Sun? Check. A beach? Check. Some skin? Of course! Not many shows reflect the California lifestyle like the ‘90s series “Baywatch.” While it featured some of the biggest names in Hollywood, such as Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff, the show also launched quite a number of unknown actors to stardom.
Jason Momoa got his debut on the show while Erika Eleniak played the part of Shauni McClain. Relatively unknown, Eleniak stunned us with her acting and beauty. We knew she’d be a star. But, it’s been a rollercoaster ride for her. Here, we detail her incredible life and some shocking facts you probably didn’t know!
California Born and Bred
Erika Eleniak is a well-known American actress who was born in 1969 in Glendale, California. Although the stunning and talented actress has starred in several films and TV shows during her career, most of us remember her for her spectacular performance in “Baywatch,” which was also shot in California.
“Baywatch” became one of the most popular TV shows over the years. When the TV show first aired, there were not many viewers. However, at its peak in 1996, it drew 1.1 billion viewers weekly from 142 countries. We’re sure some fans still binge-watch the show.
Started From the Bottom
Many of the megastars that have graced our screens through the years had humble beginnings. They had to work their way up to the top. Eleniak was no exception. “Baywatch” wasn’t her first time on the screen, but her first few appearances hinted that she was something special.
She was willing to do all that it took to make a name for herself. Eleniak was only credited as “Pretty Girl” in her first movie, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” despite being part of an iconic classroom scene that fans remember. But she didn’t stop there.
Almost Missed the Hot Lifesaver
Eleniak is most widely associated with “Baywatch” in many ways. She had a lead role in the show, playing the role of Shauni McClain. The drama was renowned for focusing on a group of lifeguards and their personal and professional lives. The show didn’t have the best start.
The show’s initial run in 1989 didn’t have a promising start. And, the studio wasn’t impressed by its consistently low ratings. So, it was canceled after just one season. Thankfully, the show’s star, David Hasselhoff, saw potential, and “Baywatch” was finally revived in syndication and ran for eleven spectacular seasons. We owe you, David!
Baywatch’s Happily Never After
We’ve seen many onscreen lovers hit it off in real life. Yes, it happened on “Baywatch” too. Eleniak got engaged to her “Baywatch” co-star, Billy Warlock, who was also her boyfriend in the drama series. But, it didn’t quite end the way many fans expected when they called it quits.
Eleniak eventually married and divorced bodybuilder Philip Goglia. Goglia is actually a big deal and has worked as a celebrity nutritionist for Christ Pratt and Kim Kardashian. After her breakup with Goglia, Eleniak married another person she met on set, Roch Daigle, a key grip on “Snowbound.” They have one daughter together.
The Pain of Childbirth
Childbirth is one of the most painful things for a human. But, how about the pain of losing a child? Unimaginable. After Eleniak married Daigle in 2001, she got pregnant four years later. But a pain she’d never dream of experiencing was looming.
Six and half weeks into her term, doctors found that the pregnancy was ectopic – a pregnancy in which the fetus grows outside the uterus. So, she needed emergency surgery which later ended in a miscarriage. Thankfully, Eleniak became pregnant again, and this time, she gave birth to a beautiful daughter.
Your Insecurities Shouldn’t Eat You Alive
Eleniak has struggled with weight issues. She was underweight at one point due to an eating disorder and was hospitalized for laxative misuse. Then, she was overweight after the birth of her daughter in 2006, appearing on the fourth season of VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club.”
The former “Baywatch” star told PageSix that finding inner peace starts when you stop worrying about your weight. “Take your fat issues and your worry issues and learn from them and stop letting them define us,” Eleniak said. “It’s not easy. It’s a daily practice, but it’s called evolving.”
Going Beyond the Physical
Some people believe there’s more to life than the physical. Eleniak is one of those people who has embraced her spiritual side. She has recently been focusing on projects that encourage self-empowerment, and she’s been exploring her spirituality. She notably hosts a podcast titled “The Spiritual Alchemy Podcast with Erika.”
On the podcast, Eleniak reveals the philosophies and practices she believes have helped her tap into her inner strength and “manifest” the wonderful things in her life. She discusses a wide range of self-help issues, such as building self-confidence, fostering healthy relationships, and embracing radical gratitude.
