So when did this big cat make an appearance? It was the first season of the new show, and the pressure was on from the studio for them to make it into a hit. They had a good start, but they needed to take it up a notch. Obviously, the answer was for them to bring in a lion. Remember that, kids: if you want to take things up a notch, introduce a lion. They wanted to stand out from the crowd and do something really special. Thus, a lion on set.
At one point, apparently, the lion decided that it needed to say something – it let out an enormous roar, scaring everybody in the vicinity away…except for one Barbara Eden. Standing up to a ferocious animal like that, what a woman!
The All-Important Chemistry
Barbara Eden’s counterpart on “I Dream of Jeannie” was Larry Hagman, who played Captain Tony Nelson. According to Eden, the chemistry between these two was the most important part of the show, and it was the backbone of the sitcom. While Jeannie was madly in love with Nelson, they had a classic on-again, off-again relationship as Nelson wondered if he was truly in love with her back.
Meanwhile, men and women popped up to try and woo either of these pairings away from the other. However, by the end of the fifth season, the two characters had tied the knot, and Barbara Eden herself says that it was the end of the story – they were happy together forever. Thankfully, Eden and Hagman got along fine, or the show would have had a lot of problems.
A Friend of Big Cats
After five seasons of a show, a whole lot can happen. Not just behind the scenes, either – we’re talking about the stuff that goes on in front of the camera. Once, the show needed to bring in a lion for one of the scenes. This isn’t normal life, even for actors, but Eden was able to adjust on the fly. It turns out that her experience in the movie industry had given her a couple of chances to learn how to deal with big cats, including lions.
According to sources, Eden quickly became friends with the animal, which is a little cooler than we were expecting from ol’ Barb here. And it’s a good thing, too, since the lion eventually realized it wasn’t all that happy about having to be on set.
Keeping the Belly Out of Frame
If we told you that the show had to hide Barbara Eden’s belly during the first season, you’d probably think we were crazy. She had a famously tiny waist and small tummy, but the show still had to keep it out of frame. Why? The most regular reason why women have to hide their stomachs while filming something – she was pregnant.
She was pregnant with her first child, Matthew Ansara, but it would have been...quite strange for the mystical genie to be pregnant while wooing Captain Nelson. Having Eden be pregnant would make the show a little strange. In order to hide the fact that Eden was in a family way, they used a lot of close-up shots and costumes that kept her growing belly from being noticed.
The Origins of the Character
Nowadays, the show seems pretty simple – a genie that falls in love with the man who frees her. It’s simple! Back in the sixties, however, this was a bit of a different kind of show. It was a little hard to explain at the time, and it didn’t help that Eden was given a number of different origins for her character.
In one episode, she explains that she came from a family of genies – makes sense, since her sister was a genie too. But in the first episode of the second season, the “Blue Djinn,” played by Barbara’s real-life husband Michael Ansara, appears and tries to take Jeannie back from Captain Nelson since they were pledged to be married. He reveals that it was he who turned her into a genie the first time she refused to marry him.