The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Janet Angel MacLachlan

Stage and film actress Janet Angel MacLachlan was born on August 8, 1933, in Harlem, New York; her mother, Iris South MacLachlan, and father, James MacLachlan, were both Jamaican born and members of the Church of the Illumination. Attending P.S. 170 and Julia Ward Junior High School, MacLachlan graduated from Julia Richmond High School in 1950, and earned her B.S. degree in psychology from Hunter College in 1955. While holding down clerical jobs MacLachlan studied acting at the Harlem YMCA, the Herbert Berghoff Acting Studio, and the Little Theatre of Harlem. Later, MacLachlan received additional training from The Actors Studio, Joanie Gerber Voiceovers, and Theatre East in Los Angeles.

In 1961, MacLachlan took Cicely Tyson’s place in The Blacks: A Clown Show by Jean Genet, and worked alongside James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett, Jr., Maya Angelou, and Roscoe Lee Brown. In 1962, MacLachlan was cast in the parody Raising Hell in the Sun and became active in Actors Equity and The Committee for the Employment of Negro Performers. MacLachlan spent a year at Minneapolis’ Tyrone Guthrie Theater and acted in Washington, D.C.’s Shakespeare Festival before she signed a contract with Universal Studios in 1964. Starting with The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965, MacLachlan appeared in over seventy-five television shows, including: I Spy (1967), The FBI (1966), Star Trek (1967), The Fugitive (1966), The Name of the Game (1969/70), The Rockford Files (1975), Good Times (1978), Archie Bunker’s Place (1980), Cagney and Lacey (1982/83), Amen (1988), Murder She Wrote (1985), Murder One (1986), Family Law (2000), and Alias (2002). MacLachlan’s television movies included: Louis Armstrong - Chicago Style (1976), Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (1978), The Sophisticated Gents (1981), For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story (1983), and The Tuskegee Airmen (1995). MacLachlan’s feature films included: Up Tight (1968), ...tick...tick...tick (1970), The Man (1972), Sounder (1972), Tightrope (1984) and Black Listed (2003).

Often cast as a judge, nurse, doctor, psychiatrist, teacher, or social worker, MacLachlan was also featured in the Emmy Award winning KCET-TV PBS production of Voices of Our People: In Celebration of Black Poetry. MacLachlan served as the grant committee chair of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, while remaining a resident of Los Angeles.

Janet MacLachlan passed away on October 11, 2010.

Accession Number

A2005.087

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/30/2005

Last Name

MacLachlan

Middle Name

Angel

Schools

Julia Richman High School

Julia Ward Howe Junior High School 81

P.S. 170

Hunter College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Janet

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MAC01

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Greece

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

8/27/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pasta

Death Date

10/11/2010

Short Description

Stage actress and film actress Janet Angel MacLachlan (1933 - 2010 ) appeared in over seventy-five television shows, including: I Spy, The FBI, Star Trek, The Fugitive, The Name of the Game, The Rockford Files, Good Times, Archie Bunker’s Place, Cagney and Lacey, Amen, Murder She Wrote, Family Law, and Alias. In addition to a prolific television career, MacLachlan also appeared in numerous television and cinema movies.

