Dynasty was one of the two big American TV melodramas which hit the 80s hard and fast and built up massive audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
The other, of course, was Dallas, but today let’s take a look back at the classic Dynasty with some facts that you probably didn’t know.
20. Lee Bergere was fired after he asked if he could appear in the show more
For four seasons of Dynasty, Lee Bergere played Joseph, the Carrington family butler. Throughout that time he was loyal and dedicated, never arguing with the family he worked for or complaining about his lot in life. However, when season five rolled around he suddenly began picking fights with Alexis, questioning her authority and causing her to ask a private investigator to look into his history.
Joseph’s arc ended when Alexis revealed some damning information about his backstory, and he locked Alexis in a burning cabin in retaliation. However, the real reason for Joseph’s exit from the show was his actor’s own demands, since Lee Bergere was angling for more screen time as well as a pay rise. The showrunners responded to this by outright firing him from the show, without fanfare.
19. Catherine Oxenberg was replaced over a salary dispute
Dynasty made several of its cast members into truly bankable stars, including Catherine Oxenberg, who played Amanda Carrington. Before Dynasty, Oxenberg had only a couple of credits to her name, including playing Princess Diana Spencer in a TV movie and playing Monika Blackbird on a couple of episodes of The Love Boat.
In just a few short years, Oxenberg went from an early career actress to a bona fide star, with all the screentime increases and pay rises that that entails. However, her fee eventually became too much for showrunners to handle, and during one routine season break contract negotiation, her team and the show could not agree on a number. As a result, she was unceremoniously let go from Dynasty.
18. Al Corley signed up to play the first openly gay character in a primetime series
Steve Carrington isn’t just one of the most important characters in Dynasty, but also one of the most important characters in any primetime series ever written. As the first openly gay character to appear on TV in a primetime slot, the character of Steve Carrington was always set to make history, and everyone involved with the production of Dynasty knew it.
After extensive audtioning, the part went to Al Corley, but his motivation for accepting the role was anything but altruistic. Corley later revealed that he knew that no matter whether the reception to Steve Carrington was positive or negative, it would cause a huge splash, and make the actor responsible a household name. Corley was excited about the possibility of being a part of such a huge TV controversy, and that’s what motivated him to accept the role.
17. Corley quit when he found out Steven was going to be ‘cured’ of his homosexuality
Corley’s prediction about the impact of Steve Carrington was correct: it caused a huge splash across TV and magazines, and was one of the things that made Dynasty the most talked about show on the air. Unfortunately, even though Steve Carrington’s plotline drew huge audiences, it made the network uncomfortable to have an out gay character playing such a major part of the show.
The network eventually became so uncomfortable with Steve Carrington’s character that they began to insist that his attraction to men be “cured” via some kind of conversion therapy plotline. The pressure mounted over the seasons, but Al Corley was steadfast that he wouldn’t allow his character to be changed, so much so that when it was written into the script that Steve would have his queerness “cured”, he quit in protest.
16. The writers replaced Corley with a storyline in which Steven required massive plastic surgery following an oil rig explosion
Unfortunately, Al Corley’s move to protect his character did not work as intended. Instead of dropping the conversion plot, the producers of Dynasty simply recast the character of Steve, replacing Corley with newbie actor Jack Coleman, another The Love Boat alumnus. To explain the sudden change in Steve’s appearance, one of Dynasty’s signature dramatic near-deaths was written in.
A storyline was written in which Steve Carrington was involved with an oil rig explosion, leading to him needing extensive plastic surgery and a facial skin graft to recover. The plot involving Carrington’s sexuality went ahead as planned, but his sexuality was later reinstated, thanks to changing norms rendering it less controversial and thus less threatening to backward network bigwigs.
15. Joan Collins and John Forsythe didn’t get along
There’s no denying that Joan Collins and John Forsythe are the soul of Dynasty, even if they’re definitely not the heart. The rivalry between Alexis Carrington and her ex-husband Blake Carrington is what creates much of the show’s drama, with the performances both give towards each other being both eminently hateable and watchable.
Though Joan Collins is obviously a very capable actress, having won a Golden Globe, a People’s Choice Award, and two Soap Opera Digest Awards over the course of her career, part of the believability of her performance in Dynasty comes from the fact that she and Forsythe really didn’t get along. They butted heads behind the scenes constantly, which only helped their onscreen chemistry.
