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With its rich, beautiful characters in to-die-for clothes and juicy plots full of secrets, scheming and jaw-dropping twists, Dynasty was must-see appointment TV in the 1980s, racking up top ten ratings as it became a pop culture phenomenon. Three decades later, the CW is remaking the series for its young, multicultural audience by updating the original story and presenting it through a modern lens.

DynastyAccording to executive producer Josh Schwartz, who created the new version with Stephanie Savage, it’s the perfect time for a Dynasty revival. “We are definitely living in an age of dynasties across a spectrum of society, whether it’s Trumps or Clintons or Kardashians or Murdochs,” he says. “Our news is filled with the stories of family dynasties, and that is something that was really exciting to us about why to do the show today.”

And as executive producer and showrunner Sallie Patrick points out, “It's also a show about a dysfunctional, diverse family trying to get along despite their differences, which I feel is a metaphor for this country now and maybe always.”
That family is the Carringtons, who were Denver-based oil billionaires in the original series: patriarch Blake (played by John Forsythe), his wife Krystle (Joan Evans), son Steven (Al Corley), daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin and his ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins), plus assorted lovers, associates and rivals. In the new Dynasty version, the cast is more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity and gender.

Blond Krystle is now a young Venezuelan named Cristal Flores, played by Cuban-born Australian actress Nathalie Kelley. The rival Colbys are now African-American. Blake (Grant Show) runs his energy company from Atlanta and is no longer bothered by son Steven’s homosexuality, as he was in the original. Steven (James Mackay) is out and proud, and his love interest Sammy Jo—played in the ‘80s by Heather Locklear—is now male and portrayed by Rafael de la Fuente. There’s a transgender character (we won’t spoil the surprise). Alexis hasn’t yet been cast and will not appear in the first few episodes.

Crystal, Fallon and Steven

At the outset, the focus is on the rivalry between Cristal, and Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies) both for Blake’s attention and control of the Carrington Atlantic empire. “They want the same things, they are competitive, they are both smart, they are ambitious. You have that great head-to-head, and kicking it off with a great catfight in the pilot feels like it echoes that original Fallon-Krystle relationship,” says Stephanie Savage.

“Both of these women are ambitious career women. They're not just vying for Blake's love as a father or a husband, but also they want to run this business,” Josh Schwartz points out. “I think having Cristal have a more senior role in the company, not just be the secretary, but actually somebody who really contributes to the company in a powerful way makes her more credible in this drive for control of this company with Fallon.” He adds that being able to “dirty up” Cristal with a dark, mysterious backstory “gives her this edge. You’re not always sure what her motives are, and that makes her a more interesting and dynamic character.”

The relationship between Blake and Steven has evolved as well. “Blake can't be homophobic in the same way that a 1983 Blake was, but he can have problems with his son not being the son that he wants him to be,” says Grant Show (Melrose Place, Devious Maids). “This Blake will be very dark, but at the same time, he fiercely loves his family, he fiercely defends his dynasty, and he fiercely defends himself and his position. He truly believes that what he is doing is the best for his family.”

Dynasty's Blake

Elizabeth Gillies, last seen in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll as Dennis Leary’s daughter Gigi, jumped at the chance to play the feisty, ambitious Fallon. She has a biting wit, a lot of sarcastic excellent lines. I love her strength,” she says.

“Gigi was rough around the edges and she was figuring herself out. She didn’t really know who she was yet. I think Fallon is extremely refined. She has a very strong sense of self. She comes from money. She is very classy. She doesn't want to be a rock star. She wants to be a CEO,” Gillies differentiates, but she sees some similarities in them. “They're both extraordinarily strong women in completely different ways. I do gravitate towards strong characters, and I think that's probably their greatest similarity,” she says, but their fashion sense is diametrically opposite: “No more crop tops and lace bras. Now it's Gucci and Louboutins.”

Blake and Crystal

The big-shouldered, over the top Nolan Miller designs from the original “Dynasty” are history, but fashion will remain a major part of the show. Meredith Markworth-Pollack (Reign) is in charge. “She’s great at being in touch with new trends and doing the kind of styling so that audiences watching are going to know who is wearing what and where did it come from,” says Josh Schwartz. “At the same time, we have some really fun theme parties coming up and things that are a little bit more dramatic and costume-y, and she also loves those moments too.” Adds Nathalie Kelley, “The clothes definitely are almost characters in themselves.”

A crave-worthy wardrobe, shocking plot twists, cliffhangers, and epic catfights have always been the hallmark of Dynasty, but the characters and their relationships come first. When Schwartz and Savage sat down with original Dynasty creators Esther and Richard Shapiro--who retain executive producer titles on this version—to discuss rebooting the show, “They talked a lot about family and the idea that whatever villainous things the characters in this show do, they never stop loving each other,” Savage relates.

“That idea of family and Carrington Manor specifically as a place you can always come home to is the central thing that held the show together for all of those years,” she continues. ”We took that core concept and then talked about how to place that idea in the historical context of our day, conversations people are having about politics, culture, climate change. There's so much going on, and we felt like the show could really be a part of those conversations, and drive them.”

Fallon and Crystal

From there, it was “about balancing those great cliffhangers and plot twists with making sure that the characters are all rich and detailed and have those moments to really connect with each other and tell this family story,” adds Schwartz. Additional characters—familiar and not---will appear “all in good time,” he says, assuring that Alexis will emerge “sometime this season.”

And, according to Elizabeth Gillies, you may see (and hear) Fallon do something she never did in the original Dynasty: sing. She’s known to lead her fellow cast members in song on the set, where there’s a conveniently placed grand piano. “We have a couple of really musical people in our cast. Everybody is talented,” she says. “I don't want to speak out of turn, but hopefully, one day, you will see these musical talents in an episode.”

Dynasty premieres Oct. 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. / Issue 196 - September 2018
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