Meet Tracy Stratford, the Only Person Who’s Not Afraid of Talky Tina
Remember Talky Tina? If you’re a Twilight Zone fan, you do. The sweet-talking doll with the homicidal tendencies made quite an impression when she appeared early in Season 5.
Part of what makes Tina scary is that she’s nothing like Chucky or the other murderous playthings you may have seen on the big screen. She doesn’t run. You don’t see her waving a weapon around. She doesn’t even raise her voice. Heck, you can take a table saw to her neck, and she’ll act like you’re tickling her.
Erich Streator (Telly Savalas) learned too late how dangerous Tina could be. As the episode ends, even his gentle wife, Annabelle (that’s right, the name of the haunted doll in the Conjuring movies!) is being put on notice by her daughter Christie’s terrifying toy.
There’s really just one person with no reason to fear Tina: Christie. Indeed, Tina is her champion — to a fault.
So let’s get to know a little bit about Tracy Stratford, the girl who played Christie. This wasn’t her first appearance on The Twilight Zone. She’d already starred in another fan favorite: Season 3’s “Little Girl Lost.” Yep, she was the girl who fell out of bed and rolled into another dimension.
And interestingly enough, her character’s name in that episode … was Tina.
Here are some excerpts from an interview Tracy gave in 2018 about her unforgettable journey to that land between shadow and substance:
How old were you when you were first cast in The Twilight Zone?
I was 5½ when “Little Girl Lost” was filmed, six when it aired.
How did you get the role?
I got the role after going on an interview, but don’t recall the specifics.
Any funny or otherwise interesting anecdotes about the experience?
They filled the stage with fog or dry ice and filmed it by pointing the camera into a reflecting ball in which my character was reflected, thereby making me look like I was floating and sometimes upside down. They wired the dog to my nightgown so that it looked like it was “leading” me out of the 4th dimension.
Did anything go wrong during either shoot?
Nothing went wrong in either shoot that I can recall, although Mr. Serling thought people wouldn’t be able to understand a child’s voice, so the talking at the end of “Little Girl Lost” is not my voice. I guess he changed his mind when it came to the “Living Doll.” Even the crying was me.
If you had any interaction with Rod Serling, what do you remember about him?
I remember him behind the cameras observing and giving input. He didn’t really interact with the cast that I can recall. Perhaps he did with the adults off screen.
What do you remember about Telly Savalas?
I was scared (really) of Telly Savalas. He was intense to act opposite and pretty intimidating! And the fact that he was playing a bad guy didn’t much help. I believe he really “lived his role” while he was working.
What did you think of your episodes at the time? Did you understand them (especially “Little Girl Lost”)? Did you like one more than the other, and if so, why?
I think I preferred working on “Living Doll,” even though I had to cry in it. It is definitely the scarier of the two, in my opinion.
After they aired, do you remember specific reactions from family, friends, and the public?
Anyone who has watched Twilight Zone usually knows “Living Doll.” And everyone talks about how scary it was, and how much they liked it. A couple of weeks ago, someone told me that “Little Girl Lost” was the scariest show they’d ever seen. They used to have their parent crawl under the bed every night and check the walls to make sure they wouldn’t get sucked into the 4th dimension. Rod Serling was obviously way ahead of his time, and was the master of scary!
Did you watch the show regularly?
I did watch a lot of the Twilight Zones, and my favorite scary one is the one with William Shatner and the thing trying to rip apart the airplane wing [“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”]! Now that was creepy!
If you have children/grandchildren, have they seen your Twilight Zone appearance, and if so, do you remember their reactions?
My daughters have both seen Twilight Zone, and think it’s pretty awesome. One of my grandsons has seen it; I’m not sure if my younger grandson has. But they both love stories and adventures — we talk a lot about books and great movies.
When was the last time you watched your episodes? How did you think they held up?
I cannot honestly recall the last time I watched either episode in its entirety. One of my daughters purchased the DVD of the shows because I didn’t have a copy of them!
Do you have any mementos from the experience such as candid photos, the script, or anything from the set?
I have a few still photos and some newspaper clippings that my mom put into the interview portfolio book I would take to interviews. Casting people would look and see what you had done, who you had worked with as part of the interview process.
How do you look back on your Twilight Zone experience?
I loved the actual work as a kid. I loved watching how things were done, the setting up of lights and cameras, exploring sets, watching the rushes to see how things went during the shoots.
If the experience changed your life in any way, how?
Being a child actor was a unique experience. Acting taught me how to interact with a variety of people, taught me that being a believable actor meant that you had to “feel” what your character felt. That meant that you had to be empathetic and honest. The experiences taught me that there is way more to acting than the people you see on screen; the people behind the scenes are in many ways more important and have a more interesting role to play in creating the magic that is movies and television.
All the people that I had the good fortune to work with taught me a lot about their own skills, how to be kind and honest, and how to treat others with respect—even curious kids, who may have been bugging them! Overall, I think I was very fortunate to have this experience growing up.
To read the interview with Tracy in its entirety, click here.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!