14. Streets in Yugoslavia emptied whenever the show was on
Even over and above other popular soap operas, Dynasty had a huge impact on American culture. It is widely credited with starting the specific trend of huge shoulder pads in women’s fashion, and the broader trend of women’s power dressing that dominated the 80s. In 1985, Esther Shapiro said: “we’ve done important things for women with Dynasty. For middle-aged women. You know, to let them know that it’s OK to want power and be romantic.”
America wasn’t the only country where Dynasty saw success though. In Yugoslavia, it became a phenomenon, being one of the most-watched programs on any channel at any time. It was so consistently popular that come 9PM, streets would empty as everyone rushed home to catch the latest episode, ignoring pubs and restaurants on the way.
13. Collins was only 11 years older than on-screen ‘son’ Gordon Thomson
Joan Collins’ character Alexis Colby has four children over the course of Dynasty, two to her first husband Blake Carrington, and one to her loyal Butler Joseph. The child with the most interesting storyline is Adam, who was kidnapped a day after he was born and taken by Kate Torrance, then raised to believe that he was her grandson and the sole survivor of a tragic accident that killed his parents.
Adam is eventually reunited with his true family, with his adult self played by Gordon Thomson. However, he never seamlessly fits into the Colby/Carrington family dynamic, partly because he was brought up away from them. The other explanation for why he stands out so much could be that Thomson is only 11 years younger than Joan Collins, despite playing her son onscreen.
12. Forsythe was the only actor to star in all 220 episodes
As the head patriarch of the powerful Carrington family, it’s unsurprising that Blake Carrington is present in every episode of Dynasty. However, it is a little more surprising that John Forsythe is the only actor to appear in every single episode of Dynasty that ever ran. Even Joan Collins, who is widely regarded as the face of Dynasty, does not appear in every single episode.
Part of the reason that John Forsythe is the only actor to appear in every episode is that, as the show progressed, the salaries of all the stars kept growing steadily higher. By the show’s last season, Joan Collins was considered too expensive to even be on set unless she was absolutely instrumental in the episode’s plot.
11. Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren were considered to play Alexis
It’s undeniable that Joan Collins’ career has been shaped by Dynasty, and by the iconic role of Alexis Colby. It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else in the role of the fierce but venomous matriarch, but despite being perfect for the role, she wasn’t actually the production team’s first choice to bring Miss Colby to life.
Before Joan Collins was picked, two other iconic female powerhouses were almost chosen for the role. First was Elizabeth Taylor, whose high drama performance perfectly gelled with the character, and whose stark, severe and gorgeous fashion left lasting fingerprints on the character of Alexis. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sophia Loren was also considered for the role.
10. Alexis was originally named Madeleine
Everything about Alexis Colby is iconic, from the way she matches her purse, hat and gloves to her dress, to her clipped tone, to her habit of pronouncing people’s names wrong when she wanted to put them in their place. Much of her characterization was set in stone from the beginning, but many of her qualities were in flux until Joan Collins stepped in to play the role.
Alexis wasn’t originally supposed to be quite so glamorous, as this version of the character came about after the idea of casting Elizabeth Taylor was floated. In earlier drafts of the story, more focus was put on Alexis’ heartless character and less on her style, and her name was also completely different, as she was set to be called Madeleine Colby.
9. Alexis has been voted the greatest TV villain ever
Alexis Colby is one of Dynasty’s most legendary villains, but she’s also one of TV’s best villains, period. Joan Collins has won two Soap Opera Digest Awards, both for most Outstanding Villainess, and she was nominated for a Golden Globe every year from 1982 to 1987. All because of her beautiful and vengeful performance as Alexis Colby.
Critics described Alexis as “the quintessential character you love to hate”, with Vernon Scott of the Sun-Sentinel famously calling the character “the scourge of Dynasty”. However, Collins herself tried to give the character more dimension than just being hateable, saying: “I was told that it was a failing show and that it was about to be canceled, so they expected me to bring something to it to make it much more interesting to the viewer. I tried to give her a sense of humor, I tried to give her vulnerability, because she was betrayed by her ex-husband and her whole family, and I tried to bring other dimensions to the character.”
8. Blake was originally supposed to fall in love with Alexis again
By the time we meet Alexis Colby in season two of Dynasty, her marriage to Blake Carrington is already completely over. Despite them having multiple children together, the pair could not be on worse terms, and their dynamic only deteriorates further as the show progresses. However, later seasons of the show originally planned to significantly change their relationship.
For the latter seasons of Dynasty, the writers’ original plan was to have Blake Carrington suffer severe amnesia after a dramatic near-death experience, and fall madly in love with Alexis all over again. The plan was to have him leave Krystle and pursue Alexis, not realising that he had done so once already. This controversial plot was eventually scrapped, however.
