Fans thirty years ago harbored the same enthusiasm about the new season of their favorite television shows as today’s fans do. The only difference between those bygone years of the 1980s and today is that there wasn’t social media in which to share our entertainment passions with other viewers.
I remember Wednesday, September 29, 1982 quite well. I had recently begun my senior year at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. But on this day, visions of high school graduation weren’t dancing in my head. Rather, I was focused on the upcoming fall season of my favorite night time soap opera: Dynasty. While my classmates were looking forward to seeing Dallas and the machinations of Texas oilman J.R. Ewing, I was eagerly anticipating the silver haired Colorado oil titan, Blake Carrington. In the battle between the Carringtons and the Ewings, the Carringtons always took first place with me.
When viewers last saw Dynasty at the end of the Season 2 finale, Blake Carrington was unconscious on a mountain, his arch rival Cecil Colby had suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized in critical condition, and his daughter Fallon Carrington Colby was devastated when her infant son was kidnapped. So for the very rich in television land, it was high drama as usual.
The TV Guide entry for Dynasty Season 3 premiere had alerted audiences to a new cast member. Canadian actor Gordon Thomson had been cast as Michael Torrance. In the Season 3 premiere episode titled “The Plea”, viewers discovered that Michael Torrance was long lost Carrington heir Adam Alexander Carrington who had been kidnapped from his baby carriage twenty-five years earlier.
Had this episode aired in 2016 with the never ending Internet buzz, my bet is that the details of this surprise plot would have been spoiled during the summer. Thankfully in 1982, the revelation came on that September 29th night during Alexis Carrington’s tearful television plea when the family was making an appeal for the return of Fallon’s baby.
From the moment Gordon Thomson entered Dynasty, he mesmerized me with riveting performances and immediately became one of my all-time favorite actors. What I found intriguing about the character was due largely to Thomson’s portrayal. Sure, Adam infamously had Jeff Colby’s office decorated with paint laced with a poisonous compound and sometimes his loyalty went back and forth between his father Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) and his mother Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan (Joan Collins). Yet, who could forget those gut wrenching scenes later in subsequent seasons when Adam nearly destroyed himself because he didn’t want to succumb to Neal McVane’s (Paul Burke) blackmail and betray Alexis or when he lost custody of his son born with the help of surrogate mother Karen Atkinson (Stephanie Dunnam). Thomson amazed viewers with his emotional depth.
When Dynasty ended its network run on Thursday, May 11, 1989, I knew that I would follow all of Gordon Thomson’s subsequent roles in daytime, film and web series. And I have. Post Dynasty, Thomson thrilled viewers as Mason Capwell on the daytime soap opera Santa Barbara and in the Michael Caruso web series Devanity and Winterthorne. The strong willed television son of a patriarchal father now portrays the patriarch himself in many roles. Life is funny that way.
Another wonderful thing for me is that I had the pleasure of meeting Gordon Thomson on Saturday, February 4, 1989 at the Variety Club Telethon in Philadelphia, PA. Such a highlight for me that I was fortunate to meet my oldest favorite living actor. Gordon Thomson demonstrated great kindness to me. I have never forgotten that moment.
Then, twenty-seven years later, I interviewed Gordon Thomson for The Nerdy Girl Express on Monday, July 18, 2016. I was able to congratulate him on his fifty years working as an actor, an unquestionably impressive accomplishment that took him from his classical theatre roots at the Stratford Festival in Canada to his longevity in Hollywood. We talked about Dynasty, Santa Barbara and his other television and theatre roles. His charisma, intelligence and humor shined through.
I have never seen Gordon Thomson perform on stage. I am hoping that in the very near future, this talented actor will return to his theatre roots and that I will be able to see him on stage.
But I will never forget September 29, 1982. Michael Torrance learned from the deathbed confession of woman that he thought was his grandmother that he was a long lost Carrington heir. Armed with a sterling silver baby rattle engraved with the initials A.A.C., the young Montana lawyer journeyed to Denver to reclaim his birthright. Along the way, I became a part of Gordon Thomson’s acting journey for over three decades.