By: Nelson Branco
During the 1980s, Donna Mills shot to fame playing one of TV’s most beloved villains, the conniving Abby Cunningham on primetime’s Dallas spinoff Knots Landing.
The good news for fans is that the irrepressible vamp is back! Donna kicks off a recurring arc on General Hospital (as of March 14, City/ABC), but plot details are hush-hush.
All we’ve seen is the following teaser promo:
“The producer is very secretive,” says the star, 73. “He said, ‘Don’t tell anyone about your character!’”
Thankfully, the gorgeous blond is happy to chat about anything else, including her daughter, Chloe, old pals and her hopes for the future.
Welcome back to TV! Where have you been?
One of the reasons I could do the show now is because my daughter is in college. She’s in her second semester at NYU, so I’m freer with my time.
You were handpicked for the General Hospital role! That must be an honour.
Yes. It was really nice. They offered it to me, and I said, 'Oh, I don’t know.' Then they said, 'Can’t we get you on the phone and tell you about the role before you decide…' I mean, they really did a sell job on me!
Let’s talk about Knots Landing. Why do you think Abby was so popular? Viewers loved to hate her.
She had some vulnerabilities. When you can empathize with a villainess, when you can actually say, 'Oh, that hurt her feelings' or 'She loves her children,' you know you have a three-dimensional character.
Do you ever think of Abby? What do you suppose she’s up to?
She’s running a small country somewhere! [Laughs] If you went back and revisited her now, I think she would be a lot more circumspect about how she does things. But I think her main priorities would still be about getting ahead and getting what she wants. Of course, she has grandchildren by now! So, there’d be that, because she loved her kids and really cared about what happened to them.
I imagine she’d have a few younger men at her beck and call, too!
Of course! [Laughs] Why not?
Abby was always very fashion forward. Are you a fan of style?
Yes! I went to a big AIDS gala benefit down in Palm Springs this weekend and the late, great Nolan Miller’s protégé Mark Zunino has taken over the business – he’s an amazing designer on his own now. He offered to make me a dress for the event. Twenty minutes later, he had three sketches of incredible gowns and asked, 'Which one would you like?' [Laughs] He made me a dress in a matter of weeks, and it was magnificent.
Are there style icons you admire?
I like Julia Roberts. She always seems classy. And I always think Cate Blanchett looks amazing and beautiful. Every time [photographers] catch her, she somehow manages to look perfect.
You adopted Chloe in 1994. Why did you decide to wait until then to become a mom?
It was late in life but that’s when I had the time. I don’t think I would’ve made a good mother during my career because I was so driven. But when it happened, it was the best time. I can’t imagine having my life without her now. She’s my everything.
You were born Donna Jean Miller. Why did you change your name?
I changed it in Chicago during my dance career. I had to do something with [the union] Equity and there was already an actress named Donna Miller, so I changed it to a name close to mine. I changed it to Donna Jean, but when I moved to New York my agent said, 'Donna Jean sounds like a stripper, so we have to change it to something else.' So Donna Mills it was! I wouldn’t have changed my name if I didn’t have to.
You’re as beautiful as ever. Do you have any secrets you can share?
Really, for me, it’s simple: I work out every day. I play tennis but I exercise as well. Growing up as a ballet dancer, it’s important to me to get my body moving. That keeps you young, feeling good and looking good. Having a teenage daughter will keep you young and active, too!