A Lifeguard That’s Been Around
Eleniak made her “Baywatch” debut at 20, although she had been acting for years in prominent Hollywood films (albeit in minor roles). It should come as no surprise that she had a great modeling career before and during her acting career.
Eleniak certainly had the body for it! We’re sure you’d be surprised by the future slow-motion runner’s first film role. She actually appeared in Steven Spielberg’s legendary family romp “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” as the girl kissed by Elliott in the film’s iconic classroom scene. She was 12 at the time.
A Co-Star Didn’t Want to Kiss Her
We’re sure if you’d ask any ‘90s straight male, they’d tell you they would do anything to kiss Erika Eleniak, especially after her appearance on “Baywatch.” She was also a sex symbol for the better part of a decade. As it turns out, a co-star of hers wasn’t a fan.
And, he wasted no time in letting us know. Henry Thomas, as Elliot in “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial,” had to kiss Eleniak. But he wasn’t a big fan. “When I had to kiss the girl, I had to do it two times!” Thomas told People. “I don’t like girls.”
Her First Kiss Was Traumatic
Thomas was only 10 when he had to kiss Eleniak. As if saying he didn’t enjoy kissing her wasn’t enough, Eleniak has claimed the kiss was a traumatic experience for her. She told Fox News that the 40-year-old sci-fi/adventure wasn’t necessarily a magical experience for her.
“One thing that really stands out to me was that there was a little trauma because of that kiss,” Eleniak said in 2018. “It was super frightening. I cried in my little trailer. Steven came in and talked to me and my mom for 10 minutes,” she continued.
Eleniak Enjoyed Playing Shauni McClain
We enjoyed it too. Despite the weird January filming, Eleniak doesn’t regret her time on “Baywatch” and describes the cast members as “just like a big family.” Unfortunately, she quit the show in 1992, subsequently claiming that she was uncomfortable with the show’s titillation. “It did take a different direction.”
“I felt like it was a different show…I was not comfortable,” she said. Eleniak went on to feature in several films after leaving “Baywatch,” but she struggled to escape the shadow cast by her time as a TV lifeguard. We believe “Under Siege” was likely her most successful attempt.
It Wasn’t Smooth Sailing
Shauni McClain was the group’s young rookie at first, being taken under the wing of Shawn Weatherley’s Jill Riley, the team’s most experienced lifeguard who was eventually killed after rescuing citizens from a shark attack. Eleniak appeared in 44 episodes of the first and second seasons of “Baywatch.”
This makes her the show’s principal female character from 1989 until 1992. But, it wasn’t all fun and games.
“I felt like I auditioned six times [for that role],” Eleniak told Fox News in 2018. “There were a lot of hoops to jump in to get through.”
Married for 6 Months
Celebrity marriages typically don’t last long. We’ve seen it happen through the years. Yeah, some get lucky and stay married for years, but more often than not, things don’t always work out. Eleniak’s marriage with bodybuilder Philip Goglia took a similar route.
They married in May 1998 and probably imagined they’d be together forever. But nope! It wasn’t happening. The marriage was doomed after just six months, and they got divorced. Considering the shortest marriage in Hollywood lasted just about 56 hours, they didn’t do too bad, did they?
Her Six-Year Hiatus From Acting
The number “6” is pretty significant for Eleniak. She once had a six-month break from acting after her first role. You would think after making a breakthrough, she’d get stuck. But nope, she left the scene for more than half a decade. Many people aren’t sure why.
From what we’ve gathered, it could have well been her parents’ influence since she was only a child when she made her debut. The word on the street is that they wanted her to focus on schooling and maybe have a normal life before getting caught in showbiz. Good call?
18 Years and Ready for It
Eleniak’s six-year hiatus ended when she was 18. She was an adult already and old enough to make her own decisions. And she did. She chose acting. Fortunately for her, she didn’t just have good looks. She knew how to act too. A pretty face alone could get you into Hollywood.
But talent and hard work are what keep you there. We’re not saying she’s the greatest actress we’ve seen, but she has managed to evolve and improve over the years. We began to see signs that she was headed to the top in “The Blob.” And, she’s done well for herself ever since.
