Donna Mills Talks ‘Knots Landing,’ Resurgence of Shoulder Pads & New Lifetime Series, ‘Dawn’

KNOTS LANDING, Donna Mills, 1979-1993.

You probably know her as Abby, the feisty villainess of the drama-fueled cul-de-sac on Knots Landing, but Donna Mills has been acting since the 1960s and she doesn’t intend to stop now! With an upcoming feature film currently in post-production, an adaptation of the book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, and a four-part Lifetime movie series based on V.C. Andrews’ Dawn book series releasing this July, she’s got quite the busy schedule!

Knots Landing Finale Turns 30!

May 13 is the 30th anniversary of the series finale of Knots Landing, which aired in 1993. Can you believe it? We recently caught up with Donna Mills to look back and reflect on the show and her career since.

KNOTS LANDING, from left: Ted Shackelford, Melinda Culea, Joan Van Ark, Peter Reckell, Nicollette Sheridan, Kevin Dobson, Michele Lee, Lynne Moody, Donna Mills, Larry Riley, Stacy Galina, Boyd Kestner, (1989), 1979-1993. Do you remember anything from those final days of Knots Landing?

I wasn’t in it for the last couple of years, but I have memories of my exit from the show, which was going off singing “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” which I thought was a wonderful sendoff for me. [Knots Landing writer/creator] David Jacobs promised me a great sendoff and he gave it to me.

Did you take anything from set with you?

Oh, well, I have the Abby Ewing nameplate from my desk, and there were clothes and stuff like that actually I got, because I had gotten them the franchise with Escada. And so Escada said that I could have the clothes.

Do you still have it?

Yeah. Oh yeah. I have a storage space just for my ’80s clothes. I’ve had designers go in there with me and just go nuts. I think I have 43 different designers in there and everything from gowns to suits to beautiful silk blouses. I had  the great good fortune to dress well as Abby; that was really fun. And I’m very particular about costumes. For me, a character grows from the costumes.

Does your daughter ever go in there and try things on? 

Yeah. She’s way taller than I am though. And she has very broad shoulders of her own. So sometimes these shoulder pads look a bit much on her because she already has big shoulders. On me, I always loved it because I don’t have big shoulders, and I always love the fact that it made you feel stronger.

As a child of the ’90s, I have always wanted to understand shoulder pads. Thank you so much for explaining it to me!

You just felt so much stronger, bigger; taller, even. I hear they’re coming back.

Of course! Everything comes back now. Scrunchies, too. My daughter wears them.

Well, see? All that good stuff.

KNOTS LANDING, Donna Mills, 1979-1993,

Lorimar/Courtesy Everett Collection

Did you stay in touch with anyone from the cast?

Oh, yes. Yeah. As a matter of fact, Joan [Van Ark] and Michele [Lee] and I have done a number of shows together. It’s called An Evening With, and the three of us just are on a stage with a moderator, and we all have video and stuff like that. And then the audience gets to ask questions. So that’s been a lot of fun. We were in touch always, even before that kind of thing happened, and now we’re even closer.

Were you satisfied with the ending of the series? Is there anything you’d change?

I don’t know. At that point, because I wasn’t there anymore, so I really can just speak to my exit. And I thought my exit was wonderful.

People have talked a lot about the show coming back. Fans ask all the time, “Why don’t they reboot it? Why don’t they?” Because you can’t even get it. They only did DVDs of the first two episodes, and that was all. And people want it. If it was up to me, they’d put it back on again and actually continue it. I think it’d really be interesting to see where those characters are today. We did one reunion episode, but another one this far down the line would be good.

KNOTS LANDING, Donna Mills, (1983), 1979-1993.

Courtesy Everett Collection

Any final thoughts on Abby?

It’s definitely been my favorite role. It’s not often that you get to play a character for that length of time and a character that’s really well-written. I felt that she was a very well-rounded character. Even though she was the bad girl and she did all these things, she had her moments of vulnerability. She loved her children. She wasn’t a caricature, she was a character. And so that made her really, really fun to play.

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Check out Donna Mills in a very Abby-esque role in Lifetime‘s upcoming movie series Dawn, or go see her at The Hollywood Show in Los Angeles on June 30 – July 1.

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