Donna Wilkes

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Donna Wilkes
Donna Wilkes (1979).jpg
Wilkes in 1979
BornNovember 11, 1958
OccupationActress
Years active1978–present
Spouse(s)
(m. 1981; div. 1981)
[1]
Children1[2]

Donna Consuelo Wilkes[3] (born c. 1958–1959)[a] is an American actress. She began her career as a child actor in commercials before making her feature film debut in Jaws 2 (1978). She subsequently had a supporting role in Almost Summer (1978), followed by lead roles in the horror films Schizoid (1980) and Blood Song (1982). She also appeared in several television programs, including the soap opera Days of Our Lives (1982–1983), portraying Pamela Prentiss. She portrayed Diane Alder in the short-lived sitcom Hello, Larry (1979), a role she reprised in a spin-off episode of Diff'rent Strokes.

Wilkes is perhaps best known for her starring role in the thriller Angel (1984), in which she portrayed a preparatory student in Los Angeles who lives a double life as a prostitute by night.[8] Her other credits include the horror film Grotesque (1988), opposite Linda Blair and Tab Hunter, and guest-starring roles on the series Dragnet (1989) and FBI: The Untold Stories (1991).

Wilkes abandoned her acting career in the early 1990s after the birth of her daughter. She returned to acting in 2013, appearing in the independent films My Stepbrother Is a Vampire!?! and 90210 Shark Attack (2014).

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Wilkes was born in Manhattan, New York City[7] in Spanish Harlem. Her father was Wayman Otis Wilkes (1918–2013), an Irish American chiropractor originally from Texas,[9] while her mother, a nightclub singer from El Salvador, was of Spanish and French descent.[7][3] Wilkes's parents divorced when she was 3 months old.[7] She was raised speaking both English and Spanish, and is fluent in both.[2]

When she was six she made her first commercial, for Keds sneakers. She trained in acting at Dominica American Theatre of Performing Arts, but stopped her training at age 11 to become a "normal student." At age 12, she went to live with her aunt and uncle in the Dominican Republic. Wilkes attended the Collegio Santo Domingo where she was an advanced student, graduating at age 14.[10] At age 15, she moved to Los Angeles, California,[7] but, unable to work at such a young age, convinced many employers that she was 18 and married.[10] Her first jobs included being a computer operator for an ambulance service, and as a secretary and administrative assistant for a large corporation.[10]

Career beginnings[edit]

Wilkes began acting again at age 17. Her first role was the part of Jackie Peters in the 1978 Universal Pictures film Jaws 2. That same year, she starred as Meredith in Almost Summer, which earned her a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card. At around age 18, she married 39-year-old actor Billy Gray, known for his work on Father Knows Best. The marriage soon ended in divorce.

In 1980, Wilkes portrayed the mentally-unstable daughter of a psychologist (played by Klaus Kinski) in the horror film Schizoid.[11] She subsequently starred in the Oregon-shot slasher film Blood Song (1982) opposite Frankie Avalon, playing a disabled young woman stalked by a maniacal killer with whom she has a telepathic connection.[12]

Angel, hiatus, and later career[edit]

Wilkes had a central role as Pamela Prentiss on the soap opera Days of Our Lives from 1983 to 1984.

She subsequently gained international attention for her leading role in the cult sexploitation film Angel, in which she played Molly "Angel" Stewart, a high school honor student by day, and a prostitute by night, opposite Cliff Gorman, Susan Tyrrell, Dick Shawn, and Rory Calhoun.[13] The film spawned three unsuccessful sequels in which Wilkes had no involvement. Wilkes was 22 at the time she played the 15-year-old character. To prepare for the role, she spent time in halfway houses and rehabilitation centers in Los Angeles.[10] Released by New World Pictures in January 1984, Angel was a box-office hit, grossing $17.5 million in the United States.[14]

Following Angel, Wilkes continued to work in television, making guest appearances on the series Partners in Crime (1984), Hell Town (1985), and Dragnet (1989). She also had a supporting role in the horror film Grotesque (1988), co-starring with Linda Blair and Tab Hunter.[15]

Wilkes abandoned her acting career in the early 1990s after giving birth to her daughter.[2] She returned to acting in the 2010s, appearing in the independent films My Stepbrother Is a Vampire!?! (2013) and 90210 Shark Attack (2014).[16]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1978 Jaws 2 Jackie Peters
1978 Almost Summer Meredith
1979 Fyre Carol
1979 Hard Knocks Chris Alternate titles: Mid-Knight Rider and Hollywood Knight
1980 Schizoid Alison Fales Alternate title: Murder by Mail
1982 Blood Song Marion Alternate title: Dream Slayer
1984 Angel Molly 'Angel' Stewart
1988 Grotesque Kathy
2013 My Stepbrother Is a Vampire!?! Miss Fortune
2014 90210 Shark Attack Pamela

