"Don't Tread on Me" - Like
her Dynasty character, Deborah Adair can be assertive
when it comes to her career
by John M. Wilson - TV Guide - March 10, 1984
"I hate her!"
Linda Evans, who plays saintly Krystle Carrington on ABC-TV's
Dynasty, shrieks her feelings about her newest co-star,
Deborah Adair, between takes on the Dynasty set, causing
the reporter present to think he's stumbled on a juicy story.
With the addition of Adair, the dark-haired beauty who used to
play nasty Jill Foster Abbott on daytime's The Young and The
Restless, the Dynasty cast is now brimming over with
gorgeous ladies. Doesn't Dynasty teach us week after week
that beautiful women are jealous, competitive and backbiting?
Should it be any different on the other side of the camera?
Alas, Evans is pulling the reporter's leg. "Just kidding,
just kidding," she adds adds quickly, with a husky laugh.
"Don't you dare print that!"
Evans and Adair are making the reporter's job difficult --
they are getting along splendidly. They chat, heads together;
they laugh often. Yet there are differences. During a brief shooting
scene, Evans glows, while Adair simmers.
"She does naughty very well," says Evans, who does
wholesome very well.
This season, lovable Krystle has taken over as head of corporate
public relations for the oil-rich Carrington clan of Denver.
Adair portrays Tracy Kendall, Krystle's conniving assistant,
in Adair's words, "an ambitious woman who will do whatever
she has to to get what she wants," and a potential nemesis
for arch-villainess Alexis Carrington Colby, played by elegant
With only so many meaty lines and flattering camera angles
to go around, can the backstage rivalry be anything but fierce?
"It's natural for a woman to notice what other women are
doing," concedes Evans. "But I am what I am, and Deborah
is what she is, and that's great. Honestly, I've never felt any
competition on this set. I think we'd all rather be in a cast
of beautiful men and women in a quality show than be in a mediocre
one and stand out."
The Dynasty cast had better be careful, because Deborah
Adair could very well carve out bigger territory for herself
-- on any show. She is, in her own words, "very goal oriented,"
Says her agent, Mike Greenfield: "Deborah's not blindly
ambitious, but she's meticulous and very hard-working, She came
here from Seattle knowing just what she had to do to achieve
what she wants."
It is not surprising that Adair has been cast as Dynasty's
first true career woman. While the Carrington women have married
into or been born to their lofty positions, Tracy Kendall must
rely on her own resources to climb the corporate ladder -- and
Adair appears a natural for the part, A marketing executive before
turning actress, she seems to embody the modern woman in transition,
balancing personal goals with traditional values, determined
to achieve independence and success despite nagging moments of
"A perfect description of Deborah, exactly right."
Agrees Esther Shapiro, who created Dynasty and casts it
with her husband, Richard. "She has a very interesting quality,
sophisticated yet vulnerable, the quality of a survivor."
Adair survives partly by being a perfectionist -- "I
would hurt to the quick if someone thought I hadn't done my best,"
she says -- and at work can be as high-strung as a thoroughbred.
When the director interrupts a scene because of a minor gaffe
by Evans, it is Adair who assumes she has goofed.
"What did I do?" she blurts out immediately. A small
adjustment is made, the scene reshot, and she gets it down flawlessly.
"I never quit until I get it right," she says later.
"I've been that way with everything I've done. Sometimes
that probably keeps me from enjoying things at the moment, but
it is also behind whatever success I've had." Such standards,
she admits, can take their toll. "Truly, I wish I were less
judgmental. I'm too hard on everybody. It could all be taken
care of if I could come to terms with what I am, if I had that
deeper security ... part of me is very aggressive, and part of
me is soft and old-fashioned. What I need to find is the balance."
Her old-fashioned side shows in her attitude toward Dynasty
co-star John Forsythe. "I've had a crush on John going clear
back to Bachelor Father." But her self-assurance was undaunted
when the suave Forsythe recently complimented her on her perfume.
"John," she corrected him very directly, "that's
hair spray," They both cracked up.
