SHEENA (1984)
Page 4: Supporting Cast


When John Guillerman directed Tarzan's Greatest Adventure in 1959 he utilised two important elements that had previously been found to be successful on Tarzan films - shooting on location and English production crews.  On that film he blended these ingredients with two others - a fast-paced script and talented character actors - to produce one of the best films in the Tarzan catalogue.

Guillerman almost certainly drew on his past experience of that film when he was offered the opportunity to direct Sheena.  He opted to film on location in Africa but the production crew he ended up with was a mixture of English, Americans and Italians (read the full story on Page 5: The Location).  The other two crucial elements, however, were conspicuously absent.

Guillerman worked with costars of the calibre of Anthony Quail and Sean Connery on Tarzan's Greatest Adventure.  Apart from Ted Wass' appearance on the long-running dramatic comedy, Soap, and Donovan Scott's minor role in the highly successful comedy, Police Academy, the supporting cast were largely unknowns.  Elizabeth Bagaya (credited as Elizabeth of Toro) was previously the Foreign Minster of Uganda under Idi Amin, Trevor Thomas had appeared in a few obscure British films and television programs, and France Zobda had appeared in only one French film (see below).  The performances are reasonably competent, although some of them tend to overact.  The performances definitely lack the fine nuances of bigger name stars.

The issues with the script were more serious.  Guillerman at least got to film on location.  I guess one out of four ain't bad.


Ted Wass played Sheena's love interest, a sports journalist named Vic Casey.  Casey's investigative instincts are aroused when he discovers that King Jabulani of Tigora has been assassinated and Sheena's female mentor, the Zambuli shaman, is being framed for the murder.  Wass was born in Lakewood, Ohio, on 27 October 1952 and was a graduate of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.  He debuted on Broadway in the 1976 production of Grease.   From 1977 to 1981 he played the character of Danny Dallas, a junior gangster in training, on the immensely popular Soap, a controversial series that was part drama, part satirical comedy, and part soap opera.  In 1983 he landed the leading role in Curse of the Pink Panther, the eight film in the series begun by Blake Edwards in the early-Sixties.  The film was designed to launch him as the new lead following the death a few years earlier of Peter Sellers, the series' regular star, but was a dismal failure.  The same year as Sheena (1984) he appeared with George Burns in Oh, God! You Devil, the third film in that series featuring Burns as God Almighty.  From 1991 to 1995 Wass played the father in Blossom, a sitcom about a teenage girl in a house full of men.  He has also worked extensively as a director on television.  He has two children from his first wife, actress Janet Margolin, who died of ovarian cancer in 1993, and one from his second marriage to producer Nina Wass


Vic Casey's sidekick, cameraman and loyal buddy was played by Donovan Scott.  Fletch, a bumbling coward, provides most of the comic relief in the film, partly aided by the fact that his moustached portly appearance has more than a slight resemblance to the classic early comic, Oliver Hardy. Donovan was born in Chico, California on 29 September 1946.  He studied for two-and-a-half years at the prestigious American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.  He later toured as both an actor and artistic director of a theatrical troupe.  Since settling in Los Angeles in 1977 he has worked extensively in both film and television.  He made his film debut in Steven Spielberg's heavy-handed rollicking comedy, 1941 (1979), about the US's preparations for a Japanese invasion.  Over the next few years he appeared in a swathe of comedies - Robert Altman's Popeye (1980) with Robin Williams, The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), with Lily Tomlin, Zorro, the Gay Blade (1981) with George Hamilton and Police Academy (1984).  He also appeared in the pop video of Olivia Newton John's Let's Get Physical (1982), as the guy being powdered by Olivia.  In later years he switched to directing, most notably the Children of Captain Grant (1996), a German co-production and teaching.  In the late-Nineties he was the director and teacher of his own Los Angeles based improv company, Brew Ha Ha.


This remarkable woman played the role of Sheena's adoptive carer and teacher, the female shaman of the Zambuli tribe.  In the early scenes that precede the opening credits, when instructing the young Sheena, she appears young and beautiful (see photo right).  When Sheena is fully grown she is heavily made-up with greying hair and wrinkled skin to appear quite aged and fatigued.  Some sources say she was born in 1936, others (including IMDb), say 1943.  Depending on who you believe, so she was either 47 or 41 when Sheena was filmed in 1984.  She was the daughter of George Matthew Kamurasi Rukidi III and Kezia Byanjeru, the king and queen of the Kingdom of Toro in western Uganda.  She was the first female barrister in Uganda and she was the first, and so far the only, female Foreign Minister of Uganda.  Idi Amin appointed her Foreign Minster in February 1974 after she had won his trust as Uganda's Roving Ambassador and Delegate to the United Nations.  Her fortunes changed in November 1974 when she was placed under house arrest for unbecoming behaviour while on a mission abroad and was dismissed (he accused her publicly of making love with a white man in a toilet at the Paris airport).  Prior to this she had worked as a model in London and had appeared in many magazines.  Her film debut was in Bullfrog in the Sun (1972), shot in Nigeria.  She currently lives in Uganda.