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1978 The Courage and the Passion Tracy Television film
1978 The Incredible Hulk Alice Morrow Episode: "Alice in Disco Land"
1979 Hello, Larry Diane Alder Main cast (14 episodes)
1979 Diff'rent Strokes Diane Alder Episode: "The Trip: Part 1"
1979 The Runaways Episode: "Land of Honey"
1981 Born to Be Sold Cindy Carlson Television film
1981 House Calls Episode: "The Sex Police"
1982 Father Murphy Emma Walker Episodes: "The First Miracle" (Parts 1 & 2)
1982 T. J. Hooker Karen Stewart Episode: "King of the Hill"
1982–1983 Days of Our Lives Pamela Prentiss Main cast (14 episodes)
1983 Teachers Only Episode: "Praise the Lord and Pasta Ammunition"
1984 Gimme a Break! Gina Episode: "The Center"
1984 Partners in Crime Sandy Episode: "Fantasyland"
1985 Hell Town Meg Episode: "The Rat Man Cometh"
1986 Superior Court Episode: "Date Rape"
1989 Dragnet Amy Redmond Episode: "Safe in Jail"
1991 FBI: The Untold Stories Teresa Starr Episode: "The Murder of Judge John Wood"

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sources vary regarding Wilkes's birthdate. AllMovie lists her birthdate as January 1, 1961[4] while Rotten Tomatoes[5] and the Mr. Skin's Skincyclopedia state she was born November 11, 1959 in California;[6] this contradicts a 1984 People article, which states that Wilkes was born in Manhattan. The People article also claims she was 20 years old at the time, implying her birth year as 1963–1964.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lamparski 1982, p. 303.
  2. ^ a b c "Playing Both Sides: An Interview with Donna Wilkes" (Blu-ray bonus short). Vinegar Syndrome. 2019.
  3. ^ a b Mejia, Antonio (1984). "Entertainment". Hispanic Link Weekly Report. Hispanic Link News Service Incorporated. 1–3: 8. OCLC 0295017. Donna Wilkes, the young film actress who plays a bright high school student by day, Hollywood hooker by night in the recently released Angel, has a Spanish middle name—Donna Consuelo Wilkes' mother is a native of El Salvador.
  4. ^ "Donna Wilkes". AllMovie. Archived from the original on August 20, 2019. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  5. ^ "Donna Wilkes Biography". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on March 27, 2022.
  6. ^ McBride 2004, p. 593.
  7. ^ a b c d e People Staff (March 19, 1984). "She's No Angel in Her New Movie, but for Donna Wilkes, Being the Star Is Heavenly". People. Archived from the original on August 20, 2019. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  8. ^ Canby, Vincent (January 13, 1984). "Angel (1984) FILM: 'ANGEL,' IN SCHOOL AND OUTSIDE THE LAW". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Obituary: Wayman Otis Wilkes (1918–2013)". Preciado Funeral Home. Archived from the original on December 2, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d Bonnellie, Winnie (January 13, 1984). "Turning tricks was in 'Angel' was no joy for Donna Wilkes". The Paterson News. p. 11 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Stine 2003, p. 264.
  12. ^ Stine 2003, p. 50.
  13. ^ Shary 2009, p. 113.
  14. ^ "Angel". The Numbers. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  15. ^ Drebit, Scott (December 20, 2020). "Drive-In Dust-Offs: Grotesque (1988)". Daily Dead. Archived from the original on April 13, 2021.
  16. ^ Barton, Steve (December 30, 2014). "90210 Shark Attack Takes a Bite Out of Home Video". Dread Central. Archived from the original on July 24, 2019.

Sources[edit]

  • Lamparski, Richard (1982). Whatever Became Of-- ?: Eighth Series : the Best (updated) and Newest of the Famous Lamparski Profiles of Personalities of Yesteryear. New York City, New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 978-0-517-54346-7.
  • McBride, Jim (2004). Mr. Skin's Skincyclopedia: The A-to-Z Guide to Finding Your Favorite Actresses Naked. New York: Macmillan. p. 593. ISBN 978-0-312-33144-3.
  • Shary, Timothy (2009). Generation Multiplex: The Image of Youth in Contemporary American Cinema. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-77490-2.
  • Stine, Scott Aaron (2003). The Gorehound's Guide to Splatter Films of the 1980s. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1132-7.

External links[edit]