Laura Leighton’s ‘Dynasty’ Guest Turn Proves She’s Still Got All The Star Quality She Displayed On ‘Melrose Place’

Let’s make a journey again to the tv panorama of the mid-’90s. It was an easier time. There had been solely 4 networks, a number of cable channels, and “streaming” applied sciences weren’t even a glint in any programmer’s eye; we had been nonetheless getting used to e-mail. Sure, within the pre-DVR period, it was extra of a trouble to attempt to sustain together with your favourite exhibits. But there have been additionally loads fewer exhibits you had to find time for in the event you wished to really feel such as you had been taking part in tradition: Seinfeld, The Simpsons, The X-Files, Friends, ER, and Melrose Place. The final of those even anchored a plotline on Seinfeld: within the Season 6 episode “The Beard,” Jerry’s girlfriend-of-the-week doesn’t consider he’s by no means seen Melrose Place, and since she occurs to be a police officer, she challenges him to take a polygraph to show it. (Spoiler from 1995: he fails.) Seinfeld was such an enormous hit, it may shout out a present on a competing community; and Melrose was such an enormous hit that Seinfeld‘s writers could be confident that viewers would get the gag. Flash-forward to this very week: The CW’s remake of Dynasty will welcome a really particular visitor star: Laura Leighton. Already there: Grant Show, who at present performs Dynasty‘s plutocratic patriarch Blake Carrington, but formerly played Melrose Place‘s Jake Hanson, neighbor, boss, and sometime love interest to Leighton’s Sydney Andrews. How a lot of The CW’s younger viewers will find out about their long-ago connection? Probably not sufficient!!!

Melrose Place began, in 1992, as a by-product of Beverly Hills, 90210: after introducing Show’s character, Jake, on 90210 towards the top of the second season, we adopted him to the Hollywood condominium complicated the place he and his twentysomething neighbors handled capital-“I” Issues the Beverly Hills teenagers wouldn’t encounter for years, if in any respect. The challenges of a younger two-career marriage; regrets about work alternatives not pursued; the results of ignoring a scholar mortgage — all of those and extra confronted the lovely residents of the titular Melrose Place within the present’s first season. But sooner or later, creator Darren Star remembered the lesson he’d discovered from the primary season of its progenitor: earnest, socially related tales are high quality, however soapy scandal is much more enjoyable for everybody.

Laura Leighton first joined the present late in its first season. Fashion designer Jane Mancini (Josie Bissett) is stunned, and never fortunately, when her college-aged youthful sister Sydney seems for a two-episode go to and begins weaseling her means into Jane’s life. But when Sydney returns within the second season, the vibe of the present is already beginning to change. “It was supposed to be just two episodes, — you know, she pops in, and she’s a little bit of a troublemaker,” Leighton advised me once we spoke this week. “But I think they saw potential for that to go further.” Before lengthy, Sydney is getting recruited by a high-end madam, blackmailing her means into marriage to Jane’s ex, plotting to kill him, becoming a member of a cult — you understand how it’s in your twenties!

MELROSE PLACE Cast, circa 1994. (Standing, L-R:), Heather Locklear, Grant Show, Doug Savant, Thomas Calabro.(Seated, L-R:), Andrew Shue, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Laura Leighton, Daphne Zuniga, Josie Bissett.
MELROSE PLACE Cast, circa 1994. (Standing, L-R:), Heather Locklear, Grant Show, Doug Savant, Thomas Calabro.(Seated, L-R:), Andrew Shue, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Laura Leighton, Daphne Zuniga, Josie Bissett.Photo: Everett Collection

As former Melrose solid members ruefully recalled final yr in their “Stars In The House” reunion, the schedule was grueling. “Nobody does shows like that anymore,” says Leighton. “We were doing 30, 32, 34 episodes a season….[Executive Producer] Aaron Spelling wanted the show to just stay on the air. He didn’t want there to be a lot of downtime, he wanted to keep going. And so we’d have to have two crews shooting two scripts simultaneously, and maybe in two different locations. A lot of times the actors [would] have to bounce back and forth in a single day and try to keep it all straight. It was definitely difficult, and at a certain point, you just don’t really know what you’re doing.” This was significantly robust since, as in all cleaning soap operas, Melrose characters would change allegiances and motivations with out discover to serve the plot, however Sydney remained remarkably constant all through: bratty; scheming; craving — often fruitlessly — for the lads she had beloved to like her again. Given the structural challenges to creating her character, how did Leighton handle it? “I had to find the humanity in it,” she says. “Especially the relationship with Sydney and Jane, the sisters — [we portrayed] the love, the envy, and the jealousy, and how those become really complicated, and drive bad decisions….You can be a bad girl, but if people have a little bit of sympathy for the character, then I think it’s better than just the one note.”