A stunningly beautiful actress from Martinique played the dangerous femme fatale, Countess Zanda, who betrays her fiancé, King Jabulani, to throw in her lot with his scheming brother, Prince Otwani.  When Otwani displays lascivious interest in the blonde jungle girl, Sheena, Zanda's malevolent jealousy manifests itself in an attempt to throw Sheena from a helicopter over the Zambuli Falls.  Zobda, whose birth-date is not disclosed, has an exotic background of mixed Indian, African, West-Indian and French heritage.  Her father, and all of her brothers and sisters, are painters, but as a child she was more strongly drawn to physical activities.  She started ballet at an early age and completed 15 years of study, while also pursuing interests in modern jazz dancing, swimming, athletics and sailing.  She also has a black belt in judo.  She left Martinique when she was 17 and moved to Orleans, in France, to study and completed a Doctorate of English.  She also studied management and administration, which brought her in contact with the theatre industry.  She made her film debut in Adieu Foulards (1983), a French musical comedy.  Her very next film was Sheena, and she attributes her success at winning the role to her competence at English acquired through her studies.  Most of her work over the next twenty years was in French films and television.

Trevor Thomas played Otwani, the heartless and power-hungry brother of King Jabulani, the rightful ruler of Tigora.  Otwani and Zanda, Jabulani's fiancé, conspired together to eliminate the king and seize control of the country.  Otwani's obvious interest in the scantily-clad, blonde Sheena infuriates Zanda and leads to her death.  Thomas was born in Jamaica and his birth-date is unknown.  He made his film debut in 1975 in a soft-porn Spanish film called Las Adolescentes (The Adolescents), which also introduced the habitually nude Koo Stark.  His next major role was as Ben, the naive Guaynan innocent recently arrived in London only to be deceitfully robbed by his new "friends", in Black Joy (1977).  He found frequent work on UK television, appearing on Space 1999, The Professionals, The Sweeny and Minder, amongst others.  In 1978 he played a black athlete in International Velvet, with Tatum O'Neal, and followed this up few years later with a minor role in Inseminoid (1981), a low-budget British rip-off of Alien, while pursuing his regular television work.  After Sheena he continued to work in UK film and television and also branched out into live theatre.  In 2003 he appeared in The Illustrious Corpse, a political satire at the Soho Theatre and in 2004 he had a minor role in Eugene O'Neill's Freudian epic, Mourning Becomes Elektra, with Helen Mirren at the National Theatre.

Another Jamaican-born British actor played King Jabulani, the ill-fated benevolent ruler of Tigora who was murdered by his ambitious brother, Prince Otwani.  Born in 1942, Jones had worked in UK film and television since the late-Fifties.  He was in popular series like , The Professionals, Z Cars and Danger Man.  He is best known for playing Doctor Kano in the first season of the popular sci-fi series, Space 1999 (1975-1976).
This British actor with the threatening face was convincing as Otwani's psychopathic henchman, Colonel Jorgenson.  He was born in 1941 and had been in films and television since the early-Sixties, appearing on well-known UK programs such as The Avengers , Z Cars, The Sweeny and The Bill.  In 2006 he was caught performing lewd acts on a webcam.

To view a full set of lobby cards for this film click on the image below:

Starlog magazine Number 83, Jun 84
Prevue magazine Vol 2 No 17, Nov/Dec 84
The Iger Counter: Additions and Corrections to Jay Disbrow's "The Iger Comics Kingdom" by Roy Thomas (date unknown)
• All images of the cast of this film are video captures from the Sheena DVD, Sony Pictures Corporation
• Set of Sheena lobby cards is from my private collection
• Read a filmography for Tedd Wass at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) site
• Read a filmography for Donovan Scott at the IMDb site
• Read a filmography for Elizabeth of Toro at the IMDb site
• Read a filmography for France Zobda at the IMDb site
• Read a filmography for Trevor Thomas at the IMDb site

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2006-2008 Paul Wickham