Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington (1981)
|Portrayed by||Joan Collins (1981–1989, 1991)
Nicollette Sheridan (2018–)
|Duration||1981–1989, 1991, 2018–|
|Created by||Richard and Esther Shapiro|
Socialite and painter
Nicollette Sheridan as Alexis Carrington (2018)
Alexis Carrington Colby (maiden name Morell; formerly Dexter and Rowan) is a fictional character on the American TV series Dynasty. She is the ex-wife of Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) whose schemes cause one problem after another for him and their children.
The role was originated by Joan Collins in the first episode of the show's second season in 1981, though the character appeared briefly in the first season finale, non-speaking and face unseen. Collins remained on the show until the finale in 1989, and then returned as Alexis for the 1991 miniseries Dynasty: The Reunion. The character appeared later in the first season of the 2017 Dynasty reboot series, portrayed by Nicollette Sheridan.
Alexis' schemes to destroy ex-husband Blake, undermine his marriage to Krystle (Linda Evans), and control her children drive much of the action over the series' run. Passionate yet vengeful, Alexis loves her children fiercely and will do anything to protect them, but she often ignores their own needs and desires in place of what she thinks is best. Alexis marries three additional times, to Cecil Colby, Dex Dexter, and Sean Rowan. She is widowed twice, first by Cecil and then by fourth husband Sean, prompting Alexis' cousin Sable to remark that with Alexis "death is always a simpler solution than divorce." Her third marriage (to Dex) ends in divorce after Alexis catches him in bed with her adult daughter Amanda. The name Alexis uses the most consistently over the course of the series is Alexis Colby, though her marriage to Cecil Colby is her shortest. Alexis is romantically linked to a number of men over the years, including oilman Rashid Ahmed, tennis pro (and Krystle's first husband) Mark Jennings, King Galen of Moldavia, shipping tycoon Zach Powers, Congressman Neal McVane, Blake's brother Ben Carrington, Dirk and Gavin Maurier, Cecil's brother Jason Colby, and even a near-reconciliation with an amnesiac Blake.
TV Guide named Alexis #7 in their 2013 list of "The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time", and in 2016 Rolling Stone ranked her #27 of their "40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time". In 2015, executive producer Lee Daniels noted that Taraji P. Henson's character Cookie Lyon in his TV series Empire was partially based on Alexis.
- 1 Original series
- 2 Reboot
- 3 See also
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
In the first season finale episode, "The Testimony", Blake Carrington is on trial for murder, and a female mystery witness in a large hat and veil appears. Writers Eileen and Robert Mason Pollock, brought in for season two, were told by the Shapiros that the character would be Blake's ex-wife Madeline, who would be played by Sophia Loren for four to six episodes. The Pollocks renamed her Alexis, told executive producer Aaron Spelling that Loren was not right for the part, and warned him that "If you get rid of this character in four episodes, you are throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars."
Series co-creator Esther Shapiro later said that the character of Alexis was based on the Roman empress Livia, as characterized in the 1934 novel I, Claudius. She said in 1985 that she and costume designer Nolan Miller "had the same vision" for Alexis: Joan Crawford.
In fact, Nolan had designed for Crawford, and he told me that she had a photo index of every outfit she owned. 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.
Though Maggie Wickman appeared briefly at the end of the first season finale as the veiled surprise witness, the role of Alexis was originated by Joan Collins in the first episode of the show's second season in 1981. Collins was an English actress with a prolific film and television career, and at 48 was best known for co-starring with Bette Davis in The Virgin Queen (1955), and for B movies like Land of the Pharaohs (1955), The Stud (1978), and The Bitch (1979).
