Olivia Richards

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Olivia Richards
Olivia Richards.jpg
Sunset Beach character
Portrayed by Lesley-Anne Down
Duration 1997–99
First appearance January 6, 1997
Last appearance December 31, 1999
Created by Robert Guza, Jr.
Introduced by Gary Tomlin, Aaron Spelling and E. Duke Vincent
Classification Former; regular
Occupation Broadcasting Executive
Home Sunset Beach, California

Olivia Richards is a fictional character from the US NBC soap opera Sunset Beach, played by Lesley-Anne Down.

Character development[edit]

In November 1996, it was announced that Lesley-Anne Down had been cast into the role of Olivia. She was billed as a "troubled alcoholic" and the "trophy wife" of Gregory Richards (Sam Behrens).[1] The serial's creator and producer Aaron Spelling, originally named the character "Sheila", however Down looked through a list of potential names and requested that it be changed to Olivia.[1] Olivia was also billed as one of the serial's lead characters.[2]

Olivia was featured in a high-profile storyline in which an earthquake and tsunami occur in Sunset Beach. The storyline was created in a bid to gain ratings.[3] In the storyline Olivia becomes trapped underneath her mansion home. Down agreed to do some stunts herself and was placed in a makeshift set of rubble and timber. Down was required to wear safety matter to prevent actual harm to herself. Down said she complete confidence in the production. However, in one scene a stunt double was used to drop a chandelier onto Olivia in the wreckage. Down admitted she was glad that she did not have to perform the stunt.[3]


Olivia is introduced as the wife of Gregory and a mother of, Caitlin (Vanessa Dorman) and Sean Richards (Randy Spelling). She is revealed to be a recovered alcoholic and secret lover of Del Douglas (John Reilly). Olivia is enemies with his daughter Annie Douglas (Sarah Buxton). When Del is murdered, Olivia and Annie are both suspects, though Elaine Stevens (Leigh Taylor-Young) is the real murderer. Olivia is angry when she discovers Gregory's scheme to ruin Caitlin's relationship with jewel thief Cole Deschanel (Eddie Cibrian). Olivia has a flash back and realises that she has slept with Cole. Olivia soon discovers that Cole is the son of her former lover A.J. Deschanel (Gordon Thomson) and Elaine Stevens. Olivia becomes pregnant and is unsure whether Cole and Gregory is the father. Caitlin manages to prevent Olivia from having an abortion. Caitlin then discovers that she too is pregnant. Olivia and Gregory ruin Sean's relationship with Tiffany Thorne (Jennifer Banko-Stewart) so they can perfect their plan to get Caitlin away from Cole.

As Gregory is unaware of Olivia's pregnancy, he asks her to pretend she is pregnant and later fake a miscarriage. Gregory thinks that they will be able to guilt Caitlin into giving them their baby and ruining her relationship with Cole in the process. Meanwhile Annie is scheming to steal Gregory from Olivia, she tries to convince Olivia they are having an affair. Gregory changes his mind and says he will pay a doctor to tell Caitlin her baby is dead after labour. Caitlin finds out about the plot and fakes her own death in a car accident. Though Caitlin loses her baby, so she enlists Annie to help gain revenge. Annie lures Olivia into a country cabin and includes her labour, drugs her and steals her baby, giving it to Caitlin. Annie drugged Olivia to believe that she lost her baby through drinking excess alcohol.

"The mature slut/bitch. Olivia is 45 years old and, in response to a philandering but very rich husband, found her own substitute sex partners, one of whom was the future husband of her daughter. So now, the once pregnant Olivia has to ponder whether the child she produced came from her husband or her son-in-law. Of course, that child was stolen from her at birth by Annie and given to Olivia's daughter, to replace the fetus lost in a car accident. This means that Olivia is pretending to be the grandmother of her own child, sired by either her former husband or her current son-in-law! Are you keeping up?"[5]

The Journal of Sex Research on Olivia. (1999)

Annie manages to split Olivia and Gregory up and after her divorce comes through, Gregory marries Annie. Olivia tries to move on with her life, even though she suspects her baby may still be alive. Olivia meets up with her first lover, A.J. and they later reconcile their relationship. Olivia discovers the truth about Annie's scheme and realises that her daughter asked Annie to help her find a baby. Olivia's family falls apart when the truth about Caitlin and Annie's plan is made public. Further trouble ensues when Caitlin finds out about Olivia and Cole's affair. Olivia was then trapped in an earthquake and she tried grew attached to Trey.

