Lieutenant Stephanie Holden is a character in the American television show Baywatch. She was a heroic lifeguard who on a daily basis risked her own life saving countless lives on the shores of Malibu, California. In the end her selfless heroism cost her her life.
Stephanie made her first appearance in the episode Tequila Bay in 1992 (Season 3, Episode 3, air date 28 September 1992) even though she had already been credited in the two previous episodes.
Her last appearance was in the episode Chance of a Lifetime in 1997 (Season 7, Episode 13, air date 10 February 1997) where she died a heroic death.
Stephanie did one additional appearance after her death in the Baywatch Nights episode The Eight Seal (Season 2, Episode 19, air date 26 April 1997) where she appeared as a ghost to Mitch Buchannon.
Stephanie was portrayed by Alexandra Paul in the TV series and a few TV movies.
Stephanie supposedly had three siblings of which only one, Caroline Holden has been named. Her childhood was not an easy one. When she was seven years old her father, who served in the US Army in Vietnam died in a helicopter crash. In the episode The Child Inside (S04E11, air date 22 November 1993) it is revealed that soon after her father's death she, and presumably her siblings were abandoned by their mother and they were raised by their grandmother.
Living close to ocean and watching lifeguards at heir work, Stephanie decided she wanted to become a lifeguard too. Her first contact with Baywatch was in 1989 at the age of 23 as a rookie lifeguard when she subbed for Jill Riley who was on vacation. There was immediate attraction between Stephanie and Mitch Buchannon and they began a romantic relationship. To Mitch's disappointment Stephanie ended the relationship without an explanation with a note when her stint on Baywatch ended.
After experiencing the rigors of lifeguarding Stephanie continued as an LA county lifeguard but moved to something she was better suited for – administration. Stephanie had a knack for managerial tasks and she quickly rose in the ranks so that within a few years she had reached the rank of lieutenant.
Three years after her first visit Steph returned to Baywatch to take charge as a lieutenant (Tequila Bay Season 3, Episode 3); her title was at first Supervising Lieutenant, but at times she was called an Administrative Assistant or Administrative Commander.
Mitch was shocked to see Stephanie as he still harbored resentment towards her for her sudden departure years earlier. Only now did Stephanie reveal that at the time she had been married and since Mitch's own divorce had seemed messy, she had decided to take her estranged husband back in an attempt to work things out. Things hadn't worked out and at some point Stephanie had gotten divorced.
Mitch, feeling slightly emasculated by the fact that someone he had practically trained had become his boss, tried to maintain that Stephanie was only in charge of the headquarters while he was in charge of the beach. Unfortunately this was not the case – Steph was effectively Mitch's new boss.
Personality and Traits
Stephanie was a sensible, serious and smart woman.
As the boss she was a fair and professional; a great leader who never shied away from responsibility. Stephanie's ambition was to become the first captain in the Lifeguard Servcie.
As a lifeguard she was a devoted professional able to think straight and remain calm even under the most stressful situations.
As a friend she was loyal and caring, always trying to help and often putting the needs of others before her own. She felt very protective towards her younger sister Caroline. Stephanie's closest friends were her sister Caroline and senior lifeguard C.J. Parker.
Stephanie suffered from Corcoranophobia, the fear of helicopters. The fear had its origin in her father being killed in a helicopter crash during the Vietnam War. It had little effect on Stephanie's life however and in fact was only shown once when she was assigned to an exchange program with the Coast Guard (Trading Places, season 4 episode 2).
Stephanie was a statuesque young woman with hazel eyes and dark brown hair. The length of her hair changed during the seasons from being long in seasons three and four to being really short in season five. Her hair color also changed, ranging from light brown to dark brown and almost black.
When Stephanie was introduced in season three as a new Baywatch Supervising Lieutenant she was a fairly fit albeit slender woman more suited for desk jobs than actual rescues. This changed in later seasons and Stephanie clearly became more athletic and also added both muscles and definition. Before her demise Stephanie had transformed into a fit and athletic woman.
Naturally Stephanie's appearance was that of the actress portraying her and what the actress did affected the character. Stephanie's actress, Alexandra Paul, was a slim flat-chested woman when she joined the cast in season three. Despite considering herself an athlete, Alexandra was not in top form when joining the cast and even if she was reasonably fit, she was not on par with her female castmates. Paul had soon realized that she wanted more physical scenes but those however were also physically demanding. During season four, to better perform and to look like a believable lifeguard Paul began doing cardio (swimming and stationary bike) to improve her stamina and to become firmer; later she added strength training to become stronger. As Paul herself noted at the time her body became firmer and she gained some muscle definition. During season six, Paul also began training for the Hawaii Ironman triathlon which also affected her appearance by making her even more lean and defined. These real world activities were reflected by Stephanie's body changing as the seasons passed, from a slim to a more athletic and even muscular body to finally the wiry body of an endurance athlete.
