Deep in the English countryside, where she lives surrounded by horses and rolling green hills with her husband and their two toddlers, Emma Samms doesn’t have time for much primping. Which might come as a surprise to those who remember her from the ’80s as the meticulously made-up heiress Fallon Carrington Colby on Dynasty, the over-the-top prime-time soap, and its spinoff The Colbys. “I really don’t miss the big hair and the glamor,” says Samms, 39. “It just doesn’t go with being a mother. Days go by where I haven’t actually looked in the mirror.”
Clearly Samms isn’t in Hollywood anymore. But while Fallon’s life changes involved amnesia and abduction by aliens, Samms merely did something her alter ego also knew a thing or two about: She fell in love. When her last TV series, Models Inc., ended in 1995, she moved back to her native England to be near her family. There she was reunited with a childhood friend, John Holloway, 43, whom she wed in 1996. (She was formerly married to lawyers Bansi Nagji and Tim Dillon.) How did the friendship blossom into romance? Don’t ask Samms. “It just did,” she says. “My husband can’t even explain it, and he’s a psychiatrist.”
Now settled far from the madding crowd—London is a two-hour drive away—Samms is busy raising her two kids with Holloway, Cameron, 3, and Bea, 2, and pursuing a career as a scriptwriter. Her first TV-movie screenplay, His Bodyguard, aired on the USA Network in 1998, and she just finished a script that will be shot in November. “It’s very hard to find acting jobs that don’t conflict with being a full-time mother,” she says, “whereas writing I can do around their schedule, which is what’s most important to me.”
Even at the peak of Dynasty‘s popularity, Samms never lost sight of what she felt was really important. “She was always very down-to-earth,” says her sister Louise Pharis, 42, who lives nearby. Notes Samms, who also has two brothers in England: “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have friends and family who are totally not interested in that [celebrity] aspect of my career.”
Ironically she had been born into a showbiz family: Her grandfather was a silent-film producer, and her late father, Michael Samuelson, owned Britain’s biggest film-equipment rental company. Growing up in a London suburb, Samms studied at the Royal Ballet School in London, following in the toesteps of her ballerina mother, Madeleine, 67. But when she was 16, bursitis in her hips forced her to quit; after a modeling stint she made her movie debut in a feature film, An Arabian Adventure.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1980, Samms won the role of Holly on General Hospital—and the unenviable task of replacing Laura as Luke’s love interest. That experience prepared her for her next TV assignment: taking over the part of Fallon, which had been played by Pamela Sue Martin. “They told me, ‘Don’t try to be like her,’ ” she says. “Luckily my character had had amnesia. So if she couldn’t remember who she was, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t.” In 1983, putting her newfound fame to good use, Samms paid tribute to her brother Jamie, who had died of aplastic anemia at age 8, by co-founding the Starlight Children’s Foundation, a charity that grants wishes to critically ill youngsters.
After two seasons on The Colbys, Samms rejoined the cast of Dynasty in 1987. She still occasionally runs into Joan Collins, who had played her mother, Alexis. “We always have very nice reunions,” Samms notes. “She will always say, ‘It’s my daughter!’ ”
Now, unequivocally, it’s Samms’s turn for parenthood. “If I heard anything from her in those days, it was that she wanted to have children,” says The Colbys costar Stephanie Beacham. She has gotten her wish. “To us, she’s Cameron’s mum,” says her neighbor Lena Dixon, 42. That’s how Samms sees it too. “I haven’t withdrawn for any reason,” she says, “other than I’ve got something more important to do.
Julie K.L. Dam
Ellin Stein in England and Edmund Newton in Los Angeles