The name Alexis was said to mean "protector". In the 1980s, the name was chosen for the role played by Joan Collins on the soap opera, 'Dynasty'. Story consultant Bob Pollock told 'New York' magazine in 1985, "We were handed the following situation by the Shapiros (the series creators), with whom, incidentally, we immediately got along. Blake is on trial for murder. A mystery witness appears. A glamorous woman in a big hat and veil. No one knows who she is…that's how the first season (in 1981) ended. Well, the plan was that she'd be Blake's former wife, Madeline. They were going to have Sophia Loren play her. She would come and go in 4 to 6 episodes. Our first thought was…"
"Madeline?" Eileen Pollock interjected. "Madeline? No way. Alexis. It had to be Alexis. Within 72 hours, we had her plotted out to her 80th birthday. She was inevitable. We went to a meeting with Aaron Spelling and told him, 'If you get rid of this character in 4 episodes, you are throwing away millions of dollars." Esther Shapiro had said, "The audience is fascinated with the rich. That's what we're selling." By June 1984, 'Dynasty' was the most watched program among female television audiences in America. By December 1984, Rhoderick Sharp remarked, "'Dynasty' makes more American women (aged 18-54) happy than any other show in American television."
Around the world, 'Dynasty' could be seen in 73 countries. Although by 1996, Alexis was still considered a "trendy" name, it did not have the staying power of "classical names (that) have associations with great historical figures, great biblical figures." Joan Collins told the press in 1982, "We English use our words as swords. I didn't have to do much research for this role. I've been around this type of jet-set woman all my life. You don't have to be a hooker in order to play a hooker. It's a matter of technique...Episodic TV has the same dialog every week. I try to add my own touches of Machiavellian humor to make Alexis interesting." However Joan stressed, "I'm not Alexis. I find it a bit sad that people can't separate fantasy from reality."
Louis B Meyer's great-grandson Tony Shepherd recommended Joan to play Alexis. He recounted in 1986, "Joan wasn't first choice for the part. It was offered to Sophia Loren, who wanted to do it. But Carlo Ponti asked for things we were not able to give. In fact, when Joan later won a Golden Globe Award (in 1983) for 'Dynasty', she got up and thanked Sophia for turning the part of Alexis down. I made up a long list of actresses who were possibles for the role. Joan wasn't on the top grade list of actresses at that time...and I don't think she would say she was, either.
"It was on a Friday night that Sophia had said, 'Thanks, but no thanks' to us that I went home and turned on the TV. Lo and behold, there was Joan Collins chewing away at the scenery in 'The Bitch'. I thought she was quite wonderful. Over the weekend I phoned Aaron and said, 'Let's talk about Joan Collins'. I came in on Monday and went about putting together a Joan Collins film festival…Ironically it was the role of Cleopatra that Joan had played in 'Fantasy Island' that convinced Aaron she was the actress for the part. Joan had been offered the big part, but turned it down for personal reasons. Indirectly, this is why she did 'Fantasy Island', and ended up getting her greatest job (as Alexis on 'Dynasty')."
As the casting director, Tony insisted, "I don’t look on it as power. I just try to get the best actor for the part at the most reasonable price." It was reported in 1988 Joan was paid $95,000 per episode to play Alexis. In the 1984-85 season, 'Dynasty' was the No. 1 show on television attracting an average of 21.2 million TV households (or 25% of the ratings). 'Dynasty' beat 'Dallas' by an average of 250,000 TV households per episode that season. There were 84.9 million American households with TV sets in 1985. The 1985 cliffhanger attracted a 39 share (39% of households with TV sets switched on were watching 'Dynasty' when it went on air, roughly 22 million TV homes watched the cliffhanger in total).
In 1982, 'Dynasty' producers borrowed $1.6 million worth of Tiffany & Co. jewelry to film a scene (after editing) lasted barely 2 minutes. Two armed security guards were on site to protect the valuables. Linda Evans wore a platinum, sapphire and diamond necklace worth $550,000. Joan wore a cabochon sapphire-diamond necklace worth $55,250 and a diamond and ruby ring worth over $500,000. In 1984, Lou Cecchet (pronounced sashay) formed 'Dynasty Tours' with other partners. He explained, "The Europeans have looked Colorado up on the map, and they want to come here and see it for themselves. They love dude ranches because they want to see how the rich people rough it. They realize most of the buildings (in 'Dynasty') are a Hollywood set (filmed first at 20th Century Fox Studios then later at Warner Hollywood Studios), but they want to see ordinary people and the mountains and Aspens. Europeans are researchers, and they like places like the Mesa Verde because they want to get some idea of the old history of Colorado."
The Carringtons' mansion (real life Filoli Center, a property of the National Trust for historic preservation) was in San Francisco and the Denver Carrington building could be found in downtown Los Angeles. Associate producer Tim King made known in 1986, "I've been lobbying for support to put a crew together and come back to Denver and get more shots, but the money just isn't there right now (in 1986). The opening shots of Denver were made 5 years ago (in 1981). Unfortunately, downtown Denver has changed during that time." 'Dynasty' title design was done by Phill Norman.
The retail value of licensed products was $6.6 billion in 1978. According to Licensing Letter it was $26.7 billion in 1983. In the 1984-85 season, 'Dynasty' became the first TV show to sell high-priced licensed merchandise from shoes, handbags, jewelry to hosiery. The 'Dynasty Collection' featuring Nolan Miller's designed clothes were sold at selected department and specialty stores in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Gowns from $400 to $1,200. Mink from $200,000. Dresses from $200 and suits from $350. The 'Forever Krystle' perfume was retail at $150. Nolan confessed, "I'm not sure 90% of the 'Dynasty' audience has a place to wear these things. I believe there are enough people out there who want a kind of glamor that's faded and past." He added in 1987, "You realize, of course, that we're not dealing with reality on 'Dynasty'. I've been told that Joan Collins is too overdressed. Well, we overdress her on purpose. She obsessed with money and with everything that shows power and her clothes exude that." His secretary, Nolan also shared, "I lent her one of Alexis' suits with a cape over it, a matching hat, the whole thing. She was flying economy and when she showed up in the door of the plane, the flight crew said, 'There's obviously been a mistake,' and they immediately seated her in first-class."