Dynasty's Troy Beyer Credits Ex-Baby-Sitter Whoopi Goldberg for Giving Her a Leg Up on Success
updated 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
Her persistence paid off with a five-year contract and a near $5,000 per episode to start. Troy thanks everyone from God to her family and former baby-sitter Whoopi Goldberg for giving her the gumption to grab at what she wants. TV mom Carroll says "Troy's background" also helped. Like her character, Troy is the child of a black mother and a white father. She is playing what she knows.
Home was a Manhattan housing project for baby Troy ("My mother was crazy about Troy Donahue"), the only child of Hannan Wells, now 43, and her first husband, Jerrold Beyer, now 46, then a restaurant manager. The couple separated when Troy was 2. Race, says Hannan, was part of the problem. "We couldn't win, no way."
After their 1966 divorce, Jerrold moved to Idaho, and Hannan supported her children on welfare. (She had a son from a previous relationship.) A neighbor said the kids were good-looking enough to do commercials and gave her the name of an agent. At 4, Troy turned up on Sesame Street.
About this time, another neighbor, the not-yet-famous Whoopi Goldberg, entered Troy's life. Whoopi was called Caryn Johnson then and trying out comedy bits on friends. Between jobs and auditions the teenage Caryn doubled as a baby-sitter for Troy. No pay. "She was always bumming off me anyway," says Hannan.
Her sitter, says Troy, sometimes gave her silly advice, like how to grow nails. "I looked at her hands and said, 'Why are your nails black?' She said, 'It's poisonous paint. If I bite them, I'll die.' " But there was sound counsel, too. "I would always fight the girls in school because they said I was conceited," says Troy. "And I would come home crying, and Whoopi would say, 'You go back and tell them you're not conceited, you're convinced.' "
By the time Troy was 12, Whoopi had already set out for California to make a career. Hannan had become a Muslim, married Robert Parks and started a new family that now numbers six children, age 13 months to 14 years. Troy, also a Muslim, took the name Malika but soon decided to join her father in Idaho. "I was rebelling," she says. "I wanted to say to heck with my mom and show business."
Jerrold, now a parole supervisor, had also remarried and fathered two children. Troy grew to love her siblings and stepmother but had to deal with being "the only black student" in her Caldwell, Idaho junior high school, enduring such racial epithets as "the little chocolate drop with ponytails." She countered by building an impressive 3.4 grade-point average and winning a scholarship to the College of Idaho.
She never got there, choosing instead a return to showbiz. In 1983 she set out for L.A. and waitressed while enduring six months of audition rejections. "I didn't believe in myself," says Troy. Then a friend took her to L.A.'s nondenominational Crenshaw Christian Center, where she became born-again. Her faith provided motivation. She got one commercial for McDonald's, then eight others, and finally parts on T.J. Hooker and Knots Landing.
Winning the Dynasty role was the real vindication. During this period Troy says she thought a lot about Whoopi. "She would say, 'Don't you ever let anyone confuse you.' " Until last year Troy had no idea where her former sitter was. Then when magazine photos of The Color Purple star began to appear, Troy yelled to her mother, "Wait a minute! This is Caryn! She did it!" Two months ago Troy and her mother walked into Spago's restaurant in L.A. and spotted Whoopi. "She came over, and the three of us all hugged and rocked across the floor," says Hannan. "Troy told her about the role on Dynasty, and she was thrilled."
Though Troy and Whoopi have run into each other several times since, Troy says she hasn't pushed to renew the relationship. "I don't want to interfere," says Troy. "So I just enjoy her success from afar." Besides, Troy has her own achievements to savor. She just bought a one-bedroom condo in West Hollywood with a spectacular view of the distant ocean. "As far as getting lovey-dovey," she says, "I don't want that now. I don't want any false love." If that sounds like the teaser line for next week's Dynasty, it doesn't make it any less true for Troy Beyer. "I haven't been burned by Hollywood," she says, "and I don't intend to be burned." Whoopi would be proud.