Donna Mills grows suddenly
shy when talk turns to her foxy good looks: Those gorgeous big blue eyes?``Oh, I just get
enough sleep.'' On being tabbed one of the world's sexiest women four years straight by US
magazine? ``That's just hype.'' So says the television favorite, modestly, in her San
Fernando Valley, Californian office.But her heart-shaped, camera-friendly face, golden
and sensational dancer's legs account for much of what held viewers
mesmerized for nine seasons watching her as conniving, greedy bitch-fatale Abby Cunningham
on the nighttime soap ``Knots Landing.''
The Ace Manipulator
Now Mills returned as that ace manipulator, along with other original cast members from
the ``Dallas'' spinoff. A juicy reunion miniseries, ``Knots Landing: Back to the
Cul-de-Sac'' co-stars William Devane,
Kevin Dobson, Michele Lee, Ted Shackelford and Joan Van Ark.
The two-parter places Mills' character in big doo-doo with the IRS,
and she plots to overcome this disaster with true devious Abby
Premiering in 1979, ``Knots Landing'' was on the air for 14
seasons, making it TV's second longest-running prime-time dramatic
series. Donna Mills came onto the in 1980.
The Soap Diva
A decade earlier, on the afternoon soap ``Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,'' she
originated a stunningly different role: novice nun Laura Donnelly. Explains the
actress, with a note of mischief: ``I wore a full habit down to the floor, with an arch
around the face and everything. But then I lost the habit, as they say. Laura got married,
and her husband started to fool around on her.''
Mills, 53, reminisces from the headquarters of her own Donna Mills Productions. Today is
busy-busy, she says, sighing and rattling off an overbooked afternoon slate. First,
there's an insurance company physical. After that, a slew of nanny interviews to conduct.
Then, finally, she'll ``go home and feed the kid.'' The kid is adorable 4-year-old Chloe,
adopted by Mills at birth.
Single Mom's In Knots Over Adopted Baby
Being a single working mom, Mills has discovered, is far from a snap. Particularly today.
``It was so hard to leave her because she's got a little cold. She didn't want me to go,''
says the actress. Mills insists she never had ``a burning desire'' to deliver a baby
or, for that matter, to marry, though at one time, childbirth did hold some appeal. Then,
apparently, time ran out. But ``I'd always thought, from when I was very young, that I
would adopt,'' she says.
``Actually, I didn't want any children for a long time. I was too set on my own path.
There were things I wanted to achieve. But once I'd accomplished a lot of that, I began to
think -- later than most -- that I'd like to have a child and share whatever knowledge I'd
``Many people have children much too early. You can be a better parent once you've reached
some of your goals, because (kids) do
stop you in a lot of ways.''
What About Her Love Life?
Mills dates a special someone but won't talk about it, lest she ``jinx'' it, she says. Is
this, at last, Mr. Right for the never-wed beauty? ``I don't care one way or the other''
about getting married, she says. ``If it was right, I would. Otherwise, no. I've had a
number of long relationships that were like marriages, but they were easier to deal with
than marriages when they were over.''
Besides, marriage might cramp her parenting style: ``Men and women are always having
conflicts over how to raise the children. When you're a single parent, you don't have
that.'' Clint Eastwood Was "Misty" For Her
The Mills face is a familiar one to TV audiences: She first appeared on afternoon soap
operas, including ``The Secret Storm,'' back in the '60s. She went on to make dozens of
tele-flicks and drew plenty of attention for her work in the 1971 feature ``Play Misty for
Me,'' Clint Eastwood's directorial debut and now a campy classic. Mills co-starred as his
sweet, wholesome girlfriend, Tobi, whom the crazed Jessica Walter tries to murder. Her
most recent role was a recurring part early this season on TV's ``Melrose Place,'' playing
Sherri Larson, a classy woman with a checkered past.
Characters Tobi and Abby have about as much in common as sugar and salsa. ``If I had a
choice of playing the goody-goody or the bad girl,'' Mills says, ``I'd be the bad girl.
They're always more interesting.''
Gotta Love Those Bad Girls
Mills says she even applauds some Abby traits. ``She has the kind of ambition that I have.
She never lets anything get in her way. If there's an obstacle, she finds a way around it.
I admire that about her and try to emulate it. I don't think I'm as clever or scheming as
she is, but I've always been driven to keep moving forward and achieve.'' Mills was born
in Chicago to an oil company executive. Her mother was a dance instructor. Starting out as
a hoofer, Mills tapped to New York City following a year of drama study and some summer
stock. Her first job was as a Broadway understudy in Woody Allen's early play, ``Don't
Drink the Water.'' ``I remember the very first day of rehearsals,'' Mills says.``Everyone
was slightly dressed up, as is typical. The men came in
with suits, the women wore dresses. Woody was wearing jeans or corduroys, and looking kind
of rumpled. But at lunch he went home and came back in a suit because all the other men
were wearing them. I think he felt a little intimidated.''
The Proverbial Big Break
On television, Mills first got noticed in the short-lived sitcom,``The Good Life,'' in
which she and Larry Hagman co-starred as servants to rich folks. She played the poor
victim in countless crime-series episodes, then finally turned the tables by landing the
role of home-wrecker Abby.
Following leads in such TV movies as ``Curse of the Black Widow'' and ``Look What's
Happened to Rosemary's Baby,'' Mills launched a producing career in 1986. ``I'm not just a
producer in title,'' she explains. ``I really get in there and work with the editors and
costume and set designers. I like the satisfaction of having the final product be what I
want it to be. As just an actress, you have no
control over that.'' Mills likes to executive-produce issue-oriented movies, such as ``My
Name Is Kate,'' which was about alcoholism. ``I've tried to develop scripts that have
entertainment value, but that also have something to say. You get letters from people: `I
saw so-and-so movie, and it made a difference in my life.' '' Mills and Chloe live in
Beverly Hills, and Mom confesses that
motherhood has dealt some surprises. ``When they're little babies, you go, `What is that?'
Thank goodness for books and friends. If you haven't read about it or talked to other
mothers and found out their kids did the same thing, you'd think it was very odd.'' Take
temper tantrums. With toddler Chloe now journeying through the so-called terrible twos,
Mills is coping with tough
independence-asserting behavior. ``When you see a kid in a store having a tantrum, you
think, `Oh, that child is so spoiled!' But that's not it at all,'' she says. ``It's part
of their development -- it's just what they do at that age.''
Mills As Stage Mom?
How would she feel if Chloe had a yen, down the road, to follow in Mom's actress
footsteps? ``I wouldn't encourage her -- but I wouldn't tell her no. I was very lucky as a
youth knowing exactly what I wanted to do. The worst thing in the world is for a kid not
to know what they want to do with their life and just kind of drift. If Chloe wanted to be
in the business, I'd say, `OK, fine.' ''
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