The addition of Alexis, as well as the Pollocks' change in the writing, were credited with lifting Dynasty in the ratings, and the character "quickly set off a host of female imitators in other prime-time soaps." Producer E. Duke Vincent said of Collins in 2005, "Joan Collins is the queen of the archetype … How do you get that? You get it in the storytelling, obviously, but the actress herself, her personality, brought something to that role which I don't think anybody else could have done." Spelling added, "We didn't write Joan Collins. She played Joan Collins … We wrote a character, but the character could have been played by 50 people and 49 of them would have failed. She made it work." Collins said in 2012 that Larry Hagman's performance as J.R. Ewing on Dallas had inspired her to play Alexis.
Alexis' annual catfights with Linda Evans' Krystle became eagerly anticipated, and Alexis would later have similar brawls with Dominique Deveraux (Diahann Carroll) and Sable Colby (Stephanie Beacham). As the sixth season began, Collins was in a tense contract renegotiation with the show, seeking an increased salary. The first episode of the new season, which followed the "Moldavian Massacre" cliffhanger, was rewritten without Alexis. Collins reportedly signed a $60,000 per episode contract, and returned for the season's second episode.
Dynasty declined in ratings in later seasons. Brought on for season nine, executive producer David Paulsen found that there was no money left in the budget for any shoots outside of the studio, which he felt were important for the show. He hoped to reduce costs for the season by, among other things, cutting Collins from 22 episodes to 11 (she ultimately appeared in 13). At that time, she reportedly earned at least $100,000 per episode. Paulsen also brought in Beacham as her The Colbys character Sable to play opposite Collins. The ninth season finale ended with several characters in peril, including Alexis and Dex plunging from a balcony, which Paulsen said "meant that the following year we could get rid of anybody we wished." Paulsen said, "I think Joan Collins was angry because she kind of saw what I was doing." Collins was subsequently quoted at the Cannes Film Festival saying that she would not return the next season. However, in May 1989, new ABC entertainment president Robert A. Iger cancelled Dynasty, leaving the cliffhanger last episode of season nine as the series finale. The majority of the cast (including Collins) reunited for the two-part, four-hour miniseries Dynasty: The Reunion in 1991.
In Dynasty's first season finale episode, "The Testimony", Blake Carrington is on trial for killing his son Steven's male lover, Ted Dinard. A veiled surprise witness for the prosecution appears, and Blake angrily asks his lawyer: "What's she doing here?" Blake's daughter Fallon gasps in recognition, "Oh my God, that's my mother."
As the second season opens with the episode "Enter Alexis", the character has not only a face but a name: Alexis Morell Carrington. She had been exiled from Denver by Blake after an affair with Carrington estate manager Roger Grimes; her testimony, that Blake has a violent temper, proves damaging to his case. At odds with his father, Steven is drawn to the mother he hardly remembers; Fallon, however, is devoted to Blake and has long held a grudge against Alexis, a grudge further fueled by her testimony. Fallon says to her mother:
You're even more beautiful and more ugly than that grand English lady I vaguely remember, and whom I've tried very hard to forget existed these past sixteen years.— Fallon Carrington Colby, "Enter Alexis"
Alexis soon sparks the ire of Blake's wife Krystle, and brazenly moves into a cottage on the Carrington estate: her former art studio which she still owns, thanks to a technicality. The household staff remembers the first Mrs. Carrington all too well—especially longtime Carrington majordomo Joseph Anders. Staunchly loyal to Blake, Joseph has a particular dislike for Alexis and has followed her scandalous adventures for years through the tabloids. Fallon, although not openly hostile, keeps an icy distance from Alexis and the two trade subtle barbs; Steven is seduced by his mother's apparent devotion to him, but soon gets a taste of her poison. According to Alexis, Fallon is not Blake's daughter at all: her father is really Blake's longtime friend and business rival, Cecil Colby. The secret eats at Steven, and Fallon eventually finds out. Ultimately, it is proven untrue. Alexis' consistent meddling and intrusions help improve Krystle's relationship with Fallon, Joseph, and the rest of the household staff, and they soon accept her unconditionally as Blake's wife. Alexis makes an enemy in Krystle when she purposefully fires a shotgun to make Krystle's horse throw her; the pregnant Krystle miscarries and is told she will probably be unable to have more. Alexis becomes romantically involved with Cecil, now Blake's adversary, but Cecil has a heart attack while in bed with her.