Baywatch? More Like BaeGONE
Many people have sought to know why Eleniak left “Baywatch.” Well, the woman has answered y’all. After 45 episodes,, Eleniak chose to stick to dry land as she set her sights on the big screen. She admitted that she was uncomfortable becoming a sex symbol.
According to Eleniak, this was why she decided to quit the show. “For me, as soon as it became even sexier when it became syndicated, it was definitely not comfortable. It ended up being a bit of a push and pull between myself and the producer sometimes.”
Rumors That Didn’t Go Away
As Shauni and Eddie, Eleniak and Warlock were onscreen and off-screen lovers, with the rumors making the rounds. Then, their salary demands contributed to their exits in Season Three, Episode 2, “River of No Return: Part 2.” They both claimed that they simply didn’t like the show’s creative direction.
While Eddie and Shauni married and relocated to Australia, Warlock and Eleniak eventually fizzled. Warlock subsequently returned to the cast to appear on “Baywatch Nights” and in the 2003 TV movie “Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding” (where Eddie is sadly separated), but Eleniak was done. She just wanted to move on.
Setting the Record Straight
We doubt there has ever been a Hollywood star in history that hasn’t battled with rumors. You just can’t escape it. Eleniak didn’t either. She had to deny rumors that she left the show because her onscreen partner and real-life lover at the time, Warlock, wanted to leave.
“I wanted a serious film career. It was so important to me,” she said. “I was a little bit afraid. Sometimes, when you stay on a television show for a long period of time, it’s not as easy to break into films, and that was really where my heart was.”
Two Sides to a Coin
In the 1992 film “Under Siege,” Eleniak played a Playboy Playmate who was paid to striptease a US Navy battleship captain. In the movie, she is referred to as “Miss July 1989,” referring to the month Eleniak was Playmate of the Month for Playboy in real life.
Surprisingly, she isn’t the only cast member of “Baywatch” that has ties with Playboy. Her replacement, Pamela Anderson, who took on the role of C.J Parker, also appeared for the popular magazine. When speaking about why she left, Eleniak said that Anderson was “more of an exhibitionist” than her.
Working Thrice as Hard
Eleniak is an incredibly talented actress. We’ve known and seen this for a while now. She’s also got a pretty face and a great body. While anyone would think that’s a great combo to have (yeah, it is), it wasn’t always like that for her. She told PageSix:
“What happened to me is I had to end up working three times as hard than I thought I would because of, ‘Oh, bouncing breasts, blonde, here she comes thinking she’s going to get the role.’ And I did get some great roles, but I busted my ass.”
“Baywatch: The American Dream”
Thirty years after “Baywatch ended,” an all-new documentary series was released in 2020. It focused on how the show came to be and highlighted those involved. Actress Erika Eleniak is also part of the documentary and shares her experiences with the production team. Here’s what she said about the docuseries:
“It’s the show that will not die – and it’s wonderful,” Eleniak said. “We are still creating new content around this 30-year-old show. It is pretty phenomenal. They are doing something very special and very different with this documentary film,” she continued. Anderson, Eleniak, and others are part of the documentary.
Eleniak Was Almost Fired
NBC almost fired Eleniak after it was discovered that she had recently posed nude for Playboy. Producers insisted on keeping her after choosing her over Teri Hatcher, Neve Campbell, and Alicia Silverstone, among others. “Sandra Bullock was definitely scheduled to come in,” casting director Susan Glicksman told Esquire in 2012.
But, she passed on the role. It was indeed a close call for Eleniak. Considering “Baywatch” was the show that launched her into what we now know her to be and the many other roles she’s played, things could have been a lot different had she been fired.
Playboy Did Wonders for Her
Appearing in Playboy magazine did wonders for Eleniak’s career too. It helped her land the role of Stephanie Curtis, Charles’ girlfriend in the television show, “Charles in Charge,” a month after “Baywatch” premiered. She made quite the impression on producers and viewers during her stint.
Eleniak eventually appeared four times in Playboy magazine at the peak of her career. Her most recent appearance was in June 1988, after previously appearing in 1989 and 1990 editions. It’s actually not surprising considering how much of a sex symbol she was back in the day.
Not a Fan of Body-Shaming
No one likes to be body-shamed, and it’s something society actively stands against. Eleniak has a similar stance. While she’s convinced people to own their bodies, she’s not happy with headlines that compare her body now to when she was 18. Eleniak feels the comparison is unnecessary.
