Dynasty showrunner reveals the Alexis Carrington cameo you might've missed
The Carringtons are back and as glamorous as ever! And to celebrate their return, Dynasty showrunner Sallie Patrick will be blogging major episodes for EW throughout the show’s first season, kicking off with some insights on the pilot…
“I Hardly Recognized You”
Hello from Dynasty! If you’re here because you saw the pilot, thanks for watching. If you’re here after playing the Dynasty drinking game, congratulations. If you’ve been playing another drinking game and ended up here by accident, that’s awesome, too, but be warned: spoilers below.
The process of making a pilot (not to mention rebooting an iconic series) is intense. All-consuming. You really have to love the project if you’re going to pour your lifeblood into it for over a year. I was a fan of the original Dynasty — the fabulous fashion, the spectacular camp, but also the characters who carried the camp into surprisingly emotional places. So, when CBS Studios asked me to sit down with Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage to crack our 2017 version of the iconic series, that’s what we set out first and foremost to do: find our characters and how to ground them, so that they too can pull off incredibly heightened situations while still being people with whom we can identify. Shout out to marvelous director and EP Brad Silberling, who helped us do exactly that.
The biggest challenge was introducing those characters, quickly and effectively, in a 42-minute pilot. What I love about our opening is that it’s a homecoming: Fallon Carrington (Liz Gillies) and her brother, Steven (James Mackay), are beckoned home by their father, Blake (Grant Show), to meet his new fiancée, Cristal Flores (Nathalie Kelley). So the structure allows us to meet the characters separately, and end with them all crashing (and clashing) into one another. Along the way, we meet Joseph Anders (Alan Dale), majordomo and guardian of the family’s secrets, and then Michael Culhane (Robert Christopher Riley), the family’s chauffeur who has a few secrets of his own, including the fact that he’s sleeping with Fallon; with these two men, we introduce the theme of upstairs/downstairs, because how can you have a show about the filthy rich without including the people who try their damnedest to keep them clean?
If you’re keeping count, that’s six series regulars, introduced over the course of about six minutes. Not to mention Bo, the family dog (whom we named after Bo Hopkins, the actor who played the original Matthew Blaisdel), and if you don’t blink, you can even glimpse Alexis Carrington, the missing matriarch. (Hint: She’s the one holding the videocamera when young Steven is playing piano.) Our last two series regulars we meet later in the show: Jeff Colby (Sam Adegoke), whom Fallon teams up with; and Steven’s one-night-stand-turned-new-family-member, Sammy Jo, originally played by Heather Locklear (now by Rafael de La Fuente in equally inappropriate wardrobe).
One big decision we had to make when rebooting Dynasty was what to do with Matthew Blaisdel (played by the marvelous Nick Wechsler, whom I loved working with on Revenge). Matthew was Cristal’s on-again-off-again lover, and while we loved that part of Cristal’s backstory and loved Matthew’s crazy wife, Claudia, he didn’t bring that much to the original series other than business stories, and the Shapiros (the original creators) encouraged us to focus more on family than business. So, when I was watching the original Dynasty pilot, there’s this oil rigging accident Blake sets up in order to tank the price so he can swoop in and buy it out from under his competitor. The realization of this causes Walter Lankershim (Willy in our version) to crash the Carrington wedding with a gun. In our version, it made dramatic (and soapy) sense to have Matthew injured in the accident, sending his wife, Claudia, to the Carringtons’ doorstep to give Cristal the news that her new husband may have killed her ex-lover. And that accusation — and the mystery surrounding it — is what launches us into series.
- The title of the episode (like all our titles) is a line from the original Dynasty, first said by Alexis. In ours, Fallon says it to Cristal when she sees her wedding gown: “You look so elegant, I hardly recognized you.” It’s this type of shade that put Dynasty on the map, and it’s an appropriate title for a reboot that shares much of the same DNA but is quite a different, though still vicious, beast.
- In that same scene, Liz Gillies ate at least eight chocolate bride heads. Impressive.
- Also impressive, the ladies did their own catfight, in heels. All of video village was gasping and shrieking with each take. The original series used male stunt doubles.
- The show is set and shoots in Atlanta, my hometown, and the locations are stunning. It was spring and everything was budding just in time for Cristal’s wedding.
- David Bowie’s “Modern Love” was there on the page from day one. Miraculously, we got to use it. The perfect theme for the untraditional bride.
- There’s a nod to Bill Conti’s original theme — that’s what young Steven is playing on the piano.
- There are several visual tributes to the original pilot throughout — in costume, compositions, props, etc. You can see just a few of these moments in the side-by-sides below.
OG FALLON CARRINGTON AND CECIL COLBY (JEFF’S UNCLE) VS. FALLON CARRINGTON AND JEFF COLBY TODAY
OG FALLON AND KRYSTLE VS. FALLON AND CRISTAL TODAY
BLAKE AND FALLON VS. FALLON AND BLAKE TODAY
THE ORIGINAL DYNASTY WAS KNOWN FOR ITS FRESH FLOWERS, SO THAT WAS A HUGE PART OF OUR WEDDING
DIRECTOR BRAD SILBERLING REHEARSING WITH MICHAEL CULHANE, FALLON CARRINGTON, AND JEFF COLBY