In 1982, Alexis and Cecil marry on his deathbed (episode 40), Cecil exacting a promise from Alexis that she will use his company ColbyCo to ruin Blake. Two episodes previously, after their infant grandson L.B. Colby (son of Fallon and Jeff Colby) is kidnapped, former spouses Blake and Alexis make a televised plea that he be returned. Alexis confesses a dark secret from their past: their firstborn son, Adam, had been kidnapped as a baby and had never been returned. Traumatized by the event, they had hidden his existence from their subsequent children, Fallon and Steven. Meanwhile, in Billings, Montana, an old woman named Kate Torrance tearfully tells her grandson Michael that he is really the Carrington heir. Armed with items from Adam Carrington's baby carriage, lawyer "Michael" comes to Denver and is eventually accepted as a Carrington; but like Alexis, his selfishness, greed and ambition put him at odds with all of his relatives at one time or another.
In episode 42, Alexis offers Adam a job at ColbyCo. When she also recruits Fallon's husband Jeff, Adam is jealous. Revealing his devious nature, Adam has Jeff's office painted with toxic paint. Gradually, Jeff's behavior becomes increasingly erratic. In episode 51, Alexis sends Jeff away on a vacation. Realizing that Jeff will "recover" when he's not breathing toxic fumes every day, Adam confesses to Alexis, who orders Adam to have the paint removed from Jeff's office. Adam warns his mother that if she betrays him, he will implicate her in the scheme, since Alexis used Jeff's poor health to trick him into signing over his son's shares in Denver-Carrington to her.
In episode 66, Alexis learns that Fallon is investigating Jeff's mysterious illness and warns Adam that if Fallon learns the truth that he's on his own. In return, Adam tricks Alexis into signing documents that make it look like she ordered the office to be painted. Alexis travels to Montana to investigate her son's background and learns from Dr. Edwards that Adam had experimented with drugs as a teen and suffered a psychotic breakdown. She becomes more sympathetic to Adam at this point, feeling guilty that they gave up the search for their lost son so many years ago, condemning him to such a tragic life. As she doesn't want his past drug addiction to be widely known, Alexis is resigned to suffer the consequences of his actions. Therefore, she gave up her control of Denver-Carrington.
Later, in 1983, she becomes romantically involved with Farnsworth "Dex" Dexter, the son of a Denver-Carrington board member Sam Dexter, an old friend of Blake Carrington's. Dex has been sent by his father to understand why ColbyCo. abruptly abandoned its plans to acquire Denver-Carrington. In episode 69, Dex confronts Blake and his ex-wife Alexis Colby. Dex and Alexis are immediately drawn to each other. Dex gets the best of Alexis in a business deal (he discovers information in her office and acts on it before she can) and offers her a 60-40 split so they can work together. Although Alexis resists, by episode 72 they become lovers.
Their relationship is tempestuous and passionate. In episodes 82 and 83, Dex learns that Alexis has slept with Rashid Ahmed in order to sabotage a deal he has with Blake. A furious Dex confronts Alexis. She slaps him - and much to her shock, he slaps her back. Their fight soon turns to lovemaking. However, Alexis continues to demand independence from Dex and he turns to Denver-Carrington PR Director Tracy Kendall for solace in a one-night stand. Tracy tells Alexis about their affair, and Alexis ends their relationship.[clarification needed]
After Alexis was arrested for the murder of Mark Jennings in episode 88, Dex rallies to her defense and bails her out of jail. Once she is found guilty because Steven testified against her, Dex and Adam desperately try to clear her name. They eventually uncover evidence that Neal McVane is the killer, trying to frame Alexis for ruining him. Alexis is freed.
