By MARK J. GROSS

Signed photo of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2

One of the biggest sci-fi films of the ’80s was James Cameron’s blockbuster, The Terminator, in which an ordinary waitress, Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, becomes the assassination target of “The Terminator”—a robot sent from the future to kill Sarah to prevent her unborn son from leading the war against the machines.

Hamilton’s portrayal of Sarah Connor made her a sci-fi fan favorite. From the first film in 1984 to 1991’s sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Hamilton embodied her character, becoming so fit that even an advanced robot could feel threatened—if it had feelings, that is.

Signed publicity still for Beauty and the Beast featuring Hamilton and Ron Perlman

When not fighting Terminators, Hamilton has been seen in countless other films such as King Kong Lives, Mr. Destiny, Dante’s Peak and Children of the Corn, and the TV series Beauty and the Beast with Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy).

A native of my home state of Maryland, Hamilton recently attended the Chiller Theatre convention in New Jersey, where she took time to chat with me before signing and chatting with a long line of fans.

Hamilton is an accommodating signer

Mark Gross: How did you start your acting career?

Linda Hamilton: I did children’s theater, and I remember my twin sister and I were both cast as the princess in Rumplestilskin, and that was fun. But the second year we did Wind in the Willows, and I got to play Badger, who was a mean scary character, who came out of a pile of leaves to scare the children, and that was when I fell in love. That gave me the bug.

What role has been your favorite so far?

One of the best pieces of work I’ve done, and something that was dear to me, was called A Mothers Prayer—an obscure piece for the USA Network long ago. It was a beautiful story about a Mom, whom I portrayed, who had AIDS, and she became her own adoption agency, finding a home for her son before she passes away.

Is there anything you can tell me about the Terminator films that’s not well known?

I almost didn’t get to play the role of Sarah Connor because three weeks before we began shooting, I broke my ankle, so I was barely walking. The first few weeks of the film I was really limping, and they had to do a medical wrap on my ankle every day of the shoot. In fact there is the scene in the film where I’m running down a hilly street with Michael Biehn, holding him up with the big truck rolling down the road toward us, and Jim Cameron said to us, “If you fall down, roll to the right, because that truck can’t stop in time.” And I really remember at one point during that shot this pain that went shooting through my leg—I would have gone down had I not been warned!

Signed Terminator 2 DVD cover

In the second Terminator film, you really worked out for the role of Sarah Connor.

Yes, I knew what this woman had gone through in the last seven years—because we were using it as a real timeline—so with that, she’s nuts knowing what’s coming over the world. I told Jim, “Make her crazy and get me a trainer!” So that’s what we did.

Tell me about your TV series Beauty and the Beast, and working with Ron Perlman.

Ron is the love of my life. He and I are still close, and really good friends. We had a ball doing that show. Even when the show was tedious for us, I always wound up on his shoulder at the end of those episodes. We had so much fun with it, and with each other. We just kept it very alive and loving the whole time.

How is it, meeting your fans and signing for them?

I think I have always been very fan accessible. It’s not about fans for me; it’s just person to person. I just don’t think of them as the fans, but as people. I want them to walk away thinking I am just another person too.

Hamilton is known to be very personable with her fans

Do you collect autographs?

I make it a point to collect nothing. I mean that—I was a collector for a short while, and fortunately that was in my youth, before I could really afford to keep going. But somehow I got cured of that.

What did you collect before?

I used to collect Santa Clauses—those wonderfully hand carved special things.

What new projects are you working on?

I did an English film that I think is coming out in March, called In Your Dreams, which is adorable. And, I just finished one called Waters Rising, which is another English comedy. I also have a TV series that I’m shooting in Canada that’s called The Line, but it’s called The Weight there. It’s wonderfully written and I play the most extremely whacked-out con artist.

What do you enjoy to do besides acting?

I’m with my children, and that’s great. I also read, garden, and I do a lot of charity work and love to be outdoors.

Linda Hamilton and Mark Gross at the Chiller Theater convention in Oct. 2008

If you could have an autograph of anyone, whose would you want?

I would say Bruce Springsteen. He just meant so much to me. He kept me alive for a couple of summers there with some of his songs—that’s what celebrities do for us. I met him actually, and I didn’t ask him for his autograph. The first time I saw him I was on a plane, and I could not get up the courage to ask him anything. When it’s a hero, it’s a hero!

After the interview, Linda graciously signed two items from her table for me. She thanked me, shook my hand and kissed my cheek before she returned to her patiently waiting fans. She was a true delight, chatting with them like she was at a party and knew them all. Everyone walked away happy from a real genuine, upbeat, friendly and sweet woman.