Template:In-universe Template:Unsourced Template:Dynasty character Steven Daniel Carrington is a fictional character on the American prime time Soap opera Dynasty. Steven is noteworthy as "one of the earliest queer characters on American television." Despite identifying as homosexual, Steven has relationships with both women and men throughout the series.
The role was originated by Al Corley in the show's first episode in 1981; Corley left in 1982. The role was recast with Jack Coleman in 1983, and Coleman remained on the show until 1988. Corley returned to the role of Steven for the 1991 miniseries Dynasty: The Reunion.
Steven was one of the first gay characters to ever appear on a prime-time drama, and remains one of the most well-known. Suzanna Danuta Walters writes that because of the character, "in the annals of gay TV history, the '80s will be remembered as the Dynasty years." Initially the only son of series patriarch Blake Carrington, "handsome, blond hunk" Steven was a regular character featured in front-burner storylines for his entire run on the series. In contrast to his ruthless, warring parents and promiscuous sister, the character was poised as "the moral conscience of the family." Still, he was defined primarily by his "gayness," his struggle against it and the conflict it created within his family. Danuta notes that Steven — "stalwartly manly and deeply troubled by his homosexuality" — led viewers on a "Hollywood tour of homosexuality" over eight seasons, "from tortured closet case, to 'cured' heterosexual husband, and finally to a vague approximation of gay and proud." She adds that the character's "persistent attempts to 'go straight' and the adamant avoidance of any gay milieu or culture" paint Dynasty as "flawed and compromised," but acknowledges that the series remains a staple of gay iconography despite its primary gay character being "hardly a role model of self-acceptance and pride."
In a 2006 interview with TV Guide, Coleman reaffirmed that have a gay main character on a prime time drama in the early 1980s "was quite daring at that time. I think the only other gay character in a series was Billy Crystal on Soap, and that was a comedy. But [Steven] was so timid by today's standards, especially looking at what's on cable, with The L Word, Queer as Folk and shows like that. Dynasty now seems unbelievably quaint." Commenting on Steven's romantic relationship with Billy Campbell's Luke Fuller, Coleman notes, "It was very much The Donna Reed Show in terms of four feet on the floor, nobody actually ever touching."
As Dynasty begins, Carrington heir Steven returns to Denver from New York City to attend the wedding of his father, powerful oil tycoon Blake Carrington. Though the details are at first unclear, father and son are somewhat estranged, and their reunion is an awkward one. The Carrington family dynamic is soon established; thoughtful and sensitive Steven resists his father's pressure to step into his role as future leader of Blake's empire, while his spoiled sister Fallon, better suited to follow in Blake's footsteps, is underestimated by and considered little more than a trophy to father Blake.
Steven is devoted to and loved by Fallon, who sees the differences between her brother and Blake but does not understand why they cannot be reconciled. Steven, knowing Fallon's devotion to Blake, is hesitant to open up to her. Steven befriends Krystle, Blake's former secretary and future wife, who is adjusting to life at the mansion despite chilly receptions from Fallon and the Carrington majordomo, Joseph.
At the end of the three-hour premiere episode "Oil," Steven finally confronts his father, criticizing Blake's capitalistic values and seemingly-amoral business practices. Blake explodes, revealing the secret of which Steven thought his father was unaware: Blake is disgusted by Steven's homosexuality, and his refusal to "conform" sets father and son at odds for some time.
Steven goes to work for Walter Lankershim, a small-time oilman and rival of Blake's. While working there he is defended by his friend, Matthew Blaisdel, a former employee of Blake's. Steven meets Matthew's wife Claudia and they are mutually attracted to each other. After a surprise visit from Steven's ex-lover, Ted Dinard, Steven acts on his attraction to Claudia and they kiss.
When Walter's oil rig has an accident, he accuses Steven of sabotage and fires him. Later, when the real culprit is revealed, Steven declines Walter's offer to return to work. Instead, Steven decides to work for his father at Denver-Carrington.
Steven begins sleeping with Claudia, and also spends the night with Ted. Eventually, Steven decides he must break it off with both Claudia and Ted. As Steven and Ted are saying their final good-byes, Blake enters to find them hugging. Blake, whose discomfort with Steven's sexuality manifests itself in rage, angrily pushes the two men apart. Unfortunately, Ted falls backward and hits his head. The injury proves fatal and Blake is arrested and charged with murder. Angry and upset, Steven testifies that Ted's death was the result of malicious intent, which infuriates Blake and Fallon. The court is shocked by a surprise witness...
...who turns out to be Steven's long-absent mother, Alexis. Steven has a difficult reunion with his mother, but she stands by him when Blake and Fallon do not. Blake is convicted but will not serve any jail time.