Among her Melrose co-stars, Leighton has had one of many longest-running post-show roles on a primetime TV present: 142 episodes of Pretty Little Liars. Though it didn’t begin so lengthy after the top of Melrose Place, Leighton famous how completely different the trade was for her younger co-stars, versus when she was round their age and beginning out on Melrose. “That show was such a Twitter phenomenon,” she says of PLL. “It was just such a vastly different point of view, to be the older generation, watching the younger generation navigating their hit show, but through the lens of social media and all that.”

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, l-r: Ashley Benson, Laura Leighton in 'Unbridled' (Season 4, Episode 23, aired
Ashley Benson (L) and Laura Leighton in Season 4 of Pretty Little Liars.Photo: ©ABC Family/Courtesy Everett Co

Leighton reprised the function of Sydney in The CW’s late-aughts revival of Melrose Place and has labored steadily throughout and round Pretty Little Liars, popping up in visitor roles on procedurals like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and CSI: Miami. But her function on Dynasty — as Corinne Simons, an SEC officer and longtime household buddy of Carrington in-laws the Van Kirks — returns her to the setting for which her Gen-X followers (hi there) know her finest. Going in, Leighton knew “[her] friend Grant” was on it, “and he’s great in everything he does,” however not a lot else in regards to the messy Twenty first-century Carringtons — which might be high quality; like all soaps, they exist in a state of flux. She did benefit from the styling on the fashion-forward set, and the scenes she shared with Elizabeth Gillies (who performs Fallon) and Adam Huber (Fallon’s husband Liam). Sadly for Melrose followers, nonetheless, the episode doesn’t re-team her with Show — stunning, provided that it so steadily contains meta-commentary at its personal personnel modifications and behind-the-scenes drama and will have winked on the actors’ former on-screen relationship of their iconic present. “I would have loved to have a scene with him,” says Leighton of Show. “We got to cross paths on set; he’s been wearing his producer hat lately.” Though the top of the episode means that Corinne could have extra info to impart about Liam’s late father and the circumstances surrounding his dying, Leighton doesn’t know if Corinne will return.

In the early 2000s, Leighton’s Melrose Place co-star Marcia Cross — the present’s different legendary redhead — made numerous one-off visitor appearances in exhibits like Touched By An Angel, Strong Medicine, and CSI, earlier than touchdown a recurring function in The WB’s light household drama Everwood. Her 18th and remaining episode as Linda Abbott aired in April of 2004; lower than six months later, she was making her début as Bree Van De Camp on Desperate Housewives, a task she went on to play for 179 extra episodes after that. Even if Corinne Simons isn’t destined to be across the Carringtons for the lengthy haul, a number of extra episodes may remind showrunners and casting administrators of how a lot they’ve missed Leighton’s enjoyable, sparky vitality and discover her a Desperate Housewives of her personal. (In reality, that present’s creator, Marc Cherry, may absolutely give Leighton a pleasant massive marquee half in his present collection, Paramount Plus’s Why Women Kill.) Then once more, possibly Corinne staying Dynasty wouldn’t be such a wild stretch! Blake’s spouse Cristal (Daniella Alonso) has a mind tumor. He would possibly want a brand new love curiosity quickly. Since Blake additionally fooled round with Liam’s mom Laura (Sharon Lawrence), getting down with the lady who’s spilling Laura’s secrets and techniques concerning her late husband would in all probability actually rankle her.

The level is: Laura Leighton has simply as a lot charisma and star high quality as she did within the ’90s. She barely seems to be like she’s aged a day since then. Her followers miss her. We’re overdue for a Leightonssance; could we glance again on this Dynasty stint because the second that kicked it off.

LAURA LEIGHTON DYNASTY
Photo: CW

Writer, editor, and snack fanatic Tara Ariano was the co-founder of Television Without Pity, Fametracker, and Previously.TV. She co-hosts the podcasts Extra Hot Great and Again With This (a compulsively detailed episode-by-episode breakdown of Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place), and the co-author with Sarah D. Bunting of A Very Special 90210 Book: 93 Absolutely Essential Episodes From TV’s Most Notorious Zip Code (Abrams 2020). She has additionally contributed to New York, the New YorkInstances Magazine, Collider, Vanity Fair, Slate, Mel Magazine, Vulture, Salon, and The Awl, amongst many others. She lives in Austin.

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