Noteworthy is also that unlike most of the other female Baywatch lifeguards, Stephanie was flat-chested.
Stephanie’s clothing style was simple and practical. At work, in the office she wore a uniform consisting of a white shirt, a black miniskirt and black high-heeled pumps. On the beach she wore the red swimsuit that had been customized to her tiny breasts and slender frame. Over the swimsuit she often wore a red jacket. Out of work she seemed to prefer simple styles including denim shorts, jeans, sneakers and the occasional short summer dress.
Stephanie was 178 cm (5' 10") tall and during her five seasons her weight fluctuated between 56 to 60 kg (124 to 133 pounds). Her supposed measurements were 36AA-23-33.
Stephanie was 26-years-old (in season three) when she joined Baywatch as a permanent lifeguard. In a flashback she was 23-years when she was subbing for Jill Riley while she was on vacation. She was 31 at the time of her death in season seven.
Skills and Abilities
Despite her initial physical limitations Stephanie became a good swimmer and diver. She was not a particualrly good runner but she did jog almost daily to stay in shape. She also trained occasionally in the gym.
While she was fairly athletic, especially in the later seasons, her main strengths lay in management and leadership. Her leadership and organizational skills were often put to test, especially by the conniving Neely Capshaw. Regardless of the situation Stephanie always got the situation eventually under control. During rescues she often relinquished leadership to more experienced lifeguards like Mitch or C.J..
Another of her strong suits was her ability to train and teach rookies and junior lifeguards; she especially excelled at training girls. She and Neely also acted as Cody Madison's swimming coaches for the Olympics.
Like all Baywatch lifeguards Stephanie was expected to be able to handle all the land and water vehicles at their disposal, including the Baywatch pickup trucks, the quad bikes, the Scarab boats and the jet skis. In the episode Tentacles: Part 2 (S04E07, airdate 25 Oct. 1993) Stephanie displays her complete mastery of jet skis by performing extraordinary stunts while test driving the new Waverider. She never displayed such level of competency after that.
Without doubt Stephanie's Lifeguard Rescue Skills were among the best at Baywatch and Steph especially excelled at assessing the situation and making sure everything got done in proper order. Her ability to perform first aid and CPR were also first-class.
Stephanie's frailness was evident in that she was often easily overpowered and restrained by both men and women. Meanwhile her fighting skills ranged from non-existent to very skilled; for example in season five she was easily defeated, knocked unconscious and taken hostage by a much smaller female ecoterrorist (Homecoming, S05E14, airdate 6 Feb 1995), but a year later in season six she singlehandedly defeated the main villain showing considerable combat skills by knocking out him with a jumping kick (Baywatch Angels, S06E14, airdate 12 Feb 1996). This latter example should be considered an anomaly and Stephanie's actual combat skills were literally non-existent. Unlike many of her colleagues like C.J., Caroline and Summer, Steph didn't practice unarmed combat. As a consequence, Stephanie's role was that of a damsel in distress quite often.
Stephanie appears in the 1995 TV movie Baywatch the Movie: Forbidden Paradise.
In the movie Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens there are two Astro-X rocket scientists called Holden (Alexandra Paul) and Neely (Gena Lee Nolin). Both are former lifeguards and they might be Stephanie Holden and Neely Capshaw respectively. Both Holden and Neely are killed by flying radioactive exploding sharks.
Stephanie also had a cameo in Sexydrwonwatch, a cut scene from Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It is not entirely certain whether the character was supposed to be Stephanie Holden or Alexandra Paul herself.
Alexandra Paul, who played Stephanie Holden in the TV-series, originally tried for the parts of C.J. Parker and Summer Quinn. Lacking in athletic prowess and being slim and flat-chested did not earn her the role of the athletic eye-catcher C.J., nor did she fit the age profile of the young Summer. Those parts went to Pamela Anderson and Nicole Eggert respectively. Part of the audition was a informal but demanding swimming, diving and running test that Alexandra did not outright fail, but she had to do it again during her callback as her first attempt did not convince the producers.
The producers, however, liked the tall woman and thought she would be a perfect love interest for Mitch Buchannon played by the 193 cm tall David Hasselhoff. "I auditioned for the parts Pamela Anderson and Nicole Eggert eventually got. I was not right for either role obviously, so the producers decided to write a part for me, which was nice."
A new character needed to be added but what her role would be was unclear. This was the first of two times a character was written specifically for an actor and it was the only one that worked well. Alexandra was certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) (1989-2012) and had been a junior lifeguard in real life so she knew the tricks of the trade and she was a reasonably good swimmer; these facts were in her favor.