7. Karen Cellini was hired out of obscurity
As Dynasty progressed and went from a struggling one season show to an international phenomenon, several cast members were fired as their demands in terms of pay and screentime grew beyond what the network could afford. In every case, the character was simply recast with a similar-looking actor, rather than the character being written out.
In all cases, it was more important for the new actor to look like the old one than it was for them to be super established in their own right. So when Karen Cellini was brought on to replace Catherine Oxenberg in the role of Amanda Carrington, it was not a problem that she had no previous acting experience. Not only that, but following her stint on Dynasty, Cellini never actually acted in TV or film again.
6. Nick Toscani was supposed to be the show’s ‘big bad’
Despite the massive success it would later go on to achieve, in its first season Dynasty flirted dangerously with being cancelled. Bringing on Joan Collins as Alexis Colby was just one strategy the writers employed to liven up the show in its second season, in order to hopefully heighten drama and secure a larger audience.
The ploy worked even better than anyone could have hoped, with audiences quickly falling in loathe with the queenly ex-wife of Blake Carrington. So much so that Dr Nick Toscani, played by James Farentino, was knocked off his spot as the second season’s big bad. Alexis Colby became the villain to end all villains, with Toscani being demoted to second fiddle, and all male antagonists from that point onward having secondary arcs to Colby.
5. Linda Evans had a real-life crush on John Forsythe
Blake Carrington and Krystle Carrington, played by John Forsythe and Linda Evans, are one of the most consistent couples in Dynasty. However, the pair did raise some viewers’ eyebrows during the show’s earlier seasons, mostly due to the fact that Forsythe is 25 years older than Evans, despite playing her husband.
The large age gap meant that before being hired to play Krystle, Linda Evans was already aware of John Forsythe and his rather impressive acting resume. In fact, she later bashfully admitted in interviews that she was a little afraid to play opposite him, due to the fact that she had an intense crush on him as a younger woman.
4. The show spent $25,000 per episode on fresh flowers
It’s not unusual for a show’s budget to balloon as the seasons go on, due to the increasing salaries of its stars and the need for more sets as the plots and settings become more varied and outlandish. However, this normal process was an even bigger problem for Dynasty, since it had already built a reputation for opulence and over the top luxury.
The Dynasty on set production team held themselves to impossibly high standards, especially when it came to set decoration. One of their rules was that all the flowers seen in various households had to be real and fresh-cut, and switched out between episodes. This led to an incredible flower budget of $25,000 per episode!
3. Alexis mispronounces names on purpose
Despite Joan Collins endeavouring to give Alexis Colby more layers than just being a simple ice queen, her brutal condescension and honesty is definitely the most memorable part of her character. Though she has plenty of high drama, high energy moments, Alexis’ superiority complex actually comes through most clearly in one subtle choice.
Right from season two, when Alexis Colby hates another character or is trying to put them on edge, she gets their name wrong on purpose. This most consistently happens with Sable, who she calls Sybil, but she also calls her own sister Cassie instead of Caress knowing full well that she hates that name. She even sometimes calls Krystle, Kristen.
2. John Forsythe had to get $5,000 more per episode than anyone else
As Dynasty became more and more popular, the profiles of its star cast grew and grew. This led to salary increases for the big names almost every season, with rates reaching incredible levels. Eventually, some stars had to be written out of certain episodes, because the network just couldn’t afford to keep them around full-time. Oddly enough though, this never happened to John Forsythe.
John Forsythe was protected from being written out any episodes, despite the fact that he had a higher per episode salary than any other cast member, even Joan Collins. Collins later revealed in interviews that Forsythe insisted on being paid $5,000 more episode than anybody else, especially his female co-stars, and was a “bit misogynistic”.
1. No character was ever allowed to wear the same outfit twice
More than any other show on television at the time, Dynasty was synonymous with opulence. This was seen in everything from the elaborate houses that the two principal families lived in, to the extortionate fresh flower budget the show allocated to each episode, to the cars the characters were said to drive. Most of all though, it was seen in the wardrobe.
The first guiding principle when it came to clothes on Dynasty, was that Alexis Colby would never mix and match her gloves, purses, boots or coats. This soon grew into her being forbidden to wear the same outfit twice, and that then was applied to the whole cast. Head of wardrobe Nolan Miller was given $35,000 to spend per week on clothes, and he designed approximately 3000 outfits over the course of the show.