Steven is shocked when his mother confides to him that Blake is not Fallon's father (a story that is later proven to be untrue). When Alexis suggests that, as Blake's only heir, he should get married, Steven considers it. He approaches Claudia about resuming their relationship and is also attracted to Krystle's young niece, Sammy Jo. Steven and Sammy Jo begin dating, although he is unable at first to make love to her. When Steven proposes to Claudia, she declines, driving Steven back to Sammy Jo. Soon after, in episode 25 "Sammy Jo and Steven Marry," they elope. Blake and Alexis do not approve of the match, considering Sammy Jo to be common and low-class (which creates tension between Blake and Krystle). The marriage is short-lived, however, as Sammy Jo leaves Steven in episode 31, "The Baby." In the second season cliffhanger, a frustrated and angry Steven lashes out at his family. Steven leaves the mansion and disappears.
In episode 45, Fallon receives a letter from Steven, who is working on an oil rig in the Java Sea. In the following episode, the oil rig explodes. Blake and Alexis rush to Indonesia to search for Steven, who is presumed dead. A co-worker remembers that Steven heroically returned to the burning rig to rescue others. All evidence indicates that Steven is dead. Blake, struggling with feelings of guilt surrounding Steven's death, refuses to accept that his son is dead. He consults with a psychic who tells him that Steven is alive. Blake refuses to attend a memorial service for Steven in episode 49. Later that night, Sammy Jo arrives at the mansion with a baby, Danny, that she claims is her child by Steven.
Unknown to the family, Steven is in a hospital in Singapore. Due to severe burns, he's had reconstructive surgery. In episode 53, the bandages are removed and Steven sees his new appearance. Steven considers letting his family continue to believe that he is dead. Steven's doctor, confused by his behavior, investigates the identity of his mystery patient eventually contacting Blake in Denver. Blake flies to Singapore and, despite the surgery, recognizes his son. Steven refuses to return to Denver but reconsiders when Blake tells him about his son, Danny.
Steven returns to Denver and meets his son. Steven learns that Alexis bribed Sammy Jo to divorce him, and that Blake paid her to leave Danny behind. Steven's relationship with his parents is immediately strained. Steven travels to New York to find Sammy Jo. He suggests a reconciliation but when she rejects the idea he returns to Denver alone.
Steven finds himself in the middle of his parents' fight over a proposed merger of their companies, as both Blake and Alexis offer him executive positions. He takes a job with his mother, much to Blake's dismay. Blake is upset further when Steven decides to move into his own apartment. Krystle tries to reconcile Steven and his father, but Alexis manages to disrupt the plans by keeping Steven busy with work. In the third season finale, Blake learns that Steven is living with his attorney, Chris Deegan. Suspecting that the men are more than friends, Blake decides to sue Steven for custody of Danny.
When Steven learns of his father's plans, he and Blake come to blows. Chris represents Steven at the custody trial. Blake argues that a homosexual cannot be a good parent, while Steven argues that Blake, as a convicted murderer, is worse. Alexis testifies that Blake paid off Sammy Jo to leave the baby in Denver; while Sammy Jo testifies that Steven is promiscuous. Claudia, who has recently been released from a sanitarium, tells Steven that she has a plan to win the custody trial. Steven and Claudia fly to Reno and are married. In episode 67, "Tender Commrades," they are awarded custody of Danny. In episode 72, Steven and Blake reconcile and by episode 74 Steven and Claudia have moved back into the mansion.
Steven is concerned about Claudia's fragile emotional state when she starts receiving flowers (violets), gifts and phone calls from her missing (and presumed dead) husband, Matthew. In their investigation, Steven and Claudia travel to South America and visit the site where Matthew and Lindsay crashed. When Steven finds Dex Dexter with violets at ColbyCo, he suspects that Dex is responsible. Eventually they learn that the calls and gifts were from Morgan Hess, a private investigator with ties to Alexis. However it is Sammy Jo who is paying Hess to harass the couple. She returns to Denver and announces that she will fight for custody of Danny.
Sammy Jo kidnaps Danny, and demands $30,000/month for his return. However Claudia convinces Adam to help get Danny back, and Sammy Jo returns to New York, defeated.
Meanwhile, Steven is distressed by his mother's arrest for the murder of Mark Jennings, Krystle's ex-husband. After an anonymous tip to the DA, Steven is called as a witness where he testifies that he saw his mother push Mark off her balcony. Alexis is furious and disowns Steven. Her lover, Dex, discovers that disgraced former Congressman Neal McVane, disguised as Alexis, is the real killer. After her acquittal, Steven and his mother reconcile and he returns to work at ColbyCo.
In episode 91, Steven and his family learn that Fallon has been killed in a plane crash with her lover, Peter DeVilibis. In episode 96, Steven learns that he has another sister, Amanda, born after his parents divorced and raised by Alexis' sister. Although Alexis denies it at first, eventually she admits that Amanda is Blake's daughter.
