The role of the PA is no stranger to the big screen: in films or TV personal assistants are often the people that make the protagonist the hero they are meant to be.
Like a well-oiled machine, the on-screen PAs often know what their boss wants, before their boss does. Even though these on-screen assistants are asked to do very unusual tasks compared to most, the role of an assistant stays as demanding and as organised as its real-life counterpart.
Vincenzo Ferrara has been looking at the assistant heroes of the silver screen at PA Life we know and love.
Andy Sachs – The Devil Wears Prada
Andy is thrown into the job of being a personal assistant to the editor of a very successful high-end fashion magazine.
The job is demanding and seems soul destroying at first, but once she starts to take an interest in her boss and the industry they work in, she develops the skills, contacts and networking abilities to overcome any situation.
Although this feel good comedy is funny, it’s surprisingly close to home for some PAs. I’ve even known a few real life personal assistants that have said that the boss character Miranda Priestly – played by Meryl Streep – is scarily accurate to a past boss of their.
Peggy Olson – Mad Men
Peggy joined the mad world of advertising in 1960, and is initially presented as an innocent but determined young woman, eager to rise the ranks and become successful at her job.
When she joins ‘Sterling Cooper’ after having graduated from secretarial school, she lands a job with one of the top creative directors in the advertising world. However, Peggy has an immense dislike of the double standard in the treatment and expectations of men and women.
Within the six seasons of the show, you see Peggy go from the secretary of Don Draper to becoming the chief of copy, which for the time period the show is set in, is phenomenal.
Miss Moneypenny – James Bond
The original PA with attitude Miss Moneypenny is famous for being the secretary to the head of British intelligence M. One agent that she has a romantic connection with is of course, James Bond but Moneypenny is not considered a ‘Bond Girl’ as throughout the films, their relationship is kept on a strictly professional level.
As with so many great assistants, she is able to know where both M and Bond are at all times, even when the rest of MI6 can’t seem to find them.
For some people, Miss Moneypenny was ‘just a secretary’ but a little fact revealed in You Only Live Twice (1967), she holds the rank of second officer in the Woman’s Royal Naval Service.
Marc St. James – Ugly Betty
Marc is a fiercely loyal PA to the creative editor at MODE magazine. A flamboyant over-the-top assistant shows a lot of bravery and courage within both his work and personal life.
He is however, hyper-organised and very close to his boss, which makes him very good as an assistant. He constantly shows the hard and soft skills needed to any world class assistant.
Although the series Ugly Betty is about the growth of Betty Suarez as an assistant and a writer, the real hero in terms of being an assistant is actually Marc, who works hard all hours of the day to overcome any task that is put upon him, often going the extra mile to complete a project beyond what is expected of him.
Donna Paulsen – Suits
A brashly confident and self-assured character, Donna is also able to understand her own feels as well as having the ability to understand that of those around her. This level of detail and attention she gives to others makes her read people very accurately before they have even opened their mouth.
She is always one step ahead of the game in terms of knowledge in both work and her personal life. Her relationship with her boss is strictly professional but she knows the private details of her boss’s personal life and relationships.
In the world of Suits, Donna is considered the best legal secretary in New York City and carries enough power within the firm she works at to be intimidating to less senior members of staff. However, like all very good assistants, she is very approachable and in the know for all things required by her job.
Waylon Smithers – The Simpsons
Smithers is the EA to the head of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Mr Burns.
Inspired by numerous real life FOX executives, Smithers is an obedient and sycophantic. He is largely ignored by his boss in terms of flattery, but is instantly involved when things go wrong.
According to Smithers himself, his job is executive assistant at the Power Plant, which he says is made up of 2,800 smaller jobs – a notion relatable for too many assistants.
Now we would just like to give a special mention to two assistants that have a terrible attitude towards their jobs and in real life, would struggle to keep their jobs but for comedy purposes, we feel have blessed our screens.
Karen Walker – Will and Grace
She was a multi-millionaire that is narcissistic, shrill and above all else, spoilt. She wants to be her own boss and run a company, but has decided that it would be too much effort to start something from scratch. So, she becomes the assistant for her best friends design company.
Karen is comedically hilarious but frustrating, she has no interest in anyone else, especially her boss. She has complete lack of organisation with anything work related and is constantly making up excuses for doing a bad job, if she’s done the job at all…
April Ludgate – Parks and Recreation
April starts life in the series as an intern at the Pawnee Department of Parks and Recreation. She shows promise to her boss Ron Swanson, who makes her his personal assistant.
Even though she is rude and hates socialising, this is exactly what her boss wants of her. She hates completing any tasks that are associated with the assistant role, which compliments her anti-social, anti-establishment boss perfectly.
Even though in a real life assistant position she would be annoying to work with and most likely get fired within a week of being in the job, the show highlights her as a working man’s hero with a childish teenage attitude.
If you have any fictional PAs that you love and think we’ve missed, please email us at: V.firstname.lastname@example.org