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From Dynasty To The Bay: The Unstoppable Journey of Gordon Thomson

gordon thomson head shot.

Brett Erickson

When Gordon Thomson joined the ABC megahit Dynasty during its second season as Blake and Alexis’s long-lost kidnapped son, the actor had no idea just how unscrupulous Adam would be. Fans dubbed him a psychopath, called him evil and he was named one of the most despicable characters on television.

After all, Adam poisoned Jeff with lead paint, raped Kirby and killed his adoptive mother with animal tranquilizers. (Though to be fair, she was the one who kidnapped him as a baby!)

“I played the best part for a guy on the show without question,” Thomson smiles. “It wasn’t Blake, it wasn’t Dex; Adam was so immoral and very smart, and very much his mother’s son. Joan [Collins, ex-Alexis] and I got along extremely well and worked well together. It was an amazing experience.”

In real life, Thomson is nothing like his character and was beloved by his cast and fans, and still stays in touch with many he had worked with so many years ago. One of those is Maxwell Caulfield, who played Miles Colby on Dynasty and its spinoff, The Colbys.

It was a recent dinner with Caulfield and his wife, Juliet Mills (ex-Tabitha, Passions), to celebrate former Santa Barbara Producer Dan McCaffrey’s birthday, that paved the way for Thomson’s latest role — Mackenzie Johnson on The Bay.

“This job popped up because of Maxwell [who plays Sir Thomas Kenway on the show],” Thomson shares. “2024 has been great. I turned 79 and it’s been a very pleasant roller coaster and I’m feeling rather positive.”

Thomson has been pouring over the scripts for his upcoming role and what he knows so far is that Mac is the chief of police, is the adoptive dad to Vivian (Karrueche Tran) and he has an interesting, emotional backstory.

“He had a wife who I am choosing to believe he was deeply in love with; they could not have a child, she was unable to conceive, so they adopted this beautiful baby who is now the leading lady on the show and is stunningly beautiful,” he describes. “His wife suffered from massive depression and killed herself when Vivian was a teenager, so that’s a massive loss they have gone through.”

Thomson isn’t shy about what he’s looking forward to most about joining the show, answering bluntly, “working.”

“At my age, there’s not much work,” he notes. “I have Type 2 diabetes, which I’ve had for two years, and I’ve lost at least 20 pounds. I’ve had new photographs taken, and I look remarkable for an old fart nearing 80.”

He’s slated for three episodes of The Bay initially and would love to do more and develop the character further.

Of course, Thomson is no stranger to the soap world, having been the third Mason Capwell on Santa Barbara, playing A.J. Deschanel on Sunset Beach and having brief appearances on Days of our Lives (Walter) and Young and Restless (Daryl). Additionally, one of his earliest TV roles was as Aristotle Benedict White, an Egyptologist, on Ryan’s Hope from 1981-82.

“One of my favorite memories of my soap days was working with someone as intuitive as Nancy Lee Grahn (ex-Julia, SB; now Alexis on General Hospital); she’s such a great actress,” Thomson enthuses. “Meeting [late Producer] Lisa de Cazotte, who as Lisa Hesser arrived from New York with [then-Executive Producer] Paul Rauch to take over the last year or so of Santa Barbara. Lisa became one of my best friends, which is always a lovely dividend when people take over new jobs. She was a fabulous producer and smart as hell; nothing escaped her notice.”

gordonthomson, nancy lee grahn

Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Third Time’s The Charm: As Santa Barbara’s final Mason, Thomson played groom when the character remarried Julia (Nancy Lee Grahn).

A Star Rises

Originally from Ottawa, Thomson studied English at McGill University in Montreal but knew he had a calling for acting.

“I was a born performer,” he explains. “You just know what you want to do with yourself. The passion leads everyone in this business to a very precarious existence. Unemployment is the rule, but if you have real talent and are very driven, it can be very satisfying.”

He spent much of his early years acting in shows like Love’s Labour’s Lost and Godspell (playing Jesus), the latter boasting a cast of Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin, with musical direction by Paul Schaffer.

“I had a part-time job modeling for catalogs, which I would do during the day, and then I would go back to work on stage, and Jesus never leaves that stage,” Thomson recalls. “It was exhausting but a sensational experience.”

All of those legendary people he worked with went on to establish themselves as comedy giants, and though Thomson has done some comedy himself, he explains he didn’t have the same “natural” ability to be funny that his castmates possessed.

“I can be funny, I’ve been funny, but I need the writing and the situation, and they don’t,” he says. “It was the most astonishing group.”

Thomson was back on stage in a play about five years ago, performing in Bloodbound, an autobiographical play written by Michael Kearns, playing the scribe’s brother.

“His brother killed his best friend in a bar fight with a baseball bat, and I had to relay that experience every performance, and it was very tough to do,” the actor recounts. “The right tone was very difficult for me; I think I wound up doing it, but it took a while. We did that in two different theaters, and that took up about a year of my life.”

In 2022, Thomson did a short film, The Liberator, which follows a Holocaust researcher as he struggles to convince his boyfriend’s grandfather to share his untold experience liberating Dachau. “I played a 96-year-old man and a lot of latex was applied,” he laughs.

He also did a film directed by Elon Musk’s sister Tosca called Afterburn/Aftershock, which he enjoyed.

“I’ve not been all that busy, because again, there’s not a lot of work for guys my age,” Thomson says. “That’s the nice thing about doing The Bay, because the cast is almost entirely soap veterans— A Martinez [Nardo; ex-Cruz, SB,et al], Ronn Moss [John; ex-Ridge, Bold and the Beautiful] — and it’s a nice group of people who Maxwell says are having a wonderful time.”

Remembering Dynasty

Today, he still gets recognized by Dynasty fans and has lots of memories from the show. One of his most memorable is one of the first scenes he shot.

“I was working with this wonderful character actress, Lurene Tuttle [ex-Kate], who played with Marilyn Monroe on Don’t Bother to Knock, and she was someone I was very aware of,” Thomson shares. “At that time, I was told, and I’ve chosen to believe this is true, I had a writer who was specifically attached to my character, and he did me very nicely, certainly in this scene.”

In the scene, Thomson’s character Michael had yet to learn who he really was. He opened a drawer, pulled out a baby rattle and she told him to look in the mirror and repeat after her, “My name is Adam Carrington,” and he was very taken aback.

“To be informed of this earth-shaking news that morphs your identity, it was a wonderful moment and between us, Lurene and I pulled the scene together and did it well,” Thomson smiles. “There were so many wonderful things I was a part of. Another that jumps out at me was a fight scene with John James [ex-Jeff] on a roof where we were harnessed. We had a lot of [on-screen] fights, but luckily we liked each other and got along well.”

Looking back on his entire career, Thomson counts himself very lucky, noting he’s had very few unpleasant experiences as an actor.

“And to this day, I have very good friends who I have worked with along the way,” he says.

dynasty cast shot

Ready For Prime-Time Players: Thomson and his Dynasty castmates in 1981.