At work, Steven meets a gay co-worker named Luke Fuller. Although Luke is attracted to Steven, their relationship is platonic at first. Claudia, however, is troubled by the growing friendship between the two men, and eventually has an extramarital affair with Dean Caldwell. When Steven learns of the affair, he sleeps with Luke. In episode 105, "Triangles," Steven decides to end the affair and reconcile with Claudia. However, by episode 110 Steven tells Claudia that while he loves her, he also loves Luke. Claudia, prompted by Adam, flies to Mexico to divorce Steven in episode 112. Steven's affair with Luke strains his relationship with Blake, especially when Steven invites Luke to be his escort to Amanda's wedding to Prince Michael of Moldavia.
Steven is heartbroken when Luke is killed in the terrorist attack at Amanda's wedding. After returning to Denver, he grows closer to Sammy Jo who has reconciled with Krystle. Steven is also needed to help Blake, who is having serious health problems. In episode 132, a frightened Sammy Jo confesses to Steven that she's been involved with a plot to kidnap Krystle and replace her with a look-alike. She has learned that her co-conspirators have been poisoning Blake. Steven saves his father from faux-Krystle while Sammy Jo frees Krystle from her captors.
After Blake recovers he announces plans to put Steven on his board of directors. As part of his job, Steven must work with state senator Bart Fallmont. Adam, jealous of Steven's favor with Blake, attempts to discredit them both by leaking stories that they are having an affair. Steven is shocked to learn that Bart is a closeted gay man. Bart accuses Steven of betraying him for Blake, but Steven knows the true culprit is Adam. Meanwhile, Sammy Jo and Clay, Bart's brother, are engaged. In episode 146, Steven worries that Sammy Jo may fight for custody again.
In episode 155, Sammy Jo taunts Steven with threats of a custody battle. In episode 157, Steven is distressed to learn that Danny is demonstrating troubling behavior at school. Sammy Jo continues to threaten Steven, but by episode 163 her quickie marriage to Clay is in trouble and two episodes later it is annulled. Sammy Jo and Steven agree to put aside their differences for Danny's benefit, and in episode 166 agree to live together platonically in an attempt to give Danny a normal home life. In episode 171, however, they give into romantic feelings and make love. Steven, once again, is conflicted over his emotions and sexuality. In episode 172, a frustrated Steven goes recklessly horseback riding, and is injured when he is thrown from his horse. He decides to move out of Sammy Jo's ranch and leaves Danny with his mother. He announces that he will leave Denver after Adam's wedding. Unfortunately, a not-so-dead Matthew Blaisdel and his native South American henchmen crash the wedding and take the family hostage.
After several days in captivity, Steven manages to overpower Matthew and stabs him to death. The incident leaves him emotionally scarred and he is encouraged to seek psychiatric help. Deciding to remain in Denver, he asks Blake to sell him his football team. When Sammy Jo becomes romantically involved with quarterback Josh Harris, Steven is outraged. When Josh's playing becomes erratic, Steven orders a medical screening. Josh, a cocaine addict, quits the team. Josh proposes to Sammy Jo, and when she refuses he overdoses and dies.
Blake, who has been impressed with Steven's handling of the football team, asks him to run Denver-Carrington while he campaigns for governor. Steven's management style causes great conflict between him, Adam, Fallon, and Dex. In addition, Steven confronts Jeff to stay out of Sammy Jo's life. However, Steven bands together with his family when they learn that Alexis' new husband, Sean Rowan, is plotting to destroy their family. Struggling with the uncertainty in his life, Steven decides that he needs to leave Denver and regroup. In the Season Eight cliffhanger, Steven pens a letter to Blake explaining his need for distance and leaves Denver. Adam subsequently burns the letter before Blake finds or reads it.
By the time of the 1991 miniseries Dynasty: The Reunion, Steven has moved to Washington, D.C. and is in a long-term relationship with Bart Fallmont. Steven and Blake finally reconcile when Blake formally accepts Steven and Bart's committed relationship.
Notes and references
- Hall, Locksley. "Ten Actors Who Played Gay." AfterElton.com April 16, 2007.
- Jack Coleman biography - TVGuide.com Retrieved September 17, 2008.
- Schemering, Christopher (September 1985). The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. Ballantine Books, 80–84. ISBN 0-345-32459-5 (1st edition).
- Walters, Suzanna Danuta (9/1/03). All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America. University Of Chicago Press, 63–65. ISBN 0226872327.
- Rudolph, Ileane. "Jack Coleman, Heroes:What's Going On Behind the Glasses?" TVGuide.com November 27, 2006.
- This is the final appearance of Al Corley.
- Beginning with the third season, Steven was played by a new actor. Since no reason had yet been given for the new appearance he was shown only from the rear.
- Steven also meets his long-lost brother, Adam.
- While Chris admits that he is gay, the exact nature of this relationship is never explained.
- Claudia was institutionalized not long after Steven left Denver, for reasons unrelated to their relationship
- Claudia and Adam slept together in episode 107, and will eventually marry
- Ignoring series continuity, producers had original actor Corley reprise the role of Steven, despite the fact that Steven's change in appearance with the casting of Coleman in 1983 had been attributed to plastic surgery.
- Carrington family tree