Hollywood Flashback: ‘Mannix’ Star Gayle Fisher Made Emmys History in 1970
Why Gail Fisher has not been more well-known in Hollywood history is a mystery that Joe Mannix couldn’t solve. After Nichelle Nichols, Fisher was the second Black actress to play a prominent role in weekly broadcast TV. She was also the first Black actress to win an Emmy.
A native of New Jersey, she began acting lessons with Lee Strasberg in New York City. She eventually became a member at the Repertory Theatre. In the 1960s, she became the first Black actor “to make a national TV commercial, on camera, with lines,” as she once explained, when she was cast in an All detergent campaign. Her big break came on the CBS series Mannix ,, when Mike Connors, the star detective, set up his own P.I. Fisher hires Peggy Fair, Fisher’s character, to be his Girl Friday.
Their chemistry made the struggling show a success. When she accepted her 1970 Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series — the first time that award was presented — in a silver-and-white tasseled jumpsuit, a genuinely shocked and delighted Fisher exclaimed, “Wow! It’s an exciting and most memorable moment for me .
After Mannix‘s cancellation in 1975, Fisher made sporadic TV appearances but struggled with addiction. She died of kidney failure in L.A. in 2000. She was 65.
This story first appeared in a June issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.