Soon after, in 1984, a young woman named Amanda Bedford appears on Alexis' doorstep; she is Alexis' daughter,[note 1] and as news of her spreads, Blake takes a special interest. He soon learns that Alexis was pregnant when he banished her decades before. Though Alexis insists that Amanda's father is a ski instructor with whom she was involved, it is eventually revealed that she is indeed Blake's daughter.
Unaware of the brief affair Amanda had with Dex when they found themselves snowed in together in a remote cabin, Alexis proposes Dex to marry her and, as he regrets his actions, he accepts the proposal. Later, Alexis becomes suspicious and tries to keeps Amanda out from Dex by marrying her to Prince Michael of Moldavia, son of King Galen that she had known years ago. But during the wedding celebration which takes place in the 15 May 1985 season finale "Royal Wedding", terrorists interrupt the ceremony in an attempt to kill Galen and spray the chapel with gunfire, leaving the entire wedding party seemingly dead or dying on the floor.
Alexis survives the wedding massacre, as do most of the wedding guests, but she is kept as prisoner as the rebels want to sign a deal with ColbyCo. Eventually she is released when Blake pays ransom for her (and for Krystle who was also imprisoned). The King is missing and presumed dead, however, Alexis learns that he is being held for ransom. Dex agrees to help her rescue the King. They sneak into Moldavia where they are captured. In episode 125, Dex escapes and rescues Alexis and Galen. Upon returning to Denver, Dex refuses to let a paralyzed Galen recuperate in their home. Dex suspects (correctly) that Galen is feigning his paralysis and tries to force him to walk. When Alexis rushes to his defense, Dex is driven closer to Amanda. When Dex catches Alexis imagining herself as Queen of Moldavia (complete with crown) in episode 135, he is heartbroken. Amanda finds a drunken Dex and they make love again - only to be caught in the act by Alexis in episode 136. Alexis immediately flies to St Thomas for a quick divorce.
In the meantime, Alexis' younger sister Cassandra Morell is released from a Caracas, Venezuela prison, having been incarcerated years before after an incident involving Alexis and her then-paramour, Zach Powers. Calling herself Caress, the younger Morell comes to Denver and hopes to make a fortune by writing a scathing tell-all book about Alexis and exposing her sister's darkest secrets. Alexis finds out about the book, secretly buys the publishing company and scuttles the project.
In 1986, Alexis turns on Blake as she wants him again in her life (episode 137). When he refuses to have an affair with her, she decides to destroy him for good. She flies to Australia and encourages Blake's brother Ben to come back in Denver and claim his share of his late father's estate. Alexis commits perjury on the stand and helps Ben to win over Blake during the trial (episodes 141 & 142). Wanting revenge, Blake mortgages his house and holdings on the hope that he will gain control over ColbyCo. Thanks to Ben and Alexis, he loses both the house and the holdings and also his lucrative South China Sea oil leases. In the cliffhanger season finale, Alexis informs Blake she has bought his house. Furious, he grabs her by the throat and starts to strangle her.
Alexis is saved when Krystle pulls Blake off of her. Weeks after, Blake finds a way to force Alexis and Ben to relinquish their ownership of Denver-Carrington and all its holdings back to him. Later on, Blake, Alexis, and Ben are in southeast Asia visiting an oil rig when it catches on fire. Ben rescues a trapped Blake moments before the rig explodes. Blake awakens in the hospital with no memories of the last 25 years. Alexis has him discharged from the hospital and convinces him that they're still married. However, when Krystle finds them, Blake's memories return.
A handsome stranger saves Alexis from drowning in a river in 1987; dashing Sean Rowan soon sweeps her off her feet and they marry. Sean soon insinuates himself into her business, alienating Alexis' son Adam. It is revealed that Sean is actually the son of former Carrington majordomo Joseph Anders, and is bent on avenging his father (who committed suicide) and sister, Kirby (who had been ill-treated by Alexis). Sean has an affair with Leslie Carrington and schemes to destroy the family, but is ultimately killed by Dex after trying to kill Alexis.
