Donna Mills

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Donna Mills
Donna Mills 1990.jpg
Mills at the Los Angeles premiere of Air America on August 9, 1990
BornDonna Jean Miller
(1940-12-11) December 11, 1940 (age 73)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, U.S.
EducationTaft High School
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
OccupationActress, television producer
Years active1966–present
Home townChicago, Illinois, U.S.
ChildrenChloe Mills
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Donna Mills
Donna Mills 1990.jpg
Mills at the Los Angeles premiere of Air America on August 9, 1990
BornDonna Jean Miller
(1940-12-11) December 11, 1940 (age 73)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, U.S.
EducationTaft High School
Alma materUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
OccupationActress, television producer
Years active1966–present
Home townChicago, Illinois, U.S.
ChildrenChloe Mills

Donna Mills (born December 11, 1940)[1] is an American actress and producer. She is best known for her long-running role as villainous Abby Cunningham on the prime-time soap opera Knots Landing, and for her role as Tobie Williams, the girlfriend of Clint Eastwood's character in the 1971 cult film Play Misty for Me.

Mills began her television career in 1966 with a recurring role on The Secret Storm. She made her film debut the following year in The Incident and appeared on Broadway in the Woody Allen comedy Don't Drink the Water. She then starred for three years in the soap opera Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1967-1970).

She landed the role of Abby in Knots Landing in 1980 and was a regular on the show until 1989. For this role she won the Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Villainess three times, in 1986, 1988 and 1989. She has since starred in several TV movies, including False Arrest (1991), In My Daughter's Name (1992), Dangerous Intentions (1995), The Stepford Husbands (1996) and Ladies of the House (2008). In 2014, she joined the cast of long-running daytime soap opera General Hospital.

Early life[edit]

Mills was born Donna Jean Miller in Chicago, Illinois,[2] where she attended Garvey Elementary School and Taft High school. After being double-promoted at Garvey, she graduated from Taft at an early age. From there Mills attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she was a member of Delta Gamma sorority. She completed one year of course work, then left to pursue a dancing career, gaining some early stage experience when she danced in summer stock productions. Her first professional acting role was in a production of Come Blow Your Horn at the Drury Lane Theater, Chicago. She later was cast in a touring production of My Fair Lady, which brought her to New York City.[3]


Early career[edit]

Mills in 1975

Mills began her acting career on television with a six-month stint on the CBS daytime soap opera The Secret Storm in 1966, playing the character of "Rocket." Following this, she made her film debut in The Incident (1967), co-starring alongside Martin Sheen, Beau Bridges, Ed McMahon, and Thelma Ritter. She appeared on Broadway in Woody Allen's comedy, Don't Drink the Water, as the Sultan of Bashir's wife.

In the fall of 1967, she gained a regular role as ex-nun Laura Donnelly on the soap Love is a Many Splendored Thing. She was a cast member for three years, until she left the series in 1970 and moved to California. In 1971, Mills co-starred in the popular thriller Play Misty for Me, with Clint Eastwood and Jessica Walter.

During 1971-72, she starred in the short-lived sitcom The Good Life with Larry Hagman who later guest-starred on Knots Landing as J. R. Ewing from the show's sister series Dallas.[3] Prior to signing up a contract for Universal Studios in 1972, she spent much of the 1970s appearing as a guest on top-rated television shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Hawaii Five-O, The Love Boat, CHiPs, The F.B.I., Quincy, M.E., the UK's Thriller series, Police Woman and Fantasy Island, as well as many made-for-TV movies.

Mills in 1981

Knots Landing[edit]

In 1980 Mills landed her most prominent role — that of scheming, manipulative vixen Abby Cunningham on the long-running primetime soap opera Knots Landing.[3] Mills portrayed Abby from 1980–1989.[4] Prior to being cast in Knots Landing, Mills was primarily known for playing the "damsel in distress" archetype in both film and television media. The actress became somewhat famous for playing these roles, often leading to unwanted typecasting.[4][5] In an interview with Jerry Buck for the Toledo Blade, Mills said: "I got tired of playing the victim. It's a more active role. Abby keeps things stirred up, and I like that."[4] According to Jacobs, Abby was not planned when the show began. He knew that he wanted a female J.R. Ewing-esque character.[6] However, he had a different sense of the character and who would wind up in the role. With Mills' reputation of playing the victim, he initially didn't choose her for the part.[6]

Josh Mapes of The Biography Channel listed her in the category "10 Primetime Stars We Love to Hate". He said, "Any great soap opera needs a great villain. While viewers may identify more with the protagonist, the villains in a serial drama always spice things up, cause trouble, and make it more fun to watch. From tongue lashings to catfights, underhanded tricks to boldface lies, the characters we love to hate have each brought a fair share of great moments to primetime soaps. While Larry Hagman played the bad guy on Dallas, Donna Mills played bad girl on its spin-off, Knots Landing. Unapologetically going after what she wanted, Mills' character engaged in affairs with two of the husbands on the Knots Landing cul-de-sac. But, like most vixens on primetime soaps, she was only out for money, not love."[7]

