Slithering into the Dynasty Plot, Kate O'mara Makes Her Mark as Joan Collins' Twisted Sister
04/07/1986 at 01:00 AM EST
You can tell a mile away that this lady is trouble: She's 5'4", zaftig-to-bursting and with all those rings on her hands, it looks like she's wearing a pair of brass knuckles straight from Car-tier's. Oh yeah, she's got some mouth on her, too. "We British broads," she says straight out, "are bloody glad to come to Hollywood and make some money."
Meet Kate O'Mara, 46, the latest British broad—actress, that is—to wreak havoc on Dynasty and, to earn six figures while she's at it. O'Mara plays conniving Caress Morell, younger sister of Alexis (Joan Collins) Morell Carrington Colby Dexter. Do not for a minute confuse the two dark-haired vixens. Whereas Alexis is ambitious, vengeful and sex-crazed, her long-lost sister is, well, ambitious, vengeful and sex-crazed—only more so. "There's a lot of angst in Caress," explains O'Mara. "She's been in jail for five years for murder and her sister's made no attempt to get her out."
If that weren't angst enough, add frustration to the poor dear's outrageous incarceration. Once sprung from the slammer, "she's absolutely desperate to get a man," says O'Mara. "Yet nobody seems to be taking her up on her many offers." O'Mara, the foul fiend, laughs at her character's predicament. "Perhaps that's why I make eyes at all the men on the set."
Nevertheless, her female co-stars have been friendly. "Within a few moments of arriving," O'Mara says, "Linda Evans walked up to me and said, 'Welcome, welcome to our little family.' She made me feel immediately wanted." When O'Mara returned to her dressing room, there was a knock at the door. In walked her onscreen nemesis, Collins, without any makeup. "She slung herself on the sofa and said, 'Well, hullo, here we are again.' "
The two have been "nodding acquaintances" since 1967, when both were working on low-budget features at Pinewood Studios in London. "Just for the cash, I've done some real dogs in my life," says O'Mara. Indeed, her kennel contains such howlers as The Vampire Lovers and The House of Frankenstein. Actors and actresses may get greater recognition in Britain as artists, "but it also means working for dirt-cheap wages," O'Mara complains. "A script must be pretty dreadful for me to turn it down."
O'Mara's not your everyday mercenary, however. She was born in Leicester, the elder of two sisters. Her father, John, was a member of the Royal Air Force, and consequently the family moved a lot. In the process Kate attended eight different convent schools. "I think it made me very competitive because I was having to prove myself constantly." She studied acting, which figures: She's descended from five generations of performers. "It was a foregone conclusion I would go into the theater," she says. "Starting from age 3, I was given elocution, dance, singing and piano lessons." O'Mara has done some highly respected stage work: Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra and The Taming of the Shrew. In 1980 she even had her own TV series, Triangle, dubbed the English Love Boat by critics. "Everyone got horribly seasick," O'Mara recalls with no apparent nostalgia. After two years she abandoned ship.
For Dynasty, O'Mara was plucked from a field of 60 British actresses. "Kate displayed a campy flair," says casting director Marc Schwartz. "She could chew the furniture and spit it out." Her character already has Alexis spitting blood. "Caress tries to publish a book about her sister's past," says O'Mara. "It's a bloody nasty thing to do." She can't suppress a shudder. "I certainly wouldn't want my private life splattered over the vulgar press."
Here goes, anyway. O'Mara was married twice. She wed the first time at 21 but won't name her husband. "It didn't last long. I've never uttered his name publicly since our divorce and I never will," she declares. They had one son, Dickon, now 23. In 1971 she married British actor-director Jeremy Young; they divorced five years later. O'Mara's current inamorato is English sportswriter Steven Howard, the 35-year-old grandson of esteemed actor Leslie (Gone With the Wind) Howard. The two met when Steven was 12, Kate 24. It was not love at first sight. "He was wearing short pants and I was friends with his two older sisters," says O'Mara. "After meeting the kid I promptly forgot him." Seventeen years later they ran into each other in a grocery store line. They've been together ever since. The two share a rustic cottage outside London. "Twelve years' difference." says O'Mara. licking her lush lips. "It really is a bit obscene, isn't it?"
Relax, Kate. In your new TV family, no one would bat an eye.