inspired a that Bardot look for the 90s.
loaded: There have been rumours of fights/arguments between stars on set – is there any truth to that? What was the atmosphere like on set? Did you get on with everyone?
Paul: Really? I never heard those rumours and I never saw any problems at all between actors on the set. For the five seasons I was on the show, everyone got along extremely well. For the first few years, everyone had the same contract, except of course Hasselhoff. Then Pamela got a salary bump, which she deserved since she became so integral to the show.
We all knew that Pamela and David were the big draws, but the producers were very good about making everyone feel valuable.
loaded: And what about romances? Did any cast members actually hook up?
Paul: Pamela and David Charvet were actually dating when they were both cast but the producers did not know it! The two of them were extremely professional on the set – you would not have known they were dating if you didn’t already know it.
As for other on-set romances, I can say from personal experience, yes. But that is all you are going to get out of me!
loaded: You’ve been in a lot of awesome movies down the years – Christine and Dragnet immediately come to mind – does it ever annoy you when people only remember you for Baywatch?
Paul: I have had the first or second female leads in 70 projects, but no it doesn’t bother me at all that I am remembered for Baywatch. I am proud to be associated with the show. It was the first truly global show, seen all around the world by one billion people each week.
It was a metaphor for the globalization of the 1990s and the opening up of the world – we were the first American show in mainland China and Iranians watched us secretly in religiously conservative Iran.
“As a feminist myself, Baywatch was a win for women in the 1990s”
We were also a TV show that had as many women as men in the cast and these women were just as competent and successful as the men.
As a feminist myself, Baywatch was a win for women in the 1990s. People liked to jeer at all the skin, but we were on a beach for gosh sakes, what did they want us to wear? And whenever someone said we were bikini-clad, I knew they hadn’t seen the show.
As lifeguards we were never in bikinis, only one piece red suits.
loaded: Did you feel sad to leave the show in the way you did or were you happy to move on that that point?
Paul: Both. I knew I needed to leave but I was so sad about it at the same time. I would call my co-star Jason Simmons and weep about my decision.
But even though in my contract I was allowed to leave to do other projects during the filming season, and even though we shot just five months a year so there was plenty of time for other work, I felt it was time to move on.
loaded: How did the experience of being on Mad Men [Alexandra appeared in one episode] compare to the average day on the set of Baywatch?
Paul: Being a guest star vs a regular on a TV series is like coming in to check the meter vs being part of a family! And in Mad Men the costumes were so specific – even though I never took off my coat I was wearing a 1960s bra and stockings.
The hair style was also precise – there were catalogues and magazines from that year all over the makeup trailer so the hair and makeup would be of that exact time. It was very impressive.
loaded: You appear in a deleted scene from Borat – could you tell us a little more about that experience?
“I had never heard of Ali G or Sasha Cohen, but apparently he wanted me and only me”
Paul: The casting director called me and said they wanted to offer me a cameo because they needed a Baywatch girl. I thought that was odd since if you wanted a typical Baywatch babe you didn’t think of me.
I had never heard of Ali G or Sasha Cohen, but apparently he wanted me and only me. He had to call personally to convince me he was not going to do stupid flat chest jokes and by the time I arrived on the set I think he thought I was going to be a total diva because he seemed very nervous around me! I felt bad because frankly I have never been a diva in my life and I guess it was because I had been so reluctant.
It was a fun shoot though and I have a lot of respect for him. Turns out it was for the end scene where Borat goes back to his home country and shoots his own version of Baywatch, which is sort of a poor man’s Baywatch – goats and trash on the beach, a power plant in the background. And since he couldn’t get the Pamela, he got me.
Which means I am the booby prize, I guess! I thought it was pretty funny, and it is too bad it was cut. Parts of it are in the DVD extras, though.
loaded: Are you looking forward to the new Baywatch movie? Any chance you will appear?
Paul: I think it will be very funny and I look forward to it being a huge success.
Unfortunately, they only wrote cameos for David and Pamela, but I am happy that my character Lt. Stephanie Holden is in the movie, played by Ilfenesh Hadera. I am also thrilled the lifeguards are not all white, like they were when I was on the show.
The producers knew that bugged me, so when they cast Traci Bingham and Jose Solano a couple seasons after I left – they called me to let me know!
loaded: What do they need to do to make sure they make a good Baywatch movie? What does the film need?
Paul: Beach, sun, rescues, beautiful bodies, likeable characters and humour about itself. From what I can tell, the 2017 movie has all that.
loaded: Can you tell us a little more about what you are up to now?
Paul: I am still acting, and I have a couple projects I am producing including one with a bunch of my Baywatch co-stars, but I am also a certified health coach. I help people reach their health and fitness goals when they cannot do it on their own.
My sessions are by phone or on Skype, so I can have clients from all over the world, including Great Britain. I love making a difference in peoples’ lives. To learn more about coaching with me, go to AlexandraCoaching.com.
loaded: Thanks for speaking to us today, Alexandra