"Nobody expected, even CBS, they never expected it to be picked up. They thought they were doing like Springtime for Hitler," recalls Seymour, who says a revival's been mapped out.
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Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman — which ran for 150 episodes and two TV movies — almost never was, according to star Jane Seymour.

"I was never supposed to do it. It was never even supposed to be made," Seymour says in an EW Role Call interview in which she looks back at her many memorable roles. The CBS drama came to her at the end of her marriage to money manager David Flynn, who'd gotten her involved in some unfortunate deals. "We got married, we had two children, and then I had a devastating divorce in which I lost everything," she said. "I was like $9 million in the red, with lawsuits from every major bank, including the FDIC. I was penniless, homeless, with two children. And so I called my agent and said, 'I will do anything.'"

So Seymour's agent sent her the role of Dr. Quinn. "I got the script at 10 o'clock that night. At 10 the next morning I had to say yes or no and go straight into wardrobe at noon and start filming at six the following morning. And I had to sign for five years." The actress worried it would keep her from a comedy the folks at Paramount had been working on for her, but "they said, 'Oh, don't worry about it. It's a woman in the lead. It's a medical show. It's children and animals. It's dusty,' meaning it was a Western, 'and it's a period piece, and it's morality. It will never make it, so don't worry about it. It'll become a nice movie of the week, you'll be lovely in it, you'll make some money, and then you can do our show.'"

Jane Seymour Role Call
Jane Semour on 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman'
| Credit: Studio Seven Productions/NM/Sygma via Getty Images

But the minute Seymour stepped on set with Joe Lando ("my closest male friend, to this day"), she knew Dr. Quinn "just had a magic to it": "It all was just working. And it fit for me too, because I was at the lowest step of my life, and there was this woman who'd gone back West and had to go deal with all these issues and problems, and there was I."

Seymour started touting the show as CBS' next big hit — which even CBS didn't want to believe. "Nobody expected, even CBS, they never expected it to be picked up. They thought they were doing like Springtime for Hitler," she says, referencing the musical that was designed to fail on purpose in The Producers. "They thought they were cleaning house from all the deals they had. I only found that out because I kept saying to all the affiliates, 'This is the hit of the year.' And I remember [the president of CBS at the time,] Jeff Sagansky, looking at me, and he said, 'Why did you say that?' I said, 'Because it is. I just watched all the other shows. This is it.' [He was like,] 'Oh please. No, don't.'"

Though it went off the air in 1998, Dr. Quinn "still plays in 98 countries, so so much for people not wanting it," says Seymour, who'll be celebrating her 1980 film Somewhere in Time as part of the TCM Film Festival this weekend. "To this day, people are begging for it to come back on the air."

Seymour fans are currently enjoying her murder-mystery series Harry Wild on Acorn, something the actress took on despite not wanting to do another series, "particularly — unless maybe we brought Dr. Quinn back."

And that doesn't seem like too much of an impossibility.

"We actually have the most wonderful scripts and everything ready to go for a reboot," Seymour told EW in 2020. "We would start 26 years later when it's all about women's liberation. We've got to find a network or somebody who wants to do it, but we're all on board. We have it all mapped out, [original series creator] Beth Sullivan did it, it's brilliant."

Paging Dr. Quinn...

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