Employment

New York Life Insurance Company

Universal Studios

St. Mark's Playhouse

Guthrie Theater

Special Markets, Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2955,25:3380,31:4145,42:4485,47:5590,62:10945,207:19562,315:24254,384:25784,406:26600,411:27110,417:30305,431:31070,448:34980,504:37722,627:53710,766:54110,772:61044,794:70068,965:70452,970:87140,1073:88245,1088:91226,1101:92536,1112:93060,1117:93584,1122:94239,1128:98330,1134:99660,1139:100326,1149:101288,1159:101584,1164:102620,1187:103212,1196:113600,1397:119060,1456:119480,1461:121370,1488:122315,1499:122735,1504:128070,1543:128334,1548:128598,1553:129258,1567:141768,1675:142528,1687:143060,1696:143744,1708:144276,1717:145036,1731:147848,1761:148836,1775:150356,1799:157804,1836:159270,1852$0,0:1590,18:2332,27:5064,77:6338,90:8592,156:8984,161:12904,214:13590,221:14178,229:21150,254:22200,267:24822,292:25342,304:29502,348:30022,354:48768,526:52345,558:53025,570:53790,582:58890,690:60080,711:75150,914:75910,925:76480,932:76955,938:80470,987:80945,996:81515,1003:91352,1121:92298,1136:93502,1157:101610,1235:102120,1242:102630,1249:103310,1258:109600,1363:113066,1371:116246,1410:118070,1416:120226,1447:126270,1512:143261,1633:158762,1752:159399,1760:170999,1973:171355,2043:185270,2116:185970,2124:186770,2159:188770,2182:189770,2194:190170,2199:197074,2257:198450,2278:209362,2363:210194,2374:213768,2413:214832,2432:217036,2463:220532,2517:221064,2525:225675,2553:226100,2559:226695,2569:227885,2587:228310,2593:228735,2599:240770,2769
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Janet Angel MacLachlan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Janet Angel MacLachlan lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her parents' disinterest in their Jamaican roots

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her mother's education and employment

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers family stories and an early childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Janet Angel MacLachlan describes her father's experiences in the British Army during World War I

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers her mother's passing

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her visits with family members

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Janet Angel MacLachlan describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Janet Angel MacLachlan describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers attending all-girls schools in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Janet Angel MacLachlan describes her favorite childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her self-perception growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about attending dances as a teenager in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers being cast in a play at P.S. 170 in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her college ambitions as a high school student in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her interests and activities in junior high and high school in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her jobs after graduating from Julia Richman High School in New York, New York in 1950

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about forming friendships through the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at Hunter College in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about completing her degree at Hunter College in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers her early involvement with Little Theater at the Harlem YMCA in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers her social activities as a student at Hunter College in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Janet Angel MacLachlan reflects upon her relationship with her mother while attending Hunter College in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers her early theater involvement in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Janet Angel MacLachlan describes her employment during and after her final year at Hunter College in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Janet Angel MacLachlan recalls working on Wall Street in New York, New York in the late 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her mental health throughout her childhood and early adulthood

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Janet Angel MacLachlan reflects upon her home life growing up

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers traveling to Europe in 1961

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Janet Angel MacLachlan recalls her involvement with Jean Genet's 'The Blacks: A Clown Show' at St. Mark's Playhouse in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her concurrent understudy roles for 'Moon on a Rainbow Shawl' and 'The Blacks: A Clown Show' in the early 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Janet Angel MacLachlan describes the unconventional structure of 'The Blacks: A Clown Show'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers performing in 'The Blacks: A Clown Show' and 'Raising Hell in the Son' in New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about being hired by the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Janet Angel MacLachlan describes her disappointment in being cast in non-speaking roles at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers signing with Universal Studios Inc. in 1964

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her parents' reaction to her acting career

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her acting jobs with Universal Studios Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her career trajectory following her release from Universal Studios Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Janet Angel MacLachlan explains her motivation for cutting her hair after being let go from Universal Studios Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her role in 'I Spy'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Janet Angel MacLachlan remembers wardrobe challenges for her role in 'I Spy'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Janet Angel MacLachlan reflects upon her impression of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about integration in her youth

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her involvement with political and professional organizations in the 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about traveling to East Germany in 1980

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her work for Communications Bridge Institute

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Janet Angel MacLachlan recalls her decision to leave Communications Bridge Institute and become sober

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about becoming sober and her organizational involvement in the late 1980s

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her role in '...tick...tick...tick...'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about the productions of 'Sounder' and 'The Man'

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her roles in 'The Man' and 'Sounder'

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Janet Angel MacLachlan reflects upon African American actresses' access to roles

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Janet Angel MacLachlan considers her favorite acting roles

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about theater roles she wanted to play

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Janet Angel MacLachlan considers projects and roles she would like to do

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her disappointment in the television industry

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about chairing the grants committee for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her television preferences in relation to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' voting procedures

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Janet Angel MacLachlan considers the impact of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' voting system

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Janet Angel MacLachlan describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Janet Angel MacLachlan reflects upon her life