A body is found at the bottom of a lake on the Carrington property in 1988. The dead body turns out to be Roger Grimes, the man with whom Alexis was sleeping when she and Blake divorced. He had been dead for 20 years but the cold temperatures in the lake preserved his body. Ultimately, it is revealed that 8-year-old Fallon had shot Grimes after finding him beating Alexis, and Blake's late father had hidden the body in a mine under the lake to protect Fallon.
The situation is complicated by the fact that the mine is full of stolen Nazi treasure, hidden there by Blake's late father. Roger's body had been disturbed from its hiding place by a man looking for the treasure. The man happens to have been hired by Alexis' cousin, Sable Colby who was looking for some embarrassing informations on her ex-husband Jason. But Sable has not come to Denver for having a revenge on Jason only but also on Alexis, who has betrayed her at several times in the past. Most of the season's action revolves around the battle between Alexis and Sable.
In episode 220, the final episode of the series, at the Carlton Hotel Dex confronts Sable and Alexis for using him and throwing him aside. He mentions that Sable is pregnant, much to her chagrin. Alexis and Adam taunt Dex with the news, causing Dex to push Adam to the floor in frustration. When Dex turns his back, Adam rushes him. Dex falls backward into Alexis, sending them both crashing through a railing and falling off a second-story balcony while Adam, Sable, and Monica (Sable's daughter) watch in horror.
Two years after her fall at the Carlton, in 1991, Alexis (who managed to turn in mid-air and land on top of Dex, who "didn't fare that well") meets Jeremy Van Dorn, head of Trans-Media Relations, who convinces her she needs to diversify her business. However, Jeremy is actually working for an international consortium who has its eye on ColbyCo. When Alexis learns the truth and wants to put an end to their partnership, Jeremy tries to kill her but she gets saved at the last minute by Steven.
The additions of Collins as Alexis and the "formidable writing team" of Eileen and Robert Mason Pollock are generally credited with Dynasty's rise in the Nielsen ratings in its second season, the start of the series' rise to #1.
In 2002, TV Guide ranked Alexis number 40 on its list of the 50 Greatest Television Characters of All Time. The magazine named her #7 in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time, and in 2016 Rolling Stone ranked her #27 of their 40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time.
In 2015, executive producer Lee Daniels noted that Taraji P. Henson's character Cookie Lyon in his TV series Empire was partially based on Alexis. Praising Cookie and Henson, several journalists have compared Cookie to Alexis.
Awards and nominations
Collins was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Drama Series every year from 1981 to 1986, winning in 1983. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1984. In 1985, Collins shared a People's Choice Award for Favorite Female TV Performer with her co-star, Linda Evans. She won a Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Villainess in 1984, and again in 1985.
A Dynasty reboot premiered on The CW on October 11, 2017. Executive producer Sallie Patrick said in August 2017 that Alexis would be introduced during the first season, but that the role had yet to be cast. She later said, "We knew Alexis was coming before we even started shooting the pilot, which allowed us to pave the way for her ... throughout the season, we hear Blake, Steven, and Fallon's memories about the woman who abandoned their family. So by the time she actually enters the series, we've established expectations about her character—which Alexis will happily break." The character has a cameo in the pilot episode, seen briefly in a flashback sequence. Patrick said in September 2017:
There are certainly Easter eggs along the way until her grand entrance. What we like is that we know when she's coming. I'm not sure they knew their timing of her [on the original Dynasty], so she was really absent from the first year. When she did show up, it was a huge twist and a great surprise. Since we live in a world that already knows about Alexis and knows about Joan Collins, we thought it'd be fun to build up that wonderful, delicious character before her grand entrance. We can only bring her in once, so we're taking our time to figure it out.
