Dynasty! Legends!

  • by David R. Guarino
  • Wednesday May 23, 2007
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Linda Evans' portrayal of the rags-to-riches Krystle Carrington on ABC's top-rated 80s prime-time soap Dynasty made her a household name. She has starred with John Forsythe, the late Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Chamberlain, and Kenny Rogers, and has a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has won a Golden Globe Award and five People's Choice Awards, and was nominated for an Emmy for Dynasty .

But those who know Evans well will tell you that to understand the woman is to go back to her roots as a painfully shy, youthful beauty who valued love, security and continuity more than anything else.

Born Linda Evanstad in Hartford, Connecticut, she soon moved to Los Angeles, where she landed her first acting job by accident; she attended an audition with a friend, and wound up being offered a job herself. No stranger to the demands of the entertainment business, as both of her parents were dancers, Linda soon found herself making her first TV appearance opposite a man she would reunite with nearly 20 years later, John Forsythe on Bachelor Father.

Under contract to MGM studios, Evans would appear in a number of moderately successful films, including Twilight of Honor (1964) with the red-hot Richard Chamberlain, Those Callaways, Avalanche Express, and Beach Blanket Bingo (65), starring teen idols Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. But Linda's failed audition for a role in the film The Glory Guys had a unexpected advantage: the producers who rejected her were interested in casting her in the 60s Western series The Big Valley, as Audra Barkley, TV daughter to the legendary Barbara Stanwyck. From 1965-69, Evans delivered a fine performance in a role that offered her a much higher profile.

But nothing compared with the opportunity that was to come Evans' way in 1980 when producer Aaron Spelling beckoned with a role that would change her life. Dynasty chronicled the lives, loves, riches and vices of the Carringtons of Denver, a family rich in material wealth and dysfunctional relationships. At the helm was patriarch Blake Carrington (Forsythe), a ruthless oil magnate who had as many enemies as friends; his former secretary, the sultry but kindly younger wife Krystle (Evans); his gay son Steven (Al Corley, later Jack Coleman); daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin, later Emma Samms); and son-in-law Jeff Colby (John James). Dynasty also served as a launching pad for stars like Heather Locklear, Pamela Bellwood, Gordon Thomson, Michael Nader and Catherine Oxenberg. Alexis Carrington Colby, Blake's ex-wife and Krystle's nemesis, was played to the hilt by the British-born actress Joan Collins, in a career-defining role.

Evans left the show a year before its demise. She is a follower of Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, has immersed herself in Eastern philosophies and traditions, and has much of her life since Hollywood living in the Pacific Northwest. Today she owns a number of fitness centers sporting her name, and spends time as an activist for various causes, including saving the environment.

Evans and Collins recently reunited for a national tour of James Kirkwood's play Legends!, which had the two "rival" actresses in conflict yet again.

David Guarino: In tracing your career, Linda, it doesn't seem that you did a lot of theater in the past.

Linda Evans: I never did theater! Even in junior high, I was so shy that the principal made me take drama to overcome my shyness, because I wouldn't get up in my English class to give a book report!

So how in the world have you come 360 degrees around to headline a touring play?

Well, Nolan Miller called me on the phone one day and said, "Linda, I know you don't do plays, but a very good friend of mine, John Boab, is directing this play, and Joan [Collins] is going to be in it. It's perfect for the two of you. Would you please read it?" Had it gone through my agent, he would have just said, "No!" like we always do. Since I've loved Nolan since the beginning of time, I said, "Of course, Nolan, I will read it for you." I fully intended to read it and say, "No, thank you," but after reading it I called my agent and I said, "You know what, this is the most outrageous thing I've ever done in my life, but I'm 63, why not go for it?" The adjustment was astounding to me — there's so much more to do in theater than in filming, and I almost had a nervous breakdown the first time on stage, but the audiences were so receptive they really helped get me through that.

The idea of you and Joan Collins as rivals was brought back to life for the first time since your days on Dynasty. In truth, you are friends.

The audience has no problem thinking of us as rivals who loathe each other from the first second we both step on stage. So that's sweet for us, and fun. Also, when the audience believes, you don't have to work as hard. There's a history there that people can believe in.

Were you prepared for the unprecedented success of Dynasty?

You know, I read the script and loved it. I hoped that other people would enjoy it as much as I did, but in the third year of the run, it was just astounding how it took off and just flew!

Dynasty just sort of had a life of its own. The first year, we struggled opposite MASH, at the height of its success. So it was lucky that ABC stuck with us that first year. But the few people who did watch us really loved the show. Then as the third year came on, Dynasty sprouted wings and flew, and we all just kind of said, "Oh, my gosh! Hold on!"

Is John Forsythe different in real life from the character of Blake Carrington?

Oh, my God! John gave me my first speaking part when I was 15. He walked on to the set of Dynasty and said to me: "Linda Evanstad, how you've grown!" Well, he made it very easy for me to fall in love with him!

And we cannot forget the fashions of Nolan Miller on Dynasty. Such an element of fantasy.

Well, you know Nolan Miller did the clothes on The Big Valley. He worked with Stanwyck, Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Lana Turner, all the great ladies, he did all their clothes. When we got to Dynasty, he said, "Thank God, I can let your shoulders out."