When fans come up to Angela Cartwright, she’s never certain what they know her from. She played Linda on The Danny Thomas Show and Penny on Lost in Space. And in The Sound of Music, Angela was Brigitta, one of the singing von Trapp children. “I feel that I was very blessed to grow up in the time that I did,” says Angela, 69, who recalls her experiences as a young actress with real fondness. “I don’t have any horror stories. It was a good ride, and I am so grateful to be able to look back and see that.”
Angela grew up to become a professional photographer and visual artist as well as a wife and mother. She revisits her time as a member of the Robinson family with Lost (and Found) in Space 2: Blast Off Into the Expanded Edition, an updated book filled with behind-the-scenes photos and reminiscences that was co-written with her TV brother, Bill Mumy. “Bill and I are good friends,” she says. “We had a lot of fun growing up on the set and have known each other a long, long time!”
How did you become an actress at such a young age?
It was really just fate. A person in the apartment building where we lived as children had a child in commercials. My mom became friendly with her, and she suggested we meet her agent. So that’s what we did. My parents had no clue what show business really even was.
But you were very successful.
I got the first job I ever auditioned for, and then I made a movie with Paul Newman — I played his daughter. Not a bad start! You also played a daughter on The Danny Thomas Show.
What was Danny like?
Danny was everything my dad was not. I come from a British family that celebrates tea time, and Danny was robust, loud, gregarious and funny. He was such a perfectionist, and he knew what made people laugh. It was just great training.
The Sound of Music came next. What was the experience of filming it like?
It was so much fun. I became fast friends with Heather Menzies [who played Louisa] right off the bat and we had a total blast. Austria was just so beautiful, and Salzburg, where we were shooting, was like a dream. We would run around and sing in a beautiful place. Our families were there the whole time, which was comforting. It was just a great experience.
Did you spend a lot of time with Julie Andrews?
Yeah, we just loved her. She was so much fun. She was so much like Maria von Trapp — I think it really shows in the movie.
Did anyone have any idea the movie would become something special?
None of us did. You don’t just make a movie and go, ‘Oh, I’m sure this is going to last 60 years.’ It’s crazy the popularity of this movie! What I love is that it’s never been remade, and I don’t feel it can be. Julie and Chris Plummer were so great in their parts. I think everyone was afraid it would be sickly sweet, but Chris brought a real edge to it. He made it very special, and now even guys like it even though it’s a musical.
How old were you when you were cast in Lost in Space?
I was about 13, and we did it for three seasons.
Why do you think it became so popular?
It really grabbed people’s imaginations. We hadn’t been to the moon yet, but the idea of a family going into space was kind of cool. I did a trip to NASA with Bill Mumy and Marta Kristen [who played Judy], and so many people who worked there told us how Lost in Space changed their lives and made them dream about being in the space program. That’s such a trip to be able to touch people like that.
How did the revised version of your book, Lost (and Found) in Space 2: Blast Off Into the Expanded Edition, come about?
We came out with this book several years ago, but we have since come across different archives with more pictures and personal stuff. Plus Bill and I [guest- starred] on the Netflix show Lost in Space, so we did a lot of catching up. We decided there was so much more to tell, and that’s why this is version two. It’s almost twice as big as the first book.
Did you return to a “normal” life after the show ended?
My life has never been normal! After I got married, I did Beyond the Poseidon Adventure and different commercials, but then I wanted to raise a family and I took a step back [from acting]. I wanted to keep my toe in the creative pond, so I began exploring my love of photography. Then I started to teach art classes and wrote art books. I don’t like to sit still!
Did your two children follow in your footsteps?
Yes, my daughter is a showrunner. She has been in the business for many years. My son was an actor for a while, but he was really more drawn to business, so that’s what he does now.
Do you have grandchildren?
I have four!
So exciting! What do you enjoy most about them?
Oh, I love being a grandmother. My daughter has three and my son one, with more in their thoughts! So, I might end up with more. But it’s so great to watch children and learn from them, because you forget so much as you get older. Their curiosity is so pure. I really enjoy them.
You’ve been married to your husband, Steve, since 1976. What is your secret?
A sense of humor. You have to be able to accept and laugh at the changes that happen in life and find a way to enjoy life. Plus, my husband is a perfect mate for me because I am very independent. We enjoy each other, but we respect each other’s independence.