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Janet Angel MacLachlan reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Janet Angel MacLachlan describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Janet Angel MacLachlan narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Janet Angel MacLachlan narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

1$7

DATitle
Janet Angel MacLachlan describes the unconventional structure of 'The Blacks: A Clown Show'
Janet Angel MacLachlan talks about her acting jobs with Universal Studios Inc.
Transcript
Most, if not all, of the black actors who were working in New York [New York], at some point or at some time or another did 'The Blacks[: A Clown Show,' Jean Genet]. They were either an understudy, or they came in and replaced, and they were kicked out, or they came in and they did the show and then they behaved badly and they were thrown out, or they, you know, whatever. It was just the kind of show that there were two, two sets. You know, there was the royal set, and then there were the street people, if you know the play. Do you know the play at all?$$No, I've, you know, I (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) You've never seen it?$$No, I've never seen it.$$Okay. It's very difficult to, to, to explain because it's, it was difficult for me to understand going into the play. There were, there were--it was very stylized, and there were, there were people dressed as, as the queen. I think [HistoryMaker] Maya [Angelou] played the [White] Queen at, at some point. And the--$$Maya Angelou.$$Maya Angelou--and the, the religious leader or the, you know, there, there were all those, those characters that were taken from, from countries that had, that were, that were run by European countries, you know.$$Colonized--$$It was that--they were colonized. Thank you, I knew I could count on you (laughter).$$(Laughter) Okay, I'm sorry. Go ahead.$$At any rate, and then there were other people who were performing this play for the royalty. And then there was another group of people who were backstage, who were off the stage, and they were preparing the revolution. So there were three sets of people going. And if, if one of them was replaced, everybody just adjusted to this new character. It's not like it was a traditional play where--where relationships were, were important to maintain, you know. It's a, it's an incredible play.$So any rate, so I came out here [Los Angeles, California]. I was greeted by everybody at Universal [Studios Inc., Universal City, California]. I realized that there was one black guy under contract, and he and I became sort of friends. And there were maybe two or three other black women, black young women, in town who were under contract to a major studio or a network. Somebody was with NBC; somebody was with Paramount [Pictures, Los Angeles, California]. And I can't remember what else there was, but there I was at Universal. And so I asked, you know, "What should I be doing? Should I come to the studio every day? Should I," you know, you know, "watch directors? Are there classes?" And I was told, "Don't do anything. Don't worry about it. Just go to the beach; enjoy yourself. Don't take any acting classes. We don't want you to change." You know, "Just sort of be," you know, "just enjoy yourself. You're under contract. You'll be paid forty out of fifty-two weeks." Twelve weeks they'll have to put me on a, on, on no salary, and, and everything was gonna be fine. So, one of the directors that I had met when I was--who, who actually had directed me for my, for my scene, my, my test scene, you know, I became pretty friendly with him. And he requested me on a show that he was, he was directing there that I should start getting used to working for camera. I mean I had done three little television shows in New York [New York], like one scene each. And I'd done these little commercials with no dialogue, but I really didn't understand the whole process of filmmaking. So, I worked with him. I think it was a, it was a [Alfred] Hitchcock. Then it as a '[The Alfred] Hitchcock Hour' show. I really did one, two, another Hitchcock, "The Monkey's Paw[: A Retelling," 'The Alfred Hitchcock Hour'], and a--'Bob Hope [Presents the] Chrysler Theatre.'$$Yeah, that was a scary one, "The Monkey's Paw."$$"The Monkey's Paw"? Yeah, that was, that was me. It was a very, but it was a very modern kind of jet set group. And, and a loan-out, they loaned me out to do 'The FBI' and a, a fashion show [Edith Head fashion show] for Universal Studio Tours because the tour center had not been built in '64 [1964], '65 [1965]. And that's all I did for Universal, and so they fired me. They fired me June of '66 [1966], which was like a year and a half. Actually, they brought me in in November. So, the following November they, when, when contract renewal time came, they said to me that because they had, had not used me a great deal, and they had not made their money back on me, they were not gonna give me my raise. And (laughter) I said, "Well, if you're not gonna give me my raise then let me go, you know. I don't want to be here."