She told PageSix: “You take a picture of yourself at 18 in a bikini and 30 years later. Will you look the same? You can’t! It’s ridiculous.” She’s also not a fan of headlines like “No longer fresh-faced” and hopes her podcast will help end it.
Letting It All Out
Rarely does one see a celebrity publicly ripping into someone. Still, Eleniak let it all out and even called some people ‘a-holes.’ This was when she spoke up about the body-shaming headlines and the comparisons between her 18-year-old body early 50s body shape.
“That’s where my podcast comes in. People are just not taught real communication skills, compassion,” she told PageSix. “If you knew how hurtful your words were, I have a feeling that it would change nine out of ten of you. There are definitely a-holes in this world.”
Away From the Spotlight
While we’ve seen her in many television shows and films over the years, the stunning blonde has managed to stay out of the spotlight for the past couple of years. Eleniak’s most recent performance in a television film, aside from documentaries and guest appearances, was in 2012.
That was when she appeared in the films “Holiday Spin” and “Meant to Be.” Eleniak admitted that she was preoccupied with raising her daughter, Indyanna, whom she gave birth to in January 2006. Since then, she’s appeared in “Cor Values” as Veronica MacDougal and other documentaries.
Mommy Always Knows Best
When asked if she wants her daughter to follow in her footsteps as a successful actress in Hollywood, Eleniak said that her advice to not only Indyanna but also young girls all around the world would be: “My advice to her is to find out what her purpose here is.”
“How can she be of service, using the amazing gifts and talents she has been given? When you follow your OWN calling, you will be in bliss and in your right place. Whatever that is, I will be right by her side in every way I can.”
We All Have Regrets
Okay, maybe not everyone. But, we’ve all had something we regretted in the past. Eleniak also has one big regret from her time on the show. And, you’ll be surprised to learn what it is – she wishes she had kept her coveted swimsuit! She revealed this to Fox News.
“I guess it’s one of those things I have to get over,” she chuckled. “I was just so young, and I didn’t think about taking mementos. Now I’m really kicking myself because that would have been so wonderful to have, but I really didn’t take anything. Definitely not the red bathing suit.”
We All Need Somebody to Lean On
Eleniak cites Gena Rowlands as one of her acting influences, which shines through in her character’s sense of independence. She also mentioned a slew of other incredible names when MadHatterPress asked Eleniak who she would have loved working with. Here’s what she had to say:
“There are so many actors that I respect and admire and would have loved to have worked with. For instance: Morgan Freeman, Gena Rowlands, Gary Oldman, just to name a few.” The interviewer even noted that this was an easy question for Eleniak to answer.
Taking us Under Siege
Eleniak starred next in the Steven Seagal film “Under Siege,” where she played Playboy playmate Jordan Tate. Tate is referred to as “Miss July 1989,” an amusing nod to Eleniak’s well-known centerfold appearance. In the film, she finally becomes the hero’s sidekick and faces a violent band of mercenaries.
The ruthless group is led by Tommy Lee Jones. “Under Siege” was a box office hit, generating a total of $156 million against a $35 million budget. It’s still Steven Seagal’s most successful film to date. Eleniak said it was a hard shoot, but she learned a lot.
Eleniak in “The Beverly Hillbillies”
Eleniak found herself in another leading role soon after “Under Siege’s” release. This time, she played the young ingénue, Elly May Clampett, in the slapstick comic reboot of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The film was a decent success, peaking at number one in the US box office in October 1993.
Not bad, right? It also helped to highlight Eleniak’s humorous talent, which led to her casting as Toni Johnson in the comedy film “Chasers.” Do you remember Dennis Hopper? He directed the 1969 classic “Easy Rider” and appeared in “Blue Velvet” in 1986. Well, he also directed “Chasers.”
Oh Dear, a Failed Experiment
“Chasers” is an intriguing film in the canon of Dennis Hopper since it displays the usually intense actor going against his style with a broad comedy. Eleniak plays a convict who is being escorted across the country by two coast patrol officers, one of whom is played by Tom Berenger.
