Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington (1981)
|Portrayed by||Joan Collins|
|First appearance||Episode 15
"The Testimony" (non-speaking, face unseen)
|Last appearance||Episode 220
|Created by||Richard and Esther Shapiro|
|Dynasty: The Reunion (1991)|
The role was originated by Joan Collins in the first episode of the show's second season in 1981 (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.
Alexis' schemes to destroy ex-husband Blake, undermine his marriage to angelic Krystle, 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. Often seen smoking her trademark Nat Sherman cigarillos, Alexis rises and falls again and again, continually stirring up trouble for all around her.
During the series Alexis is married three additional times, to Cecil Colby, Dex Dexter, and Sean Rowan. Alexis 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 her #7 in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest 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.
Behind the scenes
Candidates for the plum role of Blake Carrington's ex-wife, initially named Madeleine, included film legend Sophia Loren. Series co-creator Esther Shapiro later claimed that the character of Alexis was based on the Roman empress Livia, as characterized in the 1934 novel I, Claudius. A change in the writing and the addition of Alexis 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." Executive Producer Aaron 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."
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).
Alexis was conspicuously absent from the Season Six opener which followed the infamous Moldavian Massacre cliffhanger; Collins was in a tense contract renegotiation with the show, seeking an increased salary. As a result, the first episode of the season had to be rewritten to explain her absence. Collins' demands were met (she reportedly signed a $60,000 per episode contract) and she returned to the series in the season's second episode.
As Dynasty declined in ratings in later seasons, Collins was contracted for only 13 of the 22 episodes in the series' ninth season as a money-saving move—by this time, Collins was reportedly earning $120,000 an episode. She later announced that she would not return for a tenth season, but the series was cancelled at the end of the ninth season due to low ratings. The majority of the cast (including Collins) reunited for the two-part, four-hour miniseries Dynasty: The Reunion in 1991.
Alexis Morrell was born in either May or June (she's a Gemini) of 1937 in London, but was schooled in Switzerland. She was the daughter of a Royal Warrant holder as British tailor to King George VI. She has a younger sister, Cassandra. She was first a painter and attended the Royal Academy of Arts, but dropped out after nearly a year and worked as an artist's model in Brussels.
In 1955, Alexis met Blake Carrington when she was 17 and, three days later, Blake proposed to Alexis. Within a month they were married. Alexis gave birth to their first child, Adam Alexander Carrington, but on the morning of September 29, 1957, baby Adam was kidnapped. When Alexis reached out to Blake for support, she was met with coldness. He threw himself into building his company, Denver-Carrington. However, in the back of her mind, Alexis was upset with Blake for calling off the search for Adam and he was now trying to replace their first son with Steven Daniel Carrington. Blake continued his focus on building his Denver-Carrington empire, and, feeling neglected, she reached out and started an affair with Cecil Colby. Eventually, she became pregnant again and did not know the paternity of the child. She later gave birth to a daughter, Fallon, who would turn out to be Blake's. Alexis became jealous of the attention that Blake showered on their daughter. Following Fallon, Blake and Alexis had their third child, Steven.
During the final years of their marriage, Blake went on several business trips often leaving Alexis alone for weeks on end. She started an affair with Roger Grimes, the estate manager of the Carrington Estate, who encouraged Alexis to pursue her dream as a painter and built her an artist's studio on the grounds. One particular afternoon, Blake found the two in bed. In 1965, he divorced Alexis and exiled her from Denver for years, paying her a lavish settlement on the condition that she never contact him or their children again.
During her exile from Denver, Alexis led a jestset lifestyle, travelling to exotic places such as Capri, Portofino and Cannes. She was romantically linked to several men, including Jason Colby, Zachary Powers, and Rashid Ahmed.
She was living in Acapulco until she was called to testify against her ex-husband in court in 1981.
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 socialite Alexis and has followed her scandalous adventures for years through the tabloids. Fallon, though 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; a pregnant Krystle loses her baby, 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 before, 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. Alexis 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. Alexis is somewhat 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.
After Alexis was arrested for the murder of Mark Jennings in episode 88, Dex rallies to her defense and bails her out of jail. After she is found guilty, Dex and Adam desperately try to clear her name. They eventually uncover evidence that Neal McVane was the killer and Alexis is freed.
Soon after, in 1984, a young woman named Amanda Bedford appears on Alexis' doorstep; she is Alexis' daughter, 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's interference, he loses both the house and the holdings and also his lucrative South China Sea oil leases. In the 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 and sister, Kirby, who had been ill-treated by Alexis and the Carringtons. Sean has an affair with Leslie Carrington and schemes to destroy the family, but is ultimately killed by Dex after he attempts to murder 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 Roger 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's 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 the 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 on their partneship, 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 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.
Notes and references
- Dynasty: The Authorized Biography of the Carringtons. Doubleday/Dolphin. 1984. p. 28. ISBN 0-385-19525-7.
- Schemering, Christopher (September 1985). The Soap Opera Encyclopedia (1st ed.). Ballantine Books. pp. 80–84. ISBN 0-345-32459-5.
- Maggie Wickman appeared at the end of "The Testimony" as the veiled surprise witness who would later be identified as Alexis.
- Bretts, Bruce; Roush, Matt; (March 25, 2013). "Baddies to the Bone: The 60 nastiest villains of all time". TV Guide. pp. 14 - 15.
- Piester, Lauren (January 7, 2015). "How Lee Daniels' Real-Life Experiences Helped Create Empire". E! Online. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- Hack, Richard. "Portraying of Characters: Casting (Excerpt of Aaron Spelling/Douglas S. Cramer interview)". The Hollywood Reporter. UltimateDynasty.net. Retrieved February 25, 2009.
- Sturges, Fiona (January 24, 2011). "The good, the bad and the wildly bitchy". The Independent. Independent.co.uk. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
- Idato, Michael (September 19, 2005). "The Great Escape". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 30 January 2009. Retrieved February 25, 2009.
- "Behind Dynasty 's breakdown ... and recovery". TV Guide. UltimateDynasty.net. May 17, 1986. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
- Amanda's arrival is foreshadowed in the Season Four 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."
- Schemering, Christopher (September 1985). The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. pp. 80–81. ISBN 0-345-32459-5.
- TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 191. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
- Logan, Michael (December 31, 2014). "Lee Daniels Builds a Soapy New Hip-Hop Empire for Fox". TV Guide. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 3, 2015.
- Giddens, Jamey (January 8, 2015). "Almost 10 Million Tune in For Premiere of Fox’s New Super Soap Empire". Daytime Confidential. Zap2it. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
- Madison, Ira, III (January 8, 2015). "All 38 Of Cookie’s Fierce Looks In Empire". BuzzFeed. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
- Hiltbrand, David (January 6, 2015). "TV's Empire arrives with much promise". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Interstate General Media. Archived from the original on February 19, 2015. Retrieved February 19, 2015.