By Tim Parks
If you mention the name Linda Evans, the mind immediately focuses on the nine years the actress spent on “Dynasty,” the show that epitomized 1980’s opulence and glamour. As Krystle Carrington, Evans not only made shoulder pads a must have fashion accessory, but she kept viewers tuning in to see her legendary sparring matches with co-star, Joan Collins.
Well, get ready for the fur to fly again as Evans and Collins are set to hit the stage in Legends at The San Diego Civic Center, January 9th through the 14th, with the bitchy barbs and trademarked catfights fans have come to expect from the duo intact some twenty years later.
“We do this with each other, very effortlessly for some reason.” Evans said in regards to re-teaming with her onscreen nemesis, Joan Collins. “We just know how to play these parts with each other; it was just something that was very easy to walk into.”
I spoke with Evans about the show that launched her into the primetime stratosphere, the trials of performing live and what life is like for the actress today, and she was every bit as gracious as her television counterpart.
Evans got her start as an actress in the 1960’s; her first acting role was on the John Forsyth TV show, “Bachelor Father,” as a teen-ager who developed a crush on the titular character, and in a twist of television irony, Forsyth would later play her husband, Blake Carrington on “Dynasty.”
From that point on, the blonde haired ingénue made the rounds with guest shots on such series as “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” “The Untouchables,” and “My Favorite Martian.” The year 1965 proved to be a banner year as she landed a role as Sugar Kane in the wildly popular, “Beach Blanket Bingo” and a role on a regular series, “The Big Valley” as Audra Barkley for four years.
Keeping a character fresh as an actress has not only kept Evans on her toes, but served her well as her next wave of success crested with a little nighttime soap opera known as “Dynasty.”
“The challenge also has to do with the writing. In ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Big Valley’ we had new a new script every week that would evolve our character in some way. But, it definitely does change as time goes on, you do get different feelings about and awareness of what you could do.” Evans recanted.
When “Dynasty” premiered in 1981, it certainly didn’t shy away from verboten subject matter.
“I especially loved the first three years of the show, because that’s when they dealt with all the leading edge issues that had not been dealt with much on television, mental illness and Steven being gay. To me that was exciting to hear things said that hadn’t been said before, and gone into depth with.” She stated.
The show did find quite a fan base with gay viewers, becoming a secondary dysfunctional family of sorts to millions week after week. Evans had this to say about the universal appeal of the show.
“I certainly think that people, in general, just felt in a way that it was wondrous to see that the rich didn’t have it all, that we had just as many problems as everyone else in the world. I think the way that they had the sets and the clothes and the relationships with the people; I think that a lot of people identified with themselves and aspects of themselves and different characters that they could identify with and care about and want to see how they got through something.”
Evans left the show before the end of the ninth season had finished (her character was stricken with a brain tumor, but not killed off, so Evans could come back, if need be), taking along with her some very fond memories of what made “Dynasty” special for her.
“There were several different things that I really enjoyed; I enjoyed when Krystle got to have her baby. I really enjoyed the first time I got to beat up Alexis!” She said with a wicked laugh, before continuing the stroll down memory lane. “Because the writers had the script where she (Alexis) usually had the upper hand, verbally, and in the situation, because she was ruthless and willing to do anything. So, it was fun to know that there was some kind of resolve to these frustrating moments that were created.”
There was even a storyline that saw Evans playing dual roles as Krystle and her look-alike, Rita, and the two got into a scuffle with each other.
“Oh my god, the nightmare of it! That was difficult to play both parts, it was almost like I had a mental problem or something! It was just outrageous!”
Evans has revisited her role as Krystle Grant Jennings Carrington on “Dynasty: The Reunion” a 4 hour miniseries that brought most of the original cast together to tie up loose ends from the series’ cancellation, circa 1991. And, in 2006 there was “Dynasty Reunion: Catfights and Caviar,” an interview/retrospective special with the cast members celebrating the 25th anniversary of the beloved television show.
Now, the stage is literally set for the comedic elements of Legends to supplant the dramatic feast that was “Dynasty.” There’s even a smack down, sans a lily pond, as Evans and Collins play two rival actresses who are tricked into performing together. While this may sound like old hat for Evans, the prospect of performing live in Legends presented a new set of challenges.
“The theatre was just a complete mind blowing experience for me in the beginning, and I’m playing a lot of catch up, because Joan’s done theatre since she was 12, and I’ve never done theatre.” She said. “In the theatre, it’s like the movie Groundhog Day; you just keep repeating the same scenario. I keep finding myself doing the same experience over and over again in different ways. But what I hadn’t counted on that I have loved and really enjoyed is the audience; I mean, my god, the people have been so wonderful, and it is just like an incredible gift. There’s kind of a wonderful intimacy that happens, that I’ve never experienced before.”
Getting into the skin of her character, Leatrice had an oddly familiar feel for Evans.
“Leatrice has a lot of qualities that Krystle had, but she has a lot of other qualities that Krystle never expressed.” She explained. “And, yes she was the star that played the good girl, the nurses, the nuns and the saints…but you didn’t become a star in those days, and you didn’t become who you were, a legend, without having another side of you.”
These days, at age 64, the actress is subscribed to a life far removed from that of the one she created for herself in Hollywood and on “Dynasty.” Evans resides in Tacoma, Washington and is very contended with the life she has etched out for herself.
“My life is better today than it has ever been, and time has taught me so much. Getting older, I mean being 64, I have learned so much from life and I’m so much wiser than I was when I was younger; I’m so much happier, because I’ve let go of so much of the garbage of my life that was running me, that I am really having the time of my life.”
For more information about Legends, log onto http://www.broadwaysd.com