Unfortunately, Hopper’s experiment to change his style was a failure. The film was a critical and commercial flop, generating less than $2 million against a $15 million budget. Do we think maybe he shouldn’t have changed? We can’t say. But, Eleniak again proved she was destined for great things.
Not Stopping Anytime Soon
Eleniak appeared in two more films the next year, in 1995. “Girl in the Cadillac” reunited her with William McNamara, who she worked with in “Chasers.” It’s a classic noir-comedy based on James M. Cain’s work, well known for his gritty novels “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice.”
Eleniak’s next film was “A Pyromaniac’s Love Story,” an odd romantic comedy. It starred an eclectic cast that included Sadie Frost and John Leguizamo, and it blended Shakespearean romance with the comedy of “Moonstruck” or “Sleepless in Seattle.” The film garnered mixed reviews but remained a fan favorite.
Trying Her Hands at Horror
Eleniak had a minor hit in 1996 when she appeared in the campy exploitation film “Tales From the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood.” It wasn’t that big, but it wasn’t bad either. The horror film was released as a tie-in to the popular TV series “Tales From the Crypt.”
Eleniak plays a woman searching for her missing brother (Corey Feldman), who turns out to have fallen victim to a group of vampire prostitutes. “Bordello of Blood” actually fetched a good profit and remains a fan favorite. Some continue to watch it to this day.
Playing Two People Simultaneously
Eleniak took up an interesting challenge that same year when she played identical twins in “Panic in the Park,” an experimental videogame touted as an “interactive movie.” It was a unique cinematic game experience that also starred fan-favorite actor Michael Clarke Duncan and received awards for its technological innovations.
Eleniak plays Jamie and Janie in the game, and Michael Clarke Duncan plays a security guard. There are about 30 cast members. A Macintosh port was planned but never came to be. Newsday’s Reviewer lauded the game for its “laugh out loud funny” dialogue, acting, and complex cinematography features.
What is Erika Eleniak’s Favorite Movie?
Eleniak continued to establish herself as a consistent b-movie stalwart in the years following her divorce from Philip Goglia, with performances in limited release and straight-to-video productions such as “Final Voyage.” Others include “Stealth Fighter,” “Second to Die,” and “The Opponent.” And Eleniak has a favorite.
No, it’s not the one you think. Eleniak herself has singled out “The Opponent” as a particular favorite due to the physical challenge it posed. She followed a tough training schedule for the part, which is about a lady who underwent rigorous training to become a professional boxer.
I Can Do All Things…
Eleniak’s acting ability and physical strength are effectively showcased in “The Opponent,” released in 2000. It’s a low-key film that allows Eleniak to break free from the glamour model clichés that have plagued her acting career. She even focused on action and thrillers this time.
“Snowbound,” released in 2001, was filmed in Alberta, Canada, and it was there that Eleniak would eventually settle down. Around 2003, she turned her attention away from acting and toward capitalizing on her previous achievements. For example, she participated in the reality show “The Real Gilligan’s Island” in 2005.
Always Leaving Her Comfort Zone
Eleniak became one of the most famous people of the late ’80s and early ’90s because of her iconic appearances in “Baywatch” and Playboy. It’s a reputation she’s kept, even though she’s still a prominent actor in indies and B-movies. She also maintains a sense of humor.
Her latest participation on the British comedy podcast “80s Movie” and “Music Fest Café” shows this. However, Eleniak’s adaptability and desire to try new things have truly distinguished her. She is the ultimate scream queen, whether in action films, comedies, or horror films. For that, she deserves respect.
Eleniak Had Bigger Dreams
Even though female characters, including Eleniak’s, were overtly sexualized, most “Baywatch” viewers were women. The show has garnered a lot of positive feedback for its subversive feminism and portrayals of strong female characters. Gender equality and autonomy were promoted in the show’s tone.
As a result, the show’s sociopolitical references may be more nuanced than they first appear. Eleniak starred in 47 episodes of “Baywatch” before departing at the end of the third season in 1993. Although the sitcom had made her a household celebrity, she clearly had big-screen dreams.
And the Young Shall Grow
She was sure to become even more prominent after “Baywatch,” where tight swimsuits and slow-motion scenes were the norms, as this was a large part of what drew so many fans to the show. Her career progressed after that and has continued to do so ever since.
