It was 45 years ago when Kathy Coleman found herself in the “Land of the Lost.”
The series, a Saturday-morning favorite, followed the adventures of the Marshall family, trapped in a land of dinosaurs, lizard men called Sleestak and enigmatic pylons offering the slender hope of a way back home.
The series, which also starred Wesley Eure, Spencer Milligan and Phillip Paley, among others, aired from 1974 to 1976.
Since then, Coleman, now 57, has written two books chronicling her time as a child star in Hollywood, with “Run, Holly, Run!” being her most recent.
She has also kept busy traveling the country and meeting fans of “Land of the Lost” — and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Coleman spoke to Fox News about how she landed her most famous role, what her life was like after that taste of stardom, and why “Land of the Lost” had to end.
Fox News: How were you discovered as a child actress?
Kathy Coleman: I was born in Massachusetts and I wound up leaving there around 4 years old. People used to stop my mom on the street and say, “You should put that kid in show business.” That was a dream. But if you didn’t live in Hollywood, you couldn’t possibly be in show business. And so we wound up moving out to California shortly after that. People started saying it there, and this time it was a possibility.
My mom, who is from Australia, thought agents would be looking for the next Shirley Temple. So she used to dress me in party dresses and patent leather shoes. She would send me out with my hair all curled like her. I probably went on a hundred interviews before I walked in one day for a job for Shakey's Pizza. They were looking for Goldilocks. And I got that job. And then my agent told my mother, “You lucked out on this one but you’ve got to tone that kid down.” And so my mom started putting me in braids and blue jeans. Then I started working all the time.
Fox Now: How did you get the role of Holly Marshall in “Land of the Lost”?
Coleman: I auditioned for it, like any other role. I think it took seven callbacks in total. But on my third callback, I saw Phillip Paley, who would later play Cha-Ka. I had worked with him on a commercial earlier that year.
I do remember going in wearing the same thing in every interview so they wouldn’t forget me. It was my mother who came up with the checkered shirt and pants with desert boots and braids. So basically the way my mother sent me is the way they wound up designing the character for the entire show.
Fox News: What was your relationship like with the cast?
Coleman: It was amazing. And even today, we’re as close as we can be. It’s like having a second family. When you’re doing a show, you don’t always expect to get along with everybody. But we got along famously. We’ve been getting together to do Comic-Con and travel the country for the last eight years to meet with fans.
Fox News: What are some memories from your time filming “Land of the Lost” that still stick out to you?
Coleman: We were such huge pranksters. Sometimes it would get us in trouble. There’s one time, the father of the show had the guy who painted the sets draw a slot machine on his chest. We were filming a scene where we were supposed to go through the jungle to this pond. We were supposed to take off our outer clothing and have swimming gear underneath. But when he took his shirt off, all you saw was this slot machine. It was hilarious, but the producers weren't thrilled. They thought we were wasting money messing around like that.
Now Wesley [Eure], I remember he was going to get a massage on set. Phillip and I got wind of that. We talked to the prop master on the show and got him to get us a ladder. We climbed up so we could listen in. And every time, he would go “Ooh, ah, that feels good,” we would just repeat it right back and start laughing. He once told us that when he looked up, all he saw were these four eyes staring back at him. But things like that always happened on set, silly things. Like what you would expect from a family.
Fox News: What caused “Land of the Lost” to end?
Coleman: Well, it was an expensive show to run. It required a big budget and the executives thought it was just a kid show. I would definitely say money, but I’m sure there were other factors. For instance, when I got the part, I had just turned 12, and so I was still growing. My brother got the part when he was like 20 or 21. He was an adult though. I was starting to look at him straight in the eyes and he supposed to be my older brother.
Fox News: What happened to your career after “Land of the Lost”?
Coleman: I still went on interviews until I drifted out of it. … At age 18, I wound up doing a string of Burger King commercials … but that was pretty much my last gig. I wound up getting married and starting a family. … I married into the Bel-Air family… The grandfather had a job opportunity for us in Fallon, Nev. — a dairy farm. … We were young, so I figured why not? I spent five years on a farm. … It was a culture shock because I grew up in Los Angeles. And we weren’t given any special privileges just because the grandfather owned the business. We were very much at the bottom of the totem pole.
Fox News: How did you escape the so-called child star curse?
Coleman: You know, I went through it and came out on the other side. I’ve got a couple of wrinkles, but that’s it. I have a good attitude. I’m healthy, strong and I really do live a nice life. It is impossible to escape the fact that one day you’re the center of attention, everyone is at your beck and call, and then you’re not. But I was never allowed to be demanding or out of line. I had a very strict mother.
But when you do become a teenager, you go through the normal things that teenagers go through. You lose your self-confidence and then you have to find that self-love again. It’s a journey, one that shouldn’t require a camera. I went on that journey and found myself again. But it wasn’t always easy. I lost my mother when I was 24. She was my rock. And I only had a mother. I wasn't raised with a father. Then I went through a really rough divorce. But you get through it. You have to find a way to get through it… And I didn’t want to look back and blame anyone for anything. There were lessons to be learned and some were incredibly difficult. But eventually, l learned them. I came out OK.
Fox News: What’s it been like meeting fans today?
Coleman: Pretty unbelievable. When our show aired, there were basically only three networks. The kids were limited to what they could watch … so we have a humongous fan base because of that. … We basically raised a generation. So these people come up to our tables when we do these shows and tell us all the different ways that the show affected them.
For the longest time I actually never even thought of us as a single-parent family. I don't even know why when it was so obvious. We were just the father, the brother and the daughter. But I never really looked at it from that perspective. But we've had people come up and say: “My mother and father were divorced. And that was really difficult for me as a young child. But I thought if you guys could do it, I could, too.” I've had blind people come up to my table and tell me how they remember having sight and seeing the show. The stories I hear are really unbelievable.
Fox News: What’s life like for you today?
Coleman: It’s certainly nice to come home to loving yourself. … It’s much better today than it’s ever been. I have an incredible husband who just adores me. It’s just wonderful, really.