Dynasties evolve, and so does “Dynasty.” The popular 1980s primetime soap opera has been reinvented for the 21st century, and it may very well be the sexiest and most progressive-minded take yet on the classic serial genre.
The new “Dynasty” pushes the envelope from the beginning, when viewers see Carrington family heiress Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies) receiving oral pleasure from her chauffeur (Robert Christopher Riley). The show boasts a diverse cast, makes references to other real-life dynasties (including, yes, the Trump family) and features modern storylines like the business growth of renewable energy.
“‘Dynasty’ is such an appealing title in and of itself, not even knowing about the original series,” said executive producer Sallie Patrick. “It’s a word that evokes power and legacy and a certain level of epic-ness.”
As she prepared to develop an entirely new version, Patrick watched episodes from the old series and met with creators Richard and Esther Shapiro. Patrick said she discovered that the original “Dynasty” was surprisingly progressive for the 1980s. The primetime soap dealt with heavy topics like race, women in the workplace and gay acceptance.
“We’re trying to figure out how do we respect what that show was doing then and pushing it even farther in our version,” Patrick said.
“Dynasty” tells the story of billionaire Blake Carrington, who runs Carrington Atlantic, an Atlanta-based energy company. Carrington stirs things up in the series opener by revealing his affair with a staffer, Cristal Flores (Nathalie Kelley), which rubs his scheming daughter Fallon the wrong way. This being a soap, everyone has secrets, and by the end of the first hour there has already been back-stabbing, lies, a death, and — yes — a catfight.
Here are some touches the producers — including Patrick, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage — have added to make this “Dynasty” more diverse, sexy and sophisticated than the primetime soaps of yore:
• At its center, “Dynasty” is about two powerful women, Fallon and Cristal, battling for control of the Carrington empire. “It was important to me as a working woman to have two women fighting over the future of the dynasty,” Patrick said.
That included giving Cristal more dimensions: “She’s scrappy and she’s a hustler and she’s a fighter and a career woman, but it’s not so black and white,” Patrick added. Cristal has baggage, and her dark history will come back to haunt her as the season progresses.
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• The character of Steven Carrington (James Mackay), the son of family patriarch Blake, is an out gay man, but it’s not the source of his struggle with his father. “We were interested in the character as a role model of self-acceptance and pride, and whose conflict with his father wasn’t about being gay, but more about being liberal — and how they led to their falling out,” Patrick said.
Steven’s soul mate is a gay Latino man, Sam Josiah “Sammy Jo” Flores (a character reworked from the original series, when Sammy Jo was played by Heather Locklear). “It felt right to make him [Steven’s] soulmate,” Patrick said.
• Atlanta was chosen as a setting because Patrick said it was the perfect location to tell a story about “changing tides.” “It’s a blue city in a red state, it’s a super diverse population and a great mixture — where there’s conflict between old money and new money.”
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• That story is borne out in pitting the Carringtons vs. the Colbys, and African-American family that has recently found wealth. “The Colbys aren’t a dynasty yet, but since the show is not called ‘Dynasties,’ just ‘Dynasty,’ we thought that was really interesting that it’s about how this other family is going to become competition for the Carringtons,” Patrick said.
• “Dynasty” isn’t afraid to wade into political and social issues. Besides the fight over renewable energy, the show dives into class inequality and the friction that results.
“What is interesting to me about watching a show about the 1% is the world in which the 1% exists, meaning the flaws within the 99% that allow the 1% to exist,” Patrick said. “A lot of what we are leaning into and examining in the first 13 episodes are the gender divides and the class divides and the racial divides, which is another reason why Atlanta was interesting to me as we’re able to tell these stories with the Colbys vs. the Carringtons.”
“Dynasty” premieres on October 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.