It’s fair to say that Eleniak’s fame has cooled in recent years as younger stars emerge. “Baywatch” also got a big-screen adaptation starring Dwayne Johnson. At the very least, Eleniak is likely to stay for a bit longer because her career appears to be going in the right direction.
A Great Body of Work
Spotting Eleniak in her red bikini on the scenes of “Baywatch” and the cover of Playboy, it was obvious she had (and kinda still does) a great body. But, she also has a great body of work from her career. Besides the numerous movies mentioned already, there’s more!
Eleniak has appeared in movies like “Captive,” “The Pandora Project,” and “Charades” – all in 1998. She played Katherine Garrett in “Vegas, City of Dreams” (2001) and appeared in “Betrayal,” “The Librarians,” and “Brilliant” – all in 2003. A year later, she played Aurora Ash in “Dracula 3000.”
A Pretty Impressive Resume
Eleniak also appeared as Kate Parker in “Caught in the Headlights,” as Jessica Hartley Landers in “Fatal Reunion,” and as Brooke Shields in “Imps*.” If you’ve seen “Changing Hands” (2010), do you remember the woman in the park? Easy to forget, but yeah, that was her too.
Eleniak subsequently played the role of Linda Dickson in “Meant to Be” (2012) and as herself in “Tainted Blood: The Making of Bordello of Blood” (2015). Again as herself, Eleniak starred in “Boone: The Bounty Hunter” (2017). The rest are mostly documentaries, such as “In Search of the Last Action Heroes< (2019).
Eleniak’s Not So Bad Television Roles
After “Baywatch,” Eleniak appeared in the television film “Daughter of the Streets” as Jennifer and was also a guest on “Full House” – both in 1990. She then played Detective Eileen Burke in the 1997 television film “Ed MacBain’s 87th Precinct: Heatwave.” And, she wasn’t stopping there.
In 1998, Eleniak appeared as a guest on “Brooklyn South” and in the television film “One Hot Summer Night.” A year later, she was again a guest in “Fantasy Island” and starred as Jillian Parnel in “Aftershock: Earthquake in New York.” You might also remember her in “Tasty Sensations” (1999).
Remaining Relevant in the 20th-21st Century
Not many stars and actresses who dominated the 80s and 90s can boast of remaining relevant in the 20th and 21st-century. Of course, Eleniak’s no longer as popular as she used to be, but she’s done well for herself. She appeared in the 2002 television film “Christmas Rush.”
She was also in “Fatal Lessons: The Good Teacher” (2004). Eleniak was on “Absolute Zero” in 2006 and three episodes of the reality TV show “Entertainment Tonight.” She was a guest judge on “Germany’s Next Topmodel” and appeared as herself in a 2009 episode of “Actors Entertainment.” She’s continued to be active ever since.
The Most Popular Crime Series
In 2010, Eleniak also joined the cast of one of the best crime television shows of the last decade, “CSI: Miami.” She was a guest on the show, playing the role of Claire Peterson in the episode “See No Evil.” But, that’s not the only prestigious TV show Eleniak appeared in.
That same year, she had another guest appearance on the popular TV show, “Desperate Housewives,” as Barbara Fine. Since then, she’s appeared more as herself in reality TV and late-night television shows. She was also a host on the television reality film “Ride it Out” in 2019.
We Knew She Was Going to the Top
Many of us would acknowledge that we saw Eleniak going places. Like many of the stars at the time, she appeared to be one of those who would become famous. We don’t always know why some stars rise, and some hit their peak early on.
Then, they sail along, taking on whatever jobs they can get, while others disappear completely. But, some find a way to keep rising and are picked up for big, blockbuster movies that jump-start their careers. Eleniak is one of those, having worked hard for many years.
She Can’t Be Pigeonholed
Erika Eleniak’s willingness to try new things, leave her comfort zone, and feature in as many different movies and genres as possible means we can hardly pigeonhole her to one particular genre. It’s something you can’t say about every actor in Hollywood.
That’s why, when you see certain actors and actresses in movies, you almost always know the genre of the movie, even without watching. Eleniak’s been around and showcased her talents and versatility. She’s made a name for herself in Hollywood. Eleniak may not be a movie legend, but she’s iconic.