Miss Diana Rigg is going again to Los Angeles this month to star in a television series - with some trepidations.
A handsome lady who can veer silkily from the wisecrack to solemnity, Miss Rigg, one of Britain's best and most versatile actresses, has been quoted as saying she regards Los Angeles with some apprehension because its residents "are so square - they play tennis and jog."
A tall, rangy, healthy specimen, she is neither the tennis nor jogging type, preferring less athletic and, for her, more sophisticated activities.
Assured the other day, however, that not all Los Angeles residents are perpetually loping around town or flailing volleys across nets, Miss Rigg said hastily it wasn't actually the tennis and jogging that bothered her. It was the transplantation from London to Los Angeles she must undergo.
"Apart from anything else, there's just the work of shutting up the house, the sheer hassle of getting myself and my goods over there," she said worriedly. And that wasn't all.
"I'm English and the English rhythms are my rhythms, and suddenly I've got to adapt myself to a new society and new rhythyms, and I don't know how easy that will be," she went on.
"I can go anywhere I want here, feed whatever appetite I want to feed. But I've got to start afresh in Los Angeles and find out where to feed my appetites - whether for beautiful pictures, to buy books, to sit with friends and talk, to walk alone. I know exactly where to go here to do those things, but not there."
Nobody here is unduly concerned that Miss Rigg will be overwhelmed by such problems, and she admits "the contemplation may be much worse than the actuality, it usually is."
She has, in fact, proved herself as capable of shipping furniture as shifting from farce to the classics, from the stage to motion pictures to television.
It was the small screen that helped propel her into the prominence she now enjoys. After working in the British repertory theaters, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company here, played leads in "King Lear" and "Twelfth Night," and then, in 1965, went into The Avengers television series as the villian-busting counterespionage agent, Mrs. Emma Peel. She was a smash hit in Britain and the United States.
After that, as the British say, "She has never looked back."
She starred in a James Bond movie, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," then joined the National Theater for a brilliant leading performance in "Jumpers," a comedy. Last autumn she was the talk of theatrical London for her ieily memorable role as Lady Macbeth.
Now winding up a highly applauded performance as Celemine in Moliere's "The Misanthrope" at the National Theatre, the 34-year-old Miss Rigg simultaneaously is appearing downtown with Vincent Price in a movie called "Theater of Blood."
"I did it for fun, because it appealed to my sense of humor," she said with a grin, "and I had no idea it was going to be so enormously enjoyable, which it was, mainly because of Vincent, who is heaven."
And when she returns from Los Angeles, she is scheduled to take the leading role , once played by Sarah Bernhardt, in the National Theatre's presentation of Racine's "Phedre". Swinging into the National Theatre the other day Miss Rigg led a visitor back to the pink-hued dressing room she shares with fellow actress Constance Commings. The room features the conventional makeup mirror, several red plastic seated kitchen-type metal chairs, a cot, and a foot-long rag doll.
Miss Rigg shrugged off the jacket of her white pants suit, which was slightly crumpled ("It's the heat," she explained) She wore a man's shirt, open at the throat, rings on most of her long fingers, and no makeup over her freckles. Her auburn hair hung loose and occasionally she tossed it back or ran her hands through it.
Pouring her visitor a glass of cold wine, she refused a cigarette, saying she had given them up three months ago but usually has a small cigar after breakfast.
"Funny, when I stopped smoking cigarettes, I was told my weight would go up but instead my drink went up," she said. "It has tapered off now, but I used to find myself pouring a glass of sherry at 1:30 in the morning, imagine. And I still crave a cigarette ocassionaly."
Talking about her forthcoming journey to Los Angeles - she has been there several times, to promote the Bond movie and The Avengers and for an eight week performance two years ago in "Abelard and Heloise" - she said her unease is matched with expectations.
The television series she is to do focuses on an English girl in the United States "working, jogging along, getting along, nothing particularly chic or smart," as she described it, and she evinced no anxiety about the project.
"I make 14 (episodes) on the trot, and then they take up the option for a further eight if they wish to, but if it's a total failure then I'll trot back to England," she said.
The series is to be filmed before live audiences and that excites Miss Rigg who, conventionally, says she prefers the theater to movies or televisions.
"I know more about theater than movies or television, so I feel more at home in it, more in control and because of the interplay with the audience, with other actors and actresses.
"The thing about this television series, it combines theater and television, beautiful, in fact like doing repertory," she said, her brown eyes beaming.
Further, she continued, "I get the weekends off, and every eight weeks they give me a fortnight's holiday. I may got to Mexico City - I've always wanted to go there - and travel around a bit."
She also wants to go to San Francisco to visit a doctor and his wife she knows there.
And what will she do in Los Angeles when she is not working?
Go to the beach, possibly to Forest Lawn, and entertain friends at her house - "It has the legendary swimming pool" - and drive around the countryside. That all sounded prosaic, but Miss Rigg is hardly a prosaic woman.
Turning to her visitor, eyes popping, she asked, "Do you know what I saw on television when I was in Los Angeles? Absolutely amazing, those marathon ladies on roller skates, amazons, fisticuffs they were having. But I mean, what kind of persons are they, what sexual undertow is there?"
Obviously she wants to attend a ladies Roller Skating game as a participant.
"My Goodness me, those ladies," she exclaimed. "I think I would get off my roller skates and go in the opposite direction."
One of the best actresses here, but hoping to be better, Miss Rigg exults in living, her profession and her prominence - although she said, "Really, I'm not good at movies, my face is too wide and I'm altogether too big in them." But she professes some worries.
Not about work, particularly, nor about money, although she is uneasy about the fees she now commands.
"I never had much, we never had much as a family," she said, reflectively, "so when I buy anything for myself I'm disturbed by it. I don't take it out of its wrappings for up to a week. It's pure guilt."
As an actress who is handed scores of scripts for her consideration, she said, "I don't think they're very good, generally speaking, (they lack) truth... a view of things which is specific yet fresh... the difference between truth and something which comes tripping off the tongue."
And Miss Rigg admits to some personal concern.
"I'm an actress (but) I spend time with people who do things I don't do, like write, like compose, like paint, whatever, as long as they don't do what I do and they know more about it than I do. I'm an avid taker, I suppose," she said, adding:
"In this business (there's) an awful lot of time you spend pleasing people, because that's what the business is about, but in that process you can very easily lose a sense of your own tastes and directions. A medium has to be found and it disturbs me if I'm not keeping that balance."