Thirty years after the world said goodbye, Dynasty has returned to television. The iconic ‘80s soap opera was a cultural phenomenon, and now The CW has reimagined it for the 21st century. Set in Atlanta, and following the rival Carrington and Colby families (this go-round, the Colbys are Black) the new series is giving the legendary soap some pretty insane twists. For relative newcomer, Sam Adegoke, whose credits include Murder in the First and Switched at Birth — taking on Dynasty was about digging into the television archives. “To be perfectly honest, Dynasty was before my time,” Adegoke told me with an amused chuckle. “I had to do my homework. It skipped an entire generation.”
Still, from the series' legacy alone – one that labels itself as “delicious, ambitious, and vicious,” Adegoke knew that he had to be a part of the reboot. "You want to do work that's impactful, and that can resonate with as many audiences as the original Dynasty did,“ he explained to me. “I started trying to find clips, which was harder than you'd think, of some of the original Dynasty shows and watching it, getting a taste for what it was. I thought, 'This could really, really be cool,' especially since The CW seemed so open to the idea of reprising and reimagining some of these iconic characters with a more inclusive and diverse cast. That was pretty much all I needed to hear. I was really excited about it.”
Despite its impact – the Dynasty of 30 years ago would be pretty problematic if it were to air today. Executive producer Josh Schwartz who is known for The O.C. and Gossip Girl knew that he had to create a show that would reflect how the world looks at this very moment. Making the Colbys a wealthy Black family was just one of the many changes that were made to the series. “As a human being, I think we watch and root for, and are drawn to people who share similar experiences to us,” Adegoke reflected. “[We watch] stories we can relate to. I think the more that we can kind of capture that on the screen through characters that portray and encompass a broad spectrum of beliefs, of appearances, ethnicities, [and] morals — you cast a wider net for your audiences. I feel highly privileged to be a part of a show that is a champion of that."
Taking on Jeff Colby – a role made famous by John James — was both about paying homage and making the character his own. “I didn't want to watch too much of [the '80s series],” Adegoke explained. “I did my homework about the backstory, but then I just totally immersed myself in what this experience would be like, and some of that was very readily available. As an African man myself who came from humble beginnings, imagining what that would be like to be catapulted in that trajectory. [Jeff] is charismatic, he's charming, he's talented, he's witty. He's an intellectual and placing myself in that mindset of not just all the good and amazing things that would come with having that affluence and that money, but the responsibility you would feel."
Jeff’s Blackness is an integral part of the character – it was also something that Adegoke could relate to on a personal level. “I come from that world, “ he told me. “I know that there's a family on my shoulders just looking for things, and people of Nigeria that's looking for things. So, to me, the easy and fun thing was like, 'Oh I'm rich, and I'm a slob and blah blah blah.' You can do all that. The more interesting element is what the challenges are. What are the negatives? What are the instantaneous burdens — the expectations to push and do more, and the people who are looking to you to do that?"
It is not just the Colby family who have been revamped for 2017, the introduction of Latino characters and LBGTQ characters without harping on their sexuality are also integral components of the new Dynasty. As much as the series is soapy, dramatic and opulent, it has also been an incredible learning experience for Adegoke. “It kind of reaffirms for me as a man my morals and principles, because where I immediately went was, ‘What are the challenges that come with this?’” He continued, “Contextually, what are the challenges that come up as an African American man being in this world? The subtleties of not necessarily being seen as an equal, which I think is something we experience. It was a lot of low-hanging fruit — a lot of shared experiences."
The genius of The CW’s Dynasty is that it knows exactly what it is. And yet when you least expect it, the show subverts your expectations in the best ways. The chemistry between the characters, specifically Adegoke opposite Elizabeth Gillies who plays Fallon Carrington is off the charts. Though delectable nuggets sprinkled throughout the show are what will keep people tuning in week after week, the familiarity of the characters will also help sustain an audience. “It's an entertaining pastime. It's not a soap that's looking to change the world,” Adegoke expressed to me. “In my mind when you strip away the decadence, the wealth, the affluence, and catfights, it's a show about family, relationships, and friendships. Are you willing to fight when those are threatened? Every family is flawed, and everyone has their agenda. That's something that resonates with thousands of people because who has the perfect family? Lord knows, I don't. If you do, let me know the secret."
Dynasty airs Wednesdays at 9 PM ET on The CW. Wakeema Hollis and Robert C. Riley also star in the series.
Aramide A Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami