Veronica Hamel is a retired model and Hollywood actress, who is mostly known for her role of Joyce Davenport, the public defender in the “Hill Street Blues” TV series.
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Early life and family
Veronica Hamel was born on 20 November 1943, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA, so she holds American nationality and her zodiac sign is Scorpio. Veronica’s father was a carpenter, while her mother was a housewife, taking care of her kids. It is known that Veronica was not an only child in her family, yet there is no information on the number of her siblings, as she likes to keep her private life low-key. From her early years, Veronica knew that she was beautiful enough to start a modelling career, so she dreamt about it since becoming a teenager.
However, she had to work as a secretary for a factory which produced ironing board covers to save some money, and to feel independence from her parents.
Veronica matriculated her local high school in Philadelphia at the age of 17 in 1960, and instantly started working as a model. She tried to study at Temple University, but her tight work schedule left her no choice but to quit college and to focus on her modelling career, which brought her a lot of money despite her young age.
In her interview with People magazine in 1982, Veronica shared that she started working as a model anonymously, and enjoyed the fact that she could hide her real name.
Discovered by Eileen Cecile Ford, the co-founder of Ford Models, 17-year-old Veronica began modelling for Vogue, participating in multiple photoshoots and catwalk shows; her pictures in haute couture dresses are now called ‘iconic’ by many sources and magazines. She had a chance to wear the legendary Mondrian dress, created by Yves Saint Laurent, captured in September 1965 by one of the most famous photographers of those times, Helmut Newton.
Veronica worked as a model for more than a decade, earning six-figure salaries and frequently having a chance to travel around the globe. She is also famous for appearing in the last cigarette commercial that was on air in the US, as Richard Nixon, who was the president of the US those years, signed legislation which banned cigarettes advertising on TV and radio.
The last cigarette commercial appeared on TV right at midnight between 31 December 1970 and 1 January 1971 during an advertising block of “Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show”; Veronica could be seen in the short episode of the ad.
However, by the age of 30 Veronica had got bored (she insists it was her own decision and not the lack of job offers) and decided to conquer Hollywood as an actress. In 1971 she appeared as a model in the movie “Klute” starring Jane Fonda and Charles Cioffi, which made her think she made the right choice, so she closed all her modelling contracts and prepared to move to Los Angeles.
Starting an acting career
In 1975 Veronica landed her first role in Hollywood, portraying Elenora in the episode “How Cruel the Frost, How Bright the Stars” of the TV series “Kojak”.
In 1976 she appeared in such series as “The Bob Newhart Show”, “Starsky & Hutch”, “Switch” and “The Rockford Files”. She then played Vicki Webber in one of the episodes of “Family”, and Laura Koshko in the TV mini-series “79 Park Avenue”. Veronica struggled a lot during her first years in Hollywood, as she was always offered similar roles of beautiful women who don’t talk too much, and mostly smile while being filmed: ‘There’s a stigma put on models—that you can’t walk and talk at the same time, let alone act. So you have to work twice as hard’, she remembers her first years of acting experience in one of her interviews to People. On that note, she declined an offer to become an Angel for “Charlie’s Angels” series; she was considered for the role of Kelly Garrett, but when the producers knew about her decision to turn down the role, they chose Jaclyn Smith instead.
Veronica remembers her agents were ‘in tears, had stokes, convulsions’ when they found out the news on her turning down the offer, but Veronica felt she made the right choice, finally quitting the dull pattern of living off her looks. ‘They said it would make me a star. But I said, ‘You’re talking about my life, my work—and I’ll be miserable’, she recalled the situation.
Starring in “Hill Street Blues”
After several years of landing episodic roles in such series as “The Eddie Capra Mysteries”, “The Hustler of Muscle Beach” and “Eischied”, Veronica was cast for the series “Hill Street Blues” in 1981. She landed the role of Joyce Davenport, an independent, dedicated and smart defense attorney, and that role made her truly famous. Veronica shared that she liked the role as both Joyce and Veronica herself were ‘not appendages’, and lived on their own, never living through anyone else.
However, in a few years of portraying the public defender, Veronica felt a little uncomfortable to film in the sixth season of the series: ‘We feel the changes, obviously – I was not happy about it and I don’t think anybody was happy about it – but <…> everybody was trying to be professional and supportive and get it going again’, she said in her interview with The Morning Call in 1985. The show was rumored to be closed after the sixth season, yet none of the cast wanted to talk about it. In 1986 the seventh season was aired, after which the series eventually end. Veronica wanted to play more comedy roles, as she admired Kay Kendall, the late British comedian, so after “Hill Street Blues” was cancelled, Veronica was ready to jump into other series.
Done with “Kane & Abel” (1985) mini-series, in which Veronica played Kate Kane, the actress mostly appeared in TV films, as if she was fed up with series.
She could be seen in such TV films as “A New Life” (1988), “She Said No” (1990), and “Stop at Nothing” (1991). She also played leading roles in “The Disappearance of Nora” (1993), “The Conviction of Kitty Dodds” (1993) and “A Child’s Cry for Help” (1994). Veronica landed the role of Lily Munster in “Here Come the Munsters” (1995), that of Sadie in “Talk to Me” (1996), and the role of Jennifer in “Stranger in My Home” (1997).
Among her latest works there are episodes of such series as “Touched by an Angel”, “The Division”, “The Fugitive” and “Philly”. From 2002 to 2003, Veronica appeared in several episodes of the series “Third Watch”, then played Margo Shephard in episodes of the popular series “Lost” from 2004 to 2010. She also played Commissioner Hayes in “Bone Eater” in 2008.
Personal life, ex-husband actor Michael Irving
In 1971 Veronica married her fellow actor Michael Irving; the couple lived together for more than 10 years, divorcing in 1981. In 1982 Veronica shared that she was not pitying at all being alone: ‘I have many friends. We organize tennis tournaments on Sundays. I have some close women friends I don’t think I could live without—that holds it all together’, she shared in her interview with People. Michael Irving was one of the co-founders of the Half Moon Theatre, which in 1990 was turned into the Half Moon Young People’s Theatre. Michael is an experienced stage and screen actor, who played in such productions as “Rough Music” and “Apart from George”, and in movies and series including “Lou Grant” (1977 – 1981), “Personal Services” (1987) and “How To Be” (2008), starring Robert Pattinson and written and directed by his son from his second marriage, Oliver Irving.
— Silver Age Television 📺 (@SilverAgeTV) March 24, 2019
Hobbies, favorite things and interesting facts
Veronica was an avid equestrian, however, she had to give up jumping as she was starring in “Hill Street Blues”, so any injuries could put the whole show under risk.
In 1972, Veronica and Michael Irving bought the house in Brentwood which was earlier owned by Marilyn Monroe. When the couple started replacing the roof, they discovered a telephone tapping system and bugging eavesdropping devices which covered every single room of the house. The most interesting fact was that all those devices were not commercially available in the years Marilyn lived in the house, but some experts recognized them as ‘standard FBI issue’.
Veronica and Michael had to spend over $100,000 to clean their house from the system.
After divorce from Michael, Veronica rented another house in Brentwood, not wanting to leave the area she liked so much. She admitted that she couldn’t afford to buy the house of her dreams as it would cost her around $1 million, yet her house was big enough to have parties and barbecues, even for such big companies as the whole cast of “Hill Street Blues”.
Veronica has long naturally curly dark brown hair and green eyes. She is 5ft 8ins (1.76m) tall, but her current weight and vital statistics are not available.
Net worth and salary
As of 2020, Veronica’s net worth is reported to be around $4 million. Of course her annual income depends on her commitments during any specific year.