Marta Kristen knew she made it as an actress when she began filming “Lost in Space.”
The sci-fi cult classic, which told the story of a space colony family struggling to survive when an accidental stowaway throws their ship hopelessly off course, aired from 1965 until 1968.
Kristen captivated audiences as Judy Robinson.
“I was from Norway,” the 73-year-old told Closer Weekly Thursday. “I was adopted when I was five.
"My adopted parents, who were teachers, would drive me to the studio at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning, and I would think to myself, ‘Here I am. I was an orphan, now here I am in show business. I’m going to the set at 20th Century Fox. I cannot believe my good fortune.’ Then I would get there and would be treated so well."
Kristen, who would go on to have a lasting career in Hollywood after “Lost in Space” came to an end, insisted her time on the set was truly a dream come true.
“It really was a dream,” she said. “It was just hard to believe that I was in that situation, because I’d always wanted to act. My mother said that when I got off the plane from Norway, and when they picked me up in New York, I got off the plane walking like Charlie Chaplin.”
Burlington County Times previously reported Kristen first arrived in California from Michigan in 1959, when she was just 14 years old. But life for her originally began in Oslo.
“My mother had been ordered to work for a German officer, and she hid her pregnancy fearing she would be killed,” Kristen recalled at the time. “She went to Norway with him and gave birth to me in her room. I was taken to a hospital and placed in an underground orphanage to avoid the Lebensborn program (a Nazi project to raise ‘racially pure’ children).”
By age 4, Kristen was adopted by an American couple from Detroit. Her adoptive parents encouraged her to pursue acting as a means of self-expression.
However, not everything was so blissful while bringing “Lost in Space” to life. While the show kicked off on a serious note in Season 1, Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) quickly became a comedic hit as he would get involved in adventures with Will (Bill Mumy) and the Robot. The trio would become the focus of many episodes.
Kristen admitted she was wary about the direction “Lost in Space” was taking at the time, and feared she wouldn’t have much of a role to take on any more.
“In the beginning, we had a really nice relationship and I thought it was going in a good direction,” she explained to Closer Weekly. “So I was very disappointed in not having anything to do in the second and third years. It was no longer ‘Space Family Robinson.’ It did become about the Robot and Dr. Smith. I think part of the reason was because the writers found it very easy to write that. It was much harder to write for the family dynamic as a whole."
Kristen also believed Harris' talent as an actor was just too irresistible to ignore.
"Jonathan (Harris) made it very easy," she said. "He would rewrite most of his scenes. He did all the alterations; things like referring to the Robot as a ‘Bubble-headed booby.’ He just instinctively knew that if he continued to be the serious villain on the show rather than what he became — the villain with a heart of gold — he wouldn’t have survived on the show.”
Kristen shared a similar sentiment to the Burlington County Times.
“I’d read a script and often had nothing to do,” she said. “The dynamics of the show changed after the first season when the focus was on Dr. Smith, Will and the Robot, and it went from being a science fiction adventure to fantasy with silly plots. But it was a fun show, and the premise of a family lost in space was a good one.”
Today, Kristen revealed she still can’t deny the show’s popularity as it grew over the years.
“There was, I think, an element of the show where each of us had something that everyone would watch and enjoy,” she said. “I mean, young guys would like Penny (Angela Cartwright) and myself. Mark would be the hero for another group of kids. And Bill, of course, and the Robot and Doctor Smith, everybody loved.”
Harris passed away in 2002 at age 87 from a blood clot.
And “Lost in Space” remains so beloved that it’s back.
Entertainment Weekly reported Tuesday Netflix unveiled a trailer for a “Lost in Space” reboot, which will premiere April 13.
Kristen previously told Burlington County Times she’s hopeful about what a remake could offer to new viewers discovering “Lost in Space” for the first time.
“It sounds interesting, and they’re making 10 episodes for the first season,” she said. “I might be interested in a part of some sort, but not necessarily as Judy Robinson. I hope fans of the old show won’t be disappointed. They have such great love for the original and are really part of the ‘Lost in Space’ family.”