In 1989, Mills announced her intention to leave the long-running nighttime soap after nine years as Abby.[8][9] According to Mills, she wanted to take a break from acting for a while, and from Abby as well.[10]

In an interview with The Cedartown Standard, Mills explained: "I'm tired of the show. It's been too long. I'm not particularly happy with the way they've been writing Abby lately. She's too soft. I'd like Abby to get back to her old self."[11] For this role, she won the Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Villainess on three occasions, in 1986, 1988 and 1989.[12]


After Knots Landing, Mills concentrated on television movies, four of which she co-produced: The World's Oldest Living Bridesmaid (1990), Runaway Father (1991), In My Daughter's Name (1992) and My Name Is Kate (1994).[3] She returned to Knots Landing for its final episode in 1993, and again for the reunion miniseries Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac in 1997. In between she had a brief recurring guest role as Jane Mancini (played by Josie Bissett)'s mother on Melrose Place.[3]

Donna Mills with daughter Chloe in 2009

Mills continued to appear on television in TV movies and guest roles. In 2005 she reunited with the Knots Landing cast for the non-fiction special, Knots Landing Reunion: Together Again, in which the stars reminisced about the show. In more recent years, Mills has appeared in various television movies such as Love Is A Four Letter Word in 2007, and Ladies of the House in 2008, as well as guest appearances in series such as Cold Case (in a provocative role as a woman who seduces her grandson) and Nip/Tuck (guest-starring with fellow Knots Landing star Joan Van Ark). In 2012, she made a guest appearance on GCB as Bitsy Lourd[13][14] and appeared as a guest judge on the reality series RuPaul's Drag U.[15]

In 2014, Mills made her return to daytime soap operas, for the first time since 1970. She was cast in a major recurring guest starring role in the ABC soap opera General Hospital.[16][17] She debuted in mid March and recurred to May.[18] On October 7, 2014, it was announced that she will be star in the TV Guide Network reality series Queens of Drama about a group of former stars who now produce a new primetime serial drama to star in. The ladies will be required to work together in front of and behind the cameras as they develop, pitch, and produce their steamy series with the hopes of landing a pilot deal by the end of the season.[19][20]

Personal life[edit]

Mills has never married, but has one daughter, Chloe, whom she adopted in late 1994 when Chloe was four days old.[21][22]

Outside of acting Mills released The Eyes Have It in 1986, an instructional video for achieving several different make-up looks. She went on to release her own line of cosmetics of the same name.[citation needed] She appeared in cover-featured (non nude) pictorials for the October 1987[23] and November 1989 editions of Playboy.[24]


Mills in Gunsmoke (1974)
Mills in The Hunted Lady (1977)
1966The Secret StormRocket
1967The IncidentAlice Keenan
1967-1970Love Is a Many Splendored ThingLaura Donnelly ElliottSeries regular
1970Love, American StyleEllie1 episode
1971Play Misty for MeTobie Williams
1971-1972The Good LifeJane MillerSeries regular, 15 episodes
1972Haunts of the Very RichLaurie
1972Rolling ManBebe Lotter
1972Night of TerrorLinda Daniel
1973GunsmokeCora SandersonEpisodes: "A Game of Death... An Act of Love: Part 1" and "A Game of Death... An Act of Love: Part 2"
1973The BaitTracy Fleming
1974Live Again, Die AgainCaroline Carmichael
1974Marcus Welby, M.D.Bea AvertonEpisode: "A Fevered Angel"
1974McMillan & WifeLaura RaineyEpisode: "Buried Alive"
1975The Six Million Dollar ManLiza LeitmanEpisode: "The Cross-Country Kidnap"
1975Who Is the Black Dahlia?Susan Winters
1975Murph the SurfGinny Eaton
1975Hawaii Five-OMarcia BissellEpisode: "Murder: Eyes Only'"
1975Beyond the Bermuda TriangleClaudia
1976Police WomanTamee SwansonEpisode: "Mother Love"
1976Quincy, M.E.Roberta RhodesEpisode: "A Star Is Dead"
1976Look What's Happened to Rosemary's BabyEllen
1976Smash-Up on Interstate 5Laureen
1977BuncoFrankieTV pilot
1977Fire!Harriett Malone
1977Curse of the Black WidowLeigh Lockwood
1977The Hunted LadySusan Reilly
1977The Oregon TrailLizzieEpisode: "The Scarlet Ribbon"
1978SuperdomeLainie Wiley
1978Doctors' Private LivesDr. Beth Demery
1978The Love BoatJeannie Carter3 episodes
1979Hanging by a ThreadEllen Craig
1979Fantasy IslandCindy CarterEpisode: "The Chain Gang/The Boss'"
1979Young MaverickLila GatesEpisodes: "Dead Man's Hand: Part 1" and "Dead Man's Hand: Part 2"
1980WaikikiCassie Howard
1982Bare EssenceBarbara Fisher
1984He's Not Your SonKathy Saunders
1985Alice in WonderlandThe Rose
1986Intimate EncountersJulie Atkins
1988Outback BoundSamantha 'Sam' Hollings
1980-1989, 1993Knots LandingAbby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing SumnerSeries regular, 236 episodes
1989The Lady ForgetsRebecca Simms/Julie Black
1990The World's Oldest Living BridesmaidBrenda Morgan
1991Runaway FatherPat Bennett
1991False ArrestJoyce LukezicBased on true story
1992In My Daughter's NameLaura Elias
1992The President's ChildElizabeth Hemming
1993RememberNicky Wells
1994My Name Is KateKate
1994Dream OnAshlynEpisode: "Martin Tupper in 'Magnum Farce'"
1995Dangerous IntentionsBeth Williamson
1995An Element of TruthVanessa Graves
1996The Stepford HusbandsJodi Davison
1996-1997Melrose PlaceSherry Doucette4 episodes
1997Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-SacAbby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing SumnerTV miniseries
1998Moonlight Becomes YouMaggie Holloway
2000Rude AwakeningLindaEpisode: "Star 80 Proof"
2004A Very Cool ChristmasMrs. Claus
2006Jane Doe: Yes, I Remember It WellPolly Jameson
2007Cold CaseLauren WilliamsEpisode: "Blackout"
2007Love Is a Four Letter WordMargot Harper
2008Ladies of the HouseElizabeth
2009Dirty Sexy MoneyCameo appearanceEpisode: "The Facts"
2008-2010Nip/TuckLulu GrandironEpisodes: "Lulu Grandiron" and "Christian Troy II"
2012GCBBitsy LourdEpisode: "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"
2014General HospitalMadeline ReevesSpecial guest star
2014Deadly RevengeEvelyn
2014When Life Keeps Getting In The WayDr. Goldstein