Olivia continues her relationship with A.J. Gregory is presumed dead after falling into the ocean, and he comes back pretending to be Tobias Richards, a relative. Olivia, along with Annie, fight for Gregory's will, and she claims everything belonged to her son, Trey. Annie is keen on doing anything to get the money, so she asks Mrs. Moreau to give her a potion that will force Olivia to start drinking again. The family is disappointed to see Olivia drinking again, and most of her family disown her. Annie's scheme is revealed by Gregory, who confronts Mrs. Moreau. Gregory's final battle is meant to be his victory, but he ends up in prison, where Olivia is sad to see him end up. She loved him. Olivia's broken family return and she was happy to see everything normal again. She raised Trey, her daughter was happy with Cole, Gregory was behind bars. Olivia and A.J. decide to end their relationship and he starts a romance with her best friend Bette Katzenkazrahi (Kathleen Noone).


In 1997, for her portrayal of Olivia, Down won the award for "Best Actress" at the Soap Opera Update Awards.[6] Charlie Catchpole of the Daily Mirror said as the "beautiful rich but tragic" Olivia, Down was "out-Sue-Ellening Sue-Ellen" in terms of tragic events they both endure. He also opined that Olivia should not have worried so much about her flashbacks, because they looked unrealistic.[7] Justine Elias of The New York Times said Down and Buxton showed signs of "becoming a classic matchup of battling soap opera vixens" in the respective roles of Olivia and Annie.[8] Candace Havens of The Vindicator praised Sunset Beach for its casting of Down, Berhens and Noone and opined it was "one thing" producers got right.[9] While Julia Shih of The Michigan Daily opined that "credit should go to Lesley-Anne Down whose portrayal of a woman torn by her emotions is excellent".[10] John Millar of the Daily Record quipped that Olivia's car accident and subsequent situation in the tsunami were "nothing serious" and said it was another "regular week" in the serial.[11] Sharon Feinstein of the Daily Mirror said that Olivia was a "wealthy super bitch" and a nineties version of Alexis Colby (Joan Collins) from Dynasty.[12]


  1. ^ a b "Soap people series: Home and garden, Soap people". St. Petersburg Times. (Times Publishing Company). 9 November 1996. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  2. ^ "Wife to Jettison scandal plagued Dick Morris". The Philadelphia Inquirer. (Philadelphia Media Holdings). 6 January 1997. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Bidwell, Carol (10 August 1998). "Shake, rattle and swim; `Sunset Beach' earthquake, tsunami buffeting daytime". Los Angeles Daily News. (MediaNews Group). Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Lesley Anne, Down. "Mama Mia". Soaps in Depth. Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  5. ^ Woods, Mark G. (1 August 1999). "The Soaps: Their Sex, Gratifications, and Outcomes". The Journal of Sex Research. (Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality). Retrieved 10 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "Lesley-Anne Down, `Days' win top soap awards". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (Lee Enterprises). 9 September 1997. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  7. ^ Catchpole, Charlie (11 August 1998). "The Beaches of Cardboard County; Soap where they say it with bubbles". Daily Mirror. (Trinity Mirror). Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Elias, Justine (23 February 1997). "Establishing a Soap Is No Day at the Beach". The New York Times. (Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.). Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  9. ^ Havens, Candace (24 December 1999). "Soap talk". The Vindicator. (The Vindicator Printing Co.). Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Shih, Julia (20 March 1997). "'Sunset Beach' brings night drama to daytime TV". The Michigan Daily. (University of Michigan). Retrieved 10 October 2011. 
  11. ^ Millar, John (3 October 1998). "Television; Ioan found sea legs on Titanic". Daily Record. (Trinity Mirror). Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Feinstein, Sharon (25 July 1999). "Interview: Lesley-Anne Down - I'm such a cheapskate; I use washing up liquid on my hair". Daily Mirror. (Trinity Mirror). Retrieved 12 October 2011.