She tells the story curled barefoot on a sofa in her modern
West Los Angeles condominium, which she shares with a small,
white tornado of a dog named Clouseau. Upstairs is an exercycle,
which she pedals daily, and nearby is a copy of "Cosmopolitan's
Super Diet and Fitness Guide," as well as the "I Ching"
and several biographies of famous women. Another soap player,
Alex Donnelley of The Young and the Restless, has just dashed
in and out with armfuls of clothes.
"We're always trading clothes," explains Adair.
"Sometimes, it's like a sorority around here,"
Born Deborah Adair Miller in Lynchburg, Va., to a Navy officer
father and a mother who is a career educator, Adair was subconsciously
liberated. "My mother always worked. I can't remember her
ever telling me there was something that I wasn't capable of,"
she says, She earned a degree in advertising and marketing at
University of Washington, working afterward as a copywriter,
commercial producer and assistant promotion manager for KIRO-TV
and KIRO radio in Seattle. Briefly married to a budding politician
("to escape taking responsibility for myself"), she
later divorced him and decided to pursue a career of her own.
A flair for dramatic reading in high school led to voice-over
work on commercials, then local stage productions, and a move
to Hollywood in 1978, where she waited tables, found an agent
a landed small parts in several TV series. In 1980, actress Brenda
Dickson left Young and the Restless and the role she created,
that of manipulative Jill Foster Abbott. Adair inherited the
part. Admittedly unsure of herself in the beginning, she credits
Y&R co-executive producer Wes Kenney with helping
to build confidence.
"Deborah's really blossomed as an actress," says
Kenney, "Given a little more time and a sense of security
she's definitely going to hold her own in this business. But
don't underestimate her -- all somebody has to do is step on
her, a they will really see some assertiveness."
Kenney should know. Adair asserted herself last year by leaving
the soap during stalled contract negotiations. Adair says she
wanted to be open to wider career opportunities. Kenney suggests
the issue was money. Whatever the reason, she jumped when the
highly rated Dynasty beckoned, and now earns a more-than-comfortable
salary in the low six figures. Playing another catty character
on Dynasty doesn't bother her, "To me, the show is
fantasy, pure entertainment. I just don't take it that seriously,"
Something she does take seriously the issue of rape -- she
spent a year as spokesperson for the Los Angeles Rape Response
Center, and admits to some misgivings about Dynasty's
treatment of rape in an episode last year, which some viewers
found exploitative. "I was much more concerned, though,
when-one of the daytime soaps [General Hospital] turned
the rape of a leading lady into a fantasy -- she fell in love
with her rapist and they lived happily ever after. That really
fried me. It was disgusting and it disturbed me that our industry
could support it."
On another sun-splashed afternoon, Adair is at the wheel of
her bright red VW Rabbit convertible, zipping through traffic
with the top down. Later, over a quick lunch of Spanish omelette
and vegetables -- she allows herself only one meal a day -- she
makes a surprising confession: men intimidate her. "I've
always felt bright and resourceful, but put me in a room with
a man, and I become secondary. I'm involved with someone now
and it's the first relationship where a man has forced me to
have confidence in myself. Lately, I seem more and more to be
surrounded by men who push me to my limits instead of trying
to mold me into what they want me to be, and it's so refreshing."
What she wants to be is more than a pretty actress
or dutiful wife . . . she thinks. "I love acting and want
to do films, but I'm also well-organized and have good judgment,
and I think I could produce. The men I'm attracted to are powerful,
active, successful, and I couldn't sit at home waiting for a
man like that. I get bored too easily. I could only arrange so
many flowers." She pauses, laughs. "Yet I'm an incurable
romantic, so none of that makes sense."
At the moment, Dynasty's prime-time exposure has her
in a professional whirlwind. "I've never been busier, or
happier, Sometimes, it seems like a mad adventure. I have no
idea where I'm going, but it feels very good."
Late for an appointment, she's back in the little red convertible,
pointing it swiftly through traffic again. It looks like she
knows exactly where she's going.