The role was cast with Nicollette Sheridan in November 2017. Sheridan, known for portraying Paige Matheson on Knots Landing and Edie Britt on Desperate Housewives, had been absent from series television since her character was killed off Desperate Housewives in 2009. The CW president Mark Pedowitz, who had been president of ABC Studios during Sheridan's run on Desperate Housewives, called her about the role himself. He said, "I was big fan of Nicollette from way back when. She wanted it, and she will be great in it." Sheridan said of the Dynasty role, "I thought [Dynasty] was such a splashy, fun, strong comeback. It was just the right thing at the right time." Sheridan admitted, "I have always been attracted to playing the naughty girl. And for some reason, my audience loves seeing me in that role. It's challenging to make that person likable, and I get to do it again [with Alexis]." Sheridan's casting was a key factor in the decision to give Dynasty a back nine order of episodes after the initial 13. Pedowitz said in January 2018, "I'm disappointed in the ratings, I wanted it to do more, but I'm happy with the production values that Josh, Steph and Sallie are doing. There are changes coming, I'm thrilled to have Nicollette [Sheridan] ... I'm looking forward to Nicollette and Liz [Gillies] really going at it as a mother-daughter situation, and I think that will add some juice to the show."
A press release announced that the character "will return unexpectedly ... challenging Blake's marriage to Cristal, seeking to reunite with her children, and fighting to claim what is hers." Alexis first appeared in episode 16, "Poor Little Rich Girl", on March 23, 2018. Patrick said:
We've found our own way to pay tribute to Alexis' OG entrance and that fabulous outfit. Just as in the original series, Alexis will shake up familiar dynamics and threatens relationships—Blake and Cristal, Blake and Fallon, even Fallon and Steven. And while she says she's back for her children, with Alexis you always have to wonder if what she says is true.
Sheridan said that Alexis "truly is a loving mother", though "sometimes she gets a little lost in her quest for power or manipulation." Of Fallon she noted, "Fallon Carrington is fierce, and upon mama's return, she has met her match tenfold. Alexis has the experience and the wisdom that comes with age. So as brilliant as her daughter is, she's in trouble now. [The writers] are really exploring the mother-daughter relationship, which to me is the most complicated relationship on the planet, so I love that." Patrick said, "It's been a blast writing for Alexis, who in our version is part Mildred Pierce (willing to do anything to help her daughter), part Blue Jasmine (delusional on the verge of a nervous breakdown), and Nicollette is perfect for the role. When she goes toe-to-toe with Fallon, it's electric."
In "Poor Little Rich Girl", Blake is eulogizing his father Thomas Carrington when a woman appears whom Fallon recognizes as her mother, Alexis. In "Enter Alexis", the Carringtons are shocked to discover that Thomas has left the mansion and the grounds to Alexis. Blake vows to overturn the codicil to Thomas' will as Fallon makes overtures to connect with her mother. Accused of abandoning her children, Alexis tells Fallon that Blake bribed a judge to seize custody and exile her, which Cristal confirms. Fallon soon discovers, however, that Alexis has not been living a life of luxury abroad, but is housed in a trailer nearby, and has stayed in touch with Steven. A furious Fallon confronts Alexis, and their catfight takes them into the pool. Through a bribe, Fallon ensures that the codicil is invalidated, but Alexis reveals that she does legally own Michael's stable house—her former art studio—and moves in. Her renewed influence over the household staff sets off Blake, who issues an ultimatum to them. Believing Steven's new fiancé Sam Jones to be a poor match for her son, Alexis tries to frame Sam for shoplifting in "Don't Con a Con Artist". Fallon thwarts the plan, and Sam assists her in a plot to expose Alexis' machinations to Steven. Fallon manipulates Alexis into confessing, but Steven is more mad at Fallon for endangering Sam. A tearful Alexis admits to Steven that she spent all of her money trying to find her and Blake's kidnapped first child, Adam.
- Amanda's arrival is foreshadowed in the season 4 episode "Birthday" when Alexis mentions that she has been through four pregnancies. Krystle notes the discrepancy (at this time, Alexis is known to have just three children, Adam, Fallon and Steven), but Alexis explains that one resulted in a miscarriage. Amanda appears 11 episodes later in "Amanda."
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