Is Claire Holt's 'Aquarius' Character Real? Charmain Tully Is Not Unlike Most Female Cops In The 1960s
NBC's summer drama about the gritty aspects of California in the 1960s may be heavy on the Manson charm, but I'm also interested in the female characters. In particular, Officer Charmain Tully on Aquarius, played by Claire Holt from The Originals and The Vampire Diaries. She plays the Peggy Olson (or Peggy Carter, if you're more Marvel than Mad Men) of police officers, a woman in a man's world who isn't permitted to do much more than get coffee and complete paperwork. However, she is given the groundbreaking opportunity to go undercover.
But is her story typical of female police officers in that era? Did they really have to wear skirts and stay behind at the precinct? The answer is... pretty much, yeah! In fact, as the first woman to go undercover in the LAPD, Claire Holt told Alloy Entertainment that her character on Aquarius is "loosely based on a real life person." While Charmain Tully is a fictional character, many female officers were involved in the arrest of Charles Manson and his "family."
The early 1950s to 1960s saw the number of women in law enforcement double. It's also when women were first permitted to go undercover, like Charmain Tully, but mostly to bust drug and prostitution rings. So the way Charmain is "used" to get close to Manson isn't that far off.
In 1961, the Supreme court case Shpritzer v. Lang in the state of New York ruled in favor of the female officers and allowed women to take the promotional exam to become sergeants. Before that, with no opportunity to advance, you couldn't exactly call police work a career for women. The uniforms did include crossover ties and skirts — much like the female professional baseball players in the 1940s and Starfleet officers in the original Star Trek, I might add.
The late 1960s in the United States marked even more milestones in the history of women in law enforcement. In 1967, the year in which Aquarius takes place, the two first female police officers were assigned to car patrol in Indianapolis. Things were changing drastically! Two years later, President Nixon signed an Executive Order to end discrimination in federal service based on a variety of identifications. After that, women were permitted to carry firearms, become special agents, and execute both warranted searches and arrests.
So basically, Aquarius is right on track. Charmain Tully's journey to prove herself in the LAPD is extraordinary, but not atypical of that time period.
Images: Vivian Zink/NBC (2)