  1. ^ Varying sources have cited 1942 or 1943 as her year of birth, however The Huffington Post and her entry on Intelius (under her real name, Donna Jean Miller) establish the year as 1940
  2. ^ "Donna Mills profile at". Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Donna Mills biography,; accessed August 27, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Buck, Jerry (July 4, 1982). "Donna Mills To Play Victim". Toledo Blade. Block Communications. p. 32. 
  5. ^ Brady, James (November 3, 1991). "In Step With Donna Mills". The Daily News (Kentucky). John Pipes Gaines. p. 22. 
  6. ^ a b "Exclusive Interview: In conversation with series creator David Jacbos". Knots (The Official Knots Landing Website). CBS. 
  7. ^ Mapes, Josh (June 13, 2012). "10 Primetime Stars We Love to Hate". The Biography Channel. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  8. ^ Zuckerman, Faye (April 27, 1989). "Like fine wine, 'Knots Landing' ages well". The Providence Journal. A. H. Belo. 
  9. ^ Sullivan, Paul (November 6, 2001). "Where are they now?; Donna Mills' makeup has successful Landing on QVC". Boston Herald. Patrick J. Purcell. 
  10. ^ King, Susan (January 5, 1991). "Donna Mills Plays-Guess What?". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. p. 22. 
  11. ^ Sanello, Frank (September 29, 1998). "Talking with Donna Mills". The Cedartown Standard. 
  12. ^ Outstanding Villainess awards
  13. ^ Kris. "GCB Review: Stand Your Ground". TV Fanatic. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  14. ^ ""Donna Mills, Former 'Knots Landing' Star, Looks Amazing At 71" (PHOTOS)". The Huffington Post. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Lindsay Robertson (2012-05-14). "And The 'RuPaul's Drag U' Season 3 Professors Are...". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  16. ^ Valby, Karen. "'General Hospital' casts 'Knot's Landing' star". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  17. ^ "Praise, Soap Jesus: General Hospital Taps Donna Mills For Mystery Role!". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  18. ^ Gelman, Vlada. "‘General Hospital’ Cast — Donna Mills Books Secret Role". TVLine. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  19. ^ "POP Announces Initial Lineup of Original Programming for Early 2015 Launch". TVbytheNumbers. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "POP (Formerly TVGN) Developing 'Queens of Drama' Docu-Series With Vanessa Marcil, Donna Mills, Lindsay Hartley, Hunter Tylo and More! - Soap Opera Network". Soap Opera Network. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  21. ^ "Donna Mills Dishes". 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  22. ^ "Palm Springs Life Interviews Linda Gray, Donna Mills, Morgans Fairchild". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  23. ^ "Playboy, October 1987 vol.34, no.10". Vintage Playboy Mags. 
  24. ^ "Playboy Cover November 1989 (United States)". Playboy Cover Archive. 2010-01-05. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 

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