Dynasty star and COVID long-hauler Emma Samms is bringing together former castmates to help fund research on the mysterious long-term symptoms of the disease

By Eileen Finan
March 16, 2021 09:00 AM
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Credit: David Fisher/Shutterstock

As Fallon Carrington in the iconic '80s primetime soap Dynasty, as well as its spin-off, The Colbys, Emma Samms saw her character survive a car crash and recover from amnesia, take a tumble down the stairs while pregnant, board a UFO, get into a mudfight with Heather Locklear's Sammy Jo and end up trapped in a mine.

Over the past year, Samms has been facing an all-too-real, albeit less outlandish, drama of her own. A year after contracting COVID, the actress continues to suffer from symptoms, including shortness of breath, and she battles fatigue so debilitating that getting out of bed can be a challenge. "It's so hard for me to catch my breath, to feel enough oxygen is in me," Samms, 60, tells PEOPLE. "And that horrible sensation is constant."

Frustrated by the lack of answers about her condition, which has since been identified as long-haul COVID, Samms visited with virus researchers at the North Bristol NHS Trust near her U.K. home in the Cotswolds. "I quizzed them and they were fantastic and so enthusiastic about getting to the bottom of it," Samms says. "I found the whole experience very encouraging." She asked them how she could help: "We need funding," they told her.

Inspired by other virtual movie and TV show reunion fundraisers during the pandemic, Samms decided to call up her old Dynasty castmates. "We agreed not to try and calculate how long it's been since we spoke!" she says. "It's thrilling that so many have offered to help. I've been so encouraged by their support."

Nearly all of the remaining original cast, including Linda Evans (Krystle Carrington), John James (Jeff Colby) and Heather Locklear, will join Samms on March 20 for a virtual Dynasty Reunion fundraiser, with all proceeds going to long-haul COVID research. (Joan Collins, who played Fallon's deliciously scheming mother Alexis Carrington, can't make it.) Fans will be able to ask questions, interact with the stars and participate in an online quiz. "For the cast, it feels like such ancient history, but what's lovely is that so many people tell us how it touched their lives as a show," says Samms, who passed along her hosting duties to BBC radio personality Scott Mills because of her symptoms. "I don't have enough puff to host anything," she explains.

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While the show's famous catfights and shoulder pads are unlikely to make an appearance, Samms promises lots of behind-the-scenes dish, including details about that iconic mudfight between Fallon and Sammy Jo. "Heather and I will definitely be talking about that. It was no fun at all," she says. "After it was all over, nobody would even let us in their car to take us to their showers, so they had to put us in the back of a truck."

While she hopes the reunion will be a fun retrospective, she admits that two of her biggest fans might not be watching. "I have two lovely kids who have no clue about my career," Samms says of her son, Cameron, 24, a medical student, and her daughter, Micha, 22, a math major at university. Her kids, she says, have never seen her work on Dynasty, or on General Hospital, where she's played Holly Sutton on and off since 1982. "They couldn't be more supportive of me, but they have no interest [in my acting], which I think is a sign that I'm their mom," says Samms, who left Hollywood for her native England in 1995 to have a family. "That's the role that they wanted for me and see me in and that's obviously the most important role that I could have for them."

If they did catch a Dynasty episode, "I think they'd be horrified," she says, laughing. "I don't know that I want them seeing all of those steamy scenes! And the outrageous clothes, the size of the hair— they'd laugh."

Tickets to the Dynasty Reunion long-haul COVID fundraiser are available at DynastyReunion.com