Dynasty, the drama-filled primetime soap opera, was must-watch TV on Wednesday nights in the early 80s. Millions of viewers tuned in to see the twists and turns of the lives of oil magnate, Black Carrington (John Forsythe); his wife, Krystal (Linda Evans); his ex-wife, Alexis (Joan Collins), and their families. The series – which was originally titled Oil – featured power struggles, romantic entanglements, sibling rivalry and all the trappings of 80s excess. Plus, those over-the-top catfights between Krystal and Alexis, extravagant fashion, cliffhangers and all the drama brought to life by the Dynasty cast!
First airing in January 1981 and running for eight years, Dynasty, made an indelible mark on 80s fashion. The wide-brimmed hats and the glitzy gowns accentuated with shoulder pads were put together by costume designer Nolan Miller who was inspired by the style of legendary actress Joan Crawford.
One of the show’s co-creators, Esther Shapiro, explained Miller’s wardrobe choices for the show in a 1985 New York magazine story.
“Everything was coordinated: Each dress had its own particular hat, purse, gloves, shoes and it never varied. Joan Crawford didn’t mix and match. We decided to take it one step further: Alexis would never wear the same thing twice. In fact, no one on Dynasty would,” she said, adding that Miller designed 3,000 outfits during the show’s run.
Dynasty was set in Denver, but its three-part pilot was shot in Woodside, California, at Filoli, an estate in the Bay Area. Built in 1917 as a private residence, the pilot was filmed in the house, the garden and on some trails in its nature preserve, according to the estate’s website.
Filming later moved to a Hollywood studio set and every few years the crew would return to shoot outdoor scenes and fill-in shots of limos driving up to the house.
Diehard Dynasty fans can take a tour of the Filoli house and lush grounds, considered to be one of the finest remaining country estates of the 20th century. Filoli is also the location where the 2006 Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar was filmed.
About those catfights between Alexis and Krystal – in the mud, in swimming pools and a particularly memorable skirmish in a lily pond at Arden Villa, a mansion in Pasadena.
Aaron Spelling, the award-winning producer of Dynasty and many other popular TV dramas including Charlie’s Angels and The Love Boat, talked about the bickering and brawls Alexis and Krystal had with each other in an interview for the Television Academy Foundation.
“We had to stop doing (the catfights) because the mud cost too much and was ruining their wardrobe. But they fought in swimming pools, mud baths. Again, it was done in such a humorous way that you didn’t expect they would be wearing those gorgeous gowns and then push each other into a swimming pool. That was the fun of Dynasty,” Spelling said.
Cast of the original Dynasty then and now
Here we take a look back at the beloved cast of the show and see what they are doing today!
Linda Evans as Krystal Carrington
The actress, who turned 81 on November 18, won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Krystal Carrington, Blake’s second wife. Their wedding was the first season’s finale. Evans’ star rose when she played Audra in the 1960s Western The Big Valley alongside renowned actress Barbara Stanwyck.
Today Linda Evans lives in the Pacific Northwest with her dog, Alexie, and inspires fans with uplifting posts on her Instagram. An accomplished cook, she wrote a book in 2011, titled, Recipes for Life: My Memories. Evans has battled severe back ailments as well as depression over the years when her two sisters and a close friend were diagnosed with serious illnesses. “I fell apart big time,” she told People magazine. “I really had to fight my way back.”
In 2021 she returned to acting and starred in the movie Swan Song. “I’m in love with this film,” she told the outlet. “I had to do it. It was poignant the way [screenwriter and director Todd Stephens] captured what it’s like to be older and struggling with life. It really touched me. What are the odds that I’d be back working at 78? It’s so outrageous, but as I always love to say, ‘Anything is possible.’”
Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington
Joan Collins, the Golden Globe-winning screen and stage star, played Alexis Carrington on Dynasty. Collins, who is 90, has appeared in more than 70 films, hundreds of TV shows, and over a dozen plays. She is the sister of bestselling romance novelist Jackie Collins who passed away in 2015.
Joan herself is an accomplished author, having written more than 15 books, articles and columns. The title of her latest book released this past October is a nod to the over-the-top Dynasty fashions she wore: Behind the Shoulder Pads: Tales I Tell My Friends. In 2015 she was made a dame by Queen Elizabeth II for her charity work and services to drama.
John Forsythe as Blake Carrington
A prolific film, TV and theater actor, John Forsythe played dapper patriarch Blake Carrington in for which he won several Golden Globe awards. His marriage to Linda Evans’ character Krystal on the show is what set off his first wife, Alexis, played by Joan Collins.
Forsythe’s elegant baritone was the voice of Charlie Townsend in the TV series Charlie’s Angels. He died at the age of 92 in 2010. His last full-fledged major film appearance, according to The New York Times, was in the 1988 holiday comedy Scrooged where he played a contemporary Marley’s Ghost. His distinguished voice was heard in the 2000 Charlie’s Angels film and its 2003 sequel.
Diahann Carroll as Dominique Devaraux
Diahann Carroll joined the show in its fourth season where she was introduced as Blake Carrington’s half-sister. The Tony award-winning actress, who got her start as a singer and nightclub performer, played a savvy businesswoman and a music industry mogul in the show. She made history by becoming the first Black woman to star in her own television series, Julia, where she played a widowed nurse and single mother from 1968-1971.
For that role she was awarded a Golden Globe and made history again by being the first Black actor to be nominated for a primetime Emmy. After Dynasty she appeared in various TV shows, including recurring roles in A Different World, Lonesome Dove: The Series, White Collar and Grey’s Anatomy. Carroll passed away in 2019 at the age of 84.
Heather Locklear as Sammy Jo Carrington
Heather Locklear played Sammy Jo Carrington, the niece of Krystal Carrington, joining the cast in its second season. After being in the Dynasty cast she is perhaps best known for her role as Amanda Woodward in the 1990s TV series Melrose Place. The actress also appeared in several other Spelling-produced TV shows: T.J. Hooker, Matt Houston, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and Hotel. Locklear, 62, had success with roles in Spin City (first opposite Michael J. Fox and then Charlie Sheen) and guest appearances on Two and a Half Men and Hot in Cleveland.
Pamela Sue Martin as Fallon Carrington
Before playing Blake and Alexis’ daughter, Fallon, for four seasons on Dynasty, Pamela Sue Martin gained fame in the 70s as the teen sleuth of the Nancy Drew TV series. Martin, 70, is the mom of one grown son. In 2002, she made a guest appearance on That ‘70s Show. An environmentalist, she is the national spokesperson for the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown, California.
Check in with more beloved 80s TV casts below!