However, she was lacking in strength and general fitness - the muscles she had gained eight years earlier for the movie Getting Physical were all but a memory. Also despite having participated in athletic activities her entire life Alexandra was not as a talented athlete as she had initially thought. "I swam on the local swim team until I was 15 and ran cross-country in high school. Always a very average athlete, but I was enthusiastic." Joining Baywatch made her realize what average meant, "I wish I could say I'm an athlete. After filming and training this hard and – all the running and swimming, you know, there was a lot of that; I was embarrassed to say that I was 'athletic'." Thinking that it had been her athleticism, and swimming skills in particular that had earned her the role, she had been genuinely surprised that both of her female castmates (Anderson & Eggert) were stronger swimmers and generally more fit.
It was only years later that she openly spoke about being a bad athlete, "I was never a particularly talented athlete, but I enjoyed participating very much." In her own words she was a 'klutz', "I was horrible at anything with hand/eye coordination," and a poor runner, "...I loved running so much, even though I had a funny gait and a slow pace!" All in all, the fears were valid that she would not be able to perform in a believable manner the physical tasks that were required.
Eventually it was decided the new character would be an administrative lieutenant, a character that was specifically created for Alexandra based on her age, looks and abilities. She was made a lieutenant due to her being the oldest of the women. She was to be an intelligent leader and trainer - the brainy one - to compensate for lacking physical ability. "I was the smart one of the show. Cause I had small breasts, short hair and brown hair, your I.Q. goes up about twenty points with those physical characteristics." The role was to be less physical than the other roles; the character was not meant to do rescues but to stay mainly in the Baywatch HQ managing and coordinating things. Thus was created Lieutenant Stephanie Holden. "I got to choose my character's name and her personality. Holden was the last name of my math teacher in high school and he was a type A, competitive person who was slightly intimidating and very passionate about his job, so I thought it was apt, since Stephanie Holden was that way." "Stephanie was a name I liked as I had gone to grade school with a Stephanie."
During her first seasons Stephanie did occasionally assist in rescues, but as had been planned she was not in charge in those situations. Six episodes after her introduction, Steph was seen on patrol for the first time aboard a Scarab boat but even then the boat was commanded by C.J. (S03E09 Masquerade, 9 Nov. 1992). Her very few subsequent times on patrol were always on a boat under the supervision of the capable C.J. It was not until the episode Baja Run (S05E04, 17 Oct. 1994), two years and a total of 45 episodes after her introduction that Stephanie was finally shown to be in charge of her own lifeguard tower.
Unlike the other lifeguards, Stephanie was given a uniform consisting of a white shirt, black skirt and high heeled pumps as her main attire - she was never meant to wear a swimsuit on the show. It was in Alexandra Paul's contract that she did not have to wear the trademark red swimsuit if she didn't want to. “It’s funny because my contract had said I didn’t have to wear the suit if I didn’t want to because I had been acting for 10 years and I was playing a lieutenant and there was actually a skirt and shirt combo that looked smart,” she recalls. “It was a white shirt with epaulets and a slim skirt." But it wasn't only Alexandra who at first didn't want to wear the swimsuit, but also the producers, "They really wanted me to be in the uniform."
The reasons for this were twofold. Even if Alexandra in time became comfortable with her body she felt at first very insecure around the athletic, buxom blondes portrayed by Pamela Anderson and Nicole Eggert. During her first season Alexandra had three lengthy discussions with the producers about getting breast enhancements. She thought that she was not sexy enough and she worried that the producers thought the same. Because of this she was seriously considering getting enhancements making her the same size as Playboy model Stephanie Seymour. The producers didn't like the idea and thought she was perfect for her role as she was – a bigger chest wouldn't change what she brought to the show. Alexandra was skeptical but fortunately opted not to get the enhancements. However it would take years before she became fully comfortable with her modest bust.
The other reason was that after meeting her costars Alexandra didn't feel fit and firm enough. Especially Pamela Anderson, a former fitness instructor and athlete, made her feel insecure, not only because of her beauty but also due to her athletic ability.
Both Alexandra's athletic ability and her physical appearance were affected by her having recovered from bulimia only six months prior to being offered the role: "And the year that I recovered and stopped throwing up and binging and purging was the year that […] I was offered Baywatch." She had been anorexic in her early teens and bulimic from age 16 to 28. Alexandra worried that she would not look firm enough but would appear soft. "So, I wasn't by any means overweight, but...I didn't feel 'firm'. [...] My weight actually went down after I stopped binging and purging." Her recovery had come in the nick of time as "I wouldn't have actually accepted the offer to work on the show if I was still bulimic because it would have put too much pressure."
Still suffering from bulimia and having been anorexic before that, Alexandra worried she would not look firm enough and would appear soft.
In 2002 she told that the only time she had to wear a bikini (Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding) she had body makeup to cover up the scar on her stomach and to enhance her abdominal muscles. During a photo shoot for the movie she wanted the photos to be retouched. "It is in my contract that they cannot give me bigger breasts, as I am proud of my natural shape and size, but not that proud of other parts, as you can see. If I were really a person of character, I would insist they leave me as is with no retouching anywhere... but I don't have that much character." She asked the photographer to remove her scar, retouch her belly button, and give her killer abs and more muscles and curves.
Insecurities aside, Stephanie quickly ditched the uniform and donned the red swimsuit to fit in better with the other lifeguards. Stephanie also moved out of the office to take part in regular lifeguard duties but to a limited degree. However, whenever possible she did wear a jacket over the swimsuit.
Due to the physical demands Alexandra had to increase her cardiovascular workouts. She had discovered that she simply could not keep up with the other actresses during rough shoots and her being out of breath all the time was also noted by the producers. At the end of her first season, Alexandra began going to Gold's Gym each day before going to the set. "I kept in shape by going to Gold's Gym in Venice every morning at 4 am - doing an hour of cardio so I could be on the set by 6 am." Riding a stationary bike or swimming an hour in the morning improved her endurance, but it was not enough. To look like a credible lifeguard Alexandra realized she needed to be stronger and thus began strength training during her second season (season 4). "You can see in the second season my (Stephanie's) body got more defined, as I had started lifting weights." Almost two decades later Alexandra finally admitted that Pamela Anderson had inspired her and that she had received fitness tips from Pamela. "You could say that [Pamela] was my fitness inspiration." Alexandra also told that her castmate had been a major reason why she began taking fitness seriously.
To give her a more athletic look, Alexandra got at the start of season four a new swimsuit that was specially designed for her slender frame. The same suit was a few years later worn by Kelly Packard.
In time, in conjunction with Alexandra's increased strength and stamina and Pamela Anderson's pregnancies first in 95-96 and then in 97, Stephanie's role got more physical, in the end paralleling C.J. and Neely. As Alexandra's strongest suit was swimming she favored swimming and water rescues over land rescues and tasks involving running, jumping and climbing. It was also easier to handle and move a 'victim' in the water than on dry land. "Because I loved being in the water so much, I would beg for Stephanie to have more rescue scenes. Yasmine Bleeth, who played my sister Caroline, hated doing water work and would tell the producers to give her rescues to me." Alexandra's swimming and diving skills had improved considerably during her time on the show, having been the weakest female swimmer in season 3, at the end of season 6 she was without doubt the strongest swimmer.
During her final season Gregory J. Bonann one of the co-creators and the showrunner admitted that Alexandra had become one of the best athletes on the show and as good as the real Los Angeles County lifeguards at the job. In fact, Alexandra did a real rescue at one point: “I did an actual rescue when I was shooting a scene out in the ocean and the cast member just couldn't — this was a guest star — couldn't stay in the water that long, so I had to literally…carry him back to the shore.”
Stephanie was the first lieutenant on Baywatch.
The sexual tension between Mitch and Stephanie was kept alive to prevent Steph from becoming butch.
Stephanie was the third lifeguard and second cast regular to be killed in the show, the first was Jill Riley and the second was Tracy Dodsworth.
The swimsuit worn by Stephanie Holden was later given to be worn by Kelly Packard’s character April Giminski.
Alexandra's small chest was a minor inconvenience for the crew; “Because I was so flat-chested it was hard to put a mic in there, in the cleavage. Maybe that is why they never cast any small-breasted women before me or after me.”
Stephanie Holden and Sabrina Carver were Alexandra's favorite roles to play as both were tough and able characters. "In both roles, I get to save people, which is always fun."
Alexandra's agent managed to negotiate certain perks for Alexandra due her being already an experienced actress before she started on Baywatch. These perks included that her credits came up last in the opening sequence, which is the second best place. The redits also said “Alexandra Paul as Stephanie Holden” as all the other cast members simply had their real names come up. She was also able to leave for four episodes each season to work on another projects (like the movie Nightwatch in 1995) and she was allowed to wear the lieutenant’s dress uniform instead of the swimsuit if she so desired.
At Mitch’s home:
Stephanie: I know it must be hard to have someone you practically trained wind up as your boss.
Mitch: You’re not my boss, you’re responsible for headquarters, I’m responsible for the beach.
Stephanie: That is not entirely accurate.
Jogging on the beach:
Mitch: Ok… you’re in charge of headquarters, beach is my responsibility.
Stephanie: That’s not exactly accurate.
Mitch: …and you’re not my boss!